PERSPECTIVE: Why a Moderate Conservative is Voting for Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton in New York City April 1, 2015. | Getty Images

By Joshua Sander, junior accounting major

Hillary Clinton in New York City April 1, 2015. | Getty Images
Hillary Clinton in New York City April 1, 2015. | Getty Images

I will begin with a cliché that, no doubt, we are all familiar with—life is full of choices. Though many (including me, as of now) have quoted this on one too many occasions, it remains true. As we go throughout our lives and all the activities that our days entail, we are forced to constantly make decisions—small and large, insignificant and life-­altering, clear and unclear, easy and difficult. Some decisions we make in a group, and others we make alone.

When electing the president, we contribute in a fractional way by casting our vote for our chosen candidate. Yet which candidate we choose to vote for is a decision we must make alone, standing in a voting booth or filling out an absentee ballot. Given the magnitude of the results, each of us must give careful consideration to our personal decision-­making process, for it is this process that will determine how we vote.

In this election, Hillary Clinton will most likely be the Democratic nominee. On the other side, every victory for Donald Trump continues to solidify his already likely chances of becoming the Republican nominee. Barring a strong political upset, Clinton and Trump will be America’s two options for the general election. Looking to these two candidates, I have given much thought to whom I will vote for as well as whom I will encourage others to vote for—based on the policies they care about, their policy proposals and who they are as a person.

I am a moderate conservative who has most often aligned with Republican candidates and still aligns with many conservative values. Despite this, I believe that Hillary Clinton is the best choice for president between the two options that are before us. This decision does not originate in unrealistic idealism in her message nor in blind anger toward the Republican Party or its frontrunner. Rather, it comes from examining the bigger picture.

Hillary Clinton has been in government for much of her life. During the 1980s, she was the first lady of Arkansas, and during the 1990s, she saw the presidency up close as first lady of the United States when her husband Bill was the 42nd president. After leaving the White House, she became a U.S. senator from New York for eight years and served the Obama administration as Secretary of State from 2009 until 2013. She has seen up close and had experience with both state and national politics, including managerial positions.

But how is this helpful? In the minds of many Americans, political experience is a reason to vote against rather than for a candidate. Political experience (especially in managerial positions), however, teaches a person about the act of governing—how to compromise, how to get things done in a democratic system with opposing interests, how to handle oneself in tough situations, etc. Despite Clinton’s shortcomings and even failures in her public roles, there is evidence that she has learned some of these lessons (at least somewhat) from her time in various offices.

An example of this is her answer to a comment by CBS anchor Charlie Rose in a December 1 interview. He commented that many Americans today believe one of our country’s biggest problems is the political atmosphere in Washington. Clinton replied, “But look at the way our founders set it up. They set up the separation of powers. And they made it really difficult to get things done. And some years, it’s really hard…[P]art of what you have to do is make it clear to everyone else who is in [the Republican Party] that there is room for negotiation.” This willingness to negotiate may ostensibly extend to even the issue of abortion. She stated in a September 2015 interview on MSNBC that “if there’s a way to structure some kind of constitutional restriction that take into account the life of the mother and her health, then I’m open to that.”

My point in emphasizing Clinton’s political experience is not to argue that her successes outweigh her mistakes, but rather to show that such experience has taught her in some capacity that compromise is a necessary process in our system of government and that a lack of willingness to negotiate is one of our primary governmental problems today. When this is compared to the tone set by the other candidate, Clinton’s philosophy seems to be a better, though not a stellar, option.

Now there is the issue of Clinton’s character. For the sake of our innocent-­until­-proven­-guilty justice system, I will briefly mention that Clinton has never been proven to have been involved in blatant wrongdoing, many of these situations are complicated, and with some, the investigation is still underway. While I encourage you to keep this in mind, for the sake of the article, I will grant you the assumption that Hillary Clinton is indeed a corrupt politician directly involved in these scandals. While I excuse none of her wrongdoings in these situations, most of them consisted of carelessness (albeit serious carelessness, such as the email scandal), attempting to cover up mistakes (such as the incidents relating to Benghazi), or questions regarding finances (such as questions on the Clinton Foundation). If these are true and Clinton is directly involved, they certainly reflect badly on her character.

However, we have always had corrupt politicians in positions of power, and we have even had corrupt and careless presidents. Yet we as a nation have remained strong. Our governmental system is fairly well-­designed in order to guard against self­-servingly corrupt individuals. Sometimes these questionable leaders (Bill Clinton) even leave lasting positive effects on this country. Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe that leaders should have the utmost levels of integrity and self-­sacrifice, and I am not saying that Hillary would be an ideal (or even desirable) leader for this country, but she appears to be our best option.

Donald Trump, the likely GOP nominee, has demonstrated on multiple occasions a complete disregard not only for proper diplomacy, but a total lack of professionalism, decorum, flexibility, compassion and human decency. A man who regularly degrades in the most personal and barbaric fashion anyone who dares to stand in his way; a man who has no experience in the workings of government; a man whose policy proposals are vague, unrealistic and fascistic at best; a man who has proposed banning an entire group of people from entering the U.S. based solely on their religion; a man who will not immediately denounce the Ku Klux Klan; and a man who speaks out of both sides of his mouth more than any politician I have ever seen (his version of “telling it like it is”)—this man not only has no business being president of the United States, but his ability to play masterfully on the present fears and dark desires of much of the American populace could also prove to be immensely dangerous. Individual corruption is much easier for our system to handle than the combined power of a fear­-driven electorate led by a president suited to exploit those fears and a Congress whose current controlling party and mentality would be more inclined to follow his lead.

Specifically addressing the issue of abortion, on which many people hinge their vote, Trump may claim to be pro-­life now, but his view on abortion has suspiciously shifted dramatically in the last few years, and his opinions on other issues and people seem to shift weekly. It is clear that he is willing to completely and superficially change his opinion on major issues and blatantly lie about his past positions in order to get elected. It is just as likely as not that his pro-­life position is a façade. With Hillary Clinton, we know where she stands on this issue, and she has ostensibly shown willingness to compromise. With Trump, it is anyone’s guess where he actually stands (or if he even cares), and during the campaign he has not shown a willingness to compromise on much of anything.

You still may not be convinced of my voting choice or, given the options, my choice to vote at all. However, I will vote, because, assuming Clinton and Trump win their party nominations, one of them will be the next president of the United States. Any individual’s refusal to vote will not change that. But going back to Hillary Clinton specifically, I would like to make one final point. Since Harry Truman became president at the end of WWII, not once has one political party held control of the presidency for more than three consecutive terms. If you don’t like to imagine Clinton in office for eight years, recent history shows that you may only have to imagine her in office for four. And with the possibility of Republicans controlling one or both houses of Congress for at least part of that time, her more partisan legislative ideas would have great difficulty gaining traction. Hopefully this acts as the spoonful of sugar if my prescription is still hard to swallow.

While the prescription of voting for Hillary Clinton will not be without its unpleasant side effects, it is at this point the only visible remedy to keep the disease of Trump’s dangerous ideology at bay before it reaches the terminal point of the presidency. Yet voting for Clinton is a choice you must make for yourself. Whether you involve yourself regularly in the political process or not, I urge you to take advantage of the opportunities presented to you through the primaries this spring and the general election in November to express your choice of who should be the next president of the United States. In the same way in which I started, I will end—with a similar (and just as cheesy) cliché. Life is full of surprises. Hopefully I have convinced you that my decision to vote for Hillary Clinton is a decision worth seriously considering for yourself. When deciding whom you will vote for, I ask you to think about the larger picture and the associated costs and benefits rather than limiting yourself to one or two considerations. Also, form careful and well –thought-­out reasons behind your decision. It’s possible that your conclusions may lead you to a surprising choice.

Image courtesy of Getty Images
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1 Comment

  1. Joshua,

    I appreciate your willingness to voice your opinion on such a controversial matter during such a chaotic race. More ought to do the same.

    However, I must disagree with you on several points: namely, your base, your reasoning and your conclusion.

    Let’s look at some of your first statements. You discuss Clinton’s experience briefly and then make the claim that for many Americans, political experience is a turn-off. I think I understand where you are coming from here, but I think you are broad-brushing it a bit. Many Americans do have a distaste for career politicians, but there is a definite, albeit nuanced, distinction between having political experience and being perceived as a career politician. Carson’s campaign has suffered greatly for his lack of political experience. Sanders’ has suffered very little for the 25 years he has spent in Congress. It is neither clear nor apt enough to say that Americans don’t want experience. Rather, (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) I think the phenomenon you were trying to address is Trump’s success as a non-establishment candidate, which can largely be attributed to his rhetoric, not his lack of experience. This is just a minor thing, but I think the distinction is important to understand in order to make the most well-informed decision.

    Following the generalizations about American opinion, you discussed the way in which Clinton’s political experience has led her to be a politician with a willingness to compromise in order to make things happen. The example you cited is an interview in which she says that there often has to be room for negotiation in our government. This is perhaps my biggest issue, for it seems to influence the rest of your reasoning. First, there doesn’t seem to me to be anything particularly marvelous about saying that you are open to compromise, especially in such a vague manner. It doesn’t take a scholar to recognize that our system of government often requires that the two parties meet in the middle. My largest concern here though, is not that you offered Clinton’s statements on compromise as a reason to consider her (even though words are seldom sufficient cause for choosing a president), but in the jump that is made to abortion. It may be said that Clinton could “ostensibly” compromise on the issue, but that does not change her voting record, her previous statements, or her continued advocacy for women’s rights. I am by no means suggesting that she is less desirable than Trump, but it is improper to rely solely upon statements made regarding a vague willingness to meet in the middle. If one believes that abortion is the issue by which one should vote, then a couple of quotes is certainly not enough ground on which to make that decision.

    All that being said, I think that given the choice between Trump and Clinton, two very politicized individuals, Clinton is the most electable choice. But the rationale behind that belief does not rest in statements regarding potential compromise, nor does it rely on the basic idea that experience isn’t terrible. The choice comes down to an understanding of what each candidate is truly bringing to the table. Clinton has been framed as the pro-establishment, career politician. But Trump is no less politicized than she. There is an anger in the American people that has been growing for some time without a voice through which to channel it. People see the flaws in our system which are hurting them, and they believe that candidates like Clinton will not bring certain issues to the table; issues which contradict the status quo. Trump has, in a lot of ways, catalyzed the discontent of the people. But it is absurd to think that Trump is any more willing to bring these issues forward. He has a hard enough time making concrete statements about what he believes. Clinton has a comprehensive understanding of our political system, something which Trump has been unable to boast of, not to mention Trump’s frequent prejudice against minorities and other cultures.

    To summarize, I understand your thought process, but I think you are prioritizing incorrectly and I question the logic which brought you to prioritize the things that you did.

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