Dale Peck: Hillary for President

Clinton knows that change is incremental—that the politician who asks for 10 and gets 5 is more useful than the one who asks for 100 and gets nothing

Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a primary night event on June 7, 2016 in Brooklyn, New York. Hillary Clinton beat rival Bernie Sanders in the New Jersey presidential primary
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a primary night event on June 7, 2016 in Brooklyn.

Cards on the table time (because everything sounds better if you hear it in Dave Wakeling’s voice):

As much as I’ve always despised Bill, I’ve always liked Hillary. By which I mean I like her as a politician, not a person. I don’t know her and have no need to invent a personality for her to like or dislike, which is stupid when we do it with male politicians, and stupid and usually sexist when we do it with female politicians. I genuinely want her to be president. I think she will surprise people. I think she’ll kick ass. And I think that when she leaves office she’ll leave this country in better shape than when she enters.

I voted for Bernie in the primary because I wanted him to push the Democratic platform to the left, which is what any reasonable observer knew to be his only actual job—and he seemed to know it too, until he got so caught up in his own brand of populism that he started believing his own hype. Now he’s annoyed the Democratic establishment to such a degree that he’s close to squandering his (and his supporters) hard-earned political capital, if he hasn’t actually squandered it already, which makes me that much more certain he has no business being president. I lived through the Carter presidency. I have nothing but admiration for Carter, but he never belonged in the White House. His good intentions, high principles, and political ineptitude were the nail in the coffin of the liberal advances made by the 60s generation. The Carter presidency left the country in such disarray that it opened the door for Ronald Reagan, whose unchecked policies of deregulation and containment were the catalysts for many of our worst problems: environmental catastrophe, Islamic extremism, financial inequality, increasingly symbolic elections. Bernie Sanders makes Carter look like, I dunno, Barry Goldwater, or some other reasonably principled conservative. Four years of him in the White House—with this idiot Congress blocking his every move, and this idiot electorate acting like government is your evil but rich and ailing grandfather who you want to pull the plug on but can’t because you’re not sure if you’re in the will—and we really would end up with Donald Trump as president. Or worse: Ted Cruz.

It’s about fucking time a politician from the left realized that it’s not the president’s job to be your goddamn friend.

Like the Bushes and the Kennedys (and the Roosevelts and the Harrisons and the Adamses), Hillary is the product of name-brand politics, which is the American surrogate for monarchy. We can lament that as much as we want but it isn’t going anywhere. Hillary is sometimes duplicitous and always cynical, and she doesn’t care about your feelings or if you like her. And I say: it’s about fucking time a politician from the left realized that it’s not the president’s job to be your goddamn friend. And yes, I do believe Hillary is from the left. But she’s from the realist left. The bruises she suffered from health care reform and gays in the military all the way back in Bill’s first term have left their mark. She’s not going to use her first hundred days to offer a blueprint for utopia. She knows that change is incremental—that the politician who asks for a 10 percent improvement and gets 5 percent is infinitely more useful to her constituents than the politician who asks for 50 percent or 100 percent and gets nothing. Which I’m sorry, people, but WAKE UP! That’s exactly what someone like Bernie Sanders would accomplish, in this country, under these conditions.

Here’s the deal: elections aren’t revolutions, and government isn’t a moral institution. They’re contingent processes that synthesize the competing and often antithetical goals of millions of people into a handful of individuals and policies whose ideas are most acceptable to the most number of people in a given moment (c.f., Churchill’s maxim that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”). Democracies are not and, more to the point, should not be consensus societies. The virtue of democracy isn’t that everyone agrees with everyone else all the time, but that people with wildly divergent identities and values can live side by side without murdering each other the way Europeans and Africans just love to do. And yeah, even with America’s truly repulsive record of killing, raping, enslaving, disenfranchising, or otherwise debasing its minorities, we still live with each other better than pretty much any other country in the world, or any country that isn’t essentially an ethnic and cultural homogeneity. If there’s any promise at all in the American experiment, it’s that. But, sadly, it seems to me that more and more people from both the left and right have forgotten it, and though I’m sympathetic to left-wing frustration (because racism, because sexism, because homophobia, because come on, people, it’s 2016, it doesn’t matter who the hell is pissing in the stall next to yours), I’ll never believe that silencing people who hate you will do anything except give you a false sense of safety and superiority.

So I’m voting for Hillary. Not because I agree with every one of her polices, but because she knows that America’s needs are more important than mine. I’m not a reluctant voter. I don’t feel like I’m compromising or making do. I’m not voting for a philosopher or a surrogate mom. I’m voting for a president, and I think Hillary Clinton will be the best president this country has had since FDR.

Dale Peck: Hillary for President