One of the weird things about election season is the weird alliance between the more ardent Bernie Sanders supporters and Donald Trump supporters that there is simply not a case to be made for Hillary Clinton to be President. The Bernie or bust supporters believe that the only case to be made for Clinton is of fear of Trump. Trump supporters feel the same way. I think there’s a very strong case to be made for Clinton to be president. But like everything, if you’re not open to the argument, I’m not sure how successful it will be.
- Supreme Court and the federal judiciary – One of the annoying things that we do in America is that we tend to overrate the power of the American presidency. Thanks to our Constitution and the system within a Madisonian democracy, there are a high number of veto points and consistently limits the power of the presidency. Thanks to our hyperpartisanship that is happening in our federal legislature, every single bill that is introduced by a Democrat or supported by Democratic leadership will be instantly opposed by the vast majority of Republican Senators and members of Congress. This will certainly limit the amount of progressive policies that can be enacted within a Democratic president even if Democrats take back the Senate and make inroads into the House of Representatives.
The main way that a President can make a lasting impact in our political environment and government structure is the appointments to the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary. These are lifetime appointments, by and large. With Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, there is an immediate opening on the Supreme Court that can allow Hillary Clinton to shift the median vote on the Supreme Court to a liberal vote. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely to retire in the next few years and due to the age of the other justices excepting the Obama appointees and Chief Justice John Roberts, there is likely to be another opening within the next 4-8 years. Shifting the median vote on the Supreme Court to a liberal vote is going to be huge. This can change voting rights, death penalty, mandatory minimums, public sector unions, LGBT rights and equality, etc. You can bet that a Democratic Senate will be focusing on environmental issues and there will be court challenges to these laws. Having a Supreme Court who believes in a living Constitution is going to be friendlier to this agenda.
Of course, this argument can be considered as only saying that Clinton is better than Trump. This is true but she is simply better than any Republican in this regard.
- Voting rights – When Clinton was a Senator, she introduced a bill that would help voting rights tremendously. The bill was called the gold standard for voting rights reform. The bill would make election day a holiday (a cause Bernie Sanders took up this year); restore the right to felons who have been released from jail and off parole; limit ability to throw out voter registration forms; prevent voter id laws from being enacted; create a national standard for early voting; require paper records in all precincts; and automatic recounts in 2% of all polling places or precincts. All of these things are fantastic and part of a very progressive agenda.
One of the policies that she is running on in this election and has since the primary is to repair our voting rights problem. Her policy is to automatically register voters; repair the Voting Rights Act including the section that was struck down in Shelby County v. Holder; set a national standard for early voting; and restore voting rights to felons who have served their time. Again, these are all very worthy goals. Restoring the Voting Rights Act alone would help with minority voters, young people, and low-income voters to prevent onerous voter id restrictions. This could also prevent worse gerrymandering and would require the preclearance that was previously guaranteed.
More on voting rights can be found here for my thoughts on voting rights.
- Repealing Hyde Amendment – The Hyde Amendment is an amendment that is more or less included in every spending bill to prevent federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy is a result of incest or rape. The Hyde Amendment is a barrier to prevent health insurance policies from offering abortions. What’s worse is that while the federal funds prevent funding for abortions, only 17 states provide public funding for low-income seeking abortions. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) bans the use of federal funds for abortions sought by teeenagers. The Hyde Amendment forbids Medicaid from funding an abortion.
Clinton has specifically opposed the Hyde Amendment since, at least, 2008. It’s not an exciting issue. But the Hyde Amendment is a real barrier for poor or low-income women from being able to obtain an abortion. As they have to wait longer, it is more likely that the cost will increase and the chances of health complications increase as we the fetus ages.
If you’re pro-life, though, this does nothing to convince you that Clinton should be elected.
- Paid family and Medical leave – Clinton, despite the claims made by the Donald Trump campaign, have been fighting for paid family and medical leave to help provide for up to 12 weeks of medical leave for care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. I wrote about the need for paid family and medical leave and why it’s important. This is a very progressive goal and will likely be one of the new fights that will be coming in the next 8 years.
- Immigration reform – Clinton has said that she will defend the executive actions of DACA and DAPA to prevent deportations of immigrants who were born here and follow through with protections for them. She has also talked about the need for comprehensive immigration reform which is certainly needed. Immigration reform used to be a bipartisan issue and one that was clearly needed to address the issues. The idea is to get the 11 million undocumented immigrants from out of the shadows and to pay taxes as they assimilate to American society. This includes a pathway to citizenship which is very important to help these millions of people to be in the formal economy. Further, she has stated the need to close private immigrant detention centers which are usually the ones that follow through with the worst abuses.
- Campaign finance – The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is consistently cited by Bernie sanders and his more erstwhile supporters as a grave threat to democracy. I think that ultimately this decision has been overblown because of people’s obsession with simple explanations to complex problems. Yes, there is a problem of money in politics. Simply overturning Citizens United will not fix this. At any rate, the group Citizens United made a move about Hillary Clinton in 2008 about how Hillary was a European socialist who wanted to take over the country. Clinton has denounced the ruling since it was handed down. She has campaigned heavily on this and has promised to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. I don’t think this is a very practical solution as it could be overturned with a simple majority on the Supreme Court. But she wants it overturned.
I know, that, some of you will talk about how Clinton is taking money from dark money groups in her quest to be President so she is a hypocrite. I don’t really buy this argument as Clinton will need the money to be able to be President, unfortunately, and can still not like the rule. She is simply playing the game with the rules that are currently out there. I’ve never really bought this argument but if you think Clinton is a hypocrite, I’m sure you will. But I think questions about her judgment about foreign policy are simply an excuse not to vote for her.
- Foreign policy judgment– Since I was just talking about Citizens United and this will follow naturally. In 2008, Clinton had Mark Penn as a staffer and had a number of longtime Clinton staffers on her campaign. This campaign failed. There were a lot of terrible mistakes in that campaign including the Michigan and Florida fiasco and subsequent fight for the nomination and pledges to fight for the nomination.
Clinton did not hire these staffers in her most recent campaign. There were not campaign shakeups after her loss in New Hampshire. There was not really any surprises in the primary (outside of Michigan which is still not really clear why she lost that state). She dominated the delegate game without spending a lot of her money and without going negative against Bernie Sanders (by and large). Poor Clinton judgment on the campaign trail would have had her shaking up her campaign after New Hampshire or Michigan or after a poor showing in a caucus. She won all of her “must win” states. While the primary votes seemed to be close, after New Hampshire, it was never as close as the 2008 Democratic primary.
But what about her Iraqi war vote and her hawkishness? Clinton, unlike in 2008, has renounced her vote for Iraq and has talked about it being a mistake. When she gave her vote in October 2002, she also gave a speech about why she was making this vote. It seemed to be a straightforward reason for why she decided to make this vote.
I’m not a fan of her hawishness, overall. She is more of a hawk than I am. This is for certain. Her claims that she made a mistake with her Iraqi war vote in 2002 (unlike in 2008) and her change in her campaign from 2008 show me that she learned from her mistake back then. When Bill Clinton was asked about the biggest mistake of his presidency, he, almost, without fail would cite the Rwandan genocide as one of his biggest regrets. I think this played into her overall hawkishness and support for “regime change.”
Other attacks on her foreign policy regarding Syria, Libya, or Honduras don’t, to me, pass the sniff test. There were no good answers with regards to Syria. Especially, when you keep it in mind that there is still the Rwandan genocide still in the minds of the Clinton. Honduras is a weird thing to criticize her for, considering she is being criticized for not getting involved int he coup. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
I’d doubt that Clinton would get us into another war, especially in the Middle East. But to just say that she is forever tainted because of her Iraq vote and can’t learn from this mistake (while very similar to other criticisms of her, in general) are, in my opinion, misleading.
- Environmental policy– Clinton has said that she will support the Clean Power Plan and help defend it. Of course, to do so, she would need a majority for the Supreme Court. In fact, ALL environmental policies will need a majority Supreme Court to help defend it. This is just something we need to deal with. I’m not going to spend much time on this but Clinton is supporting a number of actions that will make America cleaner.
- Student loan debt, colleges, and single payer– The biggest ideas of Bernie Sanders that was supported by young voters was the idea to get rid of student loan debt and make colleges free and then single payer. Student loan debt is a big issue for a number of young voters as they have thousands of dollars in debt for a degree that they are, in all probability, not using in their jobs. The idea is that if we make colleges free we can get rid of student loan debt forever and make it affordable for all Americans to attend colleges. Clinton’s plan is an actual plan. Supported by a number of Democrats in the House and Senate, community colleges will offer free tuition. The other idea is to allow families making less than $125,000 will be able to attend four year public colleges without tuition and students from families making less than $85,000 will be able to attend college without paying tuition. In true Clintonian fashion, this would also require students to work 10 hours/week. This will be funded through grants in the states.
For those who already have debt will have an option to refincance their loans and create a payroll deduction to let both employees and employers pay off student loans in a different way. Her plan will also limit the amount of income that you have to pay back to less than 10% of your monthly income and forgiven after 20 years. This is paid for by increases in taxes to high income earners.
As opposed to quantitative easing which is creating a new function for the Federal Reserve and allows for additional powers for the Federal Reserve, this is much more likely to pass and to be implemented. Beyond that, it’s just a better idea. There is not a consistent argument to expand the power of the Federal Reserve to take over student loan debt without also letting the Federal Reserve provide for a universal basic income (which I actually support) or other policy ideas that we’re ignoring because they’re not feasible.
Sanders ran on a platform of Medicare for all plan to allow for a single payer system in healthcare. His ideas were full of promises for money that simply were not there and misstaed a number of facts about savings and the cost of the program. I’m not here to relitigate the primaries so I’ll move on. Clinton has long been advocating for an option for people over the age of 55 to buy into Medicare. Her support for such a system was part of her health care reform in the 1990s.
While running in the primaries, she criticized Sanders, rightly in my opinion, that his universal coverage was too expensive and not feasible. But the buy-in for those who are 55 or older will allow for health insurance premiums to also decrease as those who are older are the biggest drivers for health insurance costs increasing. Removing them from the public marketplace would decrease health insurance premiums for those who are younger and healthier. Beyond that, it would expand coverage to millions of Americans. The biggest issue is that states have already blocked Medicaid expansion but a majority in the Supreme Court may uphold such a public option that would move America into universal coverage.
- Minimum wage – Senator Sanders ran on a campaign to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15/hour. This idea was largely supported by younger supporters. Clinton’s proposal more or less mirrored Barack Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to about $12/hour and chain it to cost of living increases that are automatically renewed. Clinton’s proposal was criticized as not being enough. She later clarified if there was legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour, she would sign it as President.
Clinton’s proposal is the better proposal. I don’t mean that lightly. Increasing the minimum wage, essentially more than doubling it from its current wage would certainly lead to job losses. There is a lot of economic research that shows that increasing the minimum wages incrementally does not lead to major job losses. Increasing it significantly, would almost certainly lead to job losses that would harm the program and harm the idea of a progressive policy that needs to be enacted.
The Congressional Budget Office’s central estimate for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would reduce employment by 500,000 with most of the job losses focused on those making less than $10.10/hour currently. An increase to $15/hour would focus on those making less than $15/hour and would certainly lead to larger job loss.
Further, a $15/hour minimum wage is not going to be passed and is not supported by a majority of Americans. While there is certainly a need to increase the minimum wage, increasing it uniformly to $15/hour would hurt workers in the midwest and south and other places that have low cost of living while significantly helping those in higher cost of living areas. The $15/hour minimum wage probably will have minimal job losses in the Seatac area but if you go into the more rural parts of Washington, increasing it that high will lead to a number of job losses and businesses no longer to be able to afford it.
There is simply not a policy argument that $15/hour is better than $12 or $17. It’s just a number that ends in $5. A minimum wage increase needs to be able to have minimal job losses so that a progressive policy can be supported going into the future and needs to have large support to be able to be enacted. An increase in minimum wage will be attacked with every job loss and it needs to be able to withstand these attacks.
But even if you do believe that $12/hour is insufficient for everyone in the country, you have to admit that such a large increase in the minimum wage would be a tremendous policy achievement for a Democratic president and Democratic Congress. I don’t believe that $12/hour will be passed by a Congress held by Republicans and would face a lot of difficulties in order to be enacted. It is more likely than $15/hour. And is the superior policy.
There are so many other policies that I can bring up or reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton including gun contorl, the drug epidemic, LGBT rights, etc. that it boggles the mind that people think that there is simply not a reason to vote for Clinton in November.
I do believe that Trump is a racist who has authoritarian tendencies and would do irreparable harm not only to political discourse but our democracy, overall. But I think there are a number of positives for Clinton that she should be evaluated in her own right.