I have been having a back-and-forth with a friend on Facebook who simply cannot bring himself to even consider voting for Hillary Clinton. He seems determined to vote for a Third Party candidate, probably the Green Party’s Jill Stein. In any event, as I have been thinking about the reasons for and against such a decision, I have checked on Dr. Stein’s credentials and they are rock solid. In fact, her program is almost identical to the one I would choose if I were in a position to do so. She shines like a jewel in the mud that is today’s politics.
However, I will not vote for her for reasons given in a previous post, but also because I realize that (a) the president of this country has very little real Constitutional power to effect change, and (b) someone so far outside the mainstream who would have to work with a large group of seasoned politicians, each with his or her own agenda, would be even less effective than was Barack Obama — and that says a lot.
To take the first point, the Constitution was written by men at a time when they were struggling to free themselves from the grip of one of the most powerful monarchies on earth. They distrusted power and above all else they distrusted the so-called “right of birth.” They didn’t like aristocrats. So when it came time to write the section of the Constitution that dealt with the Senate — which was the closest thing they could come up with to the House of Lords without being housed by Lords — they stumbled and sputtered and wound up with the notion that those with wealth would be the best guarantee of a safeguard to ward off the machinations of the President and the House of Representatives, the latter of whom would be made up of the “vulgar” (as they liked to say) who would only keep their seats for a year or so and would then be back off to their farms. They gave the Senate immense power and they gave the president almost none. They worried more that the president would abuse his power than that the Senators would abuse theirs. Henry Adams saw this as a terrible mistake about a hundred years later and hoped that President Grant would modify an old document that was in need of correction, that he would untie the hands of the president.
Well, that didn’t happen and as things now are we have a president who, while he or she may have a certain amount of de facto power based on the prestige of their position, must still work with a Congress made up of professional politicians (the founders never saw that coming!) who know their power and blindly exercise it. They have proved it recently in refusing to act to confirm (or deny) the president’s Supreme Court nominee. And the president, as we have seen, cannot effect profound change, such as meaningful gun control, without the blessing of the Congress.
So a political novice, relatively speaking, no matter how well qualified and well-intentioned she may be, cannot possibly hope to effect change in such a system stacked as it is against her. The argument that we need to change the system, that “if everyone thinks a vote for Stein is a throwaway vote then it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy” is weak. It is tritely true but in the real world it is irrelevant, because radical changes in the system are extremely improbable and predictions by a handful of people cannot alter the votes of enough people to affect the outcome of this election in any significant way. We may not like it, but that’s the way things are at present. And until that changes a vote for Stein, or any third party candidate, is in fact a throw-away vote. As attractive as Jill Stein is, I honestly do not think she can win and if I were wrong and she did somehow win, she would be largely ineffective.
We could argue until the proverbial cows come home as to whether a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump, but that argument gets us nowhere; we must make tough decisions in the here and now in the world as it is — and not the world as we might like it to be. And this is why I would vote for Clinton, despite any reservations I might have, because she can win and she knows how to deal with professional politicians. She can make the most of an office that would hinder the novice.
From reading about Hillary, however, I have come to have fewer doubts and I do think she will make an excellent president. She is certainly not “evil” and therefore not the lesser of two evils. She espouses many worthy ideals (including a Constitutional amendment to rid us of the cursed “Citizens United” decision that gave unlimited power and influence to the corporations); she, is bright, tough, and progressive. And she is so much better than the only other viable alternative that it is really, as they say, a no-brainer.