I will vote for Hillary Clinton. This is the first time I have publicly endorsed a Democrat for president. My Republican roots date to the Civil War, when my Minnesota ancestors gave their support to “Father Abraham.” Before becoming a judge, I was a “Lincoln Republican” who believed a limited government creates and preserves a civil society. Role models for me were named Pillsbury, Stassen, Eisenhower, Andersen, LeVander and Carlson — all Republicans.
Republicans suggest I hold my nose and vote for Donald Trump; but I cannot vote for an unqualified candidate. My right to vote is also too precious to self-disenfranchise by not voting or voting for a third party. American sovereignty resides with the people. We are obligated to exercise this sovereignty carefully. Clinton or Trump? I choose Clinton.
Clinton has served our country with distinction. She is an experienced and thoughtful leader. As a senator, she worked hard, was prepared and reached out to the opposite party. The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Republican newspaper, said Clinton “was a competent secretary of state, with stronger diplomatic skills than she gets credit for.” The Enquirer also said, “we need a leader who will bring out the best in all Americans, not the worst.” Clinton can do that and she knows the issues, the difficult decisions and pressures that come with being president.
Clinton has made mistakes and her leadership style has flaws. But those flaws pale when compared with Trump’s. Some of Clinton’s mistakes and flaws are self-inflicted; but opponents fabricate many. Benghazi is an example.
I met with Ambassador Christopher Stevens in June 2012. Libya was a dangerous place then, and Stevens knew the risks he assumed. Stevens is a hero. We should honor his service, not exploit his tragic death. Republicans made Stevens’ death an issue in the 2012 election and have attempted to do so again. But after years of intense investigation, several hearings and the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars, Clinton has been absolved of any wrongdoing. Yet, the misinformation about Benghazi continues.
Trump’s record provides ample evidence why he is neither qualified nor temperamentally fit to be president. His words provoke our worst fears. He appeals to people’s fantasies but provides no realistic solutions for their concerns. He employs lies and falsehoods to promote the “Trump brand,” and appears to believe his own rhetoric. He ignores his own conflicts of interest and self-interests while condemning others. He is prone to insult and disparage friend and foe alike. His attitude toward women is offensive. He brags about being so “smart” that he pays no taxes. To quote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civil society.” Either Trump does not believe in a civil society or he wants you and me to pay for it.
Trump appears to be a self-absorbed illusionist who resembles a 19th century “snake oil salesman” selling dubious goods. He packages a product of dubious quality (himself) and sells it to voters as a cure-all for his gloomy vision of our country. The acceptance of Trump’s message in some quarters is confounding. It causes one to wonder about Jefferson’s belief that the only “safe depository of the ultimate powers of society” is “the people themselves.” In 2016, voters must prove Jefferson right. They must not buy into what Trump is trying to sell them.
There is an effort afoot to get voters to sit out this election. At the core of this effort is a campaign to diminish Clinton’s reputation to such a degree that voters will dislike her enough to not vote for her, vote for a third-party candidate, or not vote at all. This conduct is called self-disenfranchisement and is the product of cynicism. If enough voters self-disenfranchise, Trump may win. Cynicism and self-disenfranchisement must not become the hallmark of this election.
The right to vote is precious. It entails voting, which is the way to make yourself heard. The only meaningful way to be heard in 2016 is to choose between Clinton and Trump. At noon on Jan. 20, 2017, it will be either President Clinton or President Trump.
Those who do not like either candidate are advised to emulate Alexander Hamilton. When choosing between two candidates he did not respect — Aaron Burr or Thomas Jefferson — Hamilton chose Jefferson. Look to the lyrics of the song “The Election of 1800” from the Broadway play “Hamilton” for the reason why:
“But when all is said and done, Jefferson has beliefs, Burr has none.”
In 2016, when all is said and done, Clinton has the requisite beliefs, programs, and policies. Trump, like Burr, appears to have none.
Like Hamilton, put love of country and faith in the future first. Vote for Clinton, as I plan to do.
Paul H. Anderson was a justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, 1994-2013.