My endorsement for
the U.S. presidential election
After almost two years of one of the most vicious and policy-absent campaigns in American history, Election Day is finally – almost – here. Americans will have the final say over who they believe should be their next commander-in-chief and head of the Executive branch: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump. While in the past, American presidential elections have usually been contests of ideas and different policy prescriptions to certain challenges, this year the scenario looks remarkably different. This is not a regular right vs. left, Republican vs. Democrat election. Long-standing party beliefs – like the GOP’s support for free trade – have been shattered and new voter coalitions seem to be emerging – although these trends have been in the making for a long time now.
A new wave of populist sentiment – which has been around in Europe for a while now – has reared its ugly head across the Atlantic to the land that – until not long ago – was free from the plague of anti-globalization politics and its offspring: protectionism, xenophobia, isolationism, nationalism and chauvinism. It is saddening that the political entity responsible for letting the genie out of the bottle is the same that, three decades ago, gave the world one of the greatest champions of freedom and yes, globalization, we have known so far: Ronald Reagan. The rise of populist anti-globalization authoritarianism in America is not a creation of Donald Trump – as much as he would like to get the credit for it – but of the Republican Party.
The party that once stood for open markets, free trade, enterprise and American leadership in the world. The party that helped bring to an end Soviet Communism and is now clapping the Russian government’s hacking of American agencies and political parties. The party that, at the turn of the 20th century, defeated a dangerous populist demagogue with the triumph of William McKinley over Democrat William Jennings Bryan, now finds itself in the position of nominating a Williams Jennings Bryan of its own making. Just as I would have sided in the election of 1896, I’m siding with the anti-demagogue and anti-populist in this race. I’m siding with the William McKinley of 2016: Hillary Clinton.
But this goes beyond the dichotomy between globalization and openness vs. populism and authoritarianism. Even when the Republican Party is responsible for creating a fertile environment for the growth of authoritarian populism within segments of the American electorate who “lost” with globalization and feel alienated, a respectable GOP candidate could have made this election cycle more about policy and substance. Instead, this alienated “monster” fed by the party ended up swallowing the entire party apparatus itself and imposing the most unqualified candidate ever to run for the presidency of the United States.
Donald Trump’s policy positions are not just a break with traditional Republican values and beliefs – free trade, entitlement reform, American leadership in the world, defense of America’s allies, opposition to nuclear proliferation–, they represent a break with essential American values. His call for a ban on Muslims and his attacks on journalists are an affront to the First Amendment to the Constitution and reminds me of a banana republic dictator. His support for war crimes and his opposition to the Geneva Conventions show either an incredible ignorance or an atrocious belief system. His mockery of women, the disabled, military families and veterans, among others, are an insult to human decency. His portrayal of Mexican immigrants is the definition of racism. His bragging about not paying taxes and, in general, not playing by the rules, is the textbook definition of a Latin American caudillo or strongman – perhaps Mr. Trump does not realize how close he resembles a banana republic demagogue. Donald Trump’s values and instincts – authoritarianism, isolationism, protectionism, xenophobia, sexism, populism, demagoguery – are a threat to the foundations of America’s liberal democracy. Moreover, they are contrary to the values enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.
If I focus on policies, I also find that Trump’s prescriptions would be disastrous for the world’s economic and security prospects. His promises to “renegotiate” NAFTA, oppose trade deals and impose tariffs would create a global recession. His tax plan would explode the national debt by the trillions. His threats against our NATO allies would destabilize the entire world. On the other hand, Hilary Clinton has at least a credible plan. Yes, it’s not perfect and it has flaws, like her newly discovered opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – though this smells as political opportunism and let’s hope that is the case –, but overall, she would not renegotiate NAFTA nor impose irresponsible tariffs and cause trade wars with China. Clinton understands trade is essential in our global economy. At the same time, her plan would not explode the national debt – while it’s not true that her plan would not add to the national debt as she likes to say, an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Budget estimates that Clinton’s plan would add $200 billion to the debt while Trump’s plan would add a whopping $5.3 trillion. Furthermore, Clinton will not reverse the progress on climate change and will appoint reasonable judges to the Supreme Court instead of social authoritarian crusaders.
However, even when policy is also on Clinton’s side, this election goes beyond policy. This election is about the character of America and America’s moral leadership in the world. Nothing would please those who love to hate America more than a Trump victory. It would reaffirm their prejudices about what they believe the United States stands for. But Trump’s beliefs are not what America stands for. Trump’s America is not what the U.S. Constitution stands for. The country founded on the belief in religious freedom and a free press cannot succumb to the whims of a faux demagogue. Globalization is at stake. Openness is at stake. Free trade is at stake. Religious freedom is at stake. Press freedom is at stake. National and world security are at stake. America’s leadership in the world is at stake. But, above all, the very essence of American values is at stake.
Hillary Clinton, with all her flaws and strengths, is the only option standing between American values and a descent into authoritarian populism. Just as I would have done in 1896, I choose American values over demagoguery. I choose William McKinley over William Jennings Bryan. I choose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.
Posted by Alejandro Honeker.