Defensive Voting: Why All Progressives Should Support Hillary Clinton

I'm writing to you not as a member of any organization but as a person concerned with the future of our country and our world. This is serious. The race for president is getting far too close for comfort, and nobody can afford to sit it out.

It's no secret that some progressives are less than enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, but it's time to put those reservations aside and vote for her, for the good of the country and the good of the progressive movement.

For her critics on the left, voting for Hillary Clinton is like defensive driving -- it's not the most fun thing you'll ever do, but if you don't do it there could be a huge catastrophe. Think of it as "defensive voting."

There are many reasons that some on the left are resistant to pulling the lever for Clinton (I'm showing my age here, as few voting methods involve actually pulling a lever anymore). She's too hawkish, they argue. Or too close to Wall Street. Or tied in their minds to her husband's crime bill. On November 8th, none of these issues matter compared to the urgent need to prevent a racist, narcissistic, sexist, unstable demagogue from becoming the leader of the most powerful country on earth.

The damage that Donald Trump could do in four years in office could take decades to repair. If we are going to have any hope of protecting a woman's right to choose, getting money out of politics, or putting even modest controls on the proliferation of guns in an already over-armed society, we can't give Donald Trump two or more nominees to the Supreme Court. We can't give a man with a 30-second attention span and no impulse control the power to launch a nuclear war. We can't treat immigrants as criminals, or allow an entire religion -- Islam -- to be denigrated and discriminated against. We can't put a man who is the candidate of choice of right wing nationalists and white supremacists in charge of enforcing our civil rights laws. We can't give the awesome power of the federal government to a man who openly calls reporters "scum" and doesn't understand or value the importance of a free press. We can't give a man who eggs on supporters to beat up opponents at his rallies control of the FBI and the national surveillance apparatus. And we can't put a man who doesn't believe in climate change in charge of environmental policies.

This isn't the time to vote Green, or Libertarian, or write in your uncle Bob for president. Voting for Hillary Clinton doesn't require agreeing with her on everything, or even most things. For progressives, it means living to fight another day. For serious activists, voting is just one tool among many for promoting social justice. So voting for Hillary Clinton isn't the end of the process, it's the beginning. You can vote for Hillary Clinton one day and turn around the next and oppose her positions on Wall Street regulation or bulking up the U.S. military presence in Syria. And you can support her on issues of agreement like gun control, reproductive freedom, and basic civility.

One thing the Bernie Sanders campaign has established is that there truly is a progressive wing of the Democratic Party. If they stay active, the Sanders voters can have an impact on a Clinton administration. So can campaigners for social justice who don't see the two party system as the primary terrain for advancing their issues. Not so if the president is a xenophobic real estate mogul who can't be reasoned with.

In part, it's about what kind of playing field we have as we fight for progressive policies. A Donald Trump presidency would put progressives on the defensive on so many fronts at once that it would be hard to even tread water. A Hillary Clinton presidency would leave open the doors to debate, discussion, and, that precious commodity in today's political landscape -- rationality. The choice couldn't be clearer.