Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Ethics of Voting Hillary (JM)

Is voting an ethical decision? I think it very clearly is. When designating an individual who will have power of the rights of the entire population there is a very real moral onus. Sometimes it's a particularly easy calculus: pick the guy or gal who has the best policies and the best possibility of enacting those policies. Rarely is there tension in this choice, it is usually surprisingly easy to pick out the candidate that, to my mind, stands out above all the rest. In this election it was Joe Biden, ethical, intelligent and experience, pretty much the perfect person to pull us out of this ditch George W. Bush drove us in to. But Iowans, in their infinite wisdom, made the decision for all of us, so no Joe Biden.

The next month was amongst lead to some seriously confused thinking on my part. In terms of issues I was most aligned with Edwards, but there always seemed to be something inherently weird and untrustworthy about him. Obama's popularity and background were quite intriguing to me, but I could not get over his complete lack of experience as well as total mistrust of his "not politics as usual" message. Any time a politician says that I expect people to softly snicker, there was way less snickering this time, but still Obama has proved himself to be a mere mortal politician as I expected. That left me with Hillary. I had deep misgivings about her, I never quite trusted her to be genuine or a clean campaigner, but I did believe that she supported the liberal agenda I believed in and, of the candidates left, was likely to be the most effective president of the remaining candidates, Democrat or Republican.

So since then I have been a supporter and grown more and more ardent in time. I like Hillary, I think she is a good and ultimately misunderstood person. I think a lot of the crap that has come her way has been rooted in misogyny and political gamesmanship. For some reason it has always been acceptable to tear the Clintons down in ways normal humans are never subjected to. In fact, it has its genesis in the crazy "Contract for America" Congresses from the mid-90s. I would remind those Obama supporters who think these kinds of attacks acceptable of the people from whom they are taking their marching orders. Moreover, I think it's very clear that the press is letting Obama's side get away with a lot more cheap shots than Hillary.

All of this said, I am now in something of a quandary. The increasingly racist and negative tone coming out of surrogates in the Clinton campaign (most notably Geraldine Ferraro) is utterly disturbing. The fact that Hillary hasn't strictly pushed away from this line of attack is discomforting to say the least (also inexplicably weird). I have some theories as to why this is the case, but weird, idle, psychological speculation has no place on the internets. Either way, it is simply an unacceptable form of politics. So here is where my problem lies: I am still absolutely convinced that Hillary Clinton would be an order of magnitude better President of the United States than Barack Obama and lightyears better than John McCain. I am also convinced she will be more likely to win in the general election than Obama would. You can feel free to try and persuade me otherwise, but since I doubt I will ever believe that politics is anything less than a contentious sport and that all the movements in the world won't change the fact that we are going to have fight tooth and nail to change the agenda of this country, I think Hillary is by far our best choice. That said, her campaign is devolving more and more in to a thoroughly unethical muck, one I am kind of disgusted by. It is definitely not as bad as some Obama supporters seem to think, I am getting real tired of hearing Hillary called things like "monster", "Stalin", "the president of the Ku Klux Klan"... thought admittedly "Hillzilla" can stay.

So there's my issue, does campaigning ethics trump a good presidency? I just don't know. This is the point at which some people simply drop out of the system, but to me that is the height of ethical irresponsibility. There's a right choice to be made, it's a matter of balancing perspectives and outcomes and it's not an easy choice. I suspect that, in the end, I will still support Hillary (I mean admittedly I no longer have any say in this) because ultimately I think maximizing the person in the presidency is more important than ethical standards. But at the point they threaten to hurt the party and people it's a very difficult line. I still don't trust Obama and think his campaign has been using race as a wedge issue as well, but it's definitely not a wash. So cleaner campaigner versus better president, a very tough decision, but one that I think it's still important to make.


Gary B said...

Hey Jonny,

I agree with you that voting is a matter of ethics. I have an observation to register regarding why I think Obama would be a better president. I don't think we've talked about this stuff in person, so I'm throwing it into the open forum.

In rooting for Obama, I used to think that the point about experience had to be conceded to the Hillary camp, but lately I've come to think that the most significant predictor we have of leadership ability in the coming elections is the way each candidate has run his or her campaign.

Even with Bill on her side, Hillary's campaign has maybe been okay, but has looked like a blundering mess compared to Obama's.

Obama, on the other hand, has shown a far greater degree of managerial skill than Hillary et al, including massively successful fundraising and a tremendous organization built from the ground up in practically no time.

If this is not a testament to leadership and organization skills, then what is? How has this upstart unknown out-campaigned Hillary, even with Bill on her side?

You pose the better campaigner vs. better president dilemma, but the only convincing datum we have either way is the skill of the campaigners, not in giving speeches only, but in managing the campaign itself. I don't know the details of how this was effected, but everything I read about Obama's campaign suggests better systems: better organization, better ability to motivate supporters to campaign and contribute, better understanding of the dynamics of internet fund raising, etc.

We can stack these things against a tremendous command of policy issues, but I don't think that knowledge necessarily illustrates good decision-making ability and I find some of Hillary's judgments questionable, notably support for the Iraq invasion (however the rhetoric is phrased these days), her botched her health care initiative and subsequent surrender, among others.

Her experience is fictitious, her judgment appears to be flawed, and now she's running a dirty campaign that seems to justify the accusation by Powers that she'll do anything to win at the next stage, even if it means undermining the effectiveness of a potential Obama presidency. I really don't trust that sort of selfishness.

I respect her skills and I used to like her, but I think the enemies she's made have become so pervasive that she'd be as shut down by filibuster as the democratically controlled congress is.

Because of these things and Obama's ability to inspire and unite I believe that his is the more effective leadership style and the lack-of-experience argument is hollow.


gary b said...

I mispoke when I quoted you as saying "better campaigner," you say cleaner. better is my claim. gb