The Positive Case for Hillary Clinton

In April of last year, Hillary Clinton finally confirmed one of the country's worst kept secrets when she announced that she would run to succeed Barack Obama as President. For a brief few weeks, Clinton was at the center of political media coverage from outlets left, right, and center as she consistently led in pre-primary polls. The smart money in Washington assumed that the 2016 election would play out as a referendum on Barack Obama's presidency and a test of American voters' appetite for Hillary Clinton's leadership. The Republican Party, and particularly the Republican National Committee (RNC), saw Clinton's nomination as inevitable and spent the early months of the pre-primary season laying the groundwork for their party's case against her. This all seems like an eternity ago. 

We all know what happened next: The Republican Party became engulfed in a long, bitter primary fight that diverted attention and resources away from their eventual opponent and elevated an awful demagogue in Donald Trump to the nomination. Although Trump repeatedly made headlines with his racist announcement speech, xenophobic policy proposals, and crude debate jabs, the media treated him largely as an entertaining side show for months. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders built a more formidable challenge than anyone expected, but fell well short of the nomination nonetheless. 

The media narrative has since shifted in a big way as the reality of Trump's nomination has sunk in. While Trump and his campaign have done themselves no favors, it is disingenuous to claim that the Republican nominee is "imploding." He's simply doing what he's always done. Our reaction as a nation is what has changed, not the candidate. Nonetheless, fear of a Trump presidency lingers over the country like a hurricane forming offshore and his campaign continues to dominate media coverage, for better or worse. 

What has gotten lost in the shuffle is the fact that there is another candidate in this race.  Once the darling of the 2016 narrative, Hillary Clinton has since succumbed to the media's obsession with scandal (both real and imagined) and her opponent. I am extremely skeptical that there is much that Clinton can do through traditional media to reclaim the narrative or to make a positive case for her candidacy without getting brought down to Trump's level. The general election debates (if they happen) may be an opportunity to do just that, but in the meantime, it's up to her supporters to make the case. Here are just a few reasons why Hillary Clinton will make an excellent President:

1. Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified nominees in modern history

Hillary Clinton is objectively one of the most well-credentialed individuals ever to appear on a presidential ballot. Her resume is her greatest strength. She has been an enormously successful lawyer, the nation's most proactive First Lady, a senator, and Secretary of State. Lest you think that Hillary Clinton's notoriety depends on that of her husband, don't forget that she made national headlines in 1969 by calling out Senator Edward Brooke (R-MA) on stage at her own college graduation. When Hillary and Bill met on the campus of Yale Law a few years later, Hillary was the better-known of the two. 

Most importantly, Hillary Clinton has been universally praised by her colleagues throughout her career as a dedicated and prepared leader. Many of the same Republican Members of Congress who attack her service now were actually quite complimentary of Clinton while she served both in the Senate and as Secretary of State. Despite what you hear on television, their criticisms are political, not personal or professional. 

2. Hillary Clinton has a strong record of achieving progressive change

Unlike many of her classmates, when Hillary Clinton graduated from Yale Law, she did not cash in on a cushy job at a high-powered firm. (Even President Obama worked in the private sector before taking up community organizing full-time.) Instead, she went to work for the Children's Defense Fund to fight for civil rights and economic justice in places like New Bedford, Massachusetts, which coincidentally is close to where I grew up. Hillary Clinton found disabled immigrant children, whose schools had cast them aside, and made sure that they got an education. 

Hillary Clinton would then go on to work on Capitol Hill, where she helped build the case for Richard Nixon's impeachment. After moving to Arkansas and marrying Bill, Hillary would co-found Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, demonstrating that she had not left her passion for protecting children's rights behind. While President, Jimmy Carter appointed Hillary to the board of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which provides legal aid to those who cannot otherwise afford it. She would eventually serve as the LSC's first female Chair. All of these accomplishments pre-date Bill Clinton's election as Governor of Arkansas.

I won't belabor the point by listing her many accomplishments, except to say that Hillary Clinton as Senator and Secretary of State was never the moderate her husband was. She opposed both of President George W. Bush's tax cuts in the Senate, along with the Supreme Court nominations of Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts. While Secretary of State, she championed a variety of progressive issues around the globe, especially women's rights and equality for the LGBT community. Within the State Department itself, Hillary Clinton instituted several human resources reforms aimed at helping her same-sex employees. 

In short, Hillary Clinton gets things done, and those things almost always support the furtherance of progressive priorities. 

3. Hillary Clinton has a positive vision for America

A photo posted by Nicholas Blake (@ncblake) on

I dare you to watch Hillary Clinton's announcement video, which I included at the beginning of this post. Now, watch Donald Trump's announcement speech. The same experiment will work if you substitute the above with the nominees' respective convention speeches.

It is abundantly clear that Hillary Clinton is the only candidate left in the race with a positive vision for America. By contrast, Donald Trump never misses an opportunity to let us know how awful things are in this country, despite all evidence to the contrary. The economy has rebounded from a historic financial crisis, crime is at historic lows, and President Obama has a positive approval rating after all that's been thrown at him. Unfortunately, when the facts are not on Trump's side, he has a tendency to ignore them and paint a competing narrative based on pure fiction. We must reject such nonsense. 

It should go without saying, but we are a better country than the one in which Donald Trump believes he lives. Americans have always rejected racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and demagoguery in the long run and must do so again. Hillary Clinton recognizes and will celebrate that our diversity makes America (already) great, and will work to make our country even greater. Even better, she comes prepared with a plan to do just that from day one.

A photo posted by Nicholas Blake (@ncblake) on

The stakes in this election could not be higher, but it is not enough to despise Donald Trump. We must also hit the pavement and the phones for Hillary Clinton. If you aren't sure how to get started, get in touch with the campaign and they'll give you the tools.

What Happened to Moderate Republicans?

The past several nominees of the Republican Party for President of the United States were decidedly safe: former governors, long-serving legislators, and an incumbent Vice President. Each Republican nominee since the Reagan Administration has also been to the center of the party, despite the presence of passionate grassroots conservatives throughout this period. Even George W. Bush ran initially as the centrist alternative to then-Vice President Al Gore. This cycle, Republican voters are clearly taking a different approach, leading the smart folks over at FiveThirtyEight to declare in July that Bill Clinton's axiom for presidential politics - "Democrats want to fall in love. Republicans just fall in line." - had been turned on its head. Unless cooler heads prevail, the results of this Republican primary could be disastrous, and the most extreme views of the far-right could win their greatest popular mandate in modern history. 

At this stage, none of the remaining Republican candidates with a reasonable chance of winning their party's nomination could be accurately described as a moderate. Ted Cruz's bona fides as a right-wing ideologue are only surpassed by his reputation as an egomaniac, a trait he apparently developed at a young age. Populist tax policy aside, Donald Trump has run a truly terrifying campaign buoyed most passionately by racist and xenophobic elements of the far-right. Despite his quiet assurances to the so-called "GOP establishment" and since-abandoned views on immigration, Marco Rubio's actual policy proposals are barely distinguishable from those of his opponents. Ben Carson's views are incoherent, but certainly not moderate, and barely worth mentioning. There is a case to be made that John Kasich is a centrist, but his numbers are low and donors are showing him the door.

I would not question Republican voters' analysis that they have been poorly served by centrist nominees. The party has lost four of the past seven presidential elections, and it is probably past time that Republican voters at least try a different approach. However, the sheer absence of centrist voices from the Republican Party landscape has created far too much space for truly dangerous candidates to take hold, with potentially devastating consequences for the GOP and the country. It is time for someone within the Republican Party to speak up - publicly and passionately - against the tone this primary has taken. 

The 2012 primary did not lack far-right ideologues, but I have to believe that the presence of moderates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman brought a level of seriousness to the race that made the extreme elements look silly by comparison. There have been no such appeals to the center thus far in 2016, as even Jeb Bush's doomed efforts primarily argued that Trump was not sufficiently or genuinely conservative enough. Nearly every other prominent Republican has either downplayed or laughed off Trump and his supporters' increasingly heightened rhetoric. Perhaps most frighteningly, a number of traditionally moderate Republican leaders are even deciding to get on board. Even Jon Huntsman - who I have admittedly had a personal affinity for since I heard him speak in 2012, if only because we're both fans of The Clash - said just yesterday that he could get behind Trump

Gov. Jon Huntsman

A photo posted by Nicholas Blake (@ncblake) on

I am a Democrat with progressive views on many issues, but unlike my counterparts who salivate at the prospect of running in a general election against Donald Trump, I am seriously dismayed by the Republican Party's rightward shift. I do hold center-left views on a number of economic and fiscal policies, and even once served briefly as an intern for a moderate Republican congressional office, although my responsibilities were largely nonpartisan. While center-right nominees may occasionally endanger my preferred candidates, I genuinely believe that our politics and society benefit from robust policy debates at the center of the political spectrum. Now nearly two months into 2016, the debate is headed in exactly the opposite direction on the Republican side.

Republican voters may very well get their wish in 2016: a firebrand nominee after decades of safe choices with questionable success. But the consequences in terms of the level of xenophobia already unearthed by that outrage certainly cannot be worth the experiment. On a practical level, candidates like Cruz or Trump could seriously endanger their party's efforts to appeal more broadly to young and minority voters for years to come. But on a more fundamental level, the damage that either would do should they actually win is even more frightening.