Let us imagine that I am a “germophobe.” Someone next to me is choking. I can easily give this person the Heimlich Maneuver to save his or her life. But I am opposed to doing so because it would put me in contact with all sorts of microorganisms on another person’s body. The person choking eventually suffocates and dies, but that’s perfectly fine with me because I was able to remain clean. My purity matters more than anyone else’s wellbeing.
I am reminded of such a scenario every time I am told by a supporter of Dr. Jill Stein that their ideological purity trumps any concern for the consequences of handing the election to an authoritarian crypto-fascist with stunningly limited senses of self-awareness and empathy—a man with clear disdain for established fact, political discourse, and American political norms.
One of George Friedman’s great insights is that every few generations there is a president who casts an outsized shadow on what his successors will do. Abraham Lincoln was one such president, creating an era of Republican Party dominance with increasing federal power over the states. Franklin Roosevelt was another: in his shadow, government undertook a progressively more activist role as it sought to use the instrument of collective action to confront a myriad of social problems. Ronald Reagan, in other ways, was also generationally consequential; his influence is still prominently felt today.
Hillary Clinton may or may not be a generational president, but those political epochs do explain how a staunch progressive and fighter for liberal causes (and one who was raised in a conservative household) is today seen as an opportunistic career politician without a coherent ideology undergirding her policies. With this outlook on political history, it’s easier to understand how someone like Hillary could go from supporting George McGovern in 1972 to supporting the infamous crime bill in the 1990s.
What is important to note is that whatever the disagreements over economic theory, it is unmistakable that in Clinton’s early years, state intervention in the economy had become increasingly suspect. In the 1970s, economies the world over saw stagnation along with decline and turmoil in some sectors, whether they were Soviet bloc economies or nominally capitalist economies with large state sectors.
Franklin Roosevelt in the United States and the Labour Party in the United Kingdom had led their respective countries to great economic growth in the middle of the 20th century, so much so that Republicans and Conservatives, in their respective countries, had largely adopted many of the economic philosophies and assumptions of the Democrat and Labour Parties. This process was mirrored in many places around the world (but was perhaps exemplified here in the U.S. when President Richard Nixon declared himself a “Keynesian”).
The following era of “stagflation,” as it is known, saw climbing inflation matched with rising unemployment. It was this environment, in which Keynesian economics and policies seemed to fail, that made it possible for people like UK Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher and Republican Party nominee Ronald Reagan to rise to power.
Hillary Clinton should not be lambasted for tempering her economically liberal proclivities. She is first and foremost an excellent statesman; admittedly, she’s a mediocre politician. But she is not an ideologue, and that’s a very good thing. An ideologue is someone who is wedded to an ideology, regardless of circumstance or outcome. Ideologues include the likes of Mao Zedong and radical Islamists. A politician is one who runs for political office; a very good one will not give voters the impression that he or she is a politician. Statesmen, on the other hand, have a set of guiding principles undergirding their policy preferences, but they advocate for different applications of government power or use of government action based on necessity and evidence.
In the post-stagflation world, it made sense to lower taxes to free up dollars for investment and spur economic growth. Now, after the Great Recession, we know there was an overcorrection into neoclassical economics, just as there was an overcorrection into Keynesianism after the Great Depression and the Second World War. Hillary Clinton saw a series of problems and adjusted her policy positions from supporting McGovern Democrat policies to positioning herself on the center-left. The 2007-2009 global financial crisis and rising income inequality led to another adjustment and support for progressive policies.
Some of this shifting probably does have to do with an electorate that moved to the center and then became polarized. But this is much less problematic than many people make it out to be. We should be concerned if a politician refuses to adjust his or her policy prescriptions for a rapidly evolving world in which the global economy and our interconnected society place increasing demands based on evolving needs. The saying “a broken clock is right twice a day” is very apt. We ought not to be impressed by ideologues who just happen to be right, but by those willing to continuously use flexible solutions for evolving problems. No one has access to perfect and immutable information; thus, we cannot rationally expect a policymaker to be right all of the time. However, it should raise red flags when someone seeking a role in policy formation is unwilling to consider new information or changing circumstances.
Few instances provide as clear an example of this than the crime bill that Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994, with Hillary’s support. In 1990 in New York, there were roughly a million reported instances of property crime, compared to 317,529 in 2015, a decline from 5182.8 instances per 100,000 residents to 1604.0. Murder went from 14.5 to 3.1, while robbery went from 624.7 to 120.9. Vehicle theft decreased from 1042.7 to a stunning 77.4 per 100,000 residents. A similar pattern occurred in cities large and small throughout the country. This is not a defense of the crime bill, because evidence suggests that the bill itself had negligible impacts on crime rates and levels of incarceration. What it does demonstrate is why leaders in the black community and those across the political spectrum demanded government action when Bill Clinton won the election in 1992.
It is incredibly ironic that today millennials criticize Hillary Clinton for supporting her husband in his response to the overwhelming demand from the black community that something needed be done, and then those same millennials engage in conspiracy theories suggesting that Hillary Clinton has a secret desire to incarcerate black Americans. In criticisms of Hillary Clinton on this point, one almost gets the impression that among some millennials, a belief exists that an international cabal of conspirators is organizing to diminish non-white people’s prospects in life in a way that mirrors the irrational fear of Jewish people on the far right and left.
Perhaps those millennials ought to consider why Hillary Clinton had overwhelming support in the primaries from black voters, particularly those that were alive to remember the 1980s and the early 1990s. There is no doubt in my mind that had Bill Clinton been granted magical transport to the future to see the negative repercussions of the crime bill and then been sent back to the 1990s, he would have refused to sign the legislation. Even under these circumstances, the very same millennials that now criticize the Clintons for listening to the black community would instead point to Bill’s refusal to support an expensive government program as a sign that he never had the interests of the black community at heart. One can imagine him facing an indictment similar to the one leveled against President Bush by a pop culture figure who declared that Bush “does not care about black people.”
Hillary Clinton fell short of becoming an ideologue when competing for the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries, and a significant portion of the party punished her for it. Clinton’s lack of fealty to progressive orthodoxy meant she had a formidable competitor in the form of Bernie Sanders, and a large number of voters will now support Jill Stein and, perhaps most bizarrely, Gary Johnson.
All of this is not to say that there should not be a set of guiding principles for a leader, but merely that policy prescriptions will have to change. This is the fundamental difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Whereas Clinton is a technocrat with a set of organizing principles, Donald Trump allows his principles to change like the weathervane, depending on his whim and audience feedback. Trump is not strong; he is an infantile, wishy-washy candidate who has the childlike tendency to be the most impressed with whoever spoke to him last and offered the greatest amount of praise. That ought to be a concern for everyone as it leaves him open to manipulation from special interests at home and foreign interests abroad.
Complacency is the enemy in this election. The now iconic 1948 photo of President Truman triumphantly holding a newspaper prematurely declaring “Dewey Defeats Truman” exemplifies an election similar to this one. In addition, think about other upsets: the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses, the 2016 Michigan Democratic primaries, the 2016 Iowa Republican caucuses, and the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. Recently, the Labour party in the United Kingdom and the Zionist Union in Israel lost by a far larger margin than expected, as the Conservative Party and Likud won their respective elections. All this is to say: Trump may yet win. Trump may yet defy expectations and algorithms behind poll numbers to carry Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada, among others.
For people in Texas, there’s a reason to vote perhaps more than ever in history. A series of recent polls placed Hillary Clinton within striking distance of Donald Trump. A multitude of factors puts Texas within Clinton’s reach, including Texas’s rapidly growing Hispanic population, declining conservative Christian support for Trump due to his conduct and comments, and the fact that Hillary Clinton is using the world’s most sophisticated campaign infrastructure to date while Trump has invested very little in this area.
Donald Trump can be thwarted from winning the White House—even if he wins virtually every swing state—should he lose Texas to Hillary Clinton. Polls have been wrong before. The challenge here in Texas is a case of the tortoise and the hare: if voters fall prey to the temptations of the hare, the people who say they want to see Donald Trump kept out of office may be the very ones who end up putting him in it. It would be a tremendous shame if America finds herself under the leadership of an unintelligent, unthoughtful, vengeful narcissist only because too many people were confident in the race’s outcome before reaching the finish line.
This article was written by Fairooz Adams. Click here to see more of Fairooz’s work.