Thursday, July 21, 2016

Who Wins The Logic-Based Presidential Race?

Our nation is in a moment of profound change. Or to put it honestly, it's in a moment of profound confusion. 

The results of the first half of the presidential race have caused most Americans to question their previous views of their political candidates and parties, with their two choices (one of which they didn't even choose themselves) both having historically bad favorability ratings. After Bernie Sander's premature exit, the country is in the early stages of finding a better option, but right now many of them are grasping for it in the dark.

And though I feel confident enough in my switch to Jill Stein, I'm as uncertain in the long-term consequences of not backing Hillary Clinton as many. There are compelling arguments on both sides of the "To Hillary or not to Hillary" debate; Those who are Bernie or bust or for Jill Stein say that the time has come to reject the two-party system, while newfound Hillary supporters reply that Trump would be a disaster. The counterargument to that is that Trump would be an ineffective president or that he would provoke a worthwhile revolution, and the other crowd replies that even so, it would not be worth it. 

Both sides appear to have good cases to make. The arguments I've heard that have currently, if not decidedly, put me in the Never Hillary side are that Clinton would be more dangerous in terms of foreign policy, trade deals, and political triangulation that stifles genuinely progressive ideas, while Trump would have little actual effect aside from being a national embarrassment before being inevitably dislodged by a populist third party candidate in 2020.

The problem with such logic-and the same goes for the lesser evil arguments-is that it makes a few too many assumptions. There is no way of knowing what will happen in the future, and to conclude that having either one of them as president will be preferable based on information we have about them now is to over-simplify the dauntingly complex decision that independently minded voters will have to make this November.

If we want to address this seriously, we need to do all of the political calculus. This decision can't be made through mere slogans like "The lesser evil is still evil" or "You shouldn't cut off your nose to spite your face." I'm going to guess, with as much consideration for details as necessary, what will happen under both of these awful but practically inevitable scenarios.

Scenario #1: Lesser Evil

It's November 8th, and defying three criminal investigations and low odds of winning the swing states, Hillary Clinton has prevailed. From one standpoint, this marks a great accomplishment in history with America's first female president to succeed its first black president. But otherwise, it's pretty bad news.

She fills her cabinet with war hawks, free trade advocates, and other clones of the Obama administration that she injected a few more right-wing hormones into as she grew them in her secret mad scientist lab. Her acceptance and inauguration speeches include some conciliatory language aimed at former Sanders supporters about how she plans to reach universal health care and solve climate change with an incremental approach, though of course makes no mention about her plans for the military or the TPP.

Which makes sense, because during her first term she increases troop levels in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria while hurting relations with Iran, and finally signs the Trans-Pacific Partnership. ("The circumstances left me with simply no other choice," she says to address her claim during the campaign that she opposed the deal.) These policies cause the loss of many jobs, compromised internet freedom, increased excuses for corporations to file lawsuits, and increased national debt, troop deaths, and terrorist attacks as a consequence of war. Not surprisingly, in 2017 the number of Democrats is found to have dropped from 29% the year before to somewhere between 20% and 25%. (Though the Republican's numbers, as usual, look even worse.)

And that's her best year in office. The investigations into her practices with the Clinton Foundation, mishandling highly classified intelligence by using a private email server, and lying to the Benghazi Committee are ongoing, and though she escaped the law in July 2016, nobody can do so forever, and a prosecution is imminent. (Whether she continues to use a private server while president isn't easy to predict, but it's entirely possible.) But meanwhile, as Clinton's popularity drops even lower than that of Trump's at one point, the biggest blunder of her administration is yet to come: a financial crisis.

Through a number of factors, including in part she and her top economic aide Bill Clinton's failure to regulate Wall Street, 2008 more or less repeats itself about a decade later. This of course leads to another bailout portrayed as a necessary economic stimulus, and the vast majority of Americans, who at this point are suspicious of everything the government does, are almost unanimously bitter and outraged.

Despite having been rendered for the most part irrelevant by Donald Trump, Republicans ride the contempt for the Democrats and discouraged attitude among young people to vote into another congressional election victory in 2018. In the following months, the legal walls close in on the president for good, and she's forced to leave office after a surreal throwback to Watergate. Her similarly neoliberal and hawkish vice-president then steps in to attempt to lead a party with membership now just below 20%. Though Republican membership has now been reduced almost all the way to white men over 35, they're starting to grow and will likely overtake the Democrats just in time for the 2020 election.

I'll leave it there for now.

Scenario #2: Just Plain Evil

It's November 8, defying the demographics, Donald Trump has prevailed. The parallels between with the 2000 election are eerie; a buffoon who does nothing for the Republican Party was running a very close race with a Democrat who barely qualifies as a liberal, and the Green Party candidate who's receiving  more support than usual is the one who got (falsely) blamed for the buffoon's victory.

Immediately after he wins, his nastier supporters across the country are emboldened to riot in celebration, acting like their race has "won" and committing all kinds of hate crimes. These violent outbursts die down after a few days, but they become noticeably more common throughout Trump's entire presidency. Indeed, regardless of any of Trump's policies, it becomes harder for someone to be Muslim, Hispanic, or black in America.

In another similarity with the election of George W. Bush, Trump lets his smarter and less lazy Vice-President do a lot of the decision-making. Democrats took back the senate in November, as they would have if Hillary had won as well, but the Republicans still have congress, which lets Trump's administration do some damage. Though Trump's ideas for mass deportation and a wall along the border are never able to pass, he does win a policy victory in appointing a conservative to the Supreme Court, thus delaying the end of Citizens United by many years (though if Hillary Clinton had had the same opportunity, she would have appointed a centrist judge with no intention of repealing it either).

This allows them to limit abortion, gay marriage, and gun control, though not much else. (Since Trump's plan to drastically cut taxes would bankrupt the government, not even the Republican congress will ever allow it to pass.) Trump loses the fight to repeal Obamacare, in spite of concerns from Democrats the year before that refusing to vote for Hillary Clinton would endanger the health of millions. Unfortunately, though Trump is not as hawkish as Clinton, Mike Pence is, and his amiable set of principles is influenced by the Vice-President. 

The wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are escalated, and relations with Iran are hurt in a truly dangerous way as Trump abandons its nuclear agreement for the reckless alternative of potentially stopping their atomic weapons program through military force. The Trump Administration is also similar to that of George W.'s is that in reaction to a succession of terrorist attacks, they violate civil liberties and bring back torture.

Pence also uses his leverage to persuade Trump to sign the TPP. The joke is on them, though, as this angers the people that voted for Trump because he promised to kill the deal. By 2018, Republican membership drops below 20%. And though the Democratic Party isn't much more popular, they use the fact that Republicans let the financial crisis happen, along with a lot of other failures of Trump's administration, to retake congress in 2018. And the Greens, meanwhile, manage to win dozens of seats in it in an unprecedented political upset.

And then, as Trump and Pence begin their campaign for reelection with disapproval ratings of over 75%, something amazing happens: it doesn't look like they'll be running against a Democrat, but against a newly popular third party that focuses on campaign finance reform, wealth redistribution, environmental protection and other issues the vast majority of the country cares about.

I'll leave it there too.

Yes, these predictions make some assumptions, but they're all based on facts. I'm confident that these can be used as at least mostly accurate guides to the first terms of Clinton and Trump.

So now that we've gone deeper than over-simplified explanations that can fit into internet memes, which one of them should you choose?

It depends on how much work you're willing to do outside of the voting booth.

No, though they'll both do nothing to fix the climate, break up the big banks, or end the system of mass incarceration, these two are not the same candidate. I've come to the conclusion that though Trump won't be able to deprive any more Americans (including the author) of their health care, given the circumstances, he will be more destructive than Clinton in the short term. However, though I don't think a Clinton presidency would strengthen the corrupt Democratic Party anymore than a Trump presidency would for the Republican Party, it would make the mission of activists who want to pull off the rise of a populist third party harder.

As we try to decide which of these terribly unqualified people is more qualified to be president, we are playing a game of chess with the future itself over which awful of them will ultimately result in the most good. And if we don't play well enough, no good will come of it at all. But there's one more factor in this risky game that we mustn't disregard: whatever the outcome of this election, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein are going to win.

Trump and Hillary may take control of the government, but it's the supposed losers in the race that have already taken control of the will of the people. Whoever wins this election, thanks to these two political activists who have shown Americans that policies that work in their best interests are mainstream, that the current system does not work in their favor, and most of all that politicians like them can succeed, the country is going to see radical reform in government.

To resume the scenario of a Hillary Clinton victory, though it's over for the Democrats in 2020, it's not over for progressives. Just because Trump wasn't there to let us easily pull off a populist counter, it isn't too late for us to do so. Both parties have been all but destroyed by their poor decision-making in 2016, and Republicans are only in power through default. That's where you, the people who are part of the vast majority of political independents, come in; at that point, all you need to do is run an aggressive campaign for a third party candidate, and you're going to win in 2020.

Since you came here looking for answers, I'll try to provide you with them: if you want easy change in the long term at the price of several steps backward in the short term, let Donald Trump win. If you want more difficult change in the long term at the price of no change in the short term, let Hillary Clinton win.

And though I didn't have this opinion when I began to write this article, the Hillary option may in fact be preferable.

So in a counter-counterintuitive double twist, Hillary wins the logic-based race, but her victory is so narrow and disputable that it doesn't necessarily mean I and millions of others should stop supporting Jill Stein or being Bernie or bust. But if we let Trump win, we'll owe the groups vulnerable to his racist and xenophobic movement some help. If such a situation arises, we'll need to do things like strengthen the Black Lives Matter movement and other actions that educate people about race and religion, as well as work to pass laws that protect disadvantaged groups.

And if you're voting for Hillary Clinton to avoid having to do this, you'll owe the country some work towards making a future third party successful.

In any case, though, the point of this article is not to make you vote for any particular person, but to remind you that no matter what, it's in your hands.

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