By Tom Ehrich
For me, the issue about Hilary Clinton isn’t her trustworthiness. I don’t think any politician is trustworthy.
Nor is it her gender. I hope that I have moved beyond whatever adolescent men-come-first feelings I had decades ago.
Nor is it her progressive credentials. The reality in Washington is incremental change, with Big Money always threatening to rig the system for its benefit.
Nor is it her likability. I don’t expect to feel emotionally attached to any candidate or officeholder. That music died long ago.
Nor is it her electability. Unless the right wing finds a way to steal the national election again, the November ballot should be a clear choice between hatred, bigotry, hubris and vanity on one side, and a mild progressive agenda on the other. Congress will stay Republican, thanks to oligarch-funded gerrymandering and voter suppression on the state level. I think both Hilary and Bernie are electable. I could live with Hilary Clinton as President.
No, the issue for me has to do with a capacity for compassion and seeing the whole. Hilary comes across as a policy wonk. At one debate, her responses had to do with the fine print of policy. That seems to be what interests her and where she feels most competent. And certainly, governing does come down partly to policy.
But policy isn’t what ails us. We are a broken and divided nation. The oligarchs have had their way with us, thanks in part to the very politicians now claiming to care for common people. Right-wing religion has lifted up a false standard of “Christian” and “patriotic.” People are shouting against the wrong enemies, and if those shouts prevail, the rich will get another free pass, minorities will suffer, women will suffer, the nation’s economy will tank, and we will be more divided than ever, perhaps to the extent of willingly electing a fascist government.
Hilary doesn’t seem to get that. As a policy wonk, she seems prone to tinker with government programs. What we need, though, is a passion for American values: unity, tolerance, openness, fairness, justice, common sense, freedom to speak, freedom to believe, freedom to live with dignity, freedom to walk the streets, freedom to love whomever you want to love and to be whatever you can be.
This next election seems likely to present a right-wing candidate who disrespects those values and is quite willing to destroy them. We need a Democratic candidate who has a passion for defending the America that these values represent. It is about meaning. It is about conviction. It is about seeing the whole nation and wanting what is best for angry white men and for frustrated black men, for women facing abuse and poverty and for women wanting fewer unfair obstacles to career advancement, for businesses that truly are innovators and job creators and for workers at every level who see their prospects diminishing.
We need a president who can stand up to the Koch Brothers and corporate looters of this era, as former presidents once stood up to the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Fricks and Big Meat, Big Steel, Big Telephone and Big Tobacco of earlier eras.
We need a president who cares for the nation – all of it, from soldiers to farmworkers, from suburban families to those trapped in dying towns, from immigrants looking for hope to longtime citizens unsettled by societal change, from tech wunderkind to senior citizens heading into dementia.
GOP candidates seem to be saying, Our haters are louder and more vehement than your haters. Bernie Sanders has the passion but then gets lost in policy wonkiness. Hilary seems to be saying, I am smarter and more experienced than all of you put together.
None of these messages gives me any hope. Policy and governing do eventually matter as an expression of our values. As I contemplate this pivotal election, I am going to listen first for values and wanting what is best for the whole nation.