Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 will be the next president of the United States. That much has become certain over the last few months, with polls consistently giving her the lead over the atrocious Donald Trump, who at best may be called a psychotic egomaniac and at worst a rabble-rousing fascist. Trump’s toxic influence has surely set American democracy back several years. Overt racism is now an acceptable political position, while public debate has degenerated into a twisted Orwellian nightmare of blatant lies and untruths.
Yet for all the direct damage Trump has done, many have not noticed the indirect harm: Without a credible opposition, Clinton has been able to deflect legitimate criticism of her campaign.
At this point there is no electoral mechanism for a sane, middle-of-the-road voter to keep Hillary Clinton accountable. In the face of a bigoted Republican nominee, who has the logical consistency of sloppy porridge, we must vote for the other candidate. If you followed the Democratic National Convention, you might remember the vociferous pleas of Clinton supporters for Bernie bros to dump their candidate and avert the end-days. To state the three “options” every voter has this November more clearly: Voting for Trump is atrocious, voting for a third-party candidate helps Trump and hence voting for Clinton is the only choice. Most people agree with this argument and, as a social democrat, I do as well. We should, however, take some time to consider the implications of this nonchoice. What do we have to fear?
Clinton’s problems cannot be compared to Trump’s. But they are substantial in their own right. People simply do not trust Clinton. She has flip-flopped on almost every major position she has ever taken. The key example: gay marriage. Only once opinion polls definitively showed that a majority of Americans supported same-sex marriage in 2013 did Clinton “find” her conscience.
Worse still, Clinton has actively deceived the public in several ways. When her private email server was discovered, she initially stated that she had sought approval for her emails. But when FBI Director James Comey finally released his investigations, it turned out she had never sought any advice from the department, which would have refused her request. Being labeled “extremely careless” by a neutral FBI director would be a death-knell in any other election.
Another major problem is a conflict of interests. More and more emails are coming out showing the extent to which Clinton opened the doors of political influence to her high-paying donors at the Clinton Foundation as secretary of state, not to mention the foundation’s reliance on shady funding from some of the most oppressive governments in the world (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, etc). Such dealings have seriously dented Clinton’s image as both an advocate for campaign-finance reform and as a human rights activist. Her campaign has accepted millions from major corporations and billionaires. It makes Clinton’s promise to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United seem hollow and implausible. When you promise to reform the pharmaceutical and finance industries, but accept millions from those very same industries, do not be surprised when people do not believe you.
All of this is not illegal. But my standard for president is a bit higher than “avoids breaking the law.” Clinton may skirt illegality, but she is well within a murky ethical gray zone. Add in a paranoid insistence on privacy, from her justification of the email scandal to her categorical refusal to have an open press conference, and we have a recipe for an unaccountable and self-serving leader.
It is not too late. Clinton can create much stricter and legally enforceable separations between her presidency and the Clinton Foundation. She can become more transparent, allowing open press conferences. But in the meantime, it is no great shock that Hillary Clinton is the least trusted politician today. Her unpopularity cannot be dismissed as Trumpist conspiracy. Should Clinton want to be a two-term president, she has much to change about herself and to prove to the public.
Adam Krok is a sophomore in Saybrook College. His column runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .