Donald Trump boasted in January that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and his loyal supporters would stay with him.
On that point, at least, he’s been proven right. He’s going to lose this election, but if the polls are on target roughly 4 in 10 Americans will stand with him to the end.
So ask yourself this: Where will those voters go next? And what if their new champion is someone more skilled in the art of politics?
Be scared. Trump has squandered support with his vulgar personality and his parade of rookie mistakes. America might not be so lucky next time around.
So how do we pull the country back from this brink? How do we ensure that Trump’s ugly brand of politics is pulled out by the roots, that no one picks up his fallen banner to charge at us again?
We need a landslide, not a squeaker. Voters need to roar back at this bigotry and ignorance, to affirm that America is made of better stuff, and to send that same message to the world.
In a normal year, an endorsement for president compares policies and qualifications, point by point. But that exercise, in this campaign, seems absurd. Here’s a sampling:
Trump believes climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to drag down America. He answers the core challenge to the global environment with an adolescent conspiracy theory. Hillary Clinton respects the scientific consensus, and offers concrete steps to reduce emissions.
Trump says he might not defend Eastern Europe if Russia attacks, a signal that invites aggression and must be horrifying to the ghost of Ronald Reagan. Clinton says she will honor NATO’s core promise, no matter what, just as every American president since Harry Truman has.
Trump brags that sexually assaulting women is a perk that comes with celebrity – then attacks women who credibly claim they were among his victims as unattractive and dishonest. Hillary promises counseling for rape survivors, realistic subsidies for child care, and equal pay.
Trump promises to force Mexico to build his wall, and to round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, breaking millions of working families into pieces and doing violence to the nation’s social fabric. That job would require a massive new federal police force with authoritarian powers, as noted by horrified Republicans like Michael Chertoff, former director of the Department of Homeland Security – and even Chris Christie, in the days before he lost his mind.
How can any real conservative support Big Government like that?
Clinton backs the kind of bipartisan immigration reform that passed in the Senate by a 2-1 margin only three years ago.
Trump talks of barring Muslims from entering the country — which means everyone at our border crossings and airports, including Christians and Jews, would somehow have to prove religious affiliation.
Clinton would impose no religious test, ever.
Trump would offer the largest tax cut in our nation’s history, skewed heavily towards the rich, a move that economists of every stripe warn would explode the national debt. Clinton would require the rich and corporations to pay more, and use the money mostly to help middle-class families cover the cost of college.
This list goes on and on. On every issue, Trump offers angry bumper stickers, and Clinton counters with reasonable plans rooted in the center-left of the political spectrum.
We have learned during this campaign that Trump’s knowledge of policy goes no deeper than his angry 3 a.m. tweets; that his personality, driven by his insatiable ego, is dangerously unstable; that his bigotry knows no bounds, and that his idea of success in business is to cheat your partners, skip town, and then brag about using the bankruptcy laws with moral abandon, as he did over and over in Atlantic City.
What is he hiding in those tax returns? Did he pay nothing? Is he lying about charitable giving, his dealings with Russia, his net worth — all of the above? Given the beating he’s taken on this issue, it is obvious that the truth would be ferociously damaging if revealed.
Trump earned his spot on the national stage with his racist claim that President Obama was born abroad. And just last month, he insisted that the five minority teens wrongly imprisoned in the infamous Central Park jogger case are guilty, despite undisputable DNA evidence that they are not. He misses no chance to inflame racial and ethnic hatreds, as long as he can play the divisions to his advantage.
And now, in the final stretch, he is taking aim at our democracy itself, suggesting he might not honor the results. A landslide is the only answer to that.
In this election, we have learned, too, that Clinton is not a natural politician, that her public manner can come across as fake, that her distrust can verge on paranoia and drive her to make stupid mistakes, like using that personal email server, and stiff-arming the press and public. We have learned that she can be sloppy on ethics, and that some donors to the Clinton Foundation were able to get meetings with her as Secretary of State.
The enormous fees she earned for speeches on Wall Street were gluttonous and undermine faith in her integrity. But she passes the more important test by supporting the tough restrictions on banks and protections for consumers contained in the Dodd-Frank regulation. Even in the den of those lions, she made that clear.
Clinton’s sins are venial, and her flaws, as former Gov. Christie Whitman put it, are within the norm in American politics. She has done nothing remotely illegal, and her paranoia may be largely explained by the baseless charges of her overheated critics. After several investigations into the deaths in Benghazi, Republicans hunting for Hillary’s scalp came away with a whole lot of nothing. Trump’s vow to throw her in prison is an unnerving reminder of his scorn for Constitutional restraint.
In fact, we endorse Hillary Clinton not just because Trump is such a scary alternative, but because she is ready for this job, in experience and temperament. Her flaws are outweighed by her virtues, and it’s not a close call.
Since graduating college she has been a warrior for good causes, starting with support for children and families. During her years in the Senate, she put her head down and worked hard, earning the respect of Republican colleagues as she hammered out solid bipartisan deals on help for September 11 first-responders and worked to expand health care coverage.
Bernie Sanders was tough on Clinton, but he pulled her in the right direction. She vows to never send an occupying force to the Mideast again. She has a vigorous plan to help cut college costs for middle-class families. She can be counted on to fight hard for a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, and a more fair criminal justice system.
Our hope is that Clinton devotes herself as president to the cause of economic justice. The rich have made enormous gains in the last few decades, capturing nearly all the benefits of economic growth. The economy, at least, is indeed rigged — against the middle-class.
That not only slows growth; it breaks the social contract at the heart of the American dream, the core promise that if you work hard, you and your family will be okay. That is no longer true, as the growing army of working poor families among us can attest.
As president, she will of course be restrained by Republicans, who are likely to maintain control of the House, and have enough power to reliably block legislation in the Senate. Her challenge will be to find the sweet spots where progress is possible, as great presidents do.
That brings us back to the need for a landslide win. Republicans will be split into factions after this election, and a decisive win for Clinton could prompt a needed soul-searching.
It is hard believe now, but in 2008 the Republican platform endorsed a cap-and-trade program to fight climate change, and immigration reform with a path to citizenship. After the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush made a point of defending Muslim Americans against precisely the sort of slander Trump peddles today.
The party veered seriously off course in 2010, with the ascent of the Tea Party faction. Compromise is now considered a sign of weakness. The rejection of science and expert opinion has become a reflex. The wink-and-nod bigotry that helped the party win the South is now explicit, and has expanded to include demonization of Latinos and Muslims.
If the nation is to make progress, the Republican Party needs to spend its 40 days in the desert. And that’s more likely to happen if Clinton’s victory is crushing.
Those who would cast their votes for third party candidates need to think again. If they want their votes to have political impact, they need to strengthen the prospects of a landslide by voting for Clinton. They need to vote strategically, given the enormous stakes.
So yes, this endorsement of Clinton is full-throated and without reservation. Trump’s popularity has revealed a sickness in our body politic that is flat-out dangerous. A crushing win by Clinton offers the best hope for a cure.