I’d like to be more excited about my November vote, but I can’t quite get there. If I were a politician, I’d have a hard time coming to the place where I could stand up and say enthusiastically, “I stand here today to endorse Hillary Clinton.” I’m pretty certain that what I’m about to say will never be retweeted from Hillary’s Twitter page, though I’ll support her in November.
Why? I’m a child of poverty who overcame adversity to become a teacher. I’m the daughter of a coal miner who was often out of work and who died of black lung. I’m the sister of heroin addicts who knows first-hand the devastation of the opioid epidemic. I’m a cancer survivor who wouldn’t be alive without good health insurance that paid for an expensive new drug with no generic equivalent. Though I’d never be invited to Hillary’s box if she is elected, I could be one of those visual props presidents like to point to during every State of the Union address.
But if Hillary Clinton does become president, it will be because of me and people like me.
We are not the avid Republicans who will vote for her opponent or stay home rather than vote for her. We are not the avid Democrats who rush to support her no matter what she says or does. We are the voters who are trying our best to wade through the spin on both sides and figure out whether she has the character and the leadership ability to lead us forward.
We are somewhat skeptical, but we do our homework. We read the primary sources rather than the spin that follows—the sources that are often buried in links or not linked at all—the ones that require persistence and a good search engine.
We are not afraid to question her, even when our friends are certain that she is and always has been a victim of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” I don’t want a victim as my president. But I do want someone with the steeliness that she showed in thirteen hours of testimony before Congress.
Seven million dollars of tax-payer money has been spent on the Benghazi investigation, and the congressional representatives on the committee couldn’t even agree on a final report, each party issuing its own version. Seven million dollars! Instead of ending the review, Republicans determined to find evidence that Hillary Clinton broke the law demanded additional investigation into Clinton’s emails. And a day after FBI Director James Comey delivered a statement that there is no evidence that Clinton broke the law, he has been called to testify before the House Oversight Committee amid a circus of Republicans calling for a special investigation.
How much good could that money have done had it been spent on grants and college scholarships for poor children, on creating clean energy jobs in coalfields devastated by the economy, on mental health counseling and rehabilitation for heroin addicts, on healthcare for struggling families?
Since Comey spoke, I’ve been thinking about the long list of male leaders who’ve lied about far weightier matters than a handful of emails and have come out of it unscathed: Ronald Reagan lied about trading weapons for hostages in Iran; George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell lied to the world about evidence of WMDs in Iraq; Bill Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky; John Kennedy, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and countless others cheated on their wives in places paid for with taxpayer money; Donald Trump’s lies are legendary. None of these men have had their careers destroyed by those whoppers. And yet Hillary may be undone by “extremely careless” behavior that took millions of dollars and countless hours to uncover at all. To label her as a liar in the context of history strikes me as the height of sexism and hypocrisy.
James Comey, the top law enforcement officer in the land, has now clearly said she didn’t break the law, and the attorney general has followed his recommendation not to file charges after Comey’s team concluded that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” Already that seems to be getting lost in the spin cycle. Rove did the same thing, only to a much greater degree, in the Bush administration, and it was out of the news cycle before the week was out. Years later, when the result of the investigation found that at least 5 million emails were never recovered, no one was charged. The precedent that set suggests that Hillary Clinton’s emails should never have been an issue in the first place.
The official who oversaw yesterday’s decision is a Republican appointee: According to the Washington Post, “Comey is generally a very well-respected public official. He is also a Republican public official who served in the Bush administration, as deputy attorney general—the No. 2-ranking official in the Justice Department.” That his judgment is being questioned suggests that Hillary was going to be pilloried by her opponents no matter who led the investigation.
Unlike many people who are reading only the pundits’ opinions and soundbites from Comey’s statement, I read the statement in its entirety from the FBI web site. While Comey condemns Clinton’s judgment, he makes clear that she has broken no laws. And if we’re talking about judgment, that is an entirely different issue. When I think about the ramifications of giving the codes to the nuclear arsenal to a man who has shown poor judgment over and over and expresses no regret, as Hillary has done for using a personal server, I can’t imagine either voting for him or staying home on election day.
I am concerned about my country for more than this one election cycle. For much of my adult life, our leaders have acted in the interests of party rather than country. If we keep treating decent people the way Comey has been treated in the wake of this decision, I don’t know how we’re ever going to get anyone willing to serve in such positions. I wonder how many truly talented people think about running for office and decide that the price is just too great. We need them. Part of the reason my vote is going to Hillary is that I don’t think Jesus Christ himself could survive the kind of ugly scrutiny and crucifixions which have become commonplace in our political process. The fact that Obama has come out of the presidency with his reputation intact as the family man that Republicans so wanted to see in the Oval Office is stunning—and they won’t even acknowledge that. I’m sick and tired of my tax dollars going to support these kinds of witch hunts when we could be spending that money to educate our children in areas devastated by poverty and job loss.
So while the political circus has made it impossible for me to wholeheartedly endorse Hillary Clinton, she will get my vote—a vote that’s been informed by reading and thinking and even by trying to engage in civil conversations with those who support her opponent.
I’ll hope like hell that she gets the chance at her first State of the Union address to show off that child of poverty who, like me, went to college on scholarships and Pell grants; that coal miner who, like my father, needed a helping hand; that sibling who, like me, lost her brother to drugs; that cancer survivor who, like me, benefited from the discovery of a new treatment. And I’ll hope like hell that she gets senators and representatives who care more about those people than about partisan witch hunts.
Got hope? Not much. But I’m hoping against hope that it’s enough.