The question of why I initially chose Bernie Sanders, and then subsequently chose Hillary Clinton, over Donald Trump is – to the best of my knowledge – a question I’ve never been asked before. I find that fascinating considering that during the election I asked several of my close friends what could possibly compel them to support Trump. Almost without fail, the answer I was given was less of an advocacy for Trump, and more of a damnation of Clinton. It seemed that most Trump supporters in my general vicinity were prepared to hold their noses when they went to the ballot box to cast their vote for Trump. Even my best friend, who was staunchly against Clinton, answered my question by saying that he’d “rather have a crazy man as president than a criminal.” He himself was initially for Rand Paul.
There were definitely acceptations to this trend of reluctantly voting for Trump. I have friends and fraternity brothers who wore “Make America Great Again” hats, had Trump/Pence 2016 posters in their dorm rooms, and chanted “lock her up!” whenever Clinton appeared on television.
I may not have liked the behavior of the true Trump supporters, but I respected their viewpoint a bit more than the casual Trump supporters. I couldn’t fathom why someone who wasn’t staunchly in Trump’s camp would vote for him over Clinton just because they didn’t like her as a person. My outlook on the situation was that you may not like the adult that’s driving the car, but that doesn’t mean you let their child drive instead. You weren’t voting for a drinking buddy. You were voting for the President of the United States. That’s why I never got behind the George W. Bush argument of, “he’s a guy you’d like to have a beer with.” I didn’t want to have a beer with Clinton; I wanted her to lead the country!
However, only recently did I discover that I might have been doing in favor of Clinton what others were doing in favor of Trump. Like I’ve stated previously, Clinton wasn’t my first choice. I had no investment in Clinton other than I wanted her to beat Trump. Did I think she would make a fantastic president – no. Did she inspire me to take action and be a better American – no. But did I think she was better than Donald Trump – absolutely! I still hold that viewpoint, and, after seeing how well the Trump presidency has gone thus far, I probably always will.
So, after realizing my own hypocrisy, I decided to think about what made me reluctantly choose Clinton over Trump. What superficial traits do I look for in a presidential candidate – even one that I don’t whole heartedly support – that makes me want to vote for them? As far as my political interests, and why I actually supported Bernie Sanders, I’ll get to that a little later on.
As far as I can tell, many Trump supporters were captivated by his demeanor and style of speaking. He was endlessly praised for his disregard for political correctness, as well as his preference for speaking his mind and “telling it like it is.”
Political correctness could probably be a writing topic all on its own, but my simple outlook on the matter is that sometimes it’s necessary and sometimes it’s not. As with most matters – especially in politics – the best place to be is in-between the two extremes of right and left. When it comes to politicians, and this goes double for the president, it’s important that they tell the truth, but an inherent draw back to being a public figure is that you have to think about every word you are going to say before you say it. Even George W. Bush, a president who’s not well known for being a master orator, knew this, for he acknowledged that any little thing he said or did – like shift oddly in his chair or make a face during a speech – could possibly empower our enemies or discourage our allies. It’s not often that I agree with George W. Bush, but I’m with him on that point.
A president’s speech should be thoughtful and measured, not off-the-cuff and careless. Even if a president is forced to improvise, like Bill Clinton once did when his teleprompter malfunctioned during a speech, he should still have the verbal fortitude required to remain dignified and sound intelligent. In my opinion, phrases like “very very,” “bigly,” and “covfefe” should not be in a president’s vocabulary. Some may say that this is elitist, overly superficial, or unimportant, but I think it’s important to remember that the president isn’t just the leader of the United States, but also its poster boy. The words and actions of the president inform the rest of the world about what Americans are like, and dictate how the United States is viewed on the world stage.
Secondly, as far as Trump “telling it like it is,” I think it’s more like Trump telling his voters what they want to hear. All politicians do this, yes. It’s how they get elected, but they’re usually able to do so without feigning buffoonery and speaking exclusively in monosyllabic words. A big reason I never bought into what Trump said is because it was so pandering and disingenuous. That point was only reinforced after the election when Trump said – openly and on camera, I might add – that he was no longer concerned with changing the system and “draining the swamp” because the system worked in his favor and allowed him to win the election. It wasn’t long after winning that he went from damning the electoral college as “corrupt” to then praising the institution, and handing out electoral college maps to world leaders.
As you can tell, I’m not on board with Trump’s eccentricity. I don’t want the American president to subscribe to the cult of personality, or be a Rockstar in a suit and tie. I may have some liberal views, but I’m definitely a staunch conservative when it comes to how people present themselves. This is not an elitist view point either. I’m not advocating for the traditional movements or grandiose presentations of old-world aristocracy. I applaud the United States for tearing down that sort of pomp and circumstance, and replacing it with a simple earthy respectability. If desiring someone, such as the chosen representative of my nation, to conduct themselves with esteem is elitist, then I suppose the likes of William F. Buckley, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon are elitist as well.
Unlike the majority of voters, I like a little boredom in my politics. Unfortunately, it seems that politics is becoming more akin to the NFL or the WWE. As Roger Stone has said, “Politics is show business for ugly people.” I’d like to reject that kind of politics. That’s a big reason why I liked Hillary Clinton so much more than Donald Trump. One of the biggest insults that was levied against Clinton was that she was boring. My response to that is, “good.” Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, and Richard Nixon kept things real exciting, but I wouldn’t want to live during their presidencies. Well, after living under Trump‘s, I might want to reconsider that stance. I don’t need a scandal-ridden president doing cartwheels on the world stage. I need a well-spoken, well presented, experienced, intelligent, but fierce leader who knows the ins and outs of how to drive this 241-year-old boat we call the United States of America.
However, I’m also aware enough to know that a presidential candidate shouldn’t be detested or supported solely on the basis of the qualities I’ve spoken of above. To do that is to roll the dice on whether or not that sharply dressed, well spoken, person at the podium is secretly a madman. The personality of the candidate is icing on top of the presidential cake. An American citizen’s participation in the political system must – first and foremost – originate from a concern for and attention to the issues and policies at hand.
That belief brings me to my own personal political interests, and why I thought a Bernie Sanders presidency would adequately address them in a way that I could agree with. To add some consistency to our writings, I will present my political interests in the same way that you have.
However, I would first like to say that elections – not just presidential, but indeed all kinds of elections – are a difficult matter for me. From every experience in which I’ve investigated where I fall on the political spectrum, it has always been evident that I’m a centrist that leans slightly to the right. But, although I agree with both parties on one issue or another, I can never comfortably align with either of them. Each party has a sect of extremists that hold views that, in my opinion, could be labeled as un-American. So, during elections I have to pay extra attention to the truth behind the rhetoric, so that I may see who aligns with my political interests. I must also say that I find it very interesting, as well as reassuring, that even though we supported candidates on opposite sides of the political spectrum, several of our political interests align with each other.
- The reduction of federal power and influence over the states and their citizens. While the federal government would still have a role to play on the national and international levels, the laws and customs of the states should stand above the wishes of the federal government. Although the state’s newfound power would result in newfound responsibility, the increased insight and adherence to the wishes of the state populace would strengthen each state individually – causing the United States to grow stronger as a whole.
- Social equality of opportunity and protection, specifically when it comes to the legal and social acceptance of LGBT Americans. The unity of American citizens is of the utmost importance to the continuation of our country, and unity cannot be achieved if certain sections of Americans question another section’s right to exist and freely thrive.
- The halting of climate change, and the protection of the environment. The Pentagon has stated that the increase in global warming, and its effects on planetary climate trends and weather patterns, are an ever-growing national security threat. The United States must heed the warning of its top military advisors and climate science experts. We must set the standard for a modern and futuristic society that’s not dependent on the harmful fuel sources of the old world. Along with the release from the clutches of environmental disaster, there is immense economic prosperity awaiting the country that leads the charge developing more efficient and environmentally minded energy methods.
- Campaign finance reform, disposal of the bloated lobbying system, and the combating of political corruption. I put these three issues together due to the fact that money is definitely the largest source of corruption within the American political system. Campaign finance must be capped and more transparent, while the interests of businesses, organizations, and foreign nations must no longer take precedent over the interests of the American people.
- The continuation of America’s active role on the world stage, and the preservation of its status as a world leader. While I don’t think that the United States should continue to include itself in every global conflict that doesn’t directly concern our national security – nor should we pay for other countries’ prosperity – I think it’s important for us to be at the forefront of global issues and lead the world into the future.
- Reconstruction of the American education system. As you stated in your piece: the cost of public education is too high, and the results too low. While public education should still be completely available to all Americans, it must be massively rethought and overhauled. Meanwhile, parents should have the option to put their children in schools that more closely fit their needs and preferred environment. An inner-city student shouldn’t be relegated to a school in the hood of Chicago because of where he lives. Meanwhile, trade schools should also be promoted as a reasonable alternative, instead of written off as a one-way ticket to a life of menial and unimportant labor. With the modern boom in technological advances and automation, the United States will need skilled laborers who are familiar with maintaining and advancing these new work place technologies.
- Investment in the U.S. economy, and putting Americans back to work. Private companies should be incentivized to produce their goods on American soil. The exact preference for how that is done would be left up to the states, while still be subject to a select few qualifications and regulations set by the federal government to protect the interests of the American worker. On a nation-wide level, we can persuade further business investment in the United States by cultivating an efficient, highly skilled, and well-educated work force.
- Improvement of the United States healthcare system. The United States should offer a mix of public and private healthcare options. Government funded healthcare should be moved from the federal level to the state level, so that they may offer their own unique governmental healthcare service to their citizens. While citizens could still obtain healthcare from their employer or other private companies, the offer of public healthcare avenues would keep the system competitive, keeping costs low and availability high. Also, if a recipient of state funded healthcare would move states, a grace period would be put into effect in which the citizen would still be covered by their old plan, allowing for the obtainment of a new healthcare plan from a private company or their new state’s public healthcare system.
- The refitting of the United States military to handle 21st century threats, such as external surveillance, hacking, and cyber terrorism. If the past couple years have proven anything, it’s that the United States is woefully unprepared and open to the threats of cyber-attacks and intrusions. It’s clear that the majority of battles are no longer fought on battlefields, but rather on the screens of computers. While I’m sure that sections of the American military apparatus are tasked with intercepting and disposing of cyber threats, from what I’m seeing, I believe we must double our efforts to further stave off dissident groups and hostile world actors who seek to disrupt and weaken the security of the United States.
- The securement of our national boarders, and the reform of the United State immigration system. I believe the United States to be a grand place, full of opportunity and prosperity to all who seek and pursue it. So, I don’t fault those who seek to assimilate into the American culture and way of life. However, we must never forget that we are indeed a sovereign nation that needs to protect its boarders by limiting those who enter the country. This doesn’t mean that we refuse any potential immigrants based on their color, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, etc. The very idea of that is un-American. We must provide a streamlined, yet comprehensive, way for immigrants to become Americans, and do so in a way that discourages the illegal entry into the United States. And no, this does not include the construction of an expensive, useless, simple-minded wall.
This list doesn’t fully draw out the entirety of my political interests and concerns, but I believe it draws a good picture of where I stand on politics. I’m sure that everyone who ran for president this past year has advocated for at least one of my top ten political interests, even Donald Trump. However, I chose to support Bernie Sanders. I did so because, although he wouldn’t have fulfilled the entirety of my desires, I trusted that he’d work in my best interest and in the best interest of the American people. Trust is the key word there. Although Trump said he was in favor of some of these policies, I didn’t believe him most of the time. And, even if I did believe him, his solutions to these issues were not conducive to real progress and change.
Nevertheless, Trump won the 2016 election, and won the presidency. So, I am stuck with his simple solutions, and his attempts to move the country backwards for however long his time in office lasts. The only comfort I can give to myself is that I’m thankful Trump was elected while I’m still young. He has set my expectations very low going forward. After what I’ve witnessed from him over the first six months of his presidency, I don’t think I could ever see a worse president than Donald Trump. If that reassurance is proven false, however, I’m afraid the United States may have indeed entered its twilight years, and is going the way of the Roman Empire.