No longer a lock

Jeff Sharlet wrote a powerful public post on Facebook a few hours ago. It’s a “why we have to vote for Trump anyway” post but one that doesn’t minimize the things we dislike about Clinton – on the contrary it goes into some detail on them, via his own investigative journalism.

I’m so tired of Hillary Clinton posts, but I’m going to write one anyway. This is directed at my friends and acquaintances who, like me, are very critical of Clinton’s corporate centrism, cronyism, elitism, and militarism: Please consider voting for her anyway, even if you live in a “safe state.” Clinton is probably going to win, but it’s no longer a lock. Trump has a narrow but real potential path to victory. He also has the potential for great harm if he loses, which is why even though I live in Vermont, I’m voting for Hillary. The margin must be big, because the margin isn’t Hillary’s victory — everyone understands that millions are voting against Trump — it’ll be Trumpism’s defeat.

My track record as a critic of Hillary and Clintonism in general is pretty good. In 2007, Kathryn Joyce and I teamed up to write a sharply critical story on Clinton’s deep-rooted corporatism and affiliations with a fundamentalist movement known as The Fellowship. She wouldn’t speak to us — her infamous press secretary, Philippe Reines, cursed and screamed at me just for asking, the most unpleasant encounter I’ve had in my years of Washington reporting — but we interviewed many significant figures from her life, read nearly every published thing she ever wrote, and reviewed the entire history. The portrait that emerged was about what most critics would expect — lip service for progressivism combined with a penchant for “compromises” nobody but the far right asked her to make. Most telling, to me, was her collaboration with then-Senator Sam Brownback, as conservative as they come, and the late ideologue Chuck Colson on an effort to unnecessarily water down a human trafficking bill to suit the demands of the religious right — to the extent that many NGOs and activists in the field saw the bill as an attack on their work. Bad stuff.

I teamed up with Kathryn again to write a piece for Religion Dispatches on Hillary’s surprising backroom dealing on abortion — again, what’s sometimes described as “centrist” seemed to reflect the kind of purely political triangulation that has always made Clintonism antagonistic to the left. I followed that up with an expansion on the two articles for my bestselling book The Family. The work got some attention: NBC Nightly News did a lead segment on it in 2008, and much of the progressive press picked up on it, while conservatives — and Hillary partisans — attacked Kathryn and [me] for suggesting that she’s anything less than the reincarnation of Dorothy Day.

That triangulation shit is why I went so thoroughly off Bill Clinton and have stayed off ever since.

I offer this history in the hopes of convincing you that I’m not another Hillary partisan trying to bully you into abandoning your Jill Stein vote, or your plan not to vote at all, for the sake of yet one more exercise in the democracy-destroying and soul-crushing exercise of lesser-evilism.

The thing is, as a writer on religion who has spent time with real killers and the worst bigots, I take the term “evil” pretty seriously. I don’t think Hillary is evil. I think she’s one more entry in a long tradition of neoliberal American imperialist politics. That’s bad! Very, very bad. But evil? No. Hell, I don’t even know for sure if Trump is evil — that might require a more expansive imagination than he possesses — but after studying the American right for decades and publishing two books about it, after traveling around with the Trumpers for a NYT Magazine story in the spring, I believe I can say with certainty that yes, Trumpism is evil. The real deal. The thing that must be stopped.


I do kind of think Trump is evil, though I don’t know for sure he is. But that’s an unnecessarily high standard. I think he is for good reason: because he is so prolifically, eagerly, consistently mean and vindictive and abusive, and so extremely impoverished in anything that tends the other way. There are a million stories of his cruelty and bullying, and zero stories of his kindness or generosity. We can see him raging and bullying as often as we turn on the news, and we cannot see him being kind or even polite. He comes across as a startlingly horrible human being. That’s probably as close to evil as you can get. Do I think he could be a Hitler in the right circumstances? Hell yes, in a heartbeat.

And yes, Trumpism must be stopped.

I’ve filled in most of my ballot; drop box tomorrow.

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