My dear Republican friends,
As a lifelong Democrat whose mother was a perennial superdelegate, it hasn’t been easy for me to support and vote for Republicans. But on occasion, it has simply been the right thing to do. Now it’s time for you to return the favor.
I know from our conversations that many of you cannot abide the notion of Hillary Clinton as President of the United States of America. To better understand your concerns, I have accessed many websites, articles, and books that decry her seemingly numerous breaches of conduct one way or another. Some such charges are spurious and conspiratorial, of course, but others seem well-grounded and legitimate cause for loss of trust or respect. During her forty years of bare-knuckled combat in the political arena, she has undoubtedly done some things that make me and other ostensibly high-minded people grimace. And in her years of holding high office in the Senate and as Secretary of State she undoubtedly made decisions that were flawed; in those decades of public service, she has had plenty of opportunity to make mistakes in the management of affairs of state. And plenty of eager detractors making us all aware of them.
And so I am astounded but not completely surprised when I hear some of you say that even though you find Donald Trump appalling, you’re still going to vote for him because, well—as I said above—you simply cannot abide the notion of voting for Hillary Clinton as President of the United States of America. Others of you tell me you’ll just not vote this time, or you’ll write in someone else as a protest—even though you acknowledge that your decision makes a Trump presidency more likely.
I am writing to beg you—beg you—to reconsider.
There are two reasons for my doing this, one positive and one negative:
- The positive reason is no one who has ever stood for the Presidency actually knows more about the job than Hillary Clinton;
- The negative reason is that no one who has ever stood for the Presidency actually knows less about the job than Donald J. Trump. (Worse, it’s clear that he doesn’t care about learning. “I’m my own adviser,” says he.)
And here’s the deal: It actually matters if our President knows something about the job and/or is eager to understand the nuances—the real, actual, complex, difficult, subtle, powerful, momentous, collegial, intellectually demanding, compromise-riddled, danger-filled job of managing dozens of decisions every single day, any one of which could unleash irreversible unintended consequences that would easily escape the mind of a President not inclined to consider such matters beforehand. You know this, I am certain. You know this.
There is something soul-stirring for us Americans in Farragut’s cry, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” (and Donald Trump would have relished the massive cash bonus Congress awarded Farragut for his victory gained by charging ahead despite the dangers). And so those of us fed up with the gridlock in Washington and the jihadism everywhere earnestly wish someone equally brash could fix everything right away with nothing more than firepower and bravado. But we also know the torpedoes lurking in the waters these perilous days can sink more than a frigate. They can sink a ship of state. And so they require knowledgeable calculation and well-conceived global collaboration and high-minded goodwill rather than the arrogant, my-way-or-the-highway, shoot-from-the-hip, bull-in-a-china-shop bluster heard from would-be President Trump. In domestic affairs, his conspicuous contempt for anybody unlike him is surpassed only by his disrespect for both the judiciary and the press, all of which presage a latter-day American police state unlike anything since Richard Nixon’s use of the FBI to punish those on his enemies list. That’s why so many of you rightly worry about such a Trump Presidency.
And why you probably wish—truly wish—you could bring yourself to vote for President Hillary Clinton. I can sympathize with the difficulty of “going over to the other side”. My first defection to a Republican was in support of H. John Heinz III, a friend and member of my board at “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” who decided to stand for Congress, and later for the Senate. To be sure, it was a bit ludicrous that Patti and I hosted a fund-raiser with Jack in our modest home that resulted in his assuming the role of “wealthiest member of Congress.” But notwithstanding our personal relationship, he was demonstrably more deserving of our support than his opponent.
Later, we supported the election of Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts, for the same reason. In both instances, we lived to tell the tale and felt our integrity as Democrats unsullied by the experience.
I know, I know, you’re saying that it was a whole lot easier to support those guys than to tolerate Hillary. Well, okay, point made. But don’t get carried away. Yes, those guys were not battered by public life and hostile fault-finders the way Hillary Clinton has been, but she may not be as indigestible as you think. We’ve been fortunate enough to see her up close and personal on a few occasions, and we imagine that you, too, would have liked what we’ve seen and heard. (I might have added “and what we have read”, because her autobiography is a stupendous chronicle of her worldwide participation in a mind-boggling array of major events and encounters, but I don’t expect any Republican to give it much credibility. As the author of several volumes of autobiography myself, I know firsthand how tempting it is for us autobiographers to make ourselves look better than we are—and so do readers.) So we’re not reliant on press reports, pro or con.
One dear friend of ours was her professor and political mentor at Wellesley who ran their D.C. internship program, placing her in her earliest roles there. He says he never had a brighter student in his entire career and cites innumerable path-breaking and ceiling-shattering activities in her early (pre-Bill) career.
Later, our daughter Shannon, who has worked for the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) for over twenty years now, saw former CDF staff attorney Hillary Clinton later serve as Chair of its board while still First Lady of Arkansas—compelling evidence of her longstanding commitment to children (notwithstanding a painful falling-out with CDF founder Marian Wright Edelman over welfare reform issues in the 1990s; that behind them, Edelman describes her today as “a tireless voice for children”).
Coincidentally, Shannon’s husband Sam has been hugely responsible for the last twenty years’ global spread of microcredit lending, the phenomenally successful program pioneered by the Bangladeshi Nobel Prize-winner Muhammed Yunus which enables desperately poor women to become self-employed (and then to become employers) by providing them with working capital to start their own enterprises. Guess which First Lady of Arkansas discovered Yunus’ work in Bangladesh clear back in 1985 and invited him to come launch a microcredit program for the rural poor in that state? Guess who later co-chaired and keynoted the global Microcredit Summit that Sam organized in 1997 to launch that global spread and has now enabled 150,000,000 women worldwide to emerge from poverty through their own enterprise? These are the hallmarks of a pragmatic visionary.
Pragmatic vision is a pretty good thing. And I believe that the mistakes that President Hillary Clinton will inevitably make will be vastly preferable to the mistakes that President Donald Trump will inevitably make.
Let me close by citing my dear late mother—that old Democrat “pol” who managed Bobby Kennedy’s volunteers in the California primary he won, only to lose his life—who said on the seemingly shameful occasions even she felt compelled to vote for a Republican, “Sometimes the stench of your own candidate is too strong to let you ‘just hold your nose and pull the lever’. At such times, you just have to do what’s right for the country.”
Thank you for considering what I have said. And what Mom said.