Here are my thoughts and recommendations for Tuesday’s election. If you are interested, please read on. (I am focusing only on those races in our area that are seriously contested; there are many other good candidates running without opposition or with token opposition.)
A Crisis for Democracy
Every four years, the choice for President is described as the most consequential in our lifetimes — a bit of hyperbole that, unfortunately, produces a boy-who-cried-wolf effect. Now that a truly earth-shattering decision is upon us, it is hard to find the right words to convey the full scale of the emergency. Let me do my best . . .
Donald Trump is the most dangerous and anti-American Presidential candidate in history.
His awfulness can be measured in part by the normal standards that apply to politics: he is ill-informed, espouses public policies that are either harmful or incoherent, threatens to destabilize our alliances and embolden our adversaries, and surrounds himself with advisers of dubious experience and competence.
Trump’s awfulness can also be measured in his amply-demonstrated personal unfitness: lack of impulse control, textbook narcissism, inability to focus, petty vindictiveness, casual objectification (and worse) of women, sociopathic cruelty to the vulnerable, unwillingness to admit or correct error, serial mendacity, and ethical bankruptcy.
But these problems, bad as they are, only scratch the surface, because Trump is awful in a more fundamental way, one that far exceeds traditional measures of governing ability or personal character. His candidacy is a dagger aimed at the heart of our democracy itself.
Trump rejects the norms that have made our system of government the envy of the world for 240 years. He encourages and benefits from racial resentment and division. He empowers the most vile and menacing haters and conspiracy theorists in American public life. He exalts the supposed virtues of strongmen and dictators, while barely paying lip service to the ideals of liberal democracy. He refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of elections or to accept the imperative of a peaceful transfer of power. He threatens to subvert our Constitutional liberties and separation of powers in order to address his personal grievances. He advocates practices that could only be implemented in a police state.
Even in this parade of horribles, one thing stands out: Trump’s threat, in the midst of a nationally televised debate and continuing in the days after, to prosecute and jail his opponent. This is such a breath-taking, jaw-dropping departure from normal political discourse, so profoundly un-American, that it is hard to process. Yet instead of the universal, shocked rejection such a threat deserves, we see tens of thousands at Trump rallies lustily and chillingly shout “lock her up.” It is an uncomfortably short leap from there to the guillotine.
Trump’s mere candidacy has already done serious, lasting harm to the essential fabric of our nation’s institutions; his victory would be nothing short of catastrophic.
I confess to being surprised and completely baffled by the closeness and uncertainty of this election. Everything I thought I knew about American politics pointed to a landslide repudiation of Donald Trump. After all, he began the campaign as a sort of bad joke or guilty pleasure, pumping up the ratings for Republican primary debates with his reality-show antics, and attracting harsh denunciations from leaders of his own party. In the months that followed, he seemed to repeatedly disqualify himself with one outrageous statement, action, or revelation after another. Yet, here Trump is today within striking distance of becoming the most powerful individual on the planet.
How this astonishing evolution occurred will be studied by political scientists for decades — at a minimum, Trump’s ascendancy has exposed deeply-rooted challenges in our country related to alienation, race, radicalism, the media, economic dislocation, and psychology.
But such analysis must wait for another day. This is a five-alarm fire for America, and what matters at this moment is urgent action in defense of democracy. Donald Trump must never become President of the United States.
Hillary Clinton for President
By devoting so much space to Trump, I do not mean to give short shrift to my preferred candidate. Unlike some who view this election as a choice between the lesser of two evils, I am genuinely, enthusiastically, and unreservedly for Hillary Clinton.
Hillary is the most prepared and experienced candidate of modern times, she has a record of genuine accomplishment on issues that matter to the future of our nation, and she has waged a campaign that celebrates what is best about our country – right down to her slogan “Stronger Together.”
Throughout her life, Hillary has eschewed the flashier aspects of politics in favor of hard, unglamorous work. Her persistent, grind-ahead style may not always inspire, but it gets things done, and it continues making a difference in real lives, long after the cheering of the campaign has faded away.
Moreover, Hillary has a history of building bipartisan relationships and finding common ground, a quality that often surprises fierce partisans on both sides and that is desperately needed in an era when our divisions seem so intractable.
Finally, it is no small thing that our country has an opportunity to elect the first woman President, breaking down another steep barrier and bringing us that much closer to the ideal of a society in which all people have an equal opportunity to succeed and contribute to the common good.
Hillary has always been more popular and sure-footed while in office than while seeking office — a better leader than candidate. I believe she will prove an outstanding President, and that her combination of skills, knowledge, and sheer perseverance are precisely what our nation needs to climb up and out of the ugliness of this campaign and reach a better place.
During the past few weeks, I have been collecting articles that, in my opinion, make especially insightful points about the Presidential race, so if you are still searching for more information or want ammunition to persuade others, here are links that: offer a good overall perspective in a short format and a long format; explain the fragility of our democracy, the threat to democratic norms posed by Trump, and the long-term implications of Trumpism to American politics; examine the election from a foreign policy perspective; look at the unique dangers associated with nuclear arms; examine our unhealthy numbness to outrage; and, for good measure, provide a comprehensive round-up of Trump’s many, many insults. On a slightly different note, there is also this exceptionally well-reasoned argument against casting a protest vote.
Someday our children and grandchildren will ask what we did at a moment when America’s long national experiment in democratic self-rule was hanging in the balance. Let’s act in such a way that will merit pride and gratitude, not shame and regret. Please vote with the utmost seriousness of purpose on Tuesday, because our ballots have never been more important.
George Latimer for State Senate
George Latimer represents about half of New Rochelle in the State Senate. (Here’s a map of the district lines.)
When folks describe, in the abstract, the qualities they want in an elected official — personal decency, sharp intelligence, passion for service, strong work ethic, respect for competing opinions, civility, and honesty — they are describing George Latimer. I do not know anyone at the local or regional level who more fully embodies the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” civic virtues we all claim to admire.
Beyond these very positive attributes, George has been a responsive, effective, and tireless advocate for the interests of New Rochelle, first as our State Assemblyman, and now as our State Senator. His partnership really matters to our city’s future.
Because of the manner in which George’s district was gerrymandered several years ago, he will always face tough competition, and this year is no exception. Obscene amounts of money have been spent unfairly maligning George’s record and integrity. Don’t believe it. George has fully earned reelection, and I am very proud to support him.
Tony Scarpino for District Attorney
Tony Scarpino will bring an unparalleled breadth of experience to the Westchester District Attorney’s office, having served as a judge, college professor, FBI agent, and attorney in private practice. In these varied roles, Tony has done everything from fighting the heroin epidemic, to defending children and the elderly from internet predators, to protecting the assets of widows and orphans. Furthermore, Tony has an expansive view of the D.A.’s responsibilities, a view that begins with the effective prosecution of crimes, but also encompasses alternative sentencing, criminal justice reform, prevention, and other measures that expand justice.
When former D.A. Janet DiFiore was appointed the Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, she left behind big shoes. Tony Scarpino is best prepared to fill those shoes with distinction.
Beyond casting your own vote and encouraging others through word of mouth and social media, there are still opportunities to actively assist the local campaigns. If you have the time and interest to participate in Get-Out-The-Vote operations, help close a polling place on election night, or otherwise get involved here in New Rochelle, please contact Andy Buder at email@example.com or (914) 329-0972. To get involved in the Presidential race, please contact Hillary’s Westchester campaign coordinator, Katelyn Israelski, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (845) 551-3447.
Finally, there is a Westchester rally for Hillary and running mates this Sunday. Here are all the details, and be sure to RSVP if you plan to come.
Thank you for considering my input. If you agree with my observations, then please share these comments with your friends. And together, next Tuesday, let’s achieve the best possible outcome for our community, nation, and world.