Here are twelve questions for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, followed by quick answers about where they stand, based on what they’ve done as well as what I’ve heard them say in various speeches and debates. To avoid any confusion with her husband, I refer to Hillary Clinton as “Hillary.”
Which candidate is going to:
- End America’s wars?
Hillary will continue them. Trump has questioned whether they’re worth it. Advantage Trump.
- Tackle global warming?
Hillary believes in science. Trump apparently doesn’t, though he’s taken steps to safeguard his properties against climate change. Advantage Hillary.
- Reverse Citizen’s United and get corporate money out of politics?
Hillary has said she’ll do something; Trump hasn’t. But Hillary is dependent on corporate financing. A wash.
- Work to reduce the growing gap between the richest 1% and everyone else?
Hillary talks about fairness, raising the minimum wage, and equal pay for women. Trump wants to restore American jobs through tariffs and trade wars. Whether either candidate really cares about the working classes is debatable. A wash.
- Rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure, ensuring safe roads, bridges, and water supplies?
Both candidates talk a good game. The problem is: Where is the money coming from? Trump’s tax breaks that favor the rich may literally bankrupt America; Hillary’s war and social spending will absorb most federal funding. A wash.
- Reject trade deals that hurt American workers?
Hillary was for the TPP before she was against it. She and Bill were also for NAFTA. Trump talks about helping workers even as his companies shift jobs overseas to save money. A wash.
- Pursue a domestic political agenda that doesn’t vilify minorities and the vulnerable?
Hillary is far better than Trump at promoting a message of inclusion. Advantage Hillary.
- Respect the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers, i.e. reject the “Unitary Executive” model?
Neither candidate promises to rein in executive authority. Both are power-hungry and secretive. A wash.
- Rein in the burgeoning national security state and its lockdown mentality?
Trump is seemingly more skeptical about military spending and is less encumbered by neocon conventions. Yet he stokes fear of the outsider, which feeds the lockdown mentality that plagues America. Hillary boasts of strengthening national security and cultivates hawkish elements while rejecting any cuts to war spending. A wash.
- Work for quality public education?
Neither candidate has spoken a lot about public education. But Trump has joked that he likes the under-educated since they’re many of his most ardent supporters. Stupid is as stupid does. Advantage Hillary.
- Reduce the prison-industrial complex?
Hillary’s husband’s policies are partly responsible for the complex, though now she says she wants to reduce America’s reliance on prisons, which target minorities disproportionately. I haven’t heard Trump articulate a clear vision on this, except to vow “on day one” that he’d restore law and order to America. Slim advantage to Hillary.
- Respect the environment, e.g. end fracking?
Hillary promoted fracking while she led the State Department. Trump simply promotes business and making money. I don’t see either as having any deep-rooted respect for nature. A wash.
Score Card: Score 1 for Trump, 4 for Hillary. And 7 for candidate “Wash.”
What if Green Party candidate Jill Stein were included? She might edge Trump and Hillary on all of these questions. I think Bernie Sanders would score 11 out of 12. His one failing during the primary was his reluctance to say he’d rein in the national security state. What a shame Bernie is out, especially since he was beaten neither fairly nor squarely.
What about the Libertarians? I have limited exposure to Gary Johnson, William Weld, and their party, but here’s a quick cut and paste job from CNN:
“First, libertarianism is more than just an economic ideology. It’s a social one. And many Libertarian social positions — an openness to immigration, an embrace of equal rights for gay, lesbian, and transgender persons, a hostility toward the war on drugs and American militarism abroad, and support for women’s reproductive rights — are arguably more progressive than the average Democrat. Libertarians were supporting marriage equality and marijuana legalization, for instance, long before any mainstream politician — Clinton included — would touch those issues.”
“Second, even on strictly economic issues, Libertarians have a lot to say that should appeal to those on the left. Libertarians have long been sharply critical, for instance, of the ways regulations such as occupational licensing requirements are used to protect the economically powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalized. They’ve fought against subsidies, bailouts, and other forms of “crony capitalism” that benefit the few at the expense of the masses. And — contrary to popular perception — Libertarians have often argued in favor of a well-designed social safety net to protect those who fail to benefit from the economic dynamism of a free economy.”
A quick look at my 12 questions coupled with interviews I’ve seen with Gary Johnson suggest that he’d easily score higher than Hillary and Trump but lower than Stein and Sanders.
Here’s the deep irony for America: The most interesting candidates, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, are the ones marginalized by the system. They are not allowed to debate. They are judged “not ready for prime time.” And the weakest candidates, the most deeply compromised, Hillary and The Donald, are the ones who are given the lion’s share of attention and respectability. They are celebrated. They are prime time.
Only in America.