Editorial: Hillary Clinton for President

Sunday, November 06, 2016

On Tuesday, voters will be choosing not only a president, but also which America they want to live in, Donald Trump’s or Hillary Clinton’s.

Trump’s America, like the candidate himself, is anxiety ridden and resentment driven. It is intolerant, quick to take offense and slow to relinquish a grievance; it’s always primed to say the first and worst thing that pops into its head. It is conspiracy-minded and fact averse; and not very deep beneath the surface runs the unmistakable menace of violence. It is a nation suspicious of strangers, of those who look or dress differently, or pray to different gods or love unconventionally. It worships celebrity; its drug of choice is nostalgia. In short, it’s a nation full of sound and fury and longing. What exactly it signifies is hard to say.

What of the other America? Hillary Clinton’s America, like the candidate herself, is idealistic but sometimes pursues its ideals simultaneously with its own self-interest. It is a country trying earnestly to come to grips with new demographic realities at home and new economic and security challenges abroad, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Like Clinton, it’s a nation that sometimes has trouble telling the truth, to others and to itself. Sometimes it faces facts and sometimes it indulges in wishful thinking. It is a highly resilient place, while also being highly vulnerable. It is moralistic without always being moral. Sometimes it, too, is intolerant of others. In short, it’s a complex place, where motives are often mixed.

Of course, the borders between these two Americas are porous (imagine that!). In truth, most of us live sometimes in one and sometimes in the other America, whether our politics are liberal or conservative or independent. No wall will be built between them, because most of us share some of the traits of each. But in this election, we are being asked to make a conscious choice between the two, between the nihilism of Trump and the realism of Clinton.

It’s said that the country gets the president it deserves and the one that the times demand. (Barack Obama is perhaps the exception that proves the rule: He is a better man and a better president than the country deserved in its current ugly mood, a voice of reason in unreasoning times and a vanishingly rare example of personal integrity and individual grace in public life.) But think Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy, and you’ll get the drift of the argument.

This year, though, it is necessary to think also of Richard Nixon, who looked into the face of America in 1968 and saw reflected there his own tormented soul, with all of its insecurities and resentments and hatreds, and who exploited and deepened the nation’s divisions with grievous consequence.

Donald Trump’s America is one made in his own image. We urge voters to choose instead to live in Hillary Clinton’s America. Flawed though it may be, it keeps faith with the proposition that people are capable of living together peacefully, if occasionally uncomfortably, and solving their problems through democratic self-government.