I will not be voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in November. Instead, I will not be voting at all.
I’m not a purist. I don’t have to agree one-hundred percent with a political candidate in order to vote for them. And I don’t believe, like third-party candidate, Jill Stein, that the act of voting ought to necessarily be an expression of personal values. Instead, in any democratic system, people vote for their own self-interest and strategical purposes. Values should play a strong role in determining the outcomes of our political system, but values have to be tempered with an understanding of what is practically feasible. In the words of Hillary Clinton, a politician who “gets things done” is what any voter in a democratic country desires, as well as a politician who works on their behalf.
In this election, the reality is that we have neither.
Without a significant change in the composition of Congress, it is highly unlikely that a Clinton presidency will result in substantially different policy than what we’ve seen for the past eight years. She will continue to chart a course similar to that of Obama: centrist, elitist, and protective of the status quo. Her entire campaign has been about defending the “Obama legacy.” And what legacy has that been? Lackluster healthcare reform and unenforceable financial reform? More immigrant deportations than President Bush and an equally aggressive foreign policy?
If we change out one corporate Democrat for another, our country isn’t going to see positive changes that empower working-class people. Even if there was a change in the composition of Congress, President Clinton will fight members of her own party, tooth-and-nail. She was a key architect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She promoted fracking across the globe as Secretary of State. She seems satisfied with the healthcare system as it currently exists, despite unsustainable costs and millions who remain without health insurance. She even voted for the construction of a border fence with Mexico back in 2006. To put it simply, she’s not a progressive. Even if progressives are elected to Congress in large numbers, fueled by Sanders’ insurgent campaign, there will still be considerable gridlock.
On the other hand, it’s highly unlikely that Donald Trump will have the ability to achieve anything substantial as President. Numerous establishment Republicans dislike him, even those who have given him support during the campaign for the sake of party unity. Most of his proposals, including the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants, are not politically or economically feasible. Business interests who monopolize Congress will not tolerate a significant reduction in cheap, immigrant labor. According to the Center for American Progress, it would take nearly $300 billion and 20 years to successfully deport 11 million illegal immigrants from the United States. Add to that a $2.5 trillion drop in GDP and 50 percent reduction in the agricultural workforce that would be caused by mass deportation, and it’s safe to say that Trump’s extreme rhetoric will never be realized.
From day one, a Trump administration would be riddled with numerous problems. If Trump tries to reduce American involvement in international organizations single-handedly, he will be faced with numerous injunctions which will limit his administration’s capacity to act. Without Congressional support, even something as simple as expanding the border patrol, will be a no-go. If Trump is elected, he will be perhaps the most unpopular candidate to ever become President. Republican leaders, deeply aware of the need to modify their party’s image to meet ongoing demographic changes, will jump ship if Trump pursues any drastic actions. Even if he is able to pass legislation through Congress with Republican support, there could be obstacles waiting in the executive branch. Federal workers with nearly unlimited job security can effectively serve as a “fourth branch,” checking any kind of drastic legislation which comes through Congress. Trump does have the power to appoint Supreme Court justices, but those still have to be approved by the Senate. Even if they are approved, future rulings could potentially be ignored by progressive administrations. Ignoring Court rulings would mean a sharp turn from current attitude of deference to the Court, but it is definitely possible.
What can definitely be guaranteed from the victory of either candidate is continued gridlock. And, of course, stability for the business interests who influence policy in this country. Just recently an economist at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch told CNBC that the election will be a “non-event for markets and the economy.” Though most Wall Street giants have been panicked by a Trump wild card–and prefer Clinton for the sake of stability– there is a growing consensus among elites that whatever happens will not matter to them. As neither candidate will substantially redistribute power to ordinary Americans, those in business have nothing to fear.
Certainly, during this election, ordinary Americans have everything to fear. The political and economic status quo is not sustainable, and millions of us are in desperate need of a real alternative. The problem is that– at this point– no alternative exists. With Bernie Sanders, the United States had a real progressive option that could have mobilized the country past the status quo. Now, we will have to wait through another painful four years– perhaps even longer– before any significant changes can come about.
All hope is certainly not lost. I think that those of us on the left should support electing real progressives to all levels of government, including some Democrats. But we should not hold illusions about how power operates in the United States. Until there is a broad-based, left-wing movement working for real change at both the ballot box and in society at large, we are not going to see substantial changes to the political and economic status quo.