Conventional wisdom informs us that most voters do not pay attention to presidential elections until after Labor Day. It is after Labor Day. As public service, the Dividist is pleased to offer this handy cheatsheet to help my fellow Americans catch up.
The 2016 presidential election is the ultimate Comparative Political Demonology™ (CPD™) election*. You may not be familiar with the term but you are probably familiar with the phenomena. CPD is where a partisan supporter of Candidate A from Party X explains that Candidate B from Party Y is unfit to be elected because of some heinous character flaw, despicable action, and/or unacceptable policy position. At which point a partisan supporter of Candidate B explains that Candidate A is actually worse, citing a counter example of said character flaw, despicable action, and/or unacceptable policy position. The discussion devolves into an argument of who is worse.
It's not a new phenomena. CPD happened in every United States presidential election since George Washington. A 2010 Volokh Conspiracy post distilled the never ending "My Side Versus the Other Side" hypocrisy complaint, which was echoed in 2012 with Ramesh Ponnuru's column "I'm Right, You're Wrong and Other Political Truths", as well as Barton Hinkle's "The Wrong Side Absolutely Must Not Win". While not new, it does seems that this election the CPD is worse than usual. When the Republican nominee Donald Trump explicitly and literally demonizes the opposition by calling Hillary Clinton "the devil" it's hard to see how we can sink any lower on the CPD scale.
CPD arguments are, of course pointless, unresolvable, and a complete waste of time. However, since there is nothing else of consequence being discussed by mainstream and social media in this election, the Dividist will endeavor in this post to definitively answer the question "Who is worse?" across the full range of key character flaws disputed in this election. You are welcome.
And, to save time for you dogmatic partisans who cannot tolerate any perspective outside of your respective echo chamber, we've appended some disclosures at end of this post that you can refer to now before continuing this post. You are also welcome.
Let us begin by selecting our criteria. Given our disclosures and our sincere desire to be fair and balanced, we'll use an independent source to select our criteria. Early in the campaign, the HRC Super Volunteers warned reporters that a dozen phrases were actually "coded sexism" and should never be used in the context of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. So we'll use them. These words cannot be sexist if we apply them both to Clinton and Trump. Right?
The Dirty Dozen Comparative Political Demonology™ Criteria Checklist: "polarizing," "calculating," "disingenuous," "insincere," "ambitious," "will do anything to win," "inevitable," "entitled," "over-confident," "secretive," "represents the past," and "out of touch."
Who is more polarizing? Tough call. This is like asking: Who destroyed more of Tokyo - Godzilla or Megladon? Let's go to the numbers. From the 8/29 Monmouth Poll:
"The number of voters who cannot bring themselves to voice a favorable opinion of either major party nominee is unlike anything witnessed in past elections according to new analysis from the Monmouth University Poll . Nearly no voters have a positive opinion of both Clinton and Trump while one-third do not have a favorable view of either candidate. These results are unusual.
In the current poll, 34% of voters have a favorable opinion of Clinton and 51% have an unfavorable view of her. Even fewer 26% have a favorable opinion of Trump and 57% have an unfavorable view of him. When these results are combined, though, only 2% have a favorable opinion of both candidates, while 35% do not have a favorable opinion of either nominee."
- TRUMP IS WORSE on POLARIZATION THAN CLINTON - It's just math people.
The Art of the Deal" versus "Clinton Triangulation". Who is more manipulative? Who is better at identifying and pandering to secure political interest group support? Who is more effective at playing the angles? Finally, is "calculation" a good thing or a bad thing? Do you or do you not want a President who can split political differences between polarized political allies and opponents? Or between foreign trade partners, friends and enemies?
Since we are discussing this in the context of the political and not the business realm, and there is some question about Trump's track record in business anyway - the Dividist is giving this one to Clinton. When it comes to politics, no one does cold-blooded calculation better than the Clintons. No one. It's also worth considering the alternative to political calculation - ideological purity. The Dividist thinks we've had enough of that out of the White House the last eight years. There are worse things than governing by the polls and compromise.
- CLINTON IS WORSE (MORE EFFECTIVE) ON POLITICAL CALCULATION THAN TRUMP - The Dividist likes that in a President. Your mileage may vary.
they are both liars. If you don't accept that, please just go away - there is no reasoning with you. The only question on the table - Who is the biggest liar? Is it a ridiculous question? Why yes, yes it is. It is completely inane. Such is the nature of Comparative Political Demonology™. But that is the game we are playing.
We don't have the time, and as reader you would not have the patience, to review a laundry list of lies by each nominee. Instead we'll go the experts. FactCheck.org pegged Trump as the biggest liar of 2015. Politifact's Truth-O-Meter has Trump again lapping Clinton midway through 2016. Mark Cuban, who would know one when sees one, says Trump is a bigger liar. There is even a prediction betting market on who will tell more lies and Trump is the odds-on favorite.
In addition to the quantity, there is also a qualitative difference in their lies. Clinton tells the carefully couched lies of a lawyer - parsing every word, seeking plausible deniability, cultivating ambiguity, framing statements of whatever the meaning of "is" is. Trump tells the lies of a huckster, a carnival barker, a late night pitch man on basic cable selling male enhancement pills. For Trump, it's all about the sale and the words mean nothing. Trump's lies are not as clever, and he's not as good at elegantly finessing and rationalizing his lies. There is no contest here...
- TRUMP IS WORSE ON LYING THAN CLINTON - They both lie. Trump's lies are worse.
How do we assess sincerity? We will have to make some guesses about the future with this category. We know politicians make promises in a campaign and break promises when elected. The answer to the question of whether they are sincere about the promises they are making now may be found by looking at the degree to which they have changed policy positions in the past.
Clinton supported the War in Iraq before she opposed the War in Iraq; supported the DOMA and DADT before she opposed them; supported NAFTA & TPP before she opposed them; supported the Keystone Pipeline before she opposed it; opposed arming Syrian rebels before she supported it; supported Sanctuary Cities before she opposed them; supported Charter Schools before she opposed them; and supported clean coal before she opposed the mining and burning coal in the US.
Over the years Trump has publicly stated that he is both for and against: abortion rights, Iraq war, gay marriage, raising the federal minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich, birthright citizenship, banning entry into the US based on religion, a deportation mandate for 11 million illegal aliens, H1B Visas for highly skilled workers, gun-free zones, an assault weapons ban, a nuclear Japan, a nuclear South Korea, anthropocentric climate change, US using torture as defined under the Geneva Convention, Russian incursions into Ukraine, NATO membership, Paying down US Debt, Putin as a leader, Saddam Hussein as a leader, Syrian intervention, universal healthcare, Hillary Clinton as Senator, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Bill Clinton as President, and whether Donald Trump himself is a Democrat or Republican.
AMBITIOUS & WILL DO ANYTHING TO WIN:
- TRUMP IS WORSE ON SINCERITY THAN CLINTON - By an order of magnitude.
C'mon. They're both running for President of the United States of America. You have to be insanely off-the-charts ambitious and a borderline megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur to believe you can either win or do this job.
- CLINTON AND TRUMP ARE TIED ON AMBITION - Duh.
ENTITLED, INEVITABLE & OVER CONFIDENT:
Donald Trump was born rich, received millions of dollars to start his business career, inherited millions more, and built a business empire through moxie, vision, smart real estate development, taking advantage of bankruptcy law, skirting Fair Housing legislation, suing people, cheating contractors, and selling his name as a brand to mediocre and failed products ranging from steaks to vodka to educational scams. He brags about corrupting politicians, as if that makes him incorruptible. He apparently believes being rich, starring in TV reality shows, and marrying young beautiful women who are attracted to his money and power entitles him be President of the United States.
He brags about his wealth, his real estate developments, his negotiating skills, his business success, the people he knows, the politicians he's corrupted, his intelligence, the school he attended, his generosity, his knowledge of terrorism, his polls, the women he's bedded, his sexual prowess, and the size of his penis.
You get two for the price of one!" Indeed, she was arguably more directly engaged in policy than any First Lady who had gone before.
After his term expired in 2001, she stepped out of her husband's shadow to win a seat in the Senate carpetbagging in the Clinton friendly state of New York. In 2008 she campaigned to be the Democratic nominee for President, largely on the theme of her inevitability and entitlement to that role. As it turns out, she wasn't inevitable, losing to Barack Obama, who appointed her his Secretary of State in his first administration.
Regardless of how you feel about her tenure as Secretary of State, it is clear she was a primary architect of Barack Obama's first term foreign policy, functioning effectively as his Foreign Policy President. Counting that in addition to her first two terms as Co-President with Bill Clinton that is three complete terms where she has functionally served as President of the United States without official credit. She apparently feels that entitles her to be President with the official title and office this time.
SECRETIVE (and the secrets behind the secrets):
- DONALD TRUMP IS MORE OVER CONFIDENT THAN CLINTON - His capacity for self-aggrandizement and self promotion is YUGE! YUGE!
- CLINTON FEELS MORE ENTITLED AND INEVITABLE TO BE PRESIDENT - Mostly because she is more entitled and inevitably qualified to be President that Trump. This will be her fourth term people.
There is no point in being secretive unless there is something to be secretive about. Politicians may be secretive to protect American security. Businessmen may be secretive to protect trade secrets and competitive advantage. Either politicians or businessmen may be secretive to protect personal corruption or criminal activity. Motivations matter. Sorting it out is not easy. Because they're - you know - secret.
Hillary Clinton Secrecy
Romanian hacker, the Russian government, and any nation state - friend and foe alike - with a reasonably competent cyber intelligence service who had an interest in monitoring the e-mail communications of the United States Secretary of State. Which is to say - all of them.
Since the FBI, the State Department, WikiLeaks and other Clinton e-mail observers are now publishing her e-mails, we, the American people, finally get to see them also. We've learned that there was indeed confidential United States communications transmitted over the insecure Clinton account. We've learned from the FBI that this was due to carelessness and incompetence but did not meet the threshold of criminal activity. We've also learned there were indeed connections and communications between the Clinton Foundation and the Secretary of State office. Some foreign and domestic patrons of the Clinton Foundation made large contributions in the hope/expectation of gaining access to the Secretary of State. And some did get access. Now this all seems a little on the seamy side, but the reality is that "pay for play" for access to our political leadership is the norm and not illegal. Every political leader of both parties in our government from the President to our Representatives in the People's House solicit contributions to their campaigns. And every one of them offers access to large donors. Some are worse than others, but as long as they are not explicitly selling policy for pay, this low-level graft is not illegal and part of the political landscape.
Donald Trump Secrecy
alleging sexual misconduct of his initial foray into the beauty pageant business in 1992 secret. He wants to keep the facts of the 1975 Racial Housing lawsuit against himself and his father's business a secret. He wants to keep his mafia ties secret. He wants to keep the active class action lawsuits against his failed Trump University venture a secret. He wants the lawsuits alleging intimidation of rental tenants in his properties a secret. He wants to keep the facts of his Atlantic City casino failures and bankruptcies a secret. He wants to keep the terms of his settled lawsuit from hiring undocumented Polish workers a secret. He wants to keep the charge of marital rape from his ex-wife a secret. He wants to keep the terms of buyer lawsuits against a failed Hotel / Condo that licensed his brand a secret. He wants to change the libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists reporting on his net worth to keep that information secret. He wants to keep it secret that he is funneling campaign contributions to his businesses by buying up his books and increasing the rent charged to his campaign. He wants to keep the fact that he paid foreign undocumented models to work for Trump Model Management a secret. He wants to minimize the fact that he contributed to the campaign of the Florida States Attorney who was investigating Trump University, and she promptly dropped the case. He wants to minimize the fact that he contributed to the campaign of Texas governor Greg Abbott after the Texas AG instructed a regulatory agency to stop investigating their case against Trump U.
REPRESENTS THE PAST & OUT OF TOUCH
- DONALD TRUMP IS MORE SECRETIVE THAN CLINTON - And his secrets are worse.
Both Clinton and Trump fly in a private plane and are driven everywhere they go. They never pump their own gas, clean their own clothes, or cook their own meals. They have staff on call 7 x 24, are always accompanied by an entourage of bodyguards, sycophants, hangers-on, acolytes and assistants doing their every bidding. How could they not be out of touch with the average American?
Both Clinton and Trump are old rich baby boomers that represent the past - by definition. Being an aging baby boomer himself, the Dividist appreciates this quality. We are happy to have our generation desperately cling to our last, lingering grasp on power. Four More Years! Four More Years!
So there you have it. We've gone through a dozen independently sourced criteria on who is the worst choice for President of the United States.
- TIE - CLINTON AND TRUMP ARE BOTH OUT OF TOUCH AND REPRESENT THE PAST - If you can sort out who is more out of touch between the two of them, be my guest.
- Trump is more polarizing, disingenuous, insincere, over confident and secretive.
- Clinton is more calculating, inevitable and entitled.
- They are equally ambitious, out of touch, will do anything to win, and represent the past.
CONCLUSION: I'm with her.
Hillary Clinton is a conventional political liar with political convictions formulated at the intersection of polls and her ambition. She is also smart and pragmatic and she knows that almost nothing she is saying now or said during the primaries can be enacted into law. She is going to be a divided government president. That means the majority of her current and primary campaign lies are primarily lies to the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
The Republicans will hold the House majority, Paul Ryan will be the House Speaker for at least two years and probably her entire first term. That is reality. The Clinton / Gingrich divided government turned out pretty well. I expect the Clinton / Ryan divided government to be even better. Unlike Obama, the Clintons know how to push the buttons of divided government. They've done it before. That's why she'll be an effective, and quite possibly - a great President.
The Dividist has spilled a lot of ink (burned a lot of electrons?) in this post explaining why Hillary Clinton is a better Comparative Political Demonology™ choice in this election cycle. We'll wrap this up with a few words from Will Wilkinson, a smart guy and great writer who articulates the "lesser of evil" dilemma succinctly in "Yes, Trump is worse" and "Why you should get over yourself and support Hillary Clinton:":
"Hillary Clinton is basically a living manifestation of America’s prevailing political culture. Plenty shitty—warmongering, more than a touch corrupt—but also a competent, reasonable, relatively decent, public-spirited creature of America’s one non-imploding establishment political party. If you like freedom or social justice, or anything else this side of satanic chaos, your job is not only to vote for Hillary Clinton, but to stand up and say that you’re going to, loud and proud, in a way that communicates that you expect other decent Americans to do the same."
The Dividist supports divided government, will vote for Hillary Clinton, and expects other decent Americans to do the same.
*ATTRIBUTION: For Comparative Political Demonology™ - Tully:
"I invented CPD™ as a convenient shorthand for the tiresome and endless competitive and utterly pointless process of making tit-for-tat comparisons between political figures or factions in the attempt to make one side look either better or worse than the other by comparison, when in truth neither side is blameless and the comparison is generally irrelevant to the issue at hand. Such comparisons are almost always completely dependent on the subjective emotional stance of the utterer(s), and are generally intended to divert discussion by distraction..." - TullyDISCLOSURE 1:
The Dividist is supporting Hillary Clinton for President in this election cycle.
The Dividist is not actually supporting Hillary Clinton per se, but rather supporting her campaign in order to maintain a divided government outcome in this election. As noted elsewhere in this blog, there is no realistic possibility that Republicans will lose majority control in House of Representatives in 2016 and they are likely to maintain control of the House through the 2018 cycle. Majority control of the Senate is a crap shoot in 2016. The Democrats have a structural advantage this Senate cycle and are likely to pick up seats. However, due to the deep hole the Democrats dug for themselves in 2014 midterms the Republicans just may hold on to a razor thin Senate majority. Moreover, even if the Democrats take majority control of the Senate, it is unlikely to last longer than two years as the structural advantage will shift to Republicans in 2018. The Dividist concludes the best way to ensure a divided government outcome for the next four years is to elect the Democratic Party nominee for President.