Clinton vs McCain Would Not Be A Choice Worth Voting On

Josh Marshall has posted a number of emails from supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who say they will not vote for the other should they win the nomination. He has given this response to the question of not voting for the opposing candidate:

Whichever you prefer, they’re actually very different candidates. What I am saying is that no one can run away from the choice every American with the franchise will face in November. The next president will either be John McCain or the Democratic nominee. That’s an immovable fact. Not voting or voting for some protest candidate doesn’t allow anyone to wash their hands of that choice.

Now one reader, TPM Reader KK, wrote in and said that he supports Obama, isn’t a Democrat, actually doesn’t agree with a number of Obama’s policy positions but believes he could change the tenor of politics in the country and through his election help shift the rest of the world’s view of the US. For KK, if Obama doesn’t win the nomination, I guess there really might not be any particular reason he’d vote for Clinton over McCain.

But I do not believe this is the case with the great, great majority of readers of TPM who are supporting either of these two candidates. I think most are Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents who ascribe to a series of policies now generally adhered to by members of the Democratic party. People for whom that applies have to decide whether the alleged transgressions of either candidate or their differences in tone, political style and so forth are so grave and substantial that they merit electing John McCain who stands on the other side of basically all of those issues.

This analysis might be true of readers of Talking Points Memo and the average reader of liberal political blogs. What must be remembered is that people with such views make up a minority of the electorate, and certainly does not include me.

Some people will vote for who ever has a “D” after their name, and in such cases it would make sense to assume they will vote for either Obama or Clinton regardless of who receives the nomination. This may also be true of some “Democrat-leaning independents” but not all of us independents.

When I vote for a Democratic candidate it is because I hope they will support certain positions. I support Democratic candidates because of opposition to the war, but Clinton was not only a backer of the war but has repeatedly pandered to fears of terrorism to both defend her support for the war and to attempt to promote her campaign. I do not believe that Hillary Clinton would get us out of Iraq one day before John McCain would, and I certainly do not believe she would be any less likely to get us involved in any other unnecessary wars. At least McCain has stood behind his beliefs, even when unpopular, as opposed to trying to rewrite history with regards to her position.

I also will vote for Democratic candidates if I believe they will be defenders of civil liberties, reducing presidential power, and defenders of separation of church and state. Hillary Clinton has terrible records on all of these issues as I’ve discussed in multiple previous posts such as here. With regards to the issues which most matter to me there is very little difference between Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Both represent continuation of the status quo.

Josh gets it wrong in an earlier post when he argues, “But to threaten either to sit the election or vote for McCain or vote for Nader if your candidate doesn’t win the nomination shows as clearly as anything that one’s ego-investment in one’s candidate far outstrips one’s interest in public policy and governance. If this really is one’s position after calm second-thought, I see no other way to describe it.”

This has nothing to do with “ego-investment” in any one candidate. I probably will not vote for Hillary Clinton because of my interest in public policy, not because of investment in any other candidate.Barack Obama is an acceptable candidate on the issues and and I will vote for him. There were other potential Democratic candidates who I would vote for, some possibly even better than Obama. Hillary Clinton is not one of them. Clinton is an unacceptable choice for president regardless of who she is running against.

Josh also made reference to character but too quickly dismissed this issue:

There’s a lot about the presidency beyond policy positions. And character does count. The problem is just that in this country we routinely seem to confine it to matters of sexual ethics and whether you happen to say something that can be distorted beyond imagining by sundry right-wing agitprop freaks.

The media might concentrate too much on matters such as sexual ethics, but character does extend beyond this and, as Josh says, “character does count.” Hillary Clinton has repeatedly shown she will say anything to be elected. Her career, as well as the career of her husband, demonstrate a shocking lack of principle and integrity. To the Clintons everything is about accumulating power and any principle is expendable when politically expedient.

John McCain is hardly the moderate straight talker which the media portrays him as but both Clintons combined still have less integrity than he has, which does outweigh the fact that I might agree with Hillary Clinton a bit more than John McCain on a list of political positions. I doubt I would vote for either of them, and I cannot see enough of a difference between the two to be concerned with having the candidate with the “D” after their name win.

If anything, in a case of two awful candidates it might be better to have the Republican who at least does not go along with some of the party’s most extreme positions. A McCain victory might bring about a small improvement in the Republican Party, and we’d have a chance at a better choice from a Democratic challenger in four years. In contrast, a Clinton victory would mean her views would dominate the Democratic Party for at least eight years, with no real hope of a Democratic candidate in the short run who embodies the reasons why I have voted Democratic in recent years.


  1. 1
    Charters Of Dreams says:

    Neither is Obama:

    The Obama Tax Hike

    The strategy of trying to paint Obama as a “new and improved” liberal is bound to fall apart — and it’s starting to fall apart now. In the end, he, you, & HRC are insignificant variations on the same old statist themes. I mean, it’s the right way to go to pursue your ever bigger government agenda, but the strategy is way more transparent that you think:

    What we are witnessing is a contest of “Big-Government Conservatives” (McCain) vs. “Big-Government Liberals” (Obama, HRC)

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    You are actually supporting my argument for Obama based upon civil liberties, social issues, church/state issues, and foreign policy, and as usual you are responding by misrepresenting my views as you refer to “your ever bigger government agenda.”

    The worst case scenario by your arguments is that it is a wash on economics. Actually if you go beyond partisan distortions, Obama would also be preferable as the only candidate whose views are influenced by Chicago school economics and who has shown a recognition of the limits of government. Obama’s experience teaching Constitutional law also results in differences in their viewpoints on civil liberties and church/state issues.

    However, even if we go with the worst case scenario and believe that Obama is no better on economic policy, this still leaves all the other issues. The bottom line is that I realize I will pay more in taxes if Obama is elected, but the same is true with regards to Clinton and probably with McCain to fund his military desires.

    I should also note that the vast majority of people reading this will not pay more taxes under Obama’s tax plans. I thank you for being concerned about the higher taxes a small minority such as myself will pay, but its only money. Money is easy to make and I’ll find a way to offset the higher taxes. Of course before I’d vote for a candidate who will raise my taxes I have to see that they offer something in return, which is why I’d vote for Obama but would be much less likely to vote for Clinton.

    While money is easy to replace by my own efforts, other aspects of society are not under my control. This is why the person who is elected matters. It is worth paying more in taxes if this means a government which shows more respect for civil liberties, which respects separation of church and state, which sees the folly of the drug war, and which is less likely to get involved in blunders like Iraq. Clinton and McCain are on the wrong side of these issues.

    It does make a difference if Obama as opposed to either Clinton or McCain is elected. Obama, while far from perfect, is on the right side of these issues. Obama is also on the right side of so many less prominent issues, such as increased transparency in government, limiting presidential power, backing the ban on cluster bombs, supporting needle exchange programs, and supporting changes in the sentencing for drug crimes. Clinton is on the wrong side of issues ranging from Iraq to issues like her support for a ban on flag burning and her crusade on video games. Her economic policies are far more statist than Obama’s if that is your sole criteria. It is Clinton who supports mandates as part of her health care program. For an even more absurd look at junk-economics, take a close look at how she’d handle mortgages.

  3. 3
    Lex says:

    Here, here, Ron.

    You summed up the feelings of this center-left libertarian perfectly…both in the post and your reply comment to Charters of Dreams.

    I figure that if worst comes to worst, there’s always writing in Samuel Clemens.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    I figure that with regards to libertarianism this comes down to two factors–how consistent/extreme you are and whether you want to have an impact on the direction the country is going in.

    Some libertarians are so extreme that having the government be involved in inspecting meat is an inexcusable act of statism, with the most extreme failing to care about this versus more meaningful restrictions upon civil liberties. To someone like Charter of Dreams that has argued that all government programs are bad and the government can do no good, then there very well might be no reason to vote for Obama.

    This leads to the question of whether you want to have any impact. You could be one hundred consistent and refuse to vote for anyone you don’t entirely agree with. Then you won’t be voting for someone who pursues goals you disagree with, but you also fail to choose between having a government which engages in actions like the Iraq war and the Patriot act as opposed to one which might not.

    The concept of left libertarianism also is meaningful here. “Right libertarians” who concentrate almost exclusively on economic issues might not find any of the three candidates acceptable. “Left libertarians” who consider the war and civil liberties major issues may find reason to vote for Obama even if not agreeing with him on everything.

  5. 5
    Charters Of Dreams says:

    Well, you don’t seem to be troubled by the growth in government — I may be wrong, and please correct me, but your beef with the Bush admin appeares to be more with the amount of spending but rather on what they’re spending it on.

    And even if you are troubled by the amount, Obama certaintly isn’t.

    Thursday in West Virginia, Barack Obama gave a speech laying out the economic costs of the Iraq War, which he estimated as up to $3 trillion (Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz’s estimate) and $10 billion a month. He listed the many things that money could have bought.

    Yes, Obama is the leader, in my opinion, in correctly framing the issues of the day, i.e., everyone should acknowledge that this is the way to argue about the war.

    And yes again, you’re exactly right that Obama is better than JM or HRC, but, on principle — Obama is settling, at best. Case in point:

    Since we’re talking opportunity costs, what about the rest of the national security budget – you know, the other 80 percent of American security spending, now approaching three quarters of a trillion dollars, which is mostly spent to defend us against a couple weak conventional enemies? Like most other Democrats, Obama not only avoids complaining about regular defense spending, but backs the ongoing plan to expand the ground forces, which will add $15-20 billion in annual defense costs in the name of better executing future occupations like Iraq.

    I understand the political calculus here, but let’s not give the guy too many medals for political courage.

    By the way, you know, don’t you, that there’s a strong long term coorelation between the erosion of civil liberties and the growth of government?

    The Left’s analysis of the war in Iraq is correct on this point: it ultimately is about $$, i.e., with the growth of government, of spending, the way it has been since the New Deal, there’s no way for taxes to cover it all — that would plunge us into a deep resession, or worse. So, the government needs to grab additionally land and resources, i.e., mercantilist warfare:

    See Adam Smith: a fierce critic of mercantilism and convincing advocate of free trade.

    Obama is not as pro-nanny state as HRC, but he only looks as good as he does because the other two possibilties are worse. The civil liberty issues you bring up are really minor issues this political season, and you’re making much ado about nothing when it comes to pushing the civil liberty differences between him and HRC.

  6. 6
    Charters Of Dreams says:

    Sorry — I meant to say:

    Well, you don’t seem to be troubled by the growth in government — I may be wrong, and please correct me, but your beef with the Bush admin appeares to be LESS with the amount of spending rather on what they’re spending it on.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    Well, you don’t seem to be troubled by the growth in government — I may be wrong, and please correct me

    You’re wrong. I’ve criticized Bush’s spending many times, as well as pointing out that, contrary to claims from the right, increases in government spending quite frequently come from Republican administrations.

    Again, I noted the advantages of voting for Obama based upon factors other than spending. Of the three, Obama would still be best on the economy, but none of the three are a good choice if your primary goal is cutting spending. There are, however, many other reasons to vote for Obama given that one of the three surviving major party presidents will be the next president unless something really remarkable happens.

    By the way, you know, don’t you, that there’s a strong long term coorelation between the erosion of civil liberties and the growth of government?

    Yes, there is a correlation, but not a 1:1 correlation. Wearing blinders and only looking at who says they will cut spending the most, and ignoring everything else, will generally not lead to supporting the candidate who is the strongest on civil liberties issues.

    Considering how civil liberties have eroded under Bush, and considering the increased concentration of power in the executive branch and increased influence of the religious right, I consider the differences between Obama as opposed to Clinton and McCain to be of considerable significance. I would hardly write off defending civil liberties as “minor issues” or “making much ado about nothing” as you do. Add to that their positions on Iraq and we have rather substantial differences.

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