Tentative Conclusions (as of April) on the 2016 US Presidential Race
By Ed Buckner
My take (and only mine: I emphatically disown any notion that I can or do speak here for any organization, any other atheists, any other Democrats, any other Georgians, any other extremely good-looking guys, etc.) on the 2016 presidential election, as of 5 April 2016 (but before the Wisconsin primary results were known):
I think Bernie Sanders is slightly imperfect as a potential Democratic candidate or as a potential President—but he is easily the one closest to the person I want as a Democratic Party candidate and as President. Asked to give him a grade on a 1 to 100 scale, I’d mark him a 95 or 96 (he loses points for being older than me when I’m acutely aware that my own energy and acuity have diminished, as well as for one or two minor disagreements on issues). Unless he has an unexpected health problem, I’m convinced Sanders would defeat Crump or Truz, probably by a bigger margin than Clinton would. (And no, I don’t think general election polls tell us much this far out.)
I remain a strong Bernie Sanders supporter. I remain, sadly, skeptical as to Sanders’ chances of getting the nomination. If I were wagering, I’d still put my bet on Hillary Clinton, and I’d offer some modest odds in her favor to boot. If Sanders wins Wisconsin by 10 or more percent and then upsets Clinton in New York on 19 April, I’ll change my prediction some (though I don’t think that would end her chances).
If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, I expect to support her, even though I don’t trust her nearly enough to satisfy me and disagree with her on some major matters (how to pursue the foibles of Wall Street and big banks; how vigorously to push for single payer healthcare in America; how much to raise the minimum wage; etc.). But I’d be dramatically more confident in her than in any Republican regarding world diplomacy, US Supreme Court nominees, support for women’s rights, support for civil rights, support for church/state separation, and more. The overall grade I’d give her would be in the high 70s or low 80s. For what it’s worth, I’d’ve rated Martin O’Malley in the mid- to high-80s—but he’s dropped out, of course.
I reject the demands by some to forswear criticism of either Democratic candidate because that somehow “plays into the hands” of the right wing or the Republicans in November. It is naïve to think that the Republicans won’t play hardball and bring out, develop, and advertise every possible line of attack against the Democratic nominee. It is also grandiose, as it implies that either I or my critics from within the Democratic ranks are likely to seriously affect the outcome of the election with our questions or comments. My expectation is strong that either Sanders or Clinton will eventually concede and will then strongly support the other in the general election—and that the overwhelming majority of the loser’s supporters will vote for the winner in November.
The criticism of Sanders that he is opportunistically “using” the Democratic Party, which he only recently officially joined, is petty and unwarranted. If the US had any meaningful multi-party competition for the presidency, this might have weight, but for now at least we have a two-party “system.” Sanders, by his politics, his official and unofficial actions for decades, his consistent caucusing with Democrats in Congress, his support from Democrats in Congress, and by his effective longstanding cooperation with the party, demonstrates beyond question which of the two parties he belongs in. He has never been disingenuous about this, openly declaring both his critiques of the party and his alliances with it.
I’ve been attacked by a Sanders devotee as somehow being “responsible” for the wicked ways of the Democratic National Committee, since I refuse to pledge to write in Sanders in November if Clinton gets the nomination. I also reject that utterly.
The Democratic Party establishment has been ham-handed in their pro-establishment, biased support for one candidate (Clinton) over another (Sanders) and I’m unhappy with some of the rules (related to Super Delegates, etc.) developed after elections in the 1970s and 1980s. Those rules were not, despite claims by some Sanders supporters, developed by Clinton or in opposition to Sanders. Those rules do constitute, in my never humble opinion, a strong basis for real change in the party going forward, but they do not provide a basis for abandoning the party entirely now.
I’m a fan of Elizabeth Warren. If Clinton or Sanders named Warren as the preferred VP candidate, my esteem for Clinton or Sanders would rise.
I don’t know enough about Jill Stein of the Green Party to be completely confident, but from what I do know, I’d almost certainly rate her quite highly on issues, competence, and integrity (with a grade of maybe 95?), but hopelessly low on electability (5?), given the overwhelming biases in our system against third parties. I assume she will again be nominated by her party for President (as she was in 2012). If it’s Hillary v. Donald, I might even vote for Stein, but only because I’m nearly certain Clinton would have no chance of winning Georgia’s electoral college votes (neither would Stein). I would not risk supporting any third party candidate if that might help Trump or Cruz, because they’re dangerous.
I’d rate Donald Trump and Ted Cruz (or Crump and Truz, as I prefer to disrespectfully call them) as roughly tied, with each getting an 11, say, on my report card. Both are frightening possibilities for the nation, though for different reasons. Cruz is a very bright, very determined, nasty piece of work, an ideologue who might well risk, on principle, moving the US closer to a dominionist, theocratic approach to governing, and who would make horribly bad court appointments, work actively to deprive women of basic rights, be quite bad for church-state separation, be dangerous on the world stage, and more. Trump would be roughly as bad but much more on grounds of demagoguery, personal unpredictability, lack of judgement, and damage to our standing in the world. Trump would probably be better than Cruz on church/state, might be better at appointing US Supreme Court justices (but who knows?), would likely be more racist and xenophobic, but overall he’s too bizarre to countenance.
John Kasich, Republican Governor of Ohio, would be, IMNHO, far better than TruzCrump but substantially worse than Clinton or Sanders. My grade for Kasich would be around a 50. The Republicans will not, I think, nominate anyone other than Trump or Cruz, and if they do, Trump’s supporters will massively rebel (mostly by sitting it out or supporting Trump as a third party candidate) and the Democrats will win in a landslide.
I’d prefer that the President of the US (and therefore any candidates for the job) be an open atheist. But that’s far short of a good enough reason to support anyone. No current candidate has declared himself or herself to be an atheist, but probably the two most likely to actually be godless are Bernie Sanders (my top choice) and Donald Trump (tied for worst possible choice).
I think that it is nevertheless quite important for all atheists to vote, to be open about their atheism, and to press candidates, for any elected office, as to their positions on atheists’ rights. I say that even about atheists who don’t agree with me on candidates, politics, the economy, world peace, etc.—though I cannot imagine why any would disagree with me.
I repeat that my views are mine and mine alone—but I welcome comments on them.
(Photo credit: H. Michael Karshis; https://www.flickr.com/photos/hmk/24276947135/)