The president America needs

Many voters are still not convinced by the options they face in the upcoming presidential election. The candidates have been scrutinized under different angles, to the point where the most important thing is forgotten: Beyond whether we like them, can the candidates do the job?  Voting should be about solving the issues one cares about, not just a popularity contest.

Hillary Clinton is not the mere lesser of two evils, she is the most competent presidential candidate in decades

Hillary Clinton is not the mere lesser of two evils, she is the most competent presidential candidate in decades

For a start, most voters expect Clinton not to be able to tackle the ugly Washington practices nor to break the political status quo. That is a fair assessment out of an unfair expectation. If you are frustrated with the way Washington works, you should be. But the real problem is that Senators reelection rates are above 90% (95% for the House). Are they that popular? Not really. These are the people that make laws, not the President. These are the people that have the power on domestic policy, not the President. These are the people that frustrate you, not the President. Their seats are so safe and secure, that they don't have any incentive to reach across the aisle or compromise, resulting in vitriolic discourse, divisiveness and frustration. Notwithstanding election rhetoric, expecting any president, Clinton or otherwise, to change that is beyond naïve. Two reasons:

  1. The US is the only developed country where self-interested politicians govern the redistricting process (gerrymandering), tailoring their district to only include people that vote for them. Congressmen choose voters instead of voters choosing congressmen.

  2. Turnout rates for congressional elections are the lowest they have ever been and declining. 60 to 70% of minorities don’t show up to vote and are then surprised that their voice is not heard.

Until that is fixed (by pushing your Senator to support anti-gerrymandering bills and not forgetting to vote), all that can be expected from a president is to work around the current structure to move the country forward. One’s personal preference might be for a conservative or liberal agenda, but until we find a way to eliminate differences of opinions, compromise is the best we can hope for. Ms. Clinton is a unifier, to the right of most Democrats and to the left of most Republicans. If elected president, she will have the needed credibility with the left wing of her party (Sen. Sanders and Warren come to mind), with Republicans, technocrats and CEOS alike. A stance less confortable or appealing than pure ideology but, contrary to the latter, with a certain usefulness beyond election rallies. 

Declining Congressional elections turnout rates. Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Declining Congressional elections turnout rates. Source: U.S. Census Bureau

On the international front, if the presidency had a job description, it would have Hillary’s resume as the ideal candidate. She has shown herself to be thoughtful, ponderate and open to being wrong. She is one of the most seasoned politicians in Washington, experienced in international negotiations and crisis-resolution. She is committed vis-à-vis strategic allies to restore the ties that have been strained during the Obama’s second term. She has a clear vision for what the international role of the US should be, between Obama’s isolationism and Bush’s hawkishness. No other candidate, left or right, holds a candle to Hillary’s grasp of the world stage and the necessary role that the US has to play in it.

Furthermore, the widely held belief that Clinton is the lesser of two evils is a myth. Running any country, a fortiori the USA, is a grueling and thankless task. As such, it requires resilience, level-headedness, prudence, a minimum grasp of facts and the willingness to be advised, just to name a few. Clinton is not the lesser of two evils: she is the most competent presidential candidate facing the most unscrupulous, empty, demagogic soapbox orator in decades. 

If it is so clear cut, why is it that there is still a contest? One reason is that the next president will likely nominate 4/9 Supreme Court justices (a replacement for late J. Scalia, and three likely ones for Ginsburg, Kennedy and Breyer). If all the new appointed justices are on the liberal side of the spectrum, the balance would move from 5 to 4 in favor of conservatives to 3 to 6 in favor liberals. that would dramatically change the balance of power in one the most relevant institutions in the US, with rippling effects decades afterwards.  As a result, the Republican party is rightly halfheartedly supporting Trump and focusing on the Congressional elections, trying to avoid losing by a historically wide margin, which would give Democarts free rein to nominate justices. Even though the presidential election is lost, it still makes sense for the party not to lose by a wide margin.

Another reason is that is populism is raging worldwide and it will take sociologists years to determine what is fueling it. Easy radical slogans, from the NHS millions to the Mexican wall, find attentive ears looking for a radical change. We should remember that for all the attention grabbing headlines, the US is doing pretty well. Its economy is the most dynamic in the world, its military unchallenged, the price for discriminating against minorities is rising every day and most people, if given the choice, would move to the US. Radicalism is an intellectually lazy path and we owe it ourselves to exert the highest standard of scepticism toward the political fringes that come with simple solutions to civilizational problems. The challenges are real and pressing but shouldn’t excuse throwing the baby with the bathwater.

By Ziad Abouchadi, Class of 2017
This opinion is representative of views held by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions and beliefs  of the editor in chief or the entire Chicago Business staff.