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The Teachers of the Year Open Letter Is Partly Right but Mostly Wrong

Nine state and national Teachers of the Year, two of whom I know personally, have published an open letter endorsing Hillary Clinton and arguing that they cannot remain neutral this election year. Putting aside for now the subject of how neutral a teacher is obliged to be regarding controversial issues (they mostly do, too), I’m going to both agree with and push back on how they characterize Trump and Clinton.

The authors devote some ten paragraphs to an accurate account of Donald Trump’s behavior. They concentrate on his abuse of pretty much every race, ethnicity, and gender other than his own and reach the conclusion, obvious to most, that he would make a horrendous president. I agree with everything they say in those paragraphs. If anything, by leaving out comments of his business practices and ignorance of civics they didn’t go far enough. Knowing his public and private ways, I despise Donald Trump, will never vote for him, and will encourage everyone I know not to vote for him.

But knowing her public and private ways, I also despise Hillary Clinton, will never vote for her, and will encourage everyone I know not to vote for her, either.

And that’s where I cross swords with the Teachers of the Year. In a concluding paragraph they write, “She isn’t perfect, but we believe Clinton has the temperament and requisite skills to do the job.”

Well, I’m not perfect either, nor is the person I admire most, nor are the authors who wrote that meaningless criticism. But our imperfections don’t include the lying, criminal, duplicitous, throw-them-under-the bus mechanisms Hillary Clinton has employed throughout her quarter century rise to power. Anyone, even the Teachers of the Year, if they were of a mind, could easily write ten paragraphs accurately describing why she would also make a horrendous president.

Hillary Clinton does not have the temperament to do the job. She rewarded, rather than disavowed, the disgraced Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Clinton’s “longtime friend”) for betraying the trust of Democrat voters in the primaries. She revealed to her high-paying friends in the financial sector that she has public and private positions, thus promoting hypocrisy as a tool rather than as something to be ashamed of. And who knows how many times she sold out her country’s national interests as Secretary of State?

Nor does she have the requisite skills to do the job; otherwise, she could name parts of the world that in her role as Secretary of State she helped make safer, more tolerant, more diplomatic, and friendlier toward the United States. Instead, all we hear is how many miles she flew. (No, she’s not solely to blame for the condition of the world, but who can argue that she’s played no role in creating it?)

The Teachers of the Year say, “Most importantly, we believe she will uphold the American values of civility, equality and dignity for all.” No she won’t. Leaked communications reveal the borderline anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism of her team, thus diluting the efficacy of her supporters’ attacks on Trump’s many -isms and torpedoing any claim to her civility. (And before you comment that that was her surrogates, not her, in those communications, remember that Clinton’s the one fond of the Spanish saying, “Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.”)

Equality? Sure, I’ve no doubt that she provides all the Clinton Foundation’s donors with access and favors proportional to their giving. Wait, would that be equality or equity? Regardless, a Venn diagram with circles for Clinton and Equality would have no overlap.

Dignity? Reread the last 343 words.

To repeat, I’ll never vote for Trump or Clinton. The differences between their characters, dispositions, and skills are paper-thin, amounting to an adjective here, an adverb there, and maybe a noun or two sprinkled about. Any sincerely held belief that either candidate will restore hope to young people is naiveté; any claim thereof, propaganda.

So what to do? Personally, I start by reflecting on Thomas Sowell’s comment that we don’t vote for people or outcomes, we vote for systems. Accordingly, to vote for either Clinton or Trump rewards the Democratic and Republican systems that produced them and will encourage future candidates of their ilk to behave in their manner.

To prevent that, we should do what it takes to make sure that the winner can claim no mandate and knows that her or his power hangs by a thread and only tenuously represents the consent of the governed. That means assuring that he or she wins by the smallest of margins and ideally with much less than 50% of the vote. And that means we should write in candidates, vote third party, or not vote at all.

Next, and arguably more important than voting, we must practice our other civic duties with a new commitment. We must first work to limit the particular abuses and excesses of whoever wins. Then we must work to rebuild our institutions, or create new ones, so that they uncompromisingly represent our ideological values and reflect our own civility, equality, and dignity.

Only then, as the Teachers of the Year long for, we will be able to say that we, “Give hope to each new generation, including the youngest citizens who walk through our classroom doors each day.”

4 Comments

Brianna Crowley commented on October 17, 2016 at 9:52pm:

Illogical leap

What I don't understand after reading this post and clicking on your links is how you are making the comparison between Clinton staffers' private emails and Donald Trump's own public denigrations of many different kinds of people. Two main differences stand out:

1) Audience. Donald Trump publicizes his mysogyny, racism, and crudeness from his own social account and behind his own podium to the general public. He's either too arrogant or too uncaring to care who hears these words and what happens to them when they do. Clinton staffers, on the other hand, we privately emailing their own philosophies to seemingly like-minded people within the context of "I don't understand why these people believe the way they do." The emails are shocking when published and disgusting when considered for their arrogance and lack of empathy or open-mindedness. But they were not lobbed into the general public or directed at specific groups of people who were in the presence ot hear them. Neither Trump nor the staffer's statements are defensible, but they are also not equal. 

2) Individual accountability. Although the Clinton staffers denigrated those who believe in the Catholic faith and Evangelicals, you have not provided documentation where Clinton herself speaks about these groups or any others in a bigoted or ignorant way. Yet Donald Trump proudly stated in his opening bid for president that "Mexicans are rapists" and has continued to publicly and personally slander all kinds of groups and individuals. He. Himself. If anything, his staffers occassionally try to walk his offensive statements back. 

So on the issue of who is individually more harmful to our public discourse, logic does not hold that these candidates are equally accountable. 

The most damning articles were the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal reporting on the wikiLeaks revelations. They certainly seem to prove that Clinton may have leveraged her power as Secretary of State for gains for her Foundation. They also prove that she seems to live up to the worst reputations of policians: choosing the truth and stance that best fits the audience before them. 

Yet even seeing these articles as revelatory of Clinton being a deeply flawed and even power-hungry candidate, it does not convince me that our democracy would be better off if we all abdicated our responsibility to vote (as you suggest we should if we were truly choosing the moral high ground) or if we wrote in a variety of other leaders who wouldn't have enough organized popularity to gain the majority vote. 

I respect your personal decision to do so, and resent your implication that it is the moral high ground for the rest of us in the country. For this election, one of these two candidates will win. If I was starving and presented with two peaches, both with rot, I would choose the one with less so as not to go hungry. I wouldn't turn them both down to make a point. 

So while you have provided me with additional reasons to believe that Hilary Clinton can be untrustworthy, can hire unsavory and arrogant snobs, and has potentially personally benefitted from her position of power, you have not convinced me of your core premise: that the open letter from the Teachers of the Year was "mostly wrong." Instead, I see you as someone who feels strongly about your moral position, but ironically seems somewhat blinded by it too. 

As is the condition with us all I suppose, we choose our blindness. But I'm voting for the person who is more capable and less unssavvory and also who I know has done a world of good in addition to the bad. I'm also voting for a party who more aligns with the policies I think are good for the America I want to see in the future, despite those in their ranks who have offensive opinions. And I'm doing that without a figurehead who publically embarrasses our country on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. 
 

 

Brianna Crowley commented on October 18, 2016 at 9:20pm:

Also

I looked into these claims more today and found this Politifact explanation the the uranium "scandal" isn't as simple as was depicted in the WSJ. 

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jun/30/donald-tr...

Jerry kleiman commented on January 7, 2017 at 9:22pm:

Third party candidates

 

Voting for third party candidates elects presidents like Bush and Trump, so if that's what you want vote third party.

 

Fairy SquadMother commented on January 8, 2017 at 3:30am:

As an American

 As an American, you are perfectly able to exercise your right to both vote and speak as you see fit. But also as an American, wouldn't you try to avoid a presidency where Trump is able to embarass us as best he can? I don't know about you, but having someone as misogynistic, racist, and bigoted as him in the White House embarasses me. It embarasses me that he is the face of our country now. I perfectly agree with and respect your position that both candidates were absolutely terrible. However, Hillary was obviously the better option. The fact that she won the popular vote proves that. You can't possibly compare one's staff emails of which Hillary had no control over to Trump openly bashing people for no reason other than his pure bigotry. Vote third party all you want, but that is the reason Trump is president. Besides, it isn't as if the third party candidates were any more qualified. As far as writing people in, that'll never work because they will never gain the majority to win. And abstaining altogether is even worse because you fail to realize that many who don't normally vote came out of the woodworks to vote for Trump. In this election, any vote that wasn't for Clinton was a vote for Trump. Honestly, you saying that you would never vote for Hillary saddens me. It saddens me because you can't even suck it up to change America's future. Yes she was a bad option, but she was no where near the level of no that Trump was. Overall, your comparison holds no water and your advice to "write in candidates, vote third party, or not vote at all." is bad and is the very reason Trump won. I'm not saying Hillary was our savior but she was a hell of a lot better and the fact that you would write in candidates, vote third party, or not vote at all is sad.

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