It’s already been called the worst presidential election in U.S. history, or alternately, the most depressing one.
And so far, it has lived down to those expectations.
Two candidates with historically high unfavorable ratings are careening toward Nov. 8, with American principles of honor and fair play blindfolded and gagged in the back seat.
Both candidates are deeply flawed, but their flaws are inherently — and importantly — different.
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Hillary Clinton has practiced a particularly cynical and secretive brand of politics. Her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state was reckless. She has admitted that on policy, she can say one thing in public and another in private. There are lingering and legitimate questions about possible conflicts of interest at the Clinton Foundation. She has trust and likability issues that have alienated many voters.
In a “normal” election, against a more conventional candidate, those problems and others might have been Clinton’s undoing. But this election is extraordinary.
Donald Trump, from the very beginning of his bizarre campaign, has engaged in the worst kind of misogyny, race-baiting and isolationism. He has preyed upon the fears of the economically distressed.
He has also failed a long series of character and temperament tests: embracing Russian leader Vladimir Putin and encouraging him to hack Clinton’s emails; repeatedly criticizing a Gold Star family; targeting Muslims and Mexicans indiscriminately; encouraging violent behavior at his rallies; mocking a disabled reporter; denigrating women; stating that he knows more than American generals despite the fact that he’s grievously lacking in foreign policy experience; threatening to jail his opponent; and suggesting that if he doesn’t win, the election was a sham. The list goes on and on.
His most recent campaign stumbles have been among the most troubling. He bragged, in an audio recording in 2005, about sexually assaulting women. And while he later denied the actual groping, multiple women have come forward in the last week to claim he assaulted them.
Clearly, it would be wrong to equate the missteps of the candidates. The substance of this election isn’t about unfavorables. It’s about qualifications.
And one candidate stands out: Hillary Clinton.
There are few resumes like hers in politics. She has served the public interest for decades, and that level of involvement would make her the most experienced president-elect to enter the White House since George Herbert Walker Bush.
She has been preparing for this moment much of her life, and she has the temperament and critical decision-making skills required for the most stressful job in the world. She has also demonstrated a deft touch on foreign policy, and President Obama would have been well-served to take her advice more often.
Many pressing problems await the next leader of the free world: trade, Syria and Yemen, immigration, the Supreme Court, criminal justice reform, economic disparity and the shrinking middle class.
To effectively govern, a Clinton presidency should operate from the center of the political spectrum, working across the aisle as she did in the Senate. She must also respect American freedoms and the concerns that those freedoms are weakening.
As we’ve seen in this election cycle, many American voters are testy. They want actual governance, not just loud conversation. They want solutions that improve their lives, their bank accounts, the futures of their children.
And in 2016, the best step in that direction is a vote for Hillary Clinton. For some, it may not be an easy decision, but it is the right one. Unlike Donald Trump, she can be a president for all Americans.