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August 17, 2016

While it’s pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is the most well qualified presidential candidate in recent memory, the more precise reality is that among the four most well-known candidates left in the race, Clinton is really the ONLY qualified candidate for president because she is the only professional politician in the bunch.

Donald Trump is a fool and a deeply un-serious candidate in every way. Gary Johnson is a rigid ideologue, and Jill Stein is a rigid ideologue who has long since lost touch with reality.  Hillary Clinton is a professional politician, and a pretty good one.  It’s very popular to muse about how much Americans hate politicians and about how 2016 is the year of the outsider, etc, etc…, but the presidency isn’t for amateurs or insurgents.  It’s an office that requires occupants who are willing and able to carefully balance the pursuit of policy objectives with the maintenance of their personal political capital.  Thin skin and ideological inflexibility are prima facie evidence of unfitness for the Oval Office. Presidents cannot afford to sacrifice their personal political capital for particular policy accomplishments or to sacrifice important policy accomplishments to avoid the loss of personal political capital. They must VERY often accept setbacks to both in the interest of long term success.

In our present 24/7/365 media (and social media) environment where partisan polarization is a harsh reality in both the electorate and among elected officials in Washington, this balance between personal political reputation and policy accomplishments is harder to pull off than it’s ever been.  The internet/media pounds politicians with personal criticisms that would crush people in any other venue; that would render them completely discredited.  The few who nonetheless soldier on and survive are the highly skilled professional politicians. One of the best indicators of fitness for the Oval Office is political survival and success in the face of powerful and persistent opposition.  Of the four remaining candidates for President this year, by this standard, Clinton is clearly a man among boys (so to speak).

How has Hillary Clinton done it? How does she survive the constant and very harsh spot light that has left her, according to opinion polls, among the least popular or trusted politicians in America? The answer isn’t quite as complicated as you might expect. Clinton will become America’s 45th President because she has never allowed her policy or personal critics to dictate her conduct.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that she never reacted badly to criticism or allowed herself to be goaded by critics; it means that she rarely does so and that she has a particular ability that escaped even her wildly successful spouse, the 42nd President.  Hillary Clinton knows when not to speak; when not to react.  She knows that the cost of damaging personal revelations is almost always less when one refuses to take them personally.

Hillary Clinton’s faith in what she knows to be true may be her most impressive personal quality. Unlike the thinned skinned Trump, Clinton knows the personal attacks against her aren’t true. She knows that she isn’t the caricature popular in the media, and that when push comes to shove the media and the public will figure that out. Her ability to brush off her critics and their criticism actually intensifies the hatred of her critics.  Clinton Derangement Syndrome is a real thing! She knows this, but has enough personal discipline and awareness of the big picture to realize that their hatred is irrational and that as such it will not sink her if she simply stays her course. Unlike Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton also knows that her liberal policy preferences cannot be imposed upon the country or the country’s policymakers, and that no matter what other politicians say about her in public, the many she has worked with over the years know that she can be trusted where the rubber meets the road in the policymaking process.

On November 8th, with the help of a cleverly designed electoral process, the American electorate will demonstrate prudence and rationality that is otherwise hard to spot in contemporary American politics. They will put a professional politician in the White House who will advance a progressive agenda in the manner that such agendas must be advanced in our peculiar constitutional democracy. 

Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Trump, Hillary Clinton

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