“Then it came burning hot in my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave.” -Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
I am a conservative. I say this because it is true, though some may doubt it. I have always been conservative, always slow to accept change, always cautious, always preferring the tried and true to the new and exciting. People have come to accept certain policy positions as conservative and others as progressive, but in actuality it is not policy positions that define whether you are conservative or progressive. It is something more like temperament. My daughter, Libby, for example is a natural progressive. She enjoys the thrill of rising to a challenge, putting out a fire, or rescuing our dog from the river. She will be inclined to press for change just to see what will happen. I am more inclined to advocate for the status quo for fear that what will happen will involve more effort or unintended outcomes.
When it comes to policy positions, I am harder to classify. I am pro-life because I believe unborn children deserve opportunities to grow and develop as much as born children do. I am opposed to the death penalty. It serves no rehabilitative purpose, and as punishment, it is cruel and severe. It is also too often unjust. I am a feminist because I believe women are people who deserve the same respect and autonomy accorded to men. I support relatively open immigration because I believe a continuing influx of new people with fresh perspectives and ideas can only make America stronger. Besides, if you are worried about losing your job to an immigrant, you should know that they don’t have to come here to take it. For the most part, I am in favor of policies that help people and opposed to those that harm them. I believe most people are good—not in the absolute, theological sense—but in the common, quotidian sense that most people are eager to be well-thought of and act accordingly. You can trust most people most of the time as long as you don’t tempt them too sorely. Strangers will help you. The clerk will run after you if you forget your change.
It is because I am a conservative with a generally positive view of people that I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton for President. She is the most conservative candidate from a major party. She represents the status quo. She will, for the most part, continue the policies of the Obama administration. Those policies have generally been good for the US. They have lessened the impact of the recession. They have strengthened the United States globally. They have encouraged people to seek redress of grievances through democratic means.
Some of my friends, relatives, and acquaintance who have fed themselves on right-wing “news” sites will not see any truth at all in what I just wrote. They will have heard nothing but evil of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They will blame her for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. They will claim that her use of a private email server while Secretary of State jeopardized national security. They will point to rumors and conspiracy theories about her, claiming that there is no smoke without a fire. Some may even point to prophets who admonish us that a vote for Hillary will help usher in the Great Tribulation. Most of these claims are either completely without foundation or wildly exaggerated. Hillary Clinton is not evil—or at least no more evil than the average politician seeking to do the job they were elected or appointed to do.
Lastly, there are some who will see Donald Trump as a conservative candidate. There is nothing at all conservative about Trump. He has threatened to jail Hillary Clinton, though she has been found guilty of no crime. He has threatened to muzzle the press, despite its being protected by the first amendment. He has threatened to treat Muslims as potential terrorists, despite that being a violation of the freedom of religion and rights to due process. He has threatened to suspend the rule of law and impose his will by force if necessary. He has hinted that his followers should lead an armed rebellion if he is not elected. He has confessed to having said vile things about women and treating them as objects available solely for his own gratification. There is nothing conservative in any of these threats or actions. If allowed, he would overturn our centuries-old traditions of deciding hard issues by ballot and replace it with a system of rule by fiat. His one and only aim in everything he does is to glorify Donald Trump. There is no one on earth he admires more than himself. His is no ordinary self-interest, but an all-consuming desire to be universally acclaimed as the best, the brightest, the greatest man who ever lived. He is not a conservative but a radical, advocating for radical changes in our country, our government, and our way of life.
Some see these changes as a return to glory days of yore, but there is no going back. You can’t unscramble an egg; you can’t put the omelet back in the shell. The hard-fought gains made by people of color and women and gays and lesbians and other marginalized groups will not be easily yielded up because President Trump says so. The nation cannot be made more Christian by discarding all the teachings of Jesus Christ and replacing them with laws to make people act as they ought. Trump cannot do the things he has promised. If he tries, he will fail but not without wasting a lot of resources on grandiose pipe dreams.
Of course, I can’t tell anyone who to vote for, and there’s no way to prevent some from thinking I’ve succumbed to some kind of liberal spell. I have not. My mind is in good working order. More than that, my sense of decency is utterly repulsed by Trump. Clinton is not the best possible candidate for President, but she will be a pretty good one, and she is undoubtedly qualified.