Kevin Mattson tells a Millennial socialist it would be stupid NOT to vote for Hillary

Historians in the News
tags: Hillary Clinton, election 2016

Kevin Mattson teaches American history at Ohio University. He is author, most recently, of Just Plain Dick: Richard Nixon’s Checkers Speech and the “Rocking, Socking” Election of 1952.

An important question has been prompted by younger progressives this election cycle: Why should they support Hillary Clinton? Most who are raising this question were engaged in the Bernie campaign and were troubled by the leaked emails showing that the DNC leadership preferred Hillary over their candidate (we all knew that, the emails just confirmed it). Many also think of Hillary Clinton as too centrist for their left-leaning politics. For these reasons, some younger progressives seem to be considering leaving the presidential box blank or voting for the Green Party. But, in many places, including where I live (Ohio), the stakes this year are very high.

I understand trepidation about Hillary Clinton. Having worked hard on Obama’s primary in 2008, my mind drifts back to those days. I inevitably wind up remembering how Hillary campaigned as a gun lover of sorts, that Bill Clinton (who just  wouldn’t take a backseat) compared Obama to Jesse Jackson (how inaccurate), while Hillary compared Obama to Martin Luther King Jr. and herself to Lyndon B. Johnson, and that, worst of all, Mark Penn, just one of too many overpaid advisors, was writing these stupid memos to Hillary about how Obama’s biography—Kenyan father, childhood in Hawaii—provided him with “limited” relation “to basic American values and culture.” Penn’s memo wasn’t the basis of today’s ugly birtherism, as much as I think Trump suggested (I no longer understand much of what he says), but it sure didn’t give me much faith in Hillary’s campaign or in her core belief system. What I see today is a very different Hillary than the 2008 version, but that just prompts suspicion about shapeshifting as much as it does any hope that her 2016, progressive re-do is genuine.

However, Hillary aside, the bigger question here should really be: What is a vote truly for? I was motivated to consider this recently, after a few recent conversations with millennial voters, and in response to an article that I read in the small socialist magazine In These Times.

But, first, those conversations. Over a few beers, a young man who will go unnamed (but, really, there are many just like him) told me that he wasn’t sure if he would vote for Hillary Clinton. I said I thought such a move—understand this conversation took place in a small college town in Ohio—was stupid, and that, knowing him to be a person of the left (a self-proclaimed “socialist”), he would be helping Donald Trump in the long run. He said he had heard the “lesser of two evils” argument before but thought his vote should still be something more than that. What struck me about this interaction was his use of the language of self-expression—I want my vote to be a statement, he kept riffing. He wanted it to justify his thinking. ...

Read entire article at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

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