In the middle of June 2016 : we have to start trying to like Hillary .. and remember Horace on nil desperandum

Jun 11th, 2016 | By | Category: In Brief

Hillary Rodham in 1969, the year she graduated from Wellesley College, in her early 20s. Before she even went to Yale Law School and met Bill Clinton. Was she thinking then where she’d finally be on June 7, 2016?

One feature of cruise ships is that (briefly but sometimes with a strange intensity) you get to know people you might not otherwise encounter in your more particular ordinary life.

Late last month I met various citizens of the USA this way. And some of these encounters came back as I watched the results of the last great Super Tuesday US presidential primaries of 2016 –  in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and North and South Dakota.

As best as I can tell up here in the northern woods, looking out from my office window in the old streetcar suburbs, there are two main parts to the great American political puzzle right now – (1) Clinton and Sanders, and (2) Clinton and Trump.

Already there has been significant if still not decisive progress on the first part of the puzzle, as the week comes to an end. President Obama has met with Sanders, and then released a video endorsing Hillary (while praising Bernie as well).

Vice President Biden has endorsed Hillary. And Elizabeth Warren has announced on the Rachel Maddow Show – with many of us up here actually watching – that she is doing the same.

As of Friday, June 10, Senator Warren (aka Pocahontas, goofy friend of crooked Hillary, in the juvenile political comic book Mr. Trump is peddling) has also met with “the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee” at Hillary’s Washington, DC home.

(As seen just now on MSNBC TV : a nice and decent-sized but far from extravagant center-hall colonial, with just a hint of a circular drive.)

The Clinton’s home in Washington, DC.

Senator Al Franken, who first endorsed Hillary long ago, said warm and optimistic things on MSNBC last night, about the contribution of Bernie Sanders and his supporters to the Democratic Party that will be running in the November 8, 2016 elections.

Senator Franken expressed a similar confidence about the honourably free and democratic way in which Mr. Sanders will finally wind down the most interesting (and still hopefully pioneering) act in this Democratic primary season.  For the moment I believe him. Why not?

But what about the second part of the puzzle – what happens when two widely disliked candidates fight toe to toe, mano a momma, in the bizarre Clinton vs Trump contest now unambiguously under way … at last? The picture here still seems much more nervously murky …

Learning to like Hillary …

“Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally Tuesday, June 7, 2016, in Santa Monica, Calif.”

In fact, I don’t quite like Hillary myself. But my wife has been a passionate supporter from afar for years. And for all his winning oratory, Bernie Sanders doesn’t have anything like the organizing ground game required to actually mobilize the compelling public policy revolution he has so passionately and bravely spoken up for.

As a practical matter right now, President Obama points to some deep truth when he urges “Clinton and Sanders have a shared vision of ‘the values that make America great.’”

And then I am Canadian, and Canadians tend to vote Democratic in American elections. And besides, to me, Donald Trump is a juvenile comic-book character in his own right.

The last thing the world needs now is a comic-book president of the vital USA (right next door to Canada, as well as Mexico, and on and on, all the way to China and India, and Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East – to say nothing of Brexit and the European Union, Putin’s Russia, Japan and the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Australia, and all that).

As Barack Obama’s first Secretary of State 2009—2013.

And then, whatever else, Hillary Clinton has paid her dues, several times over. Since she left Wellesley College as a young lady in her early 20s, in 1969, she has acquired a vast experience in government and politics and many other things of this world. President Obama may also be right when he says, “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.”

From all these angles I take heart from such recent reports as “Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in the all-important electoral college, polls suggest” (by the excellent Éric Grenier at CBC News).  And “Donald Trump’s polling surge has faltered – and Democrats haven’t even united.” Or “Newest Rasmussen Poll Shows Clinton Leading Trump By 4 Points.”

While still not underestimating Donald Trump?

At their quiet wedding in Arkansas 1975. (Or so it would seem.)

And then I get worried by other articles, like : “Poll: Clinton holds 4-point national lead over Trump — or does she?” Or “Pennsylvania Close; Sanders Supporter Unity Would Make It Not Close.”

And then I think yes, it is a comic book Trump is peddling, and I remember the advice when I first started working for politicians as a policy analyst years ago : write as you would to an intelligent 12-year-old … and talk tough.

And it’s at this point that the various American voices from the cruise ship, May 14—26, 2016, return more exactly …

One thing we and our immediate Canadian companions observed to each other with some alarm was how many nice people among our southern cousins onboard seemed to have decided to vote for Trump!

Cruise ship passengers join demo against racism and anti-refugee sentiment in Stockholm, Sweden, May 2016.

They had their reasons. Their health insurance costs had gone up. (Maybe to help pay for extending health insurance to many who did not have it before?) The economy has not been doing well at all in their sector or region. (A fellow scotch-drinker from Arizona and a retired but still youthful couple from Dallas stand out here.)

Virtually everyone we talked with who claimed to be voting for Trump confessed they were Republicans in any case. But we also bumped into Republicans who said they just could not bring themselves to vote for Donald Trump.

Did that mean they just wouldn’t vote, I asked. And they said they had thought of that, or at least of writing a name in. “Think of us a little on election night,” a Washington State lady of this persuasion said with a smile, as she and her husband left the crowded cruise-ship cafeteria.

Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton confer, in an earlier incarnation.

What I finally remember best is a 60-something lady from Chicago. She was definitely not Republican and not voting for Trump, and altogether certainly voting for Hillary. She had intervened after a conversation with an otherwise very agreeable Republican pro-Trump couple, from an upper middle-class Los Angeles neighborhood.

After the Los Angeles couple had left, the Chicago lady (sitting on the other side of us in the vast cruise-ship cafeteria) said she just wanted to make clear that there were also Americans on board who were voting for Hillary. Because she’s just the best person for the job. Donald Trump as president would make America a laughing stock in the global village …

Hillary on the night of June 7, 2016, in Brooklyn, NY.

But can Hillary do it, I asked? The lady from Chicago said it was a good question. Her own final verdict for the time being was “Anything can happen.” And this still seems all too true for serious comfort, as far as I’m concerned. But “nil desperandum” is ancient Latin for “never despair” – ultimately drawn from an ode by Horace. And it’s my main 2016 US election motto right now.

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  1. Thanks for this thoughtful unique view into American thinking. I think it took courage to just bring the subject up in such a situation. I know someone who is voting for Trump, and her reasons are similar – he’s tough, will deal strongly with terrorism. Others I’ve met who live in the U.S. are finding their friendships are becoming unglued now, some with long standing agreement to ‘agree to disagree’ re: Republican/Democrat.
    The backlash to Hillary that is apparently not being publicized is violent and misogynistic in the extreme. It feels as if this campaign is changing the public tone that is a real concern. So glad you were able to have ‘civilized’ conversations, coming out with an understanding. Very helpful.

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