I have never written anything like this and hope never to again. But I feel compelled to publicly add my voice to the chorus of opposition to Donald Trump, and to share my perspective as a son of two historians, one Jewish and one German.
First, though, I will say that I am an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter and think she will be a great president. I’ve put the reasons why at the end of this post. If you have already voted for Hillary or are planning to, I thank you and encourage you to forward this post or any part of it to anyone you think needs to see it (no attribution necessary), and to do anything you can between now and Election Day to get out and protect the vote.
If you are considering doing anything this election other than vote for Hillary, despite all the messages you have surely read and heard by now, I hope you will take the time to read this one.
There are many, many reasons to reject Donald Trump. I am going to focus on one, that he has said and done far too many things that are reminiscent of the worst kind of leader: a dictator. Trump has gotten to where he is right now largely by whipping up fear and hatred against minority groups, women and outsiders, and scapegoating them for our country’s problems. He has expressed disdain for the rule of law and due process. He may be seeking to be democratically elected, but he has also questioned our electoral system. He has suggested he will attempt to restrict first amendment rights if he becomes president. He has incited and encouraged violence. I believe he is by far the most dangerous candidate for US president in my lifetime, and possibly ever. I am not just expressing my own observations here, but also echoing the observations of many expert and astute observers.
My perhaps unique perspective comes from being the son of two historians, one Jewish and one German. One of my parents teaches the University of Kentucky’s Holocaust course for undergraduates. Even though my family is fortunate that no close relatives died in concentration camps, I and all Jews carry with us the knowledge that in the recent past, a man who rose through a democratic electoral system turned into a dictator who tried to murder us. What I think is pertinent right now is to remember that Hitler did not take office in 1933 with a blueprint for Auschwitz. There were six years of sporadic violence and increasingly onerous restrictions placed on Jews and others before Hitler launched World War 2, and another two years before the Holocaust truly began. Dictators evolve as they consolidate power and find ways to destroy institutions that are supposed to check that power.
I went canvassing last weekend with a Jewish social justice organization recently. We were given buttons that said “Jews reject Trump — we’ve seen this before.” While Jews are probably not the first group that Trump would go after, given his past statements, I feel responsible to stand up for any group that is being cast as a scapegoat for societal problems, because I know where that can lead — and because it is wrong. And I recall Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller’s words about the danger of silence: “First they came for the Socialists…”
I am also half-German. My mother was born in a small town in the German countryside during the last months of World War 2. Though she cannot remember Hitler and the Nazis, her life was profoundly shaped by growing up in the country they ruined. Shortly after she was born, East Germany fell under the influence of the Soviet Union and Stalin. Her family eventually had to leave their farm and everything and everyone they knew, and flee to West Germany. Her father, a lifelong farmer, had to take a factory job and never fully recovered from the trauma of being forced to leave his home. Germany has still not fully recovered from World War 2 and the stain of Hitler, and possibly it never will.
Dictators destroy lives and they destroy countries. It would be naïve to think that it couldn’t happen here. The best way to make sure it does not happen is to give Hillary Clinton an overwhelming victory on Tuesday — one so solid that it cannot be questioned. If you are wishing for a president who fully articulates progressive ideals voiced by Bernie Sanders and others, I respect and applaud that, and there will be plenty of time and opportunity after November 8 to push Hillary to embody those ideals, as she already does to a large extent. But I hope I and others can convince you that not voting or voting for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning — especially if you are in a state where there is even a bit of doubt about the outcome — is an extremely dangerous thing to do. I also hope you will consider getting out the vote this weekend and protecting the vote on Election Day. Together we can make sure the United States remains a welcoming, democratic country that we can be proud of.
Thank you for reading.
My endorsement of Hillary Clinton
I enthusiastically voted on Tuesday for Hillary Clinton, and I am excited and proud to help elect the US’s first woman president. Hillary has built a 40-year record of using policy to improve people’s lives and make the world safer. She helped pass legislation to secure health care for millions of children, and help adopted and foster children, 9/11 responders, servicemembers and many others. Her diplomacy laid the groundwork for the Iran nuclear deal, and her leadership in smart use of force helped take out bin Laden. She has serious plans to implement paid family leave and immigration reform, she will protect and improve the Affordable Care Act, and she will help people suffering from mental health conditions and HIV. She understands the seriousness of climate change and will work to fight it. She will protect women’s right to choose, and show boys and girls around the world that women can be anything they want to be. She has proven that she can work with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress — a crucial skill in this divided time — and negotiate effectively with difficult foreign leaders. To anyone who feels she is not “progressive” enough, I would ask, is your definition of “progressive” perhaps a bit too narrow? When I look at Hillary’s career and its impact, I see plenty of progress. Yes, she has made some mistakes, as would anybody who has spent more than two decades at the highest levels of policy making. I really wish she hadn’t voted for the Iraq War. But she has also had the humility to acknowledge her mistakes and the wisdom to learn from them. I think Hillary is the best qualified and best prepared presidential candidate in my lifetime, and she is the president we need right now. I’m with her 100%.