On Aug. 22, Donald Trump called for African Americans to back him by asking: “What do you have to lose by supporting Trump?” We should all ask ourselves that question. Here are my answers:
- The right to vote: A vote for Trump is a vote for Republican efforts that the League of Women Voters has labeled “an unprecedented attack on voting rights.” Across the country, Republican legislators and local officials have passed or initiated efforts that 1) make it harder to register by requiring forms of identification not easily accessible to many otherwise eligible voters, especially minority and low-income voters, as well as students; 2) make it harder to vote by eliminating or shortening early voting periods, despite the fact that roughly one-third of Americans vote early (e.g., in Georgia, about 50 percent of ballots were cast early in 2012), and by reducing the number of polling places and 3) exclude people from voting by purging voter rolls and by removing the right to vote from 5.85 million former felons who have served their time. These measures strike at the heart of our democratic system. Hillary Clinton has called for an end to these measures and supported methods to encourage, not discourage voting.
- A chance to cut the role of money in politics: A vote for Trump makes it harder to reduce the political influence of big money by reversing key Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United v. FEC. Trump has pledged to name a Supreme Court justice with clear conservative credentials, such as the now-deceased Antonin Scalia, who was a key backer of the Citizens United decision. Clinton has backed a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United, and she has supported legislation under which small donations for congressional or presidential candidates would be matched by public funds at a high ratio.
- Health Insurance: A vote for Donald Trump is a vote to abolish Obamacare, a program that has provided health insurance for 20 million previously uninsured Americans. Clinton has pledged to maintain but improve and expand the plan by including new rules under which the government could negotiate directly with drug makers. This may secure lower costs for seniors under Medicare, allow Americans to buy prescription drugs abroad, and limit profits that companies can make from drugs developed with help of federal research subsidies.
- Expand economic growth and opportunity: A vote for Trump is a vote for policies that have led to slow growth and inequality. Trump proposes to cut taxes for the top 0.1 percent by an average of $1.3 million. While Trump says all these cuts would be paid for by eliminating deductions and a one-time tax on foreign profits of U.S. firms held abroad, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that these cuts would add $9.5 trillion to the national debt between 2016 to 2026 and another $15 trillion in the following decade. In 2025, the plan would increase the debt by $1.1 trillion, unless Trump eliminated 80 percent of all defense and non-entitlement spending or cut Medicare and Social Security by 40 percent. In addition to being unjust, these measures wouldn’t work. Tax Policy Center’s research results were “inconsistent with the view that cuts in top state income tax rates will automatically or necessarily generate growth.” On the contrary, increases to the top tax rates under Clinton and Obama have generated growth, whereas Bush tax cuts increased the federal deficit, reduced lower- and middle-class income and helped trigger the 2008 recession.
While the rate of firm formation is negatively affected by top income tax rates, the effects are small in economic terms. The results are inconsistent with the view that cuts in top state income tax rates will automatically or necessarily generate growth.
- Improved infrastructure: A vote for Trump is a vote against much-needed investment in our crumbling infrastructure. True, Trump (and Clinton), backs large infrastructure investment. But the Republican Party has been adamant in its opposition to repeated Obama proposals to increase infrastructure spending. Today, such spending as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen to a 30-year low under a Republican-led Congress. At a time of record-low interest rates and a crying need for good jobs, the case for major investment in national transportation infrastructure is strong.
- A safer world: Trump’s statements on foreign policy exhibit willful ignorance, as when he stated that Putin would not move into Ukraine, despite Russia’s having seized the country’s Crimean Peninsula. Indeed, he has praised Putin as a great leader. Trump’s statements have raised questions about his commitments to key alliances, especially the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He has stated that the U.S. should simply “take the oil” from Iraq as part of the spoils of war. One of his key advisers, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, defended Trump, stating: “Until the war is over, anything’s legal.” This view that anything is legal is reflected in Trump’s proposals to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., as well as to return to a policy of waterboarding. And Trump’s adamant opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership will facilitate China’s growing dominance of East Asia. Clinton, in contrast, has pursued a realist policy of strength-backed diplomacy. She led measures to strengthen the sanctions against Iran that pushed Iran to negotiate reductions in its nuclear program. She has supported free trade, but increasingly emphasized the need for safeguards.
- Stable financial system: Along with Wall Street, Trump has pledged to dismantle the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. While the law is not perfect, it effectively reduced the chances of banks becoming “too big to fail” by explicitly prohibiting federal bailouts for failing banks. In addition, under Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established to protect unwary consumers from the kinds of practices that resulted in bankruptcy for millions of consumers. And while Trump accuses Clinton of being too close to Wall Street, she has pledged to maintain Dodd-Frank and extend it to include the “shadow banking” sector (e.g., hedge funds, private equity and insurance companies).
- President with character: Trump urges us to trust him because he’s a successful businessman. In fact, his business achievements are not all that impressive, and his wealth stems from stiffing people and repeatedly declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying his debts. He boasts of not paying taxes. And while he refuses to disclose his tax records, the New York Times discovered that in 1995, Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a loss could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years. Trump’s irresponsible business behavior is matched by his frequent falsehoods, inflammatory language and unfounded claims.
All of this has led even conservatives to back Clinton, including Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board member Dorothy Rabinowitz, who described Clinton as “experienced, forward-looking, indomitably determined and eminently sane.” Indeed, Rabinowitz concluded that Clinton’s election is the only thing that “stands between the American nation and the reign of the most unstable, proudly uninformed, psychologically unfit president ever to enter the White House.”
Richard Doner is a Goodrich C. White Professor of Political Science.