This post is written by Paul Grossinger in cooperation with Heidi Lehmann.
Hilary Clinton's greatest mistake of the 2016 Presidential Campaign has been making it about rejecting Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is a parasitic, narcissistic, thin-skinned, bigoted, narrow-minded, and insecure vessel who seeks only money and power. He has no depth, no ideas, and no vision to offer the world; the ideas he spouts merely reflect what he believes the population that can spur him to power wants to hear.
The reason that the alt-right and religious evangelical movements and the holders of their worldview have embraced Trump isn't because he is some master con artist and they are idiots; it is because the leaders of that movement, from James Dobson, to David Duke, Breitbart, and Roger Ailes, know that Trump is a slave to power and will do and say anything to please the groups of people that can help him acquire and maintain it - theirs.
These people believe that Trump - as an empty vessel - is their last and best hope to reduce America's trend toward and progressivism and return to a darker age, one of near-universal Christianity, unquestioned white privilege, and a dearth of cultural vibrancy and embrace of tolerance and human rights.
The Democratic Party in 2016 is the only legitimate, electable option that represents the ideals of progressivism, tolerance toward minorities, human rights and the rule of law here and abroad, and creating a more fair and equitable society. The fact that Hillary Clinton herself is an imperfect candidate should be completely irrelevant. This year should be about soundly rejecting a xenophobic and recidivist worldview and continuing America's imperfect, lurching, yet admirable march toward being a better and more open nation.
Hilary Clinton is doing herself and this country a disservice by making this election about why Donald Trump is bad, why the nuts and bolts of her policies are better, and why the economy is 'good but not good enough.' She is making a mistake when she veers negative and calls millions of people deplorables, whether it is true or not. No one does or should really care about such nuance in a campaign as existential as this one. This year is about the soul of our society.
She must veer away from her tendency toward negativity, nuance, and the grey of politicking, and instead speak in broader, positive, and more inspired terms about why America is at once exceptional, special, unique AND imperfect, and how we as a country must COME TOGETHER to reject our reactionary impulses and continue to become the model for the 21st century world.
Liberals love to decry America as a racist, angry place, unique in its catering toward angry xenophobes and slow movement on issues such as LGBT rights and better race relations. Undoubtedly, there is truth to parts of this vision of reality. Yet, this is a flawed belief that does little to inspire a positive vision for the world or inspire Americans to continue toward that better vision. America today IS flawed but it is a far better and more open and free place than it was in 2008, and a whole universe away from the world of the mid-1990s, or, for that matter, the 1950s era that the alt-right would like to emulate.
In 2008, gays couldn't marry and in the mid-1990s, they could barely adopt children and laws were passed forcing them to hide their identity while serving their country. Today, none of that is true. Millions of our brothers and sisters still struggle to live fair and equitable lives in many states, contributing to wide imperfections and variance in quality of life across this country, but the progress is there. More important, the path and vision are there.
In 2008, black Americans were still being incarcerated at record rates. In 1996, the country was at the height of our "lock em' up and hide the key" period. Today, we see daily reports of unjustified shootings and protest against brutality, and while this reflects how imperfect our society still is on the issue of equitable race relations, it also reflects the fact that we are having the most honest, open, and candid debate on real racial issues in this country since the 1960s. Our current progressive embrace of this debate is the first hurdle to producing real and enduring change.
In 2008, Hispanic Americans were still deported at will, and Latino immigrants brought to the US still deported with impunity. In the mid-1990s, Hispanic rights were barely even a debated issue. Today, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers have a legal path to citizenship and America nearly offered it to millions more under Presidential executive order. Continuing progress in this area under a democratic administration and more liberal Supreme Court would certainly correct that injustice.
In 2008, America was coming off eight years of Bush-era intransigence on climate change, with the Kyoto protocol a distant memory. In the 1990s, America produced the highest emissions in our history. This year, we signed the groundbreaking Paris Accord and once again became the global leader on confronting climate change. We have a long way to go, but the progress is undeniable.
True progressives will always want more, faster. That is good and right. Yet, mistaking desire for faster, greater change for assuming that the entirety of the so-called "mainstream polity" is the same is a grievous mistake. Manifesting that mistake in a protest vote for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning and every chance of steering the country into the hands of the alt-right 'major-minority' is the most grievous and inexcusable mistake of all.
There is no "mainstream polity" anymore, at least reflecting in our two major political parties. Donald Trump's campaign is a vessel of a radical, alt-right, religiously and racially exclusive message to change this country back to an earlier, sadder age.
Gays, blacks, Hispanics, women, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, and everyone else who is not a white, natural-born American protestant have much to fear from this agenda and worldview. It is time everyone wakes up and realizes it.
There is an old poem reflecting on the Nazi-era World-War II experience that goes something like this depending on the telling:
"First they came for the Jews, and I stood aside because I was not a Jew.
"Then they came for the gays and the disabled, and I stood aside because I was not gay or disabled.
"Then they came for the Catholics, and I stood aside because I was not a Catholic.
"Then they came for me."
Mainstream Americans, Americans of every creed, color, sexuality, and personal experience with this nation, must reject such attempts to divide us and unite to progress to something better. Only then will we continue, albeit imperfectly, our growth toward being a better nation.