In the presidential race, July is convention month. Each party selects its ticket – the nominees for president and vice president – and the choice becomes clear. For all the noise about a Republican revolt against Donald Trump, we already know the choice we will face: Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. This campaign has already turned nasty, but looking beyond the clamor there are some things we know.
Hillary Clinton is the most experienced and prepared of the two candidates. An attorney, former first lady, senator and secretary of state, she is one of the most experienced candidates for the presidency ever. She will be ready from day one. She knows up close what it takes to be president, how to put together and run an administration.
Donald Trump is one of the least prepared candidates in memory. He has not held public office. He has little experience in foreign and national security issues. His major previous relationship with the legislators he must deal with is, as he tells us, as a donor, a businessman seeking favors. He’s amassed a fortune in business, but he seems better as a salesman than an administrator. He’s certainly had a hard time putting together a professional campaign staff or organizing a political convention.
Hillary Clinton is a progressive; her candidacy builds on the progressive movements of our time. She is a lifelong champion of women and children. She supports equal rights for people, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual preference. She’s for overturning Citizens United and limiting big money in politics. She’s for reviving the Voting Rights Act and removing barriers to voting. She’ll push to raise the minimum wage, to fund our schools, to make college more affordable, to expand access to health care. She will push for public investment to rebuild our country and put people to work. She’s for raising taxes on the wealthy, cracking down on corporate tax dodges, making Wall Street more accountable, empowering workers and curbing CEO abuses. She may not be as bold a reformer as Bernie Sanders is, but there is no doubt she is a progressive who believes in a government on the side of working people.
Trump, by contrast, is a bit of an unknown, at odds with his past and his party. We know he’ll cut taxes on the rich and corporations. We know he wants to build a wall on the Mexican border. He’s run a divisive campaign, filled with racial insults and nativist appeal. He says he’s against our trade deals but offers as an alternative only that he’d get a better deal. He promises to rip up the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, which would give the zealots in that country the license and the incentive to build nuclear weapons. He says he wants to rebuild the country, but gives us no sense about how he would pay for it, other than the infamous wall that he says Mexico will pay for.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are viewed unfavorably by large numbers of Americans, with Trump setting records in that regard. Clinton bears the burden of right-wing political attacks that go back to the early 1990s (and before that in Arkansas). Every misstep has been inflated into a scandal, every misstatement into an indictment. Trump started the campaign as a celebrity, rose through notoriety and earned his disfavor by insulting wide sectors of the American people. Despite these unfavorable polls, both won the nomination by winning the most votes in the primaries.
Now we have a choice. The most experienced against the least experienced. The progressive against the conservative. Someone who seeks to bring us together against someone who has risen by tearing us apart.
There is a long way to go before November. Events and the campaigns will tell us more, but the choice is already clear.
Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is founder and president of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition. You can keep up with his work at www.rainbowpush.org