‘Whether you want to avert open revolt, take back Congress or just be done with this hellscape marathon of an election cycle, assuming Clinton has already coasted to victory is a dangerous move.’ Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton has not won the presidential election. Granted, the polls look good. The New York Times gives her a 92% chance at taking the White House as of Thursday morning, and more Republican elites are defecting from their party’s nominee each day. Data hub FiveThirtyEight’s numbers are a little more modest, putting Trump’s odds of victory just north of 15%. Evan McMullin – the once-laughable conservative independent candidate – could even win his home state of Utah, fueled by Republican recoiling.
But not every picture is so rosy. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll saw Clinton with just a 4-point lead nationwide, with Trump undershooting his campaign high by just one point. That a full 15% of voters remain undecided leaves a huge potential for the election to swing at the last minute. Worryingly, the candidates remain neck in neck in several swing states.
By all accounts, Trump (to speak generously) has a slim hope of walking away with a win come 8 November. But that there is still any chance he could become commander in chief, America’s ambassador to the world and a central player in literally any decision about the future of the United States should inspire not just concern, but a trip to knock on doors in your nearest swing state.
Mind, this isn’t a call to silence dissent about Clinton, let alone to start phone banking for her campaign. But those savvy enough to hold principled and well-founded critiques of her role in the Honduran coup and ending “welfare as we know it”, for instance, can also recognize the stakes of voting for anyone besides her in a swing state.
There are more than a few good reasons to help make sure Clinton wins that have almost nothing to do with her. Anything but victory by a sizable margin will feed Trump’s omens about election “rigging”, potentially tying up the news cycle for several months in some horrific recount debacle like the one in 2000. A narrow defeat is also likely to embolden Trump’s most irascible supporters, many of whom happen to be armed.
Assuming the election is over could further hit down-ballot candidates by driving down voter turnout at a time when Democrats have a real potential to flip the Senate and render Bernie Sanders chairman of the budget committee. (By fear-mongering about that possibility, Paul Ryan inadvertently helped Sanders raise $2.4m to aid in down-ticket races.)
So whether you want to avert open revolt, take back Congress or just be done with this hellscape marathon of an election cycle, assuming Clinton has already coasted to victory is a dangerous move.
Perhaps the best reason to double down on electing Clinton, though, is to aid the movements that will be a thorn in her side. Especially after reading the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other major banks, few progressive activists have illusions as to where Clinton’s priorities – and donor pools – lie.
Veterans of Occupy Wall Street, the movement for black lives and the climate fight know that major egalitarian change in the United States has never come straight from the Oval Office. From the New Deal to women’s suffrage to beating back Jim Crow, nearly every transformative shift in American politics has been the result of militant and confrontational social movements pushing Democratic presidents into a corner.
Where Republican administrations spark defensive fights – against ill-advised wars (Bush II) and neoliberal crusades (Reagan) – Democratic ones allow activists to play up the contradictions between a party that claims progressive values and the hawkish, corporate one that actually exists.
As Sanders’s unlikely primary success showed, the Democrats’ establishment base is quite literally dying off, being replaced year after year by voters from the youngest and most progressive generation in American history. It’s the same generation that has headed up the most dynamic social movements of the last five years, and it stands to change the musty face of this country’s political system for the better, working within and outside of elected office.
As longtime organizer Nelini Stamp put it, “I am voting for who I want my opponent to be post November 9th and that person is Hillary Clinton.” In other words, nothing ends on election day. But making sure she wins will allow movements – the messy, disruptive politics that actually change things – a chance to thrive.