November 18, 2016

Clinton wasn’t better qualified than Trump

Clinton wasn’t better qualified than Trump

Claims that Hillary Clinton was better qualified than Trump for the role of Commander-in-Chief are misguided. There is a fundamental difference between an elected office and regular employment, argues Henry Hill.

One of the most common refrains trumpeted by Hillary Clinton’s bewildered supporters in the aftermath of her defeat last week is astonishment that voters could reject a candidate so ‘broadly and deeply qualified’ for the role. Very often this seems to be not just an argument about the merits of Donald Trump’s suitability for the role of Commander-in-Chief, which is a perfectly understandable and a very widely-held concern, but rather a suggestion that Clinton is so objectively right for the post that the motivations of those voting against her must be suspect.

I don’t intend to dispute whether the Democrat nominee was as well-qualified as her supporters insist – although it’s worth pointing out that if you think Barack Obama was a great President there’s a ceiling on how important you can argue prior experience actually is. Instead, I take issue with the idea we can discuss ‘qualification’ for political office as if it were a normal job. There is a fundamental difference between an elected office and regular employment. When hiring for a position in the normal way, the question at issue is finding the best individual to achieve an already-agreed goal. In an election, at least in a presidential system, voters must choose the individual and the goal at the same time. Ignoring this element – and ignoring the political dimension of an election seems to be easier than you’d think – leads to the fallacies of technocrats and the sort of ‘pragmatist’ who wants to ‘take politics out of it’.

Most businesses have a clear, quantifiable goal: maximising shareholder returns. This makes it possible, if not always easy, to take an objective view about what course to take and what roles to give people. The debate inside a business is about how, not what. This doesn’t exist in Government. An approximation of it might be possible in a highly consensual society with a narrow Overton Window, but the modern United States is anything but. As any number of post-election think pieces will tell you, America is more divided than ever.

Indeed the Republic has split into two broad tribes who, thanks in part to accelerated social clustering known as ‘The Big Sort’, have almost no experience of each other. They certainly have very different understandings of what the Government should do, and neither trusts the levels of power in the hands of the opposing tribe. This piece by one of the above-mentioned distraught Clintonians gives you a feel for the apocalyptic flavour each tribe’s partisans attach to the struggle for national institutions:

“It’s not just about who gets to be president. It’s about who gets to vote for the president, who gets to stay in America and make their families here and how those families get to be configured. It’s about who controls the culture, who makes the art, who makes the policies, whom those policies benefit and whom they harm.”

As a small-government sort, the idea that the Government should have any bearing on ‘who makes the art’ or ‘controls the culture’ makes me queasy, but that’s how many people on both sides of the divide seem to view politics. And if the stakes are that high the qualifications of the individuals at the tips of each spear become, paradoxically, even less important. That seems counter-intuitive: surely, the bigger and more important the job – and the Presidency described by Traister sounds about as important as can be – the more you want the best-qualified person in the role?

But think about it a little longer and the countervailing logic becomes clear: if an election is about preventing the powers of Government falling into the hands of the enemy tribe, such stakes can very easily eclipse the virtues and vices of the individual candidates. Trump is an awful person in so many ways, but if you’re opposed to Clinton’s agenda and view the race in anything like the way Traister does, your willingness to cede the Presidency on that basis is going to be very limited.  The same is true of the Blue Tribe’s partisans too (and perhaps this defeat will lead to a renewed appreciation of limited government on their part). As your intolerance of, or alienation from, the other side increases, so too does your tolerance of flaws in your own team.

In 2016 the qualification debate is complicated by the unique shortcomings of the President-elect. But we shouldn’t allow a broader, incorrect argument to establish itself under the cover of anti-Trumpism. It is perfectly rational in ordinary circumstances – and perhaps even more so during existential struggles – to vote against a better-qualified candidate for office whose programme you oppose. Qualifications are a how issue, and politics is first and foremost about what.

4.15 avg. rating (83% score) - 13 votes
Henry Hill
Henry Hill is a freelance journalist. He is assistant editor of ConservativeHome and also works as a communications officer for a Tory MP, as well as a commentator for BBC radio and television. He tweets at @hch_hill.
  • Shadow Warrior

    Hammond is continuity Brown. He is a hand-wringing lefty looking for clever wheezes to raise more tax in ways that people don’t immediately notice.

  • captainslugwash

    I predict the Budget will attempt to show the Left how caring the Tories are, and it will be funded by screwing over the working man.
    If Corp Tax comes down, I bet Divi tax will be going up.
    I would love to be wrong.

  • skynine

    We really need to look at tax credits, in particular in work tax credits that encourage people to work part time to preserve the benefits. 45% of women work part time and I would hazard a guess that tax credits are the main cause. This leads to low pay, low skill work in supermarkets and the retail sector including coffee shops. The government needs to get back to the employer paying people to do a job for economic reasons rather than to get onto the tax credit ladder. Like all government benefits it distorts the market and diverts government expenditure into non productive areas.
    The refrain that the government has cut expenditure is not true, it increases every year as more and more goes into welfare.

  • MrVeryAngry

    fat chance

  • MrSauce

    So, when wouldn’t we want a ‘budget for growth’?

  • Rob

    I note that the UK Government has just slapped on a 25% tax charge for anyone moving abroad and wishing to move out their private pension from the UK.

  • SonofBoudica

    The Remoaners will do their utmost to sabotage the Government’s negotiating position. They do not want a successful outcome; they want a failure. They want to be able to scream “Told you so!” from the rooftops.

  • EnglandLaments

    Thank goodness for Andrew Neil, the one media hack who scares the pants off the established politicians. He was spot on with Heidi Allen!

  • joshuafalken

    I had a very long, hard, studied and considered look at the hope, care and aspirations of all Europeans, before I voted to get the UK out of the toxic grasp of Brussels.

    The European Union and it’s charge of “ever closer union” has borrowed and spent its way to oblivion, whilst enslaving the working and middle classes in debt.

    The central control mantra of the unaccountable Brussels ruling elite, delivered through a mixture of socialism, globalism and corporatism is entirely responsible for the populist revolt by the millions of “Just About Managings” across Europe.

    We must remember the ultimate goal of socialists, globalists and corporatists is control, not prosperity. see—-not-prosperity.

    Social equality and economic growth always fail under central control and fighting against the Brussels doctrine on behalf of all Europeans is why I voted for Brexit.

    Britain has a long history of helping Europeans depose tyrants and Brussels is just the latest incarnation.

    Britain is the most racially advanced and accepting society on the planet. We welcome those in need and those that can help us with open arms and a smile; that will not change.

    We are also one of the most innovative, talented and open societies in the world, which why everyone wants to live here. However, we cannot fit everyone in, so we have to have clear, balanced and fair immigration policy which is where the arguments start between the monetarists and humanists will never be reconciled.

    I thought long and hard before coming to the conclusion that leaving the EU was in the best interest of all Europeans, as Brussels is toxic and cannot be reformed from within.

    Also, I find it insulting that people who voted Remain have insufficient faith in British ingenuity, compassion and skill to get a good deal for us and see the Europe that we love get a better deal from Brussels and the reform that European people deserve. and

    The politics of left verses right are dead because neither have delivered the promised economic growth and social mobility for anyone, but themselves. The populists are not selfish per-se, they just want to take back control of their own destiny that left/right politicians have freely given away and/or exploited for their own ends. In my constituency, the local residents group are taking over the councils as politicians ignore voters, so Westminster should beware of the well-organised, local resident independents at the next election. This is a peoples revolution which should be shouted from the rooftops, but liberals remained deafened by the socialist, globalist and corporatist “vested interests” that have spectacularly failed us and are obediently crying foul and fake.

    There will be an initial unpalatable inflationary cost to fighting globalism and rolling back central control that few appear to have factored in, but dismantling failed left/right vested interests should eventually free libertarian socially-conservative capitalism from the shackles of TBTF corporatism to feed economic growth and social mobility.

  • agdpa

    The EU usually makes the wrong decision – on immigration, on freedom of movement, on the euro, on the Ukraine, etc. etc. Little hope it will get Brexit right.

  • brownowl

    Eh? Reference please!

  • Neil2

    Sod caring. Screw the spongers and breeders. Kill HS2. Stop all “green” subsidies. Slash “foreign aid” and walk away from the EUSSR with immediate effect.

  • Rob
  • John C

    What a confused article. It conflates surveillance by the security services with poor defences against fraud.

  • John C

    Err, it’s the UK that’s leaving the EU, not vice versa.

  • John C

    Me, now. ‘Growth’ is a manic obsession.

  • La Face Nord

    Mr Redwood – are you aware of the Biased BBC website? It’s been exposing their agenda for a long time, but I imagine you’ve been well aware of the BBC’s agenda for quite some time…

  • Contact Rvtech

    The post is great

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