I'm With Her: Moving Past the False Equivalencies

You probably all know by now that any promises I make about how much or frequently I'm going to post should be taken with a grain of salt. But despite the slow timeline of my posts, I am still committed to tackling the many arguments I keep hearing against Hillary Clinton. Today I'd like to talk about several issues that can be lumped together under the heading "false equivalency": statements that inaccurately compare Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

These statements come in many forms, but the one I see most often is the idea that both candidates are dishonest and corrupt, so it doesn't really matter which one you vote for. First, as I pointed out last post, I think people should consider the issues as well as personality and temperament, and Clinton and Trump differ significantly on many issues. Given that historically most presidents govern the way they campaigned1, it really does matter who you vote for.

But let's tackle this idea of equivalent dishonesty. It's simply not true, and in recent days we have seen very clearly that Trump is willing to tell obvious, outright lies continually on the campaign trail2. Clinton's "lies", such as they are, fit the mold of a traditional politican--occasionally she changes her mind on an issue, or perhaps she obfuscates when discussing something controversial, trying to make herself look a bit better. The majority of the statements she makes are true, but a large chunk can be rated as "half true."3 Trump, in contrast, has a tendency to make statements that are blatant lies.4

So if the fact checkers have clearly proven a difference between the truthfulness of these two candidates, why this broad perception that they are equivalently dishonest? Certainly Clinton's tendency to be reserved and cautious (which can come across as secretive) seems to contrast with Trump's image as a plain speaker who "tells it like it is." The fact that he says the first thing that comes into his mind makes him seem genuine to many--even if many of the things he says are blatantly untrue. This fits with a longstanding narrative of the Clintons as untrustworthy, and also fits with longstanding sexist tropes of successful women who are conniving.

Journalists have written extensively about the honesty factor in this election, so rather than expounding further I'll just leave you a little reading list:

But surely, you say, Hillary Clinton is at least as corrupt as Trump, if not moreso? After all, we've been hearing for nearly 30 years about Clinton "scandals."

1 http://www.npr.org/2016/09/19/494619423/new-yorker-writer-imagines-donald-trump-as-president
2 http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/17/us/politics/donald-trump-obama-birther.html
3 http://www.politifact.com/personalities/hillary-clinton/
4 http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/