Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an author, commentator and former professional basketball player.
There is a tradition in U.S. politics of somberly proclaiming that each election is The Most Important in History. The idea, of course, is to scare people into voting for some candidate or another. This is done by describing an apocalyptic future like some sadistic camp counselor telling horror stories at bedtime with a flashlight under his chin. In making this assertion so frequently, we run the risk of sounding like the boy who cried wolf, and therefore not being taken seriously when an election comes around that really is important to American history.
As this one is.
This isn’t because we have a female candidate who may be her party’s nominee. That would be historically significant, as was electing Barack Obama as the first black president. His race and her gender inform who they are, as any person’s cultural background does, but it’s policies that maketh the politician.
And it’s policies that make me endorse Hillary Clinton for president of the United States.
Before I get into the reasons I support Clinton, let me first explain why this election really is so important. On Aug. 8, 1945 — two days after the bombing of Hiroshima — Albert Camus wrote an essay warning future generations about the choices before them: “This is no longer a prayer but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments — a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason.” That is what the stakes of this election are: We are choosing between hell and reason.
America was founded on the principles emanating from the Age of Reason, also known as the Age of Enlightenment. But today, with the rise of Republican candidates such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, we are witnessing a rejection of these foundational ideals in favor of a hellish chaos of lies, misdirection, attacks on the Constitution and, most harmful to the country, a rejection of reason. This last item is especially evident in Trump’s continued dominance despite the fact that so many high-profile people in his own party have vigorously rejected his inflammatory rhetoric, empty promises and lack of knowledge.
I’m frustrated and angry at hearing about frustration and anger toward Washington gridlock as an excuse for embracing candidates who will only add to the problem. But that’s what is happening with Trump and Cruz supporters. These voters share a distrust of experts, preferring “the wisdom of ordinary people.” Really? I prefer the wisdom of a trained physician when I have pain in my chest. One of the problems in Washington is that some legislators ignore the experts, such as the international community of scientists who have studied and confirmed global warming, so as to bury their heads and do nothing. When did we start devaluing intelligence and knowledge?
That’s why electing Clinton is important not just to maintaining the integrity of the United States but also to preventing an international trend that threatens to unleash a triumph of hatred and fear over reason. We are in a defining battle between the resurgence of the irrational, and all the horrors that have historically gone with it — violence, bigotry, fascism — and reason, with all the advances that have accompanied it — justice and freedom for all, regardless of ethnic background, social status, gender or sexual orientation.
I like Bernie Sanders, both for his straight-talking populism and the dedication to the welfare of all Americans in his heart. He’s a decent man with the courage of his convictions. He will make a strong ally for Clinton.
But Clinton possesses that rare but crucial combination of idealism and pragmatism. She can both envision a better world and take the necessary steps to make that vision a reality. She embodies the principles of the Age of Reason and isn’t afraid to fight against the confederacy of dunces who would undermine the principles of inclusion and diversity that America stands for.
Clinton has a long and distinguished history of fighting hard for working- and middle-class Americans. As first lady, she could have taken a traditional ornamental and passive role, but she chose a path as an activist. She has been an advocate of national health care since 1993, despite fierce opposition from the health-care industry. We wouldn’t have the Affordable Care Act — which has brought coverage to millions — if not for her early efforts.
I especially appreciate Clinton’s unflinching support of President Obama’s policies, which have lifted many Americans both economically and socially, despite the battered economy that he inherited. Continuing the direction of those policies, including reforming a bail system that targets the poor, drug laws that target minorities and an education system that saddles college students with unbearable debts, must be a priority if the United States is to be the land of equal opportunity it brands itself to be.
This election truly is a choice between hell and reason, and I want the best, most-qualified candidate to ensure that the United States lands on the right side of that battle. In Clinton we have a proven warrior who has both the commitment and record of accomplishment to lead the fight.