Donald Trump severs ties with Ohio GOP chair, then attacks him in letter to press

Published: Salon (October 17, 2016)

Donald Trump has severed ties with the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, deepening his rift with the party organization in a state he desperately needs, at a time he can ill afford to lose it.

In a letter announcing the decision to disassociate with Ohio GOP chair Matt Borges, the Trump campaign said that Borges was conducting “a self-promotional” media tour. The press release described him as “disgraceful” and “bizarre,” and called Borges’ actions an act of “duplicity.”

“It’s no great secret that Chairman Borges was never fully on board,” the letter argued, “but his actions over the last week demonstrate that his loyalties to Governor John Kasich’s failed Presidential campaign eclipse his responsibility as Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.”

Trump was likely irked by the protection of Kasich, the former presidential candidate who has refused to endorse the Republican nominee.

Borges had previously criticized the Trump campaign’s tactics and the candidate’s personal conduct. (http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-camp-official-severs-ties-with-ohio-gop-chairman) Among other things, Borges described Trump’s campaign by saying, “I still think it’s on life support,” while his wife publicly joked (in reference to Trump’s “locker-room talk”) that “Trump was so bad, he made the dog throw up.”

Borges had previously pledged to help candidates both up and down ballot (meaning national candidates like Trump as well as local candidates), although the status of the Ohio Republican Party’s relationship with the Trump campaign is currently uncertain. This could pose a serious problem for Trump, who less than a month ago was considered very competitive in the swing state. FiveThirtyEight now only gives him a 34.5 percent chance of winning there.

No Republican has ever won the presidency without picking up Ohio’s electoral votes. The state is regarded as one of four “must-win” states for Trump in next month’s election, along with Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. Yet Trump has a sparseget out the vote operation in Ohio, which has already put him in a vulnerable position. That precarious status has only been compounded by his fraught relationship with established Republican leaders in the state.

Two responses to tragedy: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton respond to North Carolina firebombing

Published: Salon (October 17, 2016)

Democrats raised more than $13,000 in less than four hours to help rebuild the headquarters of the local Republican Party chapter in Hillsborough, North Carolina, which was firebombed on Sunday night in what is being investigated as a possible terrorist incident.

As news of the firebombing spread, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton condemned the attack on Twitter and expressed support for its victims.

The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable. Very grateful that everyone is safe.

The North Carolina Republican Party sent out an official response thanking her for her thoughts and prayers.

The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable. Very grateful that everyone is safe.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, on the other hand, referred to the perpetrators as “animals” and suggested that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party had been somehow linked to the vandalism.

Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning @NCGOP

The North Carolina Republican Party didn’t respond to Trump’s incendiary tweet, although it thanked him after he sent out a more subdued follow-up.

ALL SAFE IN ORANGE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA. With you all the way, will never forget. Now we have to win. Proud of you all!@NCGOP

Thank you Mr. @realDonaldTrump. We will not be silenced nor suppressed by this evil act. We will pray for those who seek to harm us.

Trump’s comment has been heavily criticized by many individuals in the press, with Jeff Stein of Vox characterizing it as part and parcel of the Republican candidate’s “increasing conspiratorial claims that a cabal of ‘global elites’ is rigging the election.”

Armed Donald Trump supporters caught menacing Democratic campaign office

Published: Salon (October 14, 2016)

Donald Trump supporters have talked about violence if the Republican candidate loses to Hillary Clinton next month. And now, some of them are starting to put their money where their mouths are.

A pro-Donald Trump protester has attracted attention for standing alone outside a Virginia Democratic campaign office with his gun.

On Thursday, Daniel Parks stood outside a Palmyra campaign office for congressional candidate Jane Dittmar. Witnesses described him as staring directly into the office all day and turning sideways to expose his gun he was legally carrying. He was eventually joined by another protester, who was also armed.

The story is part of a larger trend of implied violence being used by Trump supporters. On Friday, Ed Mazza of The Huffington Post discussed how “members of the press are often the target of jeering by unruly crowds that are egged on by the candidate himself.” On Tuesday, a woman named Rhonda warned Mike Pence that she was “ready for a revolution” if Clinton wins instead of Trump, particularly since she can’t imagine “crooked” Hillary winning without cheating. Similarly, back in September Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (who supports Trump) rhetorically asked “Whose blood will be shed?” if Clinton wins and Trump supporters are forced “ to redeem something, to reclaim something, that we through our apathy and our indifference have given away.”

All of these comments echo an observation made by Trump adviser Roger Stone back in August, when he predicted that Clinton would “fix” the election and warned that Trump was going to “put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath.” Indeed, Trump has called for violence so often in his campaign that Mashable was able to compile a list of nine incidents dating back to March. There have also been a number of violent incidents, with the most recent occurring last month when a woman punched an anti-Trump protester while the candidate skewered Clinton for referring to his backers as “deplorables.”

Trump has recently asked poll watchers to watch “certain areas” as he’s convinced his supporters that he’ll only lose if there’s widespread fraud.

Here are all the defenses Donald Trump’s surrogates have used to explain his sexual assault claims

Published: Salon (October 13, 2016)

As more and more sexual assault allegations pile up against him, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s political team is in full damage control mode. Their approaches have been diverse, but the aim is clear: deflect attention from Trump’s allegedly sordid history.

We can start with some recent tweets by Trump himself:

The phony story in the failing @nytimes is a TOTAL FABRICATION. Written by same people as last discredited story on women. WATCH!

Why didn’t the writer of the twelve year old article in People Magazine mention the “incident” in her story. Because it did not happen!

Trump has had lots of support from his surrogates and other friends:

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Thursday: After saying he was “skeptical about the timing” of the claims made against Trump and even referring to them as an “October surprise,” Scarborough elaborated, “I’m talking about the timing of all of this dropping. Talk about an October surprise. There have been 1,000 triggering events that would’ve made sense. If I had been sexually harassed by this man, the Megyn Kelly story would’ve given me and opportunity.”

Later he also said: “There have been 1,000 reports of this already. I’m just asking why all the sudden this stuff is dropping in October. Perhaps it’s all innocent. Perhaps there’s no oppo drop. Perhaps it’s not coordinated.”

Katrina Pierson, Wednesday: Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson appeared on CNN to question a claim by Jessica Leeds that Trump had lifted an armrest on a flightso he could grope her. Because the alleged incident would have occurred in the early ’80s, Pierson insisted that Trump couldn’t have moved up the armrest as Leeds claimed.

“Back then you had planes — what, a DC-9, a DC-10, an MD-80, a 707, and maybe an L-1011,” she argued. “But she said specifically that this was to New York. This is important, so we can X out the DC-10 and the L-1011. Guess what? First-class seats have fixed armrests. So what I can tell you about her story, if she was groped on a plane, it wasn’t by Donald Trump and it certainly wasn’t in first class.”

Ben Carson, Tuesday: The former Republican presidential candidate has taken perhaps the most conspiratorial line in defending Trump. “There’s an atmosphere that’s been created by The New York Times and others that says, Look, if you’re willing to come out and say something, we’ll give you fame; we’ll give you whatever you need,” Carson told the assembled hosts of “Fox and Friends,” before adding, “What a bunch of crap.”

Rep. Blake Farenthold, Tuesday: During an appearance on MSNBC, Rep. Farentholddismissed Trump’s comments as “locker room talk” and added “until he does something so bad to make him worse than Hillary [Clinton], I’m still in.”

He later apologized for what some perceived as his cavalier attitude toward rape, saying, “During an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes tonight, I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question. I do not and have not ever condoned rape or violence against women. That is not the kind of man I believe Donald Trump to be.”

Kellyanne Conway, Sunday: Trump’s campaign manager has defended the Republican nominee by using the same tactic he employed repeatedly during the second debate — namely, drawing attention to the infidelity and rape allegations made against former president Bill Clinton.

“We never want to talk to the women shamed and blamed by Hillary Clinton because they had sexual contact with her husband,” Conway proclaimed to CNN host Brianna Keilar, arguing that the media has been biased by focusing so much on Trump without doing the same thing for the Clintons.

Rudy Giuliani, Sunday: “Talk and action are two different things,” insisted the former New York City mayor on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He also claimed that Trump had provided “a full and complete apology” for his remarks.

The alpha dog that wouldn’t hunt: How Trump’s ludicrous “alpha male” act is destroying him

Published: Salon (October 2, 2016)

When Salon’s Brendan Gauthier recently wrote about the alt-right’s reaction to Donald Trump’s humiliating performance in the first presidential debate, he included the following quote from a 4chan user defending the Republican nominee’s alleged stiffing of contractors:

“As an alpha [Trump] has no problem with asserting his will. You beta cucks wouldnt [sic] understand because when the waiter brings you the wrong order you are too busy shoe gazing at your cell phones to dispute in front of your step-sons mom [sic].”

This definitely isn’t the first time that “alpha male” rhetoric has been used to describe Trump by his radical right-wing supporters. Indeed, it’s pretty obvious from Trump’shyper-masculine rhetoric that he views himself as an alpha-male figure — or, at the very least, that he wants to convince others this is the case. That’s why we need to remind ourselves that alpha malehood isn’t just a myth; it’s an Achilles’ heel that has been far more of a weakness than a strength for Trump and his supporters, and will inevitably doom their mutual quest for power.

It’s helpful to start by recognizing that the scientific literature that popularized the term “alpha male” is outdated. “The concept of the alpha wolf is well ingrained in the popular wolf literature at least partly because of my book ‘The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species,’” explains L. David Mech, one of the scientists whose aforementioned text helped bring the alpha-male concept into conventional use. After pointing out that the last 40 years have revolutionized scientific understanding of wolf social hierarchies, he goes on to write that “one of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. ‘Alpha’ implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle. However, most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack.”

Of course, even if the lupine origins of the alpha-male trope weren’t obsolete, the notion that the term can even apply to human social structures is inherently absurd. As many scientists have noted, human beings generally inhabit a number of social circles rather than simply one, and each of these subgroups contain complex and varied hierarchies (assuming that they’re hierarchical at all instead of egalitarian). Individuals who may be the top dog in one circle could be quiet and unassuming in another, or even the so-called “beta male.” Just as important, the traits commonly associated with alpha malehood — violence, self-absorption, controlling behavior — have not been found to correlate strongly with professional and sexual success. In fact, researchers have found that assertiveness, confidence and pro-social behaviors (like sensitivity and the capacity to learn from one’s mistakes) are most likely to yield results for people of both genders who wish to lead accomplished lives.

This explains why Trump’s overblown machismo, though lapped up by his alt-right fanboys and many of his other supporters, has been met with controversy instead of widespread applause. When Trump talks about the size of his manhood or describes an opponent as a “pussy” or says another opponent (female) is too ugly to be president, he may be delighting his base while alienating at least as many others. These behaviors may seem dominant to those who subscribe to the alpha-male mentality, but to the rest of the world they come across as not just boorish but also transparently insecure. Because we live in a society that believes in civility, the instinct is to condemn a candidate who demeans his adversaries and brags about himself with playground taunts and boasts. Similarly, because we value intelligence and discipline in our leaders (or at any rate many of us do), Trump’s habit ofchronically interrupting and being rude toward Hillary Clinton during last week’s presidential debate came across as uncouth rather than manly.

These observations can also be extended to the hyper-masculine rhetoric used by Trump’s supporters themselves. Take the 4channer that Gauthier quoted, the one who insulted Trump’s critics by calling them “beta cucks.” The term “cuck” is very telling here, as it harkens back to one of the alt-right’s trendiest slurs, “cuckservative.”A cuckservative, in their lexicon, is a conservative who betrays his race and gender by supporting gender equality and condemning racial bigotry, in effect allowing his white masculinity to be cuckolded by women and minorities through subservience to progressive ideals. By contrast, the right-wingers who brandish terms like “cuckservative” have rallied behind Trump because, to quote the prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer: “a) he is a tougher, superior man than ‘conservatives’ (which isn’t saying much), and b) he seems to grasp the demographic displacement of European-Americans on a visceral level.”

Precisely the same qualities that have made Trump so alluring to the right-wing fringe, however, are also likely to prove fatal to his quest for power. Sure, it helped him emerge as the victor in a Republican presidential primary whose electorate was hopelessly fragmented between more than a dozen candidates. Nevertheless, Trump has done serious damage to his reputation as the result of his behavior during this campaign, and it’s unlikely that future presidential candidates will look at his record-high unfavorable ratings and wish to emulate the methods that put him in this spot. Likewise, although Trump has done well in polls against Clinton when the latter’s own scandals are front-page news, Monday night’s debate demonstrated that his “alpha male” traits fail him when he’s forced to compete one-on-one with Clinton’s more polished and professional manner.

Ordinary Americans may not be well-versed in the science that discredits alpha malehood, and may not consciously recognize that Trump turns them off because he is appealing to it. That doesn’t mean they can’t discern the deeper implications in his behavior. While I’m not optimistic enough to believe the naked racism and sexism peddled by the Trump campaign will die with his political defeat, it’s hard to imagine how the cartoonish attempts by Trump and the alt-right to impersonate alpha men can possibly survive the ordeal of this election. Like the titular character from “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” their inflated male identity depends on an understanding of human behavior that is scientifically inaccurate — and on an approach to the art of politicking that, even under the freakish conditions of this election season, simply doesn’t work.

Mike Pence, a heartbeat away from the presidency? Now that’s frightening

Published: Salon (September 22, 2016)

Why isn’t Mike Pence a major issue in this campaign?

In any other election, Pence would be to a Republican presidential nominee what Sarah Palin was to John McCain back in 2008 — that is, an extreme right-winger whose presence on the ticket is widely regarded as a liability. Of course, this is the year in which the GOP tapped Donald Trump to be its standard-bearer, and when the main attraction is that prone to controversy, it makes sense that anyone running with him will wind up being more or less ignored by the media.

Considering that Donald Trump is as dangerously close as ever to winning the presidency, though, we need to pay close attention to his running mate, particularly since Pence has said he’d like to model his vice presidency after Dick Cheney, one of the most “consequential” No. 2’s in history. Needless to say, if Trump becomes president, Pence’s opinions will matter … and those views are, upon closer inspection, chilling.

While it’s easy to point to Pence’s extreme positions on a wide range of issues — from climate change and evolution (where he is anti-science) to trade policy (where he’s a staunch free trader, putting him at odds with Trump) — Pence has defined his political career by his hatreds.

Most conspicuous among these is his animus toward the LGBTQ community. This was most recently made evident by his support for and signing of the notoriousIndiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a bill that, under the guise of protecting religious liberty, established loopholes that allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians. But Pence’s LGBTQ bigotry goes much deeper than that. Back when he was a Hoosier congressman, Pence opposed funding legislation to combat AIDS on the grounds that the money could be better spent trying to “cure” homosexuality. As governor, before the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, Pence signed a law making it a felony for gay couples even to applyfor a marriage license. All this, of course, occurred on top of Pence’s predictable anti-gay positions on matters like hate-crime legislation or repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Pence’s record on race is hardly better. Back when he ran for Congress in 1990, Pence used a fear-mongering campaign ad that criticized American dependence on foreign oil by grotesquely caricaturing Arabs; six years later, he defended Pat Buchanan on his radio show as someone who should not be considered outside the mainstream of the Republican Party. (In case you’ve forgotten, Buchanan sympathizes with fascism so openly that Donald Trump himself once called him out on it.) Pence’s race-baiting was not limited to the ’90s. Check out his suppression of minority voters in Indiana or his recent refusal to denounce neo-Nazi leader David Duke as deplorable. Pence may claim that Martin Luther King Jr. is his personal hero, but his actions would seem to contradict those words.

Finally, there is Pence’s attitude toward women. If his career-long commitment to defunding Planned Parenthood isn’t enough to convince you that he has a problem, how about his 1997 editorialproclamation that working mothers stunt the emotional growth of their children, or his 1999 article denouncing the Disney film “Mulan” as “liberal propaganda”?

There’s also Pence’s (thankfully unsuccessful) effortto allow federal funds for a post-rape abortion only if the rape was “forcible,” or his support of an Indiana law mandating investigations of women to see if they caused their own miscarriages, and requiring women to bury or cremate miscarried fetuses. Perhaps most tellingly, even though Pence used his radio show to express outrage at a female Air Force pilot for cheating on her husband, he didn’t bring up Bill Clinton’s marital infidelities until his listeners prompted him. Even if you believe someone can be anti-abortion without being anti-woman, it’s difficult defend Pence’s stances on issues like these without crossing the threshold into misogyny.

Again, these positions are not mere blips in Pence’s background. They are the foundation of his political career, from the campaign messages he’s used to win votes to the policies he’s supported once in office. As such, they offer a reliable indicator of the attitudes Pence would bring with him if the fates conspire to make him president. As the running mate of a man plagued by scandal who would be the oldest incoming president in our history, it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine impeachment or mortality elevating Pence to the highest office in the land.

That’s why we have a responsibility to draw attention to Pence’s record and his evident prejudices, just as we’ve done with Trump’s long history of sexist and racistremarks. By not holding Trump’s feet to the fire for choosing a running mate with Pence’s extreme positions, we normalize those stances instead of shuffling them to the margins of political discourse where they belong. Even worse, instead of allowing the American people to make an informed choice about such a controversial figure, we have created an environment in which polls suggest that nearly half the publicdoesn’t know enough about the man to form a first impression.

Of course it’s possible that Trump would win this election even if Pence’s views were as widely understood as Sarah Palin’s were in 2008. That said, it’s difficult to believe that Pence’s background wouldn’t at least become a major factor. It’s clear that whenever he’s been entrusted with power, Mike Pence strive to turn back the tide of progress made over the last few decades in terms of social justice for racial minorities, women and the LGBTQ community. He may not be as flamboyant as Trump, but he is just as dangerous, and most mainstream journalists covering this election have simply looked the other way. We have less than seven weeks to correct this.

Back When I Thought the GOP Would Nominate Rand Paul…

Published: The Good Men Project (September 20, 2016)

Roughly one year ago, I participated in the group conference call for one of the publications where I freelance. Both I and the other writers were asked to figure out which Republican presidential candidate we thought would be nominated in 2016, under the presumption that we could then cover that individuals campaign if he or she was indeed tapped to be the nominee.

While this plan didn’t pan out for a number of reasons, I still marvel at who I chose and why: Much to my retroactive chagrin, I believed Senator Rand Paul was going to be the Republican presidential candidate this year.

I made this mistake for two reasons. First, I saw Paul reaching out to groups that have by and large been disaffected from the Republican Party – particularly racial minorities andyoung voters – and believed that, because the GOP will need to be more diverse if it is to remain politically viable in the future, this tactic would work in his favor. In addition, I thought Paul’s libertarianism was a refreshing departure from the neoconservative consensus that has prevailed within the American right for the last half century.

Boy was I wrong.

Looking back at my failed prediction one year later, I realize that I overestimated the Republican Party. Perhaps with great naïveté, I assumed that they would care more about being relevant in the future then pandering to the basest prejudices within their own rank-and-file. While I’m not a Paul supporter and wouldn’t have voted for him this year, I believe his broader appeal and bolder ideology would have made him the ideal foil to Hillary Clinton in this election. The problem, I suspect, isn’t that my reasoning was flawed, but that I assumed reason would prevail within the modern GOP.

The fact that it didn’t really speaks volumes about this election cycle. A party which can nominate a man like Donald Trump over not just Paul, but the many other Republican candidates who aren’t flagrantly bigoted, is a party that has cast its lot with the darkest forces at play in this chapter of our history. If Paul had indeed in the Republican nominee this year, I may have a very well found myself writing an article about the downsides of the impending Democratic defeat. This would have been worse for my party, to be sure… But without question, it also would’ve been better for America.

Hillary’s health and history: She’s not the first candidate to face major medical questions

Published: Salon (September 16, 2016)

After Hillary Clinton nearly collapsed at a 9/11 ceremony earlier this week, allegedly due to pneumonia and overheating, the American public is naturally concerned. On the one hand, people wonder whether Clinton is healthy enough to assume the presidency. On the other, they face the fact that ruling Clinton out for health reasons may lead to the election of a truly dangerous man. What should the voting public do?

In situations like this, recent history can be a useful guide. Although many presidents have struggled with health issues, there are three from the last century or so who did so during the thick of an election campaign: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy.

When Roosevelt sought an unprecedented fourth term in 1944 against Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey — a young and inexperienced New York governor best known as a prosecutor who took down several organized crime syndicates — America was still waging World War II, transitioning toward a postwar economy and girding itself for an impending military rivalry with the Soviet Union. Needless to say, the fate of the world literally hinged on making sure the right leadership was in charge during this time, which observers were quick to note when pointing out that Roosevelt looked gravely ill throughout the year. Rumors of health problems swirled around the beleaguered Democrat, who nevertheless selected an inexperienced Missouri senator named Harry Truman as his running mate. As it turns out, the whispering campaign had merit — Roosevelt had received a doctor’s note that July warning that he likely would not survive four more years in the White House, and he wound up dying of a stroke less than three months into his new term. Whilehistorians generally believe Truman did an adequate job assuming Roosevelt’s responsibilities (deciding whether to use the atomic bomb against Japan being one of the first), that had more to do with good luck than deliberate planning on FDR’s part.

This brings us to the election of 1956. In September 1955, before President Dwight Eisenhower had decided whether or not he would seek re-election, he suffered a serious heart attack and was hospitalized for six weeks. During that time, Vice President Richard Nixon worked closely with Eisenhower’s advisers to keep the government running despite the commander-in-chief’s absence. Because Eisenhower was forthcoming about his medical condition, the voting public was able to engage in open debate over the implications of this unexpected crisis throughout the ensuing election cycle. Eisenhower’s Democratic opponent, for the second consecutive election, was Illinois Sen. Adlai Stevenson, a moderate intellectual widely regarded as mentally and physically fit for higher office. But voters were satisfied enough with Eisenhower’s performance — and, presumably, with Nixon’s interim administration during Eisenhower’s convalescence — that they re-elected him by an even larger margin than he had received four years earlier.

Finally there is Kennedy. When JFK sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960, he was forced to ward off rumors that he suffered from Addison’s Disease, or adrenal insufficiency, due to his adrenal glands being almost completely gone. Not only did Kennedy deny that he had the condition, he frequently mentioned the fact that his chief rival for the nomination, Lyndon Johnson, had had a heart attack five years earlier.

After Kennedy’s death, however, two pathologists confirmed that he had Addison’s, and it was subsequently revealed that he medicated himself by taking adrenal hormone, cortisone and other supplements. Although the disease was treatable, it was still potentially fatal, and the hormone therapy could cause mood swings, stomach inflammation and ulcers. Had the public known about this when Kennedy faced off against Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the extremely close general election of 1960, it’s entirely possible he would have lost.

There are two main lessons to be learned from these historical incidents. First and foremost, every presidential candidate has an ethical responsibility to disclose potential health problems that could compromise his or her ability to serve as president. One has to wonder whether Roosevelt rationalized not revealing his doctor’s concerns because he had spent more than a decade hiding his paraplegia. , Regardless, there is a considerable difference between concealing an irrelevant disability and concealing an ailment that could impair one’s physical or mental fitness. Roosevelt’s myriad health problems and Eisenhower’s heart attack both raised the question of whether they could live out their terms in office, while Kennedy’s hormonal problems raised doubt as to his emotional fitness. For better or worse, the public has the right to know these things so it can make an informed decision about how to vote.

As Eisenhower demonstrated, a presidential candidate can be open about serious medical problems and still win an election. Even electing an ailing president can often be better than choosing someone with serious character or ideological flaws. While there is no way of knowing for sure how Dewey, Stevenson or Nixon would have performed had they won their respective elections, we can safely infer a few things. Dewey would have taken more isolationist positions than Roosevelt, because of where the Republicans stood on foreign policy at that time. Nixon, who was never favorably disposed to racial minorities, would have been much less sympathetic to civil rights than Kennedy was.

That said, the differences between Roosevelt/Truman and Dewey, Eisenhower/Nixon and Stevenson, and Kennedy/Johnson and Nixon are nothing compared to the gulf separating Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine from this year’s Republican nominee. Throughout this campaign, Trump has blatantly pandered to racism, heaped praise on Vladimir Putin and demonstrated a terrifying willingness to start nuclear war, to name only three of the many things that work against him. When a candidate like Trump is one option, both Clinton and Kaine emerge as far superior alternatives, regardless of any potential health issues. While history makes it clear that Clinton should be more forthcoming about her current health problems, it also teaches us that there are consequences to elections which transcend such questions.

If there is any benefit to the sudden focus on Clinton’s health, it’s that this moment offers Americans another opportunity to place current events in historical context. The questions raised by Clinton’s crisis at the 9/11 memorial aren’t black-and-white. It is troubling that the Democratic nominee has been so secretive about her health, given our experiences with past presidents. Clinton’s doctor has now said her medical problems are minor, and that she should be fine once the pneumonia clears up. Yet even if the worst is true regarding Clinton’s health, that doesn’t end the conversation regarding whether she should win this election. Consider the alternative.