I’M WITH HER and other progressives should be, too.
To my friends who are certain that standing against HRC, in any form this year as a progressive, is doing our country a favor, I say this: I know that your intentions are good and I know you have good reasons, grounded in our rotten political system, to feel as you do. But your protest vote in swing states (and all states, really) isn’t going to change anything for the better and could actually cause a great deal of harm. Please, hear me out.
Some of you will suggest that placing the blame for Trump on you is just fearmongering. You’re wrong. Yes, we’ve all heard, “You can’t risk voting third party this election, it’s too important” a lot in the last two decades or so. Know why? Because it’s been true since at least 2000 when the decades-long work of the religious Right came to fruition in the form of hyper-conservative politicians and Tea Party members who believe that God speaks to them (we’ll bracket the fact that their God often punks them by giving them the wrong advice) wouldn’t blink an eye at the establishment of a pseudo-theocracy. Sure, as is evidenced by their willingness to stand behind Trump, we’ve learned that what we’ve always suspected to be true is, in fact, true–that most of these folks aren’t really interested in God and Jesus so much as they are interested as using religion to gain more power and wealth for themselves and/or to justify their bigotry. But their reasons for using religion in these ways don’t make the results any less tangible to those in their horrific paths.
So yes, you’ve heard the “we can’t risk it” argument before because with each passing the year the Republican party has become more and more insane and insidious. Remember when Sarah Palin was the scariest prospect the GOP had to offer? We kinda miss those days, right? There’s a reason: It’s gotten worse. So yes, even more so than in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012, the stakes are simply too high to vote third party, especially in swing states. Until rationality and a willingness to govern even when they aren’t in charge returns to the heart of the GOP and its leadership, it is simply too dangerous for our country and the world to allow another Republican to hold the office of President.
And please don’t forward the “I won’t be bullied” argument. No one is bullying you. Pointing to facts and political realities while also pointing out that your vote, especially if you’re in a swing state, makes a Trump presidency more likely is not bullying. The claims of “bullying” may help relieve the cognitive dissonance you must feel knowing that, to some extent, you’re about to be responsible for what’s around the corner for this country and its citizens if you help Trump win, but it’s not bullying.
You can’t understand the U.S. Supreme Court and its impact on the country and be willing to risk Trump nominating one or more justices. United State Supreme Court appointments matter for decades, not just four years, and we’re at a place in terms of court balance where if Republicans get who they want on the court, the freedoms and policies we’ve worked so hard for (civil, LGBTQ, women’s, environmental, and other rights) will be seriously damaged, if not doomed. Pointing to those statements and to Supreme Court balance math so simple even a school child could understand doesn’t make anyone a fearmongerer or a bully. It makes them able to see the long game and able to learn from the history of social movements in this country, which is another conversation entirely, but can be summarized as taking time measured in generations, not election cycles, to win their most important battles.
I’ve also seen the argument that it’s the candidate’s job to earn the vote because no one owns anyone’s vote and thus since Hillary hasn’t “earned your vote” you won’t be voting for her. I get it. You’re right to some extent. The primaries are fair game as far as I’m concerned and there are serious problems with the way the DNC worked to favor Hillary over Bernie. And I supported Bernie until the bitter end, not just until the leading candidate and their mouthpieces and supporters started trying to tell me it’s time to stop fighting. But once the primary is over, especially in a context like this one, it’s time to stop thinking so narrowly. Hillary may not have earned your vote, but the millions of people who will be negatively impacted by a Trump presidency in a way that most of us can’t even imagine because of the privileges of race, sex, class, religion, sexual orientation, ability, etc. we have (none of which we’ve earned) have not earned the abuse they will experience under a Trump presidency and that you have a chance to make sure they don’t experience.
Think past yourself, your justified hurt feeling and anger at a broken system, and your political preferences and toward the whole. Think about the impact of a Trump presidency on brown and black people, Muslims, LGBT citizens, poor women without access to abortion or reproductive health care, and the many others Trump has singled out for abuse and disdain once he’s elected. When you think about those people and what they’ll go through, how does that compare to your suffering for having to vote for a candidate you don’t love? I’m sorry, but I just can’t convince myself that it compares in any way, shape, or form.
But let’s step back and grant, for a minute, that you succeed in your protest vote. Let’s imagine that your protest vote helps give Trump the presidency and wakes up the Democratic party and that they move, as a whole, left of even Bernie. Let’s go even further and say that Trump loses the second election to the more-progressive-than-Bernie candidate and we rejoice in our country moving to the Left in a significant way in 2020. Let’s also pretend that the American people love it so much that we elect the same brand of progressive eight or twelve years straight. Then what? What will those people be able to accomplish? In that four years of a Trump presidency that you helped make a reality, he will have had the chance to place at least one, and probably two, justice onto the Supreme Court who will likely shift the balance of the Court for decades.
What, then, will your super-progressive president be able to accomplish? LGBT rights? Pass all the laws you want, but if the Supreme Court majority is now against those rights (and they will be), they won’t last long. Sweeping climate change reform that is our last, best hope for saving the planet? Nope. Sorry. Those laws are ruled “unconstitutional” by the new majority that’s never met a big business they didn’t love and who were nominated by people who believe climate change is a hoax. Laws that are enforced to protect women’s lives, health, and career earnings? Nice while they lasted. Also probably gone. Think the Court has made some bad decisions in the last ten years? Now imagine those decisions and others liberals narrowly won with two more Scalia’s on the Court. Sound awesome? No? Then why help make this doomsday scenario a reality?
So, cling dearly to your “principled” position and cut off your noses to spite your faces if you insist, but also cling to memories of progress in the areas of human and environmental rights even tighter. Because if he does what he says he’ll do and if your votes make his victory more possible (and they do in swing states, especially), you will be part and parcel to watching all of that progress disappear. You will have helped elect a “pussy-grabbing” man who enjoys the full-throated support of the KKK and neo-Nazis across the land. Job well done! And for what? To prove a point? To make a statement? The system simply isn’t set up to hear your protest. It doesn’t care any more about your protest in 2016 than it did in 2000. What did the protest vote for Nader in 2000 accomplish? Nothing. As your own arguments state, the DNC continues its march to the Right. Why do you think that the “system” is going to listen to you in 2016? It’s not. It’s going to move even more to the Right to protect its power and positions under a Trump presidency. Maybe you’ll feel better for casting your protest vote, but those warm, fuzzy feelings of “sticking it to the system” will dissolve quickly as we all begin reaping what you have helped sow. Your unwillingness to “compromise your beliefs” will mean the rights, safety, and security of many without your privileges of race, class, sex, and sexual/gender orientation will be compromised far more greatly and for generations to come. Therefore:
You’ll need to be sure to explain the woman forced to carry a child she doesn’t want to carry and can’t afford that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to be sure to explain the Muslim who is banned from this country or who is beaten up by emboldened racists that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to explain to your lesbian friend who is fired from her job for being a lesbian or your gay friend who isn’t allowed to dine with his partner because of the “religious beliefs” of the restaurant owners “won’t allow” them to serve your friends, that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to explain to the person whose life and home are destroyed because of the growing impacts of climate change that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to remind the next innocent black person who is killed by a police officer after an unconstitutional stop and frisk that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to remind the kid whose parents are ripped from the home and deported that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to remind the parent who still can’t get paid family leave and to the woman who is laughed at by the courts when she demands equal pay that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to remind your transgendered friend when he’s forced into a bathroom in which he doesn’t feel comfortable, that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to explain to all the children who are bullied by other children who have been emboldened by Trump and his supporters to castigate and even physically harm others that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to explain to college and other women with lower incomes who can no longer get the women’s health services they need from Planned Parenthood, some of which will die from cancers they couldn’t afford to be screened for anywhere else, that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to explain to the Syrian and other kids who can no longer escape war to the United States that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to explain to the kid of a person killed by our military because he or she is a “relative of a terrorist” that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to explain to the U.S. soldiers who are waterboarded or similarly tortured because the United States has begun waterboarding again that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs. Oh, and don’t forget to explain to the innocent person who is waterboarded by our government, too.
You’ll need to explain to the consumer whose bank robbed her and got away with it because the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was eliminated that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
You’ll need to explain to the parent whose fifth grader was mowed down at a school where the “gun-free zone” was removed that you just couldn’t compromise your beliefs.
If Trump wins and you helped make that happen with your protest vote, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do. And again, this isn’t fearmongering or bullying. These are the actual implications of policies supported by Trump and the impacts they will have on our fellow citizens and people all over the world.
If Trump wins and you’ve made your “protest vote,” I’ll look forward to hearing no complaints as we all reap what you’ve helped sow. And when you do complain, because you will, I’ll be here to remind you of your principled position and where it’s gotten you–most importantly, a Supreme Court that makes impossible any of your hopes and dreams for more progressive world.