While most people i know acknowledge that Donald Trump would be a disastrous president, some also acknowledge that his main opponent, Hillary Clinton, carries with her some strong negatives.
I myself don’t see most of those negatives. The issues surrounding her e-mails have been hashed out by her Republican detractors for years, and nothing has come of it. Most of the talking points about Benghazi have been thoroughly debunked.
However, Hillary has also received criticism from her left. While polls suggest that 90% of Bernie Sanders supporters will vote for Hillary, the remaining ten are saying no-how, no-way. They cite a number of concerns, but they largely amount to the fact that Hillary Clinton is the status quo candidate, and in many ways, the status quo sucks. They can’t, in good conscience, support her, and so are turning to third party contenders like Jill Stein and the Green Party.
Years ago, I got very angry when a Liberal Party supporter went on a rant about the New Democrats, asking why there were even around, and how bad it was that they were splitting the progressive vote. At the time, I said it was a nasty and undemocratic tack to take, and an example of Liberal arrogance to assume that they were “owed” votes by society’s progressives simply because the party was not Conservative.
The best comeback I could come up with quoted The West Wing. “Those aren’t your votes”. Voters owe you nothing. It’s not their job to offer fealty. It is your job to earn their trust. And if the NDP were taking Liberal votes and the Conservatives were winning in the split, the fault was not in the New Democrats for reaching out to Canadians, but in the Liberals for failing to do the same themselves.
I said this during the 2006 election, because I did not see Stephen Harper as a worse candidate for Prime Minister than Paul Martin. I also said this during the 2008 election, although I would have preferred the Liberals and the NDP to get enough votes to command a strong coalition government to defeat the Conservatives.
And though I do see a tremendous difference in the horrors Trump represents versus the status quo that Clinton represents, I will not begrudge people from deciding to vote Green or Libertarian if that enables them to sleep nights. However, I do believe that the lesser of two evils is still less evil, and I will say so. I will say that it is important for Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump this November, because I believe it, and I’m exercising my free speech rights to do so.
I’ve been asked how I can sleep nights. Well, besides the fact that I don’t believe that Hillary is as bad as her detractors make her out to be (on the left or the right), you are asking me why I’m not voting for the better world that Bernie Sanders or the Green Party represents, and instead choosing to stick with the world that we have, out of fear of the world that might be under Trump.
As I said to the Liberal Party supporter who questioned the right of the NDP to exist, people have the right to believe in and campaign for a better world. But to the people who would vote Green in the United States now, I would say that this vote for a better world, while hopeful and positive, is still unlikely to produce the result that we’d want it to have. Instead, voting for the status quo, with all its flaws and imperfections, helps to ensure the defeat of something that is substantially worse.
Those who want the better world may ask me how I can sleep knowing that I would vote for the administration that continued and escalated drone strikes and supported the coup in Honduras. I can sleep at night because, although I did not vote to make this world a better place, I did work to prevent it from becoming worse. The next president will likely shift the balance of the US Supreme Court, and Clinton ensures that it shifts for better, in my opinion. Not only that, the status quo has its benefits. The economy is much better now than it was in 2008. The United States now recognizes same-sex marriage. Marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, Washington and Oregon. Allowing Trump to win threatens all of that, and gives wind to the sails of those targeting trans people in washrooms, and immigrants and Muslims everywhere.
Even if this were not the case, suggesting that voting for the “lesser evil” means that I’ve stopped trying to make the world a better place suggests that my work stops with the election of a president. It doesn’t. We have a congress to elect and senators to defeat. We have charities to organize and demonstrations to attend. The work never stopped with just the president, and I respectfully suggest that those who are too hung up on Hillary’s flaws to see the threat that Trump represents are too focused on a single decision.
Yes, you could turn this around on me and suggest that if the decision were as symbolic as I say, then what threat does Trump present, really? But I’ve already listed the problems he poses. And as I try to make the world a better place, I would rather not make my job going forward harder than it has to be.
I’ve seen how Trump’s playbook played out under Rob Ford. While Toronto City Council may have eventually marginalized the man (as Congress would likely do the same to Trump in the end), we still lost a lot of time and spent a lot of energy fighting fights we didn’t need to fight. Letting Trump win wastes time and energy that could be spent making the world a better place.
So, you might consider that voting for Hillary is a case of two steps forward and one step back. Indeed some of you might argue that it’s one step forward and two steps back. However, it’s still a heck of a lot better than than three steps back.
And it’s only a step backward if you stop moving right after you cast your ballot. I never intended to stop moving. Did you?