Together We Can Make America Not Terrifying Again
I would like to address the following groups of people: “Sanders Supporters” who are considering breaking with the party over the primary and “Disaffected Republicans” who have broken with their party over Trump.
In the last few days, I’ve come to realize that I haven’t been entirely fair to folks like you, and this is my mea culpa.
Here’s how it hit me.
As I listened to Trump’s convention speech, I heard a uniquely un-American vision. Unique for a major politician. Unique for a mainstream nominee. And chiefly, unique for a Republican nominee. I’m a diehard Democrat and I have hated the Republican party my entire life, but I’ve never heard anything like that. Trump’s vision, particularly his assurances that he alone can solve the problems of America, his plan to deport all “illegals” who are “roaming free in the streets” and to make a database of Muslims and deport or block the immigration of those from countries that “support terrorism.” His and his supporters’ calls to jail their opponent. His insistence that our country is weak and ruined and only he can fix it…
Well, I may have heard a Republican or two making a jazz riff that kinda sounded close to that, but I have never seen anything that shockingly, brazenly fascistic. As I wrote the next day, “We’ve been hyperbolically calling the Republicans fascists since Nixon. I never thought they’d take it as a dare.” It made me think of all the times I’ve accused the Republican party of standing for these things, when they weren’t actually standing for these things. And here it was actually happening. I’d cried wolf, and I was watching the wolf bite my rhetorical face off (I’m not really sure how one bites a rhetorical face off, but just go with me).
I can go on for many days about all the reasons the Republican party brought this on themselves. Really. I could even gloat about it. But here you are without a party because you’re a person of principle who heard the same speeches, who has watched the rise of Trump, and you’ve decided you will choose country over party. How difficult that must be knowing that there are dicks like me who have been calling you guys thugs and fascists all this time and now you’re stuck with us. I get it.
And then the next day, Hillary Clinton picked Tim Kaine — whom, I’ve decided, I quite like, but who is for the TPP and purportedly for deregulating banks, and who, in Virginia, wasn’t great on abortion rights. At the same time, Putin’s hacker-who’s-helping-Trump released documents showing that the DNC made fun of Bernie Sanders, didn’t like his candidacy, considered ways to undermine him (there is no actual evidence in the emails that they acted on it, but let’s not quibble; it sucks). I saw those of you in the “Sanders Supporter” camp raging online, fulminating against these two blows — Clinton hadn’t picked someone progressive enough and your suspicions of the DNC were ratified. Oh, the snark I was about to unleash online at those people.
But then, for a moment, I was one of those people; For a second there, because of a headline on a link one of my Sanders Supporter friends shared, I believed that Kaine was actively anti-choice.
I have a lifelong rule that I will not EVER vote for an anti-choice candidate. And I didn’t know what I was going to do. Honestly. How could I vote for Clinton/Kaine if the Kaine part was anti-choice?
(I’ve since learned he’s pro-life like Biden is, which is to say personally and not politically, and I’m fine with that — as I was with Joe.)
I have LOTS of arguments with Sanders Supporters’ problems with Kaine and accusations against the DNC. I don’t concede their validity one little bit. But I now understand, for the first time, that they… that you feel completely unrepresented in this election.
And yet, despite all that, despite how you Sanders Supporters and Disaffected Republicans feel about the Democrats and Clinton, you genuinely have to vote for her. I mean it. You have to. And I say that acknowledging it’s a terrible thing to say.
I Want My Republicans Back
“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone?” — Joni Mitchell
There was a time when Republicans represented small government and getting federal regulators out of business and the lives of individuals. This often led them to policies I consider disastrous, but it’s at least a cogent world view. And more importantly, it was a moral world view. Generally it overindexed on a patriarchal, evangelical moralizing (or always), but again, let me at least admit that the Republicans were, during my lifetime, a party that had a moral core.
Trump has shattered it. The Republican nominee has seized your party, dispensed with any moral underpinnings and is enunciating a platform that is entirely about control. The party that regularly declares itself a check on federal tyranny has just had a national convention in which its candidate has declared he will bring a police state. (By the way, he didn’t use those exact words “I will bring a police state,” but if you can’t connect the dots between the positions he’s taken and a police state, here’s a handy article about what would be required to implement his policy promises — spoiler alert: it’s a police state. Still don’t believe it? Hit me up with a comment and let’s talk.)
If you are a person who has an actual moral conviction against the federal government giving itself extraordinary powers to round people up based on their religion, you literally can’t vote for Trump. It would go against your moral core.
And What About the Democrats?
And if you’re a Sanders Supporter, you clearly can’t vote for a fascist. Trump represents the exact opposite of what drew you to Sanders! But so does Clinton in some aspects. And I think I finally get this now. Clinton represents to you the opposite of Sanders on the issues that were the most important to you in the first place. But she won’t be a strongman fascist dictator.
You’re stuck. You have to vote for Clinton — for the “lesser of two evils.” But this isn’t “lesser of two evils” as we’ve known it our whole lives. This is “vote to end the United States as we know it” or for a candidate you loathe. And I’m here to tell you, you have to vote for the candidate you loathe, and it’s a disaster. I get it now.
Because when our country goes from an already hugely flawed two party system to a one-party system where there is only one moral choice, we all lose. That invites corruption in the one remaining party. They know they have your vote. They can just ignore your needs because you can’t possibly choose the other side. They can send each other sniggering emails about your candidate because they know you will never vote for the other guy. They can take money they shouldn’t take, bend rules they shouldn’t bend, abuse powers they swore never to abuse.
I get how it’s felt that way for you for a long time, Sanders Supporters, and I get that you want it to change. And I’m here to tell you that it’s not going to change this election cycle and you just have to accept it.
I should be celebrating. I should be like Cercei Lannister sipping some wine on her balcony. When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die, fools! But empathy is a bitch and I recognize we cannot have a political monopoly and maintain even a pretense of democracy. You have to vote Clinton because the alternative is unthinkable. And I’m very sorry. Truly. I have no joy in saying it. You have to.
No, You Can’t Vote for a Third Party Either
Of course, many of the folks I know in your position are pondering voting for Stein or Johnson. And I understand now that impulse. The two major parties have given you people you loathe — one of whom will destroy the country — and the cleanest solution is to refuse to participate.
The problem is we aren’t in a two party system that needs to learn how to be a three- or four- or ten-party system.
We’re now in a one-party system. Humans with any sense of moral compass (even a not very good one) versus a party that has been seized by a fascist strongman. We need to actually get back to a two party system at the very least.
Too many members of the Republican Party decided to stick with Trump. If they had all abandoned him, I would say, “You know what, if you’re in California, you should vote however you like” because those electoral votes are safe. But that’s not going to be good enough.
The Republican Party needs to be utterly demolished this year. Defeated like the Democrats were in 1984. It needs to be humiliating and abject. They need to lose in nearly every state in the union. And they need to lose that badly so that every Republican apparatchik who backed Trump gets fired and run out of the party. There were not a lot of Mondale-ites running the Democratic party after 1984. We need to make sure the GOP either gets replaced by a new party (formed by those who refused to back Trump), or gets re-seized by the Republicans with a moral center. Their path to victory is through the utter, humiliating defeat of Donald Trump in the popular vote and the electoral college.
If it is otherwise, those who supported Trump will keep betting on the “all fear, all the time” strategy. Next time, they will come to their senses and realize they shouldn’t have been trying to pit the whites against the blacks, Latinos, and Muslims — they should have been pitting the whites AND Latinos against the blacks and Muslims (with a few gays and transgendered people thrown in there). The politics of fear, police state and racism will be continually refined until they find a winning formula.
This genie is out of the bottle. Fascism won a primary in this country with the largest ever number of votes for the Republican party in a primary. A fascist has been nominated. If we do not resoundingly and thoroughly crush him and his twisted ideology at the ballot box this year, fascism will return. Think back to all of the times the Weimar Republic arrested the fascist in putsches and let them out months later. It did not dissuade them. Chamberlain could not contain them. Fascism has to be rejected and destroyed — and fortunately we’re still at the point that we can do that with a vote rather than a gun. How lucky we are compared to our 20th century ancestors! Only by banding together and demonstrating that theirs is an extreme minority view can we prevent them from discovering in time just the right concoction of a more disciplined candidate, more believable lies, and greater media opportunism to sneak into power.
I recognize now more than I ever have before how awful this must feel for you. But think back to our ancestors in the previous century — the sacrifices they made to oppose men like Donald Trump. They rationed. They endured air raids. They fought on land and sea and air and they died on the beaches of foreign lands. You have to grit your teeth like the bad-ass you are and cast a vote for Hillary Clinton. And rather than making fun of you for your misgivings in doing so, as I would have a week ago, today I realize you’re an American hero.
It’s easy for me to vote for Secretary Clinton. I think she’s one of the smartest, most talented, prepared and tough politicians this country has seen in my lifetime. I look up to her and admire her, and think she is the second greatest role model my daughter will ever know (her mom is first). But I recognize now that you genuinely don’t see it that way — beyond issues of gender or party. You have profound misgivings about her. And yet I believe you’re prepared to make her your president. You’ll vote for her in November, not because you want to but because you know you have to. The stakes are too high to do otherwise. You, more than me or people like me, will put country above your self-interest this election.
So I want to say now, thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice. It will not go unnoticed or forgotten. I will work with you this election to return us to a time when we could disagree, where we could fight and even yell about politics without feeling that the stakes were the end of Democracy itself. Together, we will reject Donald Trump’s primal certainty that we are afraid of each other, and we will reject it standing shoulder to shoulder— yes, even us, people who disagree on literally everything but this:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Our more perfect Union is being put to the test. Every generation has had to defend her from injustice, to see to her defense, to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves — and for us, their posterity. Now it’s our turn. Now is our time.