The Vote I Must Cast

From Sanders supporter to Clinton voter, I’m deciding to put my country first

Photo Credit: Politico

Intelligent people have continually shaped the American narrative by either strategically rejecting or quietly condoning evil forces.

Our founding fathers wrote and fought against British tyranny while many erudite colonists happily resigned to the throne. Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln and Robert Smalls fought to abolish slavery. At the same time, millions of southerners were intent on protecting an economy built on the backs of slaves. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. sacrificed their lives in protest of the unjust treatment of their fellow black citizens. On the other side of the coin — or more accurately, on the other side of the restaurant — white Americans kept segregation in motion.

Thankfully, the legacy of dissenters is, for the most part, more widely respected than that of the gatekeepers. Once our eyes adjust, we see right and wrong; and as hindsight allows us to reverse who we regard as heroes, we find solace in mentally correcting the silent crimes and overt transgressions of our ancestors.

Too often, though, this is an evanescent sensation. Hindsight is not foresight. Thus, like disobedient children, we keep touching the hot pan, stubbornly choosing not to learn from our errors.

Consequently, the evil forces that millions of Americans have condoned over the last 240 years continue to infiltrate our social, political and economic systems. We have not eradicated the iniquitous infrastructure of American life; in fact, we’ve continued to build unequal communities on its rotting frames. This, sadly, is both a metaphor and a hard truth (see: Flint, Michigan).

After months of reflecting on and having conversations about the current state of our nation, I have determined that it is not enough to half-heartedly protect values that I have always believed in: respect, equality, kindness, intellect and disciplined rhetoric. I will not stand idly by as my fellow citizens seek to elect a dangerous, incompetent man to the most powerful position in our country. I will be mocked, chastised or attacked; but I will not be silent.

I will speak out and take action. I will vote.

And I will vote for Hillary Clinton.

Are you serious?

Unapologetically serious. Let me begin my defense — and, trust me, to reach my conservative friends and Bernie-loving friends alike, this truly requires a defense — by stating that I have never before publicly shared my vote. I have never felt it necessary to do so, largely because I have never before considered the opposing candidate to pose as much of a threat to my way of life as the current Republican candidate does. In an effort to be transparent, however, I will also address Clinton’s shortcomings, as I do not consider her to be a political savior by any stretch of the imagination.

So then why do you support her?

Politically speaking, Clinton is the most experienced candidate ever to seek the highest office.

Her opponent is far and away the least experienced candidate ever to run for president.

Clinton has fostered robust strategic relationships with American allies.

Her opponent boasts about his connections with the leaders of North Korea and Russia, two of America’s most dangerous enemies.

Clinton has made a career of fighting for women and children, first as the First Lady of Arkansas, and later, as the First Lady of the United States. She ran a disciplined presidential campaign in 2008 and assumed one of the highest positions in the world when she became Secretary of State in 2009.

Her opponent spent his entire professional life erecting a façade of power, ripping off middle and low class Americans while he stuffed his pockets with money that was intended for charity.

I’ve hesitated to vocally support Clinton because I fear that doing so is hypocritical. However, I would rather be forced to reconcile minor differences of opinion with Clinton than absentmindedly accept the truly egregious things that spew from the mouth of her opponent. Many of the political, social and economic beliefs that I have researched and continually developed in my academic and personal life run counter to some of the policies that Clinton has championed throughout her career. Yet, I am also aware that I have the privilege of being an idealist while Clinton must be pragmatic.

Washington insiders have rightfully been criticized for upholding a system that does not work for everyone. But we tend to undervalue everything that this system has gotten right. Our current administration made healthcare more accessible to millions, passed legislation to wean our country off of fossil fuels and made marriage equality the law of the land. Politicians like Clinton are forced to sacrifice the pawns of economic policy, for instance, in order to pass progressive social policies. In a better world, we will recognize that more equitable economic policy can reshape our social and cultural systems. Until then, we must continue the fight for progress inches at a time.

Compromise — especially at a time when our nation needs to make radical changes — is of course suboptimal. Our alternative option, though, is to elect a demagogue, who is uncompromising both in his blatant stupidity and dishonesty.

Let’s talk about honesty. You think Clinton is ‘honest’?

I do, actually. The evidence piled against Clinton in the email and Benghazi scandals is largely unfounded and merely conservative propaganda. Clinton admitted error in both circumstances, while also noting that her predecessors had made similar mistakes. Because the Benghazi attacks seem to be what Republicans enjoy attacking the most, I’d like to dig a little deeper into their line of reasoning.

And let me begin by saying that what happened during the Benghazi attacks is truly a shame.

But unlike her opponent, Clinton held one of the highest positions in the United States. Her job required that she make split second decisions that meant life or death for Americans. Colin Powell made these same decisions (and many bad ones). Robert Gates made these same decisions (and many bad ones). Henry Kissinger made these same decisions (only bad ones).

At the time of being Secretary of State, Clinton was responsible for over 60,000 Americans at 275 posts all over the world. That’s a massive responsibility — something her opponent wouldn’t know anything about, because he’s never had any political responsibilities. Clinton admitted fault for Benghazi. And I’ll repeat: it’s a shame that Americans died because of a political mistake. Furthermore, it’s a shame we send our fellow citizens into dangerous combat situations and then refuse to provide for them when they return.
 
So if we’re on the topic of blaming politicians for political mistakes that result in American deaths, then I think every Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense in our nation’s history can be held responsible.

As for the email scandal, I’m less concerned about my president using a private email server than I am about a potential president swindling his way into a nuclear war like an apocalyptic car salesman.

Time and time again, we let the Republican candidate off the hook for his overt and dangerous dishonesty. Matt Lauer infamously gave Clinton’s opponent a freebie for lying about his stance on the War in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, though, Lauer relentlessly prodded Clinton about Benghazi and emails, even as she admitted fault and told the same story that even the CIA deemed to be accurate. Why? I believe Clinton was — and continues to be — unjustifiably interrogated because she is a woman.

You’re seriously going to play the ‘woman card’?

I feel that it is important to get this straight: it’s not a card. Acknowledging that women are treated differently than men in this country is not merely playing a card, nor is it hard to see. Do you need audio/visual evidence? Go to a construction site and listen to the ways that men talk about women. Or, depending on who you are, just listen to your dad. If statistical proof is more your cup of tea, read the overwhelming amount of employment research that finds women are paid far less than men for the same work.

A recurring mistake I see people making in this country is denying facts that make them uncomfortable. Of course hearing the word ‘gender inequality’ is going to make people uncomfortable — it should. What we do with that discomfort, whether we choose to address and fix it or sheepishly ignore and deny it, has consequences for women in America. It has consequences for our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters.

Clinton is a strong, abrasive woman and that shocks the status quo. What will we do with our discomfort? Men, why are we the only demographic that Clinton cannot seem to win? It’s time to open ourselves up to that which makes us uncomfortable.

It’s time to end patriarchy and vote for a woman for a change.

Why not vote for a third-party candidate?

As someone who adamantly supported Bernie Sanders’ visionary platform, I am nonetheless aware of the paradox I am orchestrating and simultaneously tiptoeing around as I vocalize my support for Clinton. I’m an independent myself, and I believe that Sanders offered a unique perspective at a time when our country was plagued by gridlock between two political parties. A small part of me still wishes he were the Democratic candidate. But I feel it is important not to let pride distort reason. In a political climate marred by partisanship and ignorance, reason is perhaps our last great hope.

I abhor partisanship because I think that its end-goal is to divide instead of unite. So I’m thrilled that Gov. Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein have received so much attention this year, if for no other reason than their offering a third and fourth perspective for the American public. When other parties get involved and nuance is accounted for, politics is no longer viewed as ‘us vs. them’ . When I was in Europe last spring, I was eating dinner next to a woman from Denmark who thought it was ludicrous that the United States only has two political parties. She explained that Denmark has twelve major political parties that must reach across the aisle to three or four opposing parties in order to get anything passed.

I had a minor epiphany after she told me that: I began to see politics in the United States like sports. The Democrats are the Yankees and the Republicans are the Red Sox. Rivalry precedes judgment. We accept gridlock because it feels better than losing.

Although I disagree ideologically with much of the libertarian doctrine, I admit that Johnson and his supporters are on to something. They’ve rejected the options presented to them, transcending the political system. That’s a hard stance to take. Stein, while not as popular, has also infused the old-school political process with new potential.

However, the data scientists whose research I follow all indicate that a vote for Johnson or Stein is, essentially, a vote for Clinton’s opponent. If Clinton’s opponent was John Kasich, I might consider voting for Johnson or Stein to prove a point. But her opponent threatens the very fabric of our democracy. If I were to go back to the sports analogy, it would be a bit like this: the Yankees must defeat the Red Sox or Major League Baseball will implode. I’m not going to cheer on the Tampa Bay Rays just to prove a point.

Though, someday, I do hope the Tampa Bays Rays win the World Series.

Why does it matter so much to you?

This election matters because knowledge matters. And democracy matters. Black Lives Matter, immigrants matter and the moral values that King, Tubman and Washington fought for matter.

When the ideals of the opposing candidate signify not just a difference of opinion, but instead stand merely for unbridled ignorance and violent hatred, they must be met with fierce opposition. Rhetoric that seeks to destroy a nation built by immigrants, shaped by black and white Americans and brought to life by men and women alike must be silenced.

Humanity matters.

That is why I care. That is why I must vote. And that is why I will vote for Hillary Clinton.