Vote nadir.

Journal Journey

Week 30: 31 July 2016

Usually, these are based on something I wrote years ago. I try to add some modern-day context in order to retell an interesting — well, to me, at least — anecdote from my past. But I’m breaking format for this week’s installment for a couple of reasons:

  1. The “blast-from-the-past” writing I wanted to share is lost in an email account I no longer have access to.
  2. This election is too important to fool around with.
  3. There is no third, preposition-ending reason I can think of.

So, let me start with a little story that’s as true as I can remember it. In November of 2000, I was working for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee. The polls for the general election had just closed, and I was manning the board during our live updates about the local and statewide races. We were cutting in and out of the NPR coverage of national races, but I was so focused on not clipping the music cues that I hadn’t really noticed how close the electoral college would be. Most of the results we were covering got wrapped up by 10 p.m. or so, but I ended up watching the ABC coverage of the Presidential returns way into the wee hours of the morn.

Let’s be Frank.

Now, I hadn’t missed voting in an election since the 1992 presidential ballot, but I hadn’t always taken the top of the ticket too seriously. In fact, for my first presidential vote, I wrote in Frank Zappa. I’ve always been progressive, and back then, you would definitely hear me disparagingly refer to “the system” and “the Man.” But I didn’t do much about either of those entrenched institutions but register people to vote and march on the state capitol, a few times. Both got me out of class.

By the time the 2000 election rolled around, I was still left-leaning but had yet to be convinced that Mr. Gore was any different than Mr. Bush. In retrospect, I understand how disorienting that sounds, but I have to tell you, the Gore campaign did very little to differentiate their candidate from their opponent to me. So when I walked into that polling place, I proudly filled in the bubble next to Ralph Nader’s name.

I still don’t know if I made the right decision.

A campaign’s job is to get you to vote for their candidate. Now whether they do that by getting you excited about their cult of personality or creating uncertainty in their opponent, the election season is built to make you make up your mind. Campaigns need to convince. If they don’t, no matter how good the candidate they’re built around, they’ve failed.

In this election, however, we have a unique opportunity to do a handful of groundbreaking things with a single vote: Stop a demagogue in his tracks, continue the work of millions of newly motivated political activists, and elect the most-qualified presidential candidate in the history of our nation.

To the Clinton campaign I make this plea: Please do not take the Green and Libertarian party supporters for granted. You need to make sure that you’ve told them where you agree, and where you don’t, tell them why. Give them concrete reasons about how each of those minor differences can be the start of a discussion to find common ground.

The alternative is unthinkable.

Now, for those thinking about supporting a third-party candidate, I say I understand. I’ve been there. I know all the arguments. But there’s a difference between voting your conscience and being unconscionable. And this year, a vote for either Gary Johnson or Jill Stein is just that. It’s an unreasonable, futile exercise in doing what’s right for you in lieu of what’s right for the country. I know the unelectable argument can be infuriating, but in the case of the Stein candidacy, it’s true. She cannot win if she is not on the ballot in all 50 states, and at this point — according to her own count — she’s listed in just 23. Granted, there’s still time to get on a few more, but Stein will be a write-in on the Indiana ballot. Greens, let me know what it will take for you to say, “I’m with her.”

The alternative is unthinkable.

For my Libertarian friends, the argument is a little harder. Johnson’s name will be listed in all 50 states. He is a proven leader. He’s unbelievably self-aware. Hell, I like him. But I hope that the Clinton campaign can illustrate that you have some common ground around climate change, immigration, and LGBTQ issues, and those shared ideas can lead to you voting Clinton in order to start a dialog about the areas where you disagree.

The alternative is unthinkable.

Reading is fundamental.

Lastly, for my friends who are registered Republicans, you have two choices: Support your party or support your country. It’s that simple. If you vote for Mr. Trump, you are actively endorsing everything he stands for. And that list is getting longer, and more ghastly, every day. I know you. I know what you believe. You don’t believe that a wall will make America great again. You don’t think deporting 11 million people will make America great again. You don’t imagine subjecting people to a religious test would make America great again. You respect the Bill of Rights. You revere the Constitution. You want to be proud of your country. I do, too. So let’s talk about what we have in common. It’s a lot more than you’d imagine based on the Chyrons crawling below every new channel. If we can find a way to be friends despite our political differences, we can find a way for you to vote Clinton.

The alternative is not just unthinkable, it’s unacceptable.

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