On “Voting Your Conscience”

I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton this November. It’s odd, waking up on a Wednesday to realize that that’s no longer a hypothetical in my life. Barring any damage to my literal ability to cast my vote this fall, it will be for Hillary Clinton. You may have noticed I’m not excited about this fact, probably because “I’m excited about it” and “I’m coming to terms with it” are rarely simultaneous sentiments.

Let me preemptively clear the air: I’m not writing this to pick apart Clinton’s checkered past, nor to promote Sanders or any other Democratic hopefuls. No, I don’t trust Clinton to enact real change, and, yes, despite the fact that I am also a woman, Clinton’s “historic” gender does little to influence my opinion of her. The “why” of these things, at this point, is boring. You’re going to hear enough about them in the upcoming six months anyway. What I’m more interested in, as we toboggan helmetless and head-first into this election, is the idea of voting itself.

Many people who share my politics, thus, my reservations, would encourage me to “vote my conscience” this fall. To most people, “voting your conscience” means writing someone in or voting for a third-party candidate. Those against voting your conscience denounce the concept for its obvious impracticality. In the grand scheme of things, a vote for any candidate without an R or D next to their name simply will not count. This is easy for me to understand. The dangerous impossibility of the thing stares me down, unblinkingly. My dad voted for Nader, okay? Twice. I get it.

But really, it’s the “conscience” part of “voting your conscience” that trips me up. While I kind of admire those idealistic ex-hippies and unrelenting anarchists whose consciences are painted Green or still sporting wild, white hair, I do not understand them, in the same way I do not understand those whose consciences are spray-tan orange or shaped like an arrow-encrusted H. I can’t understand these people, because my conscience has seen some serious shit over the past few years. Right now, my conscience looks like Arkansas roadkill. My conscience looks like the bathroom floor of an Irish bar in Boston after St. Patrick’s Day. Voting my conscience this November would look less like checking a non-R-or-D box and more like beaming peacefully as the floor of the voting booth broke open underneath me and I surrendered my body to the soil below.

At this point, I don’t even know what my politics are anymore, but I know they’re not reflected by these candidates, and certainly not by the way this country conducts a presidential election. The absurd pageantry, the wild accusations, and the cable news journalism of this summer have all grated down my conscious like a fine Parmesan. So when someone tries to convince me to pick up those pieces and glue them back into a bistro-worthy block, it’s just not happening.

I know there are many people out there who genuinely agree with the policies and positions of the candidates, and even some who don’t see the connection between a reality TV star becoming an honest-to-God American presidential candidate. But, maybe, some of you are like me, and the absurd, demoralizing nature of American politics has whittled you into a voter you don’t even recognize. I’m still going to vote, of course, and I’m going to vote for Hillary, because I want the end of the world to be my grandkids’ problem instead of mine. But I’m not hashtag With Her so much as I’m begrudgingly hashtag Adjacent To Her. And, at this point, my micro problems with her are being overshadowed by my macro problems with the entire system.

I’m going to cast a vote this November, but I’m not going to feel patriotic or democratic or good while doing it. And I thought — or was taught in the third grade — that that was kind of the point.