Dear American voters,
For 30 years, since I first moved to the U.S. from New Zealand, I’ve lived in, and enjoyed, so much of what makes this country great — freedom of expression, how Americans vote for all kinds of things and how even in turbulent times, such as the 2000 Bush-Gore election year, somehow through all kinds of contentious elections it all works out.
But with a week to the 2016 elections I see a whole new prospect and I’m genuinely afraid for our democracy.
Angry voters, untruths told by presidential candidates, ignorance of the world and real issues by candidates and rhetoric seemingly intended to cause anger no matter how the election turns out. And polls back up the direction of the election:
• The conservative website Red State on Aug. 16 released the results of a poll with the headline “Majority Of People Voting For Trump Are Just Voting Against Clinton”
• A Quinnipiac Poll, released in September, found that more Americans are picking their candidate in protest of the other candidate, rather than voting for someone they believe in.
America, I’m worried that you’re heading to a very dark place. That, in this overheated election season, something that makes this country great — it’s generally positive world view and belief in the democratic process — is being lost. I’m vested in America not only because I’ve lived here for 30 years, but because it’s the birthplace of my wife and daughter and the home of hundreds of extended family members, friends, colleagues and former students — people I care deeply about.
How can the vast majority of American voters — reasonable people all — pull back from the brink of this apocalypse?
My humble suggestion: Vote FOR ideas and people and not simply AGAINST ideas and people.
It’s a simple idea that somehow is lost in a cloud of bombastic language, outrageous claims or general dismissal of one side or the other or the other or the other…
The quote attributed to American entertainer and author Penn Jillette sums up my concern: “I think voting for the lesser of two evils in game theory always leads to more evil.”
What’s the worst that could happen if people choose to vote for the “lesser of two evils”? Voting for Candidate A because you violently dislike Candidate B is like eating the bad chicken leftovers in your refrigerator because you think the bad beef leftovers are more likely to make you sick. The truth is both will make you ill.
There is still time, good people of America. You can do a little research and find a reason to vote FOR candidates whether they’re presidential candidates or running to be your town’s dog catcher. You want to feel good about your vote, right? And if you can’t find a good reason to vote FOR someone then ask yourself: “Should I vote?”
Only you can answer that question. But what I’d suggest is that finding a reason to vote FOR someone or something will help you sleep at night, feel good after the election (no matter who wins) and will be something you can tell your grandchildren about — with pride — in the future.
The alternative — simply voting AGAINST someone or something — won’t be such a good experience….
Is it too much to describe this choice — between voting FOR someone or something or AGAINST the same — as a fight between the darkness and the light? Between good and evil?
Is it hyperbole to say the decision each voter makes about their reason for voting might add up to a bright or dismal future for democracy?
I don’t think so. Please America, choose to vote FOR someone or something on Nov. 8.
Mike Johansson is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a native of New Zealand.