I’m Voting For The Democrat In November Because I’m Not A Human Tire Fire (October 2016 Edition)
We’re on the home stretch. Let’s focus.
Author’s Note, 10/2/2016: The original version of this essay appeared in May 2016. I revised this essay in August when Donald Trump talked about the “2nd Amendment people” with regard to stopping Hillary and/or the Supreme Court. I revised it again today in order to reflect the situation we face now, very close to this election. These revisions reflect not only the unfolding history we’ve seen over the past several months but my own personal evolution on various views as I’ve read more, seen more, volunteered more with Emily’s List and, most importantly, listened more. — SB
This is for anybody incorrectly claiming that Hillary and Trump are one and the same; telling everybody they won’t vote at all; or talking about how they’re going to vote for a third party candidate. This essay may not apply to you personally, but you may still find it entertaining or educational or what have you. At any rate, here we go.
Hello. My name is Sara Benincasa. I’m an author and a comedian. That does not mean that everything I write is supposed to be amusing. I have a master’s degree in teaching from Teachers College at Columbia University. I am an alum of the AmeriCorps program. I volunteer with Emily’s List. I was born and raised in New Jersey. I was Catholic for most of my life. I am a registered Independent. I am a feminist and a Democrat. I am a union member. I live and work in a small rented apartment in Los Angeles. I have curly hair. I was not paid to write this (are you aware you’re on a free website that anyone can join? This is a longform platform co-founded by some of Twitter’s co-founders).
I tell you these things to display my interests, my background, and my allegiances first and foremost. You will undoubtedly infer some biases based on what I’ve said above. You may be right and you may be wrong. What I can say for sure is I am not an expert in politics and I am not paid by any campaign. If you did not know that before, you do now. And if this essay makes you angry, well, you’re just angry at another American with an opinion. Lord knows I’m never going to run for public office.
If you still intend to vote for Donald Trump, you can go elsewhere. I’m not going to change your mind. You are willfully ignorant. Not stupid. That would be understandable. You are devoted to your ignorance, in the face of all evidence to the contrary. You are racist and sexist and you most likely hate a lot of people and spend a lot of time telling yourself and everyone else, very loudly, that you are a good person. You may also claim to follow Christ. Your vision of God is a lie. Also, you have at least two cousins and probably a child or two who is incredibly embarrassed by what you say and what you believe. This essay is not for you. I’m also not going to read your victorious or angry comment. Your opinion, forged in a mix of rage and entitlement, does not matter to me. I would help you if you were bleeding in the street and I will vote for expansions to programs that will benefit you, and you will take advantage of these programs because you are ultimately a hypocrite. Go whack off to the 1999 Playboy porno in which your candidate of choice appeared. It’ll be fun.
Everyone else is invited to proceed.
I ask you, a person I assume is decent and good at heart (I know this is the Internet so that’s a generous assumption, but let’s proceed in a spirit of hope here) to vote for Hillary Clinton in November. Not because you love Hillary (or Bernie, for whom I would’ve campaigned and voted with great enthusiasm if he’d gotten the nomination, and not just because I instinctively adore and respect cranky Jewish elders.) Not because you love the two-party system (I don’t! Do you? That’s weird! We deserve better!) But because we’re dealing with brass tacks reality here, not our dreams.
No, I don’t assume you’re sexist just because you wanted to vote for Bernie as your nominee in November. Of course not. I voted for a man, Barack Obama, in 2008 and 2012. In 2008, I could’ve voted for the ticket with a man and a lady running on it. Instead, I voted for the one with two dudes. Does that make me sexist? Sheer foolishness. So let’s set that aside.
I know many good and decent people, men and women, cis and trans, plus genderqueer folks, who wanted to vote for Bernie, or for Hillary, or for Jill, or for ALMOST anyone but Trump. Yes, Bernie Bros are real. Yes, Hillary people can be annoying. Yes, any folks can be awful. I love dudes too! Sometimes ladies also! Sometimes folks who don’t conform to gender! Anyway, read on.
When I was a tiny baby woman of 20, I loved Michael Moore’s assertion that Gore and Bush 2 were THE SAME, DAMMIT. I loved this because he was funny and smart, this Michael Moore, in my opinion. I still dig Michael Moore, though not in an idolatrous way, because I have put away most childish things like blind devotion to anyone who says something that sounds good but does not bear up to actual analysis. He is a wonderful filmmaker and storyteller with whom I do not always agree. He has evolved and so have I. And I’m not blaming Michael Moore for Gore losing. He’s an artist. He had an opinion! I’m just setting the scene so you can see where I was at in 2000, at age 19 and 20.
Other people who I thought were funny and smart and sensible loved Ralph Nader, too! Especially this one girl I knew with expensive dreadlocks (yes she was white, you silly billy, but you knew that already!) I thought Nader sounded great! I recognized he would never ever win the general, so I advocated for Gore. But still, this Nader was a delight! Also he made sure we had seatbelts! Were you aware? History is fun!
Then Bush 2 won. Sure, we can talk about corrupt Florida and the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore that effectively handed Bush the presidency. But imagine a world in which we don’t even get to the Supreme Court and in which hanging chads in Florida don’t matter because Gore has such a clear and definitive margin of victory.
Imagine we’re in 2000 and enough folks show up to the polls and vote for Gore. He’s CLEARLY and irrefutably way ahead of the guy from Texas from the big wealthy family dynasty.
We get a President Gore in 2001, on 9/11 and beyond.
Quite a nice dream. But it’s not what happened.
In reality, some of us swallowed the lie that Bush and Gore were mostly the same. And it is a lie. (And by the way, what’s true is that Hillary and Bernie are mostly the same. They voted the same way 93% of the time when they were both in the Senate.)
Anyway, then we got President George W. Bush.
Remember No Child Left Behind? Oh, how fun it was to contend with that gem of legislation a few years later when I was teaching in the public high school system. Remember abstinence-only education? Of course you do; it’s how you had your first child. And your second. They’re so cute now!
And NCLB is just one example. Just one. You pick your own. Gore would not have been perfect at all, by any means. But he would’ve been different than Bush. I venture to guess that the liberal science nerd from TN who to this day still deeply cares about climate change would’ve been a tad bit better.
My point is this: don’t throw your vote away because your ego and your “personal brand” says you’ve got to feel the [fill in the blank thing that sounds great but will not lead to the Democrats actually winning the presidency in November 2016.] Especially not when Bernie himself, at heart a pragmatist, has thrown his support behind Hillary Clinton repeatedly, in public, and is working just like Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden and Barack Obama and Michelle Obama to defeat Donald Trump, the guy who brags about not paying his taxes.
My only complaint about the above hype video is it wasn’t set to “Jock Jams ‘98” which I feel we can all agree is a missed opportunity.
Okay, Donald Trump again. Who is he? Oh, he’s a lot of guys. The guy who calls women pigs and dogs. The guy who appeared in a porno film yet touts himself as the right choice for evangelical Christians (and I’m not anti-porn, I’m anti-hypocrisy. Plus, that porn looked stupid.) The guy who checked out 12 year old Paris Hilton but “isn’t into that” (don’t worry) but yeah, he watched her sex tape.
And remember when Donald Trump talked about people murdering Hillary Clinton and/or Supreme Court justices? That happened. He locked down the coveted Dylann Roof demo and the rest of his base is whatever’s left on the bottom of the chili pot at 7/11 after they empty it out at the end of the day — it had potential once (truly delicious potential, even!) but congealed into encrusted goo fit only for the least discerning rats. If you’re still on his sinking ship, you are culpable and complicit.
Anyone who has worked in domestic violence or with survivors knows that “jokes” or “offhand remarks” or “implications” about shooting a lady are not to be dismissed but are giant red flags. When I was a teenager volunteering at a women’s crisis center, I visited a safe house in my home county for women who needed round-the-clock protection from men. The workers there kept a close tab on any comments or “jokes” the ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends made or passed on via a friend to the woman in question regarding murder. That’s when we’re talking about one man with a gun. In this case, we’re talking about a man who is the de facto leader of an army of White Walkers with guns.
Make your choice and deal with the consequences.
I get it if it makes you feel really good personally to have voted for Bernie in your state’s primary. He has many good things to say! He’s done some lovely stuff! He is smart and amazing and I admire him a great deal.
Sadly, Dr. Jill Stein doesn’t seem very sensible or wise or kind. Trust that I’m always biased in favor of a women who is a strong leader and I wanted to see her as an important voice in this campaign season but she disappointed the hell out of me and a lot of other folks, too. She actually seems like a carnival barker who just wants to get on TV and eventually get her deal with whatever speakers bureau picks her up. Kind of like how Trump will be selling out midsize amphitheaters in abandoned amusement parks for the rest of his life, and how FOX News will give him his own TV show next year. Kind of like that, but with the veneer of progressivism.
Let’s remember that when we vote for a Democrat at any level of government in the United States, we also vote for the party platform. The DNC platform is vastly superior to the GOP platform. You can sure as hell in part credit Bernie and his supporters with successfully pushing it to the left. It’s the most progressive platform of any major party in American history, in fact. Read it. It’s really good. And not boring like I thought it would be. It’s real and relevant and important. It affects my life, so that’s not boring. (And it’s got a table of contents so you can just skip to the parts that most interest you.)
The hard truth is that even if it makes you feel good and brave and strong and different to stay home from the polls because you don’t like Hillary or don’t agree with things that she has done or said, you are effectively defaulting to Donald Trump. I know you’re not actively voting for him, but you are one less vote to widen the margin between her and a monster. You’re one less voice actually saying in a meaningful way, through a real vote, “Never, ever, ever Trump.” I think about 2000 and it scares me very much, indeed. There are older people — not just the ones in this video — who think of an earlier time and get even more scared than I or perhaps you can even imagine.
A very angry (straight and white) man once said to me, “I won’t be bullied into voting for Hillary.” Dude, nobody is bullying you. It isn’t bullying you to tell you harsh truths that don’t fit with what your t-shirt or your bumper sticker says.
But you’re still voting third party, huh, dude? You say you’re “voting your conscience”? Nah. You’re voting your ego. A real conscience would want the best possible option for the most people in the United States. Even the people who don’t look like you or talk like you or make the same amount of money as you. Even if the current Democratic nominee wasn’t your favorite, or close to it.
A woman once commented on something I wrote, “I won’t be shamed into voting for Hillary.” Ma’am, who is shaming you? (Also, who even are you? I have no idea.) Am I out here calling out citizens by name who’ve expressed a desire to vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson? No. If you feel shame when you read my clear points about why a vote for Hillary is the right choice this year, maybe it’s because you know in your heart I’m right and you’re embarrassed that you’re afraid to admit you changed your mind. Shame is a useless emotion if it does not inspire better action in future. I didn’t magically put that shit in your heart. You’re projecting.
And let’s be clear that I’m not voting for Hillary JUST because I think she’s more electable. I admire many things about her, too. Too many to list all of them here, in fact! But I can say her work ethic, her steady temperament, her experience in traveling to 120 countries, her consistent advocacy for equal pay for women, her longtime devotion to a real family leave policy, her commitment for healthcare for all American kids (not just now, but way back in the ’90s and even before then), and her advocacy for Americans with disabilities and for folks with mental illness — well, all these things excite me and give me hope.
And there are things I do not like. Things that bother me about her. Honestly I’d love to see her get elected so I can hold her feet to the fire on real shit instead of defending her against false accusations of calling folks basement dwellers, something she never did. Here’s that real quote, by the way:
If you read that and see mockery and shame, then I look out my front door and see Mike Colter of “Luke Cage” proposing marriage to me.
It ain’t happening. It never happened. It’s never gonna happen. But as long as you get to spit lies and live in your fantasy world, I get to live in mine.
I don’t know Hillary personally. I don’t know Bernie personally. I don’t know Donald personally. This is not about being a political fangirl or fanboy (I save my fangirling for Doctor Who and 1980s and ‘90s games from Sierra Online and obviously Luke Cage, among other worlds I love) or doing what will make my friends (most of whom love either Bernie or Hillary, nearly all of whom are voting for Hillary) happy.
This is what I think is right for my country in the pragmatic long run where feelings cool and your angry or elated reaction to this post is but a mere memory and you and I and everyone we know has to actually contend with the policies enacted by our president.
Our president, yours and mine, is either going to be Donald Trump, a man who was sued by the Justice Department in the 1970s for having his employees write C (for “Colored”) on the applications for housing in the buildings he owned (and then he hired Roy Cohn of McCarthyism and “Angels in America” fame to defend him)…or…
Or Hillary Clinton. What was she doing at the same time Trump was keeping black people from homes? Read the New York Times article “How Hillary Clinton Went Undercover to Examine Race in Education” and find out.
Ask yourself: is my ego and my need to be “right” in my own mind and at the Thanksgiving dinner table greater than my respect for and compassion for the actual people who would suffer terribly under a GOP presidency and the Supreme Court for the next 10 to 40 years?
Because these people are all around you. And you are one of them, too.
Sometimes you make the best choice and you still don’t love it. But this is real life. Who ever told us it would be easy?
We ought to have a system in which two parties are not dominant. It’d be great to have more than two viable candidates for president. Can you magically make that happen by November 8? No? Cool. I also am not a time-bending, reality-shaping wizard. Let’s deal with what we’ve got.
Don’t vote Green.
Don’t vote Libertarian.
And don’t stay home.
Vote Democrat. At least at the top of the ticket.
You don’t like Hillary’s past support for military actions in the Middle East and other places abroad? Me neither, sometimes! Show me a U.S. president who has never made a decision that led to the deaths of innocents at home or (more likely) abroad and I will show you a lie. In what world is the leader of any country a saint? Saints don’t exist. Saints are a lie we tell ourselves to pretend we can achieve perfection here on earth.
And if you think that’s an endorsement of policies that kill innocent people, you are sorely in need of a course in reading comprehension. We can and we should work to effect change in imperialist United States foreign policy but I assure you that positive change is not going to come from a Donald Trump presidency. This is a man who thinks that Vladimir Putin, a dictator who we can safely assume has okayed the murder of journalists, is a great guy. A role model, even. (Fun fact: Jill Stein had dinner with him. That is a thing that happened.)
Given our two choices, a Donald Trump is not the right one to command the most military power of any leader in the Western world.
Did it surprise you that I, an avowed and enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter, expressed criticism of my candidate’s history above? Well, I believe that if you cannot look critically at your candidate, you will not look critically at your President. And that makes you a cult member and a parrot, which is really an unkind thing to say about a parrot.
In the real world, sometimes you do not get all of the candy. Sometimes you get a little bit of the candy and that is better than getting a pile of actual flaming garbage. Don’t just think about yourself. Think about the people who will be affected by the policies of the next president, as well as the people who will be affected by the Supreme Court. Unless your politics is just about whatever T-shirt you wear, in which case you really ought to get more into football.
You think this is condescending? I think it’s frank, honest truth.
Pretend I’m sitting across from you at a table and we’re both drinking something we like and I’m making direct eye contact with you in a nonthreatening manner. (I’m five foot two and I’m not very strong or terrifying, I assure you.) I’m not your mother, regardless of your opinions about her (and neither is Hillary Clinton, it bears mentioning). I’m not your friend. I’m just a woman with an opinion. If that scares you, it should. We are mighty.
Your assertion that you can’t in good conscience vote for Hillary is an insult to me and women and queer folks and all the people who benefit and even have a chance to thrive under Democratic policies. It is an absolute insult. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the idea framed to you this way. Consider it, for a moment. You can discard it in a minute if you like. But consider it.
You’d consign us to 4 years of Trump and two or three decades of a disgusting, vile Supreme Court so you can brag to your friends about how morally superior you are?
I believe you can be better than that. I believe you can go into that booth and vote for Hillary. I never need to know about it. You can pretend you didn’t, if that’s what passes for social currency in your group or makes you feel better for some reason inside yourself.
You know what a real progressive does? They progress. They move forward. Inch by inch, or mile by mile. They evolve. They act.
So please vote for the nine pro-choice women Democrats running for Senate seats around the country (three of these candidates are women of color.)
And please vote for Hillary Clinton.
I am not pleading with you. I am simply asking, adult to adult, for all of us.
And I’m not asking you to like it.
I’m just asking you to do it.