A Still Small Vote
This is the last post that I’ll make before America elects a new leader. It’s been a punishing election cycle, even by the degraded standards of our latter republic; the prospect of it being over is a little like finally getting out of prison, but knowing that the warden is going to be in charge of the whole government afterwards. I’m pretty sure I know who’s going to be occupying the White House for the next four years, as I think we’ve all known for a while now, so I’m not going to be making any arguments on her behalf; nor am I really going to say much I haven’t already said already. This is intended more for the day after, when we all wake up and have to collectively deal with the fallout of our decision.
1. DONALD TRUMP IS A HORRIBLE PERSON AND NO ONE SHOULD VOTE FOR HIM. That’s the closest thing I’m going to make to an endorsement this time around; I’m sure it’s not vociferous enough for a lot of people, but I take comfort that no one reads this blog and less than no one looks to me for voting recommendations. Anyway, here’s the thing: Donald Trump isn’t the second coming of Adolf Hitler. He’s not even the first coming of Greg Stillson. I don’t think he’s a fascist, and anyone who believes America just started becoming racist, sexist, and nationalist because he showed up is delusional. The creeping nostalgia for Bush-era Republicans that has appeared in his wake is absolutely repulsive.
But all that said, he’s certainly an awful person and an awful candidate, and would make an extremely and — perhaps — unprecedentedly awful head of state. He’s both stupid and ignorant, he caters to the worst instincts of the worst voters, and even if he wasn’t personally bigoted (and he is!), he enables the acceptance of bigotry on the national stage. He doesn’t have any intention on helping the economically desperate people he panders to, and would actually make their lives substantially worse. Even on issues on which he correctly criticizes Hillary Clinton, his own positions and attitudes are equally unacceptable. He has surrounded himself with crooks, toadies, criminals, opportunists, and snitches of a very low order. He is exactly the sort of rich, egomaniacal jack-off who should never be permitted to hold office in the United States. He would be a disgrace as a state senator, let alone President of the United States. Donald Trump shouldn’t be in charge of a newsstand. That he has come even this close to winning is a testament to how broken our political system is. Don’t vote for him.
2. A VOTE FOR TRUMP IS THE ONLY THING THAT IS A VOTE FOR TRUMP. If there’s one thing that I’ve gotten sick to the marrow of hearing this election, it’s that any course of action outside of enthusiastically pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton is “a vote for Trump”. Voting for a third party, not voting, voting but not choosing a presidential candidate, even criticizing Clinton’s politics or positions: all of these have been transformed into “a vote for Trump”. This is childish and embarrassing, particularly when it comes from people who posed themselves as experts on the ins and outs of electoral politics when Bernie Sanders was in contention; back then, leftists were condescendingly instructed to “learn the rules”, but now that it’s down to two people, half the electorate is pretending to think that we live in a direct democracy.
The Clintons are past masters at triangulation and strategic voting; it’s how Bill won the White House, twice. Just as I am happy to tell anyone who lives in a swing state to vote for Hillary Clinton, I’d like to be afforded the bare minimum of respect for my intelligence not to be told that withholding my vote where I live, in a blue state that’s a dead cert for her, is the equivalent of voting for Trump. The only people who are responsible for Trump votes are Trump voters. If Clinton wanted a landslide, she should have run a better campaign. Which brings me to:
3. WHEN REPUDIATING FASCISM ISN’T ENOUGH. Even if you’ve worked yourself into a frenzy of moral righteousness at the thought of a Trump presidency and believe that Clinton needs a mandate to repudiate his politics, you’re still going to have to deal with Hillary Clinton being president on Wednesday morning. The law-and-order racism, ugly misogyny, and xenophobic nationalism given new life by Trumpism is not going to go away; if anything, it will be emboldened, on the prowl, wakeful and alert, in addition to having a fresh infusion of toxic resentment. But, too, the problems that Clinton herself brings to the table aren’t going to disappear. She’s still a candidate of the very rich, and by her own words has shown that she feels ill at ease with a politics that address the problems of the poor in a meaningful way. She’s still beholden to the same elite class of insiders, corporate clients, billionaires, and bosses that created and sustained the ongoing inequality that is crushing America today. Her foreign policy, shaped by Henry Kissinger and solidified during the era of the neoconservatives, is still brutal, confused, and mired in neocolonialist notions of regime change and intervention. She perfectly embodies the neoliberal mind that can enable the saturation bombing of Yemen in the morning and then write an e-mail about how to help out a distressed Yemeni girl in the evening; who can vote for free trade during the day and make sad faces about the rapid crumbling of the working class that night.
The problems that America faces today are largely economic in nature, and our past policies of failure at everything from Middle Eastern policy to the environment are still the ones that Clinton favors. Her dream of an America that is already great is drawn from the golden years of Reaganism; it was harmful enough then, and now, in a world where our might and prestige is no longer enough, it is a dangerous illusion. Whatever you think of the plight of the working classes (who, one would think, it has been sufficiently demonstrated are not exclusively white or male, and who are the key to any lasting reform or progress as we languish in the age of austerity), they aren’t going to go away. They’re going to find a political voice one way or another, and there has never been a more crucial time to offer them real alternatives.
If you think Donald Trump is a great candidate whose ideas represent an America you’d like to see, know that you’re being used by a rich hustler who wouldn’t deign to wipe his shoe on you if he found you dying in the street. If you think Trump is a flawed candidate who at least has shook up the Beltway elites and sent a message to the incompetent big shots who think they run everything, congratulations; message sent. Don’t vote. Get out in your community and start working for grass-roots change that will help you and the people you care about to get their share of America’s plentiful wealth. If you think Clinton’s campaign was a lesser-of-two-evils scenario to prevent the rise of an American fascist, then hope she’s elected Tuesday so that Wednesday you can start working for genuine change in a political system that is dying on its feet and offering almost no hope to the people who need hope the most. If you think Clinton is a genuine progressive that you’re proud to support, then you have one day to celebrate the historical triumph of a female president before you start holding her feet to the fire to actually act on the platform she delights in calling the most progressive in American history.
We’re taught from a very young age that our vote is everything. Our vote, great as it is and worth defending as it may be, is not everything. It’s the beginning, and we are far too used to thinking of it as the end.