These Are Your Options, America

A Quick Review of Your Choices on November 8th

Our next president will either be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Unless both candidates drop out or aliens attack or a meteor obliterates the human race, that is what’s going to happen.

So what are you going to do about it?

Your choices are…

a) Vote for Hillary Clinton

b) Vote for Donald Trump

c) Vote for a Third Party Candidate

d) Don’t Vote

a) Vote for Hillary Clinton

I remember thinking of presidential elections as being a “lesser of two evils” situation since high school. For a cynical kid who liked to think she saw through it all, that felt right.

I now consider myself a recovering pessimist, and one of the most important things I’ve learned is that it’s all spin. And I’m not talking about the media (which we are all a part of now anyway).

I’m talking about how we, as individuals, approach the options presented to us.

So I’d like to reframe this “lesser of two evils” narrative.

The Lesser of Two Evils = Two choices, where one is better than the other.

I do not believe Hillary Clinton is evil, but if you do, I’m not going to try to convince you. Others have made that effort, and to be honest, I don’t care about your opinion of her. I care about the action you take on November 8th.

Let’s say she is evil. And let’s say Donald Trump is evil (an easier argument to make). One of them is still going to be our next president.

So we have two choices, and if you can only think of this as a choice between two evils, that’s fine. Because you know one is the better candidate (or lesser evil, if you insist).

I am going to vote for Hillary Clinton because I think America will be more secure, free, and prosperous with her in office than it would with Donald Trump.

b) Vote for Donald Trump

Every presidential election, lots of us talk about how we want “real change.” Electing Trump would be a real change.

Not all change is good.

Some people believe that whoever wins, the country will weather the storm and come out largely the same. If Clinton wins, that’s probably true. The woman has been the first lady, a senator, and the secretary of state. If she wanted to ruin the country, she would have done it by now.

But we don’t have decades of public service to judge Trump by. What we have are his actions and words. Some people are of the mind, “maybe it won’t be that bad.”

Maybe.

Maybe he won’t expand stop-and-frisk, like he said he would.

Maybe he won’t build a futile wall on the Mexican border, like he said he would.

Maybe he won’t bar anyone of the Muslim faith from entering the United States, like he said he would.

Maybe he won’t lose more than $900 million and abdicate his responsibility to support the country that makes his wealth possible.

Maybe he won’t incite violence against protesters, like he has throughout his campaign.

Maybe he won’t continue to sexually assault women, as he admits to doing in an audio recording.

Maybe he won’t imprison his political opponents, like he said he would.

Maybe.

We all expect candidates not to follow through on all their promises, but never before have we allowed someone to take the highest office in the hopes that he won’t do anything he says he will.

Over and over again, Donald Trump has shown us who he is. Believe him.

Side Note: It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating. We all know racial, religious, sexual, and other minorities will suffer most under a Trump presidency. If you think it won’t be that bad, you probably just think it won’t be that bad for you.

c) Vote for a Third Party Candidate

I can understand the urge to vote for a third party candidate. We all want more political options.

You are not wrong to want a viable third candidate. You are not wrong to want third parties to be included in the presidential debates. But it is too late to make this happen in the 2016 presidential election.

Either Clinton or Trump will be our next president. You may not want either of them to take office, but if you refuse to choose between them, if you vote for someone who we all know will not win, you essentially say that you don’t care whether Clinton or Trump wins. A third party vote means there is no difference. And I think you know there is.

I am not saying that you should never vote third party in any election. I am saying that voting for a third party presidential candidate in the 2016 election gives up the small morsel of influence you have over who his our president for the next four years.

d) Don’t Vote

I can think of three reasons that someone would choose not to vote.

“It doesn’t matter who wins.”

Refer to sections a, b, and c.

“I can’t vote for any of them in good conscience.”

There are many people who won’t feel “right” casting a vote for either Clinton or Trump. Maybe there are issues with each candidate that you consider deal-breakers. Maybe Trump is obviously out of the question, but you oppose Clinton’s foreign policy. Maybe you consider them both evil and you can’t bring yourself to align with either side.

That’s okay. Because you don’t need to align yourself with a candidate to vote for them. You don’t need to think they are a good person. You don’t even need to think they will be a good president. You just need to think they are the better choice.

Presidential elections have never been about selecting the best candidate. They are about selecting the best candidate left standing after more than a year of pageantry and pitfalls.

Perhaps you fear that either candidate will do something unforgivable in office and that if you vote for them, you will be complicit. Do you worry that you won’t be able to live with yourself if the president you voted for sheds innocent blood?

You probably already are.

The President of the United States makes decisions that result in deaths, sometimes innocent deaths.

And make no mistake: not voting doesn’t absolve you. If the person elected does something terrible, you will know you had the chance to help prevent his or her crimes. But you chose to do nothing. Your hands will never be clean.

This may sound exceedingly dark, but it’s the truth.

“My vote doesn’t matter.”

Have you ever been to concert where the crowd started clapping in time with the music?

You could never clap at all and the crowd would probably still do it. But if enough people think like you and don’t clap, that moment where everything is a little bit louder, when the audience becomes part of the music, never happens.

Collective action is built on the choices of individuals. One person’s choice won’t change anything, but the choices of millions will. This election will be decided by the people who aren’t fanatical supporters of any candidate. It will be decided by people like you.

Besides, you know what matters less than one voter? Someone who chooses not to vote.

Beyond your feelings of general insignificance, you might think your vote doesn’t matter because your state is reliably red or blue. First and foremost, we should all know by now that we can’t take anything in this election for granted. And even if your state goes the way you expect, the popular vote can still affect our confidence in the results.

Trump is already telling his supporters that the election is rigged. If the race is close, we could face an even worse fiasco than the 2000 election. There will be no convincing the Republican nominee and his supporters. There will be no shared conclusion and understanding. There will probably be violence.

So yes, your vote does matter. If it increases the popular vote’s margin of victory, it could weaken unfounded claims of election tampering. Your vote can help keep our democracy safe and stable.

I’ll end by saying this: the upcoming presidential election poses a huge threat to the United States of America, but it’s also an opportunity.

We have the opportunity to make the most reasonable, pragmatic decision available to us. We have the opportunity to put love for each other and love of our country above the love of our parties.

We have the opportunity to loudly reject the worst of America.

Writer, musician, improvisor, recovering pessimist.

Writer, musician, improvisor, recovering pessimist.