Monday, June 27, 2016

Why I Hate This Election

I love politics.  Love.  It's one of my greatest passions in life, and I particularly love the thrill of watching an election unfold.  Studying polls, staying up late on election night, reading and projecting and trying to find the tea leaves to figure out if my candidate will ultimately win.  There's no greater joy for me than on election night, after a tight campaign, seeing that check name next to my candidate, or the anguish of knowing that it's gone next to their opponent.  I've watched every election night since I was eight, writing down results as they tracked in, and it's a hobby I will probably have until the day I die.

But this year is different.  I don't say these words lightly, and will admit wholeheartedly that I've never said them before-I hate this election.  I hate every aspect of it, and I want it to be over.  I didn't like the primaries, at all.  I thought the Democratic Primary showed a nastiness that even the worst days of the Obama/Clinton race in 2008 couldn't have come close to approaching, particularly in the way the Sanders camp disregarded facts and the way Debbie Wasserman Schultz kept giving the Sanders camp ammo with her ridiculous debate schedule.  I truly despised the ugliness of the GOP Primary, particularly watching as a bunch of the most accomplished men in the party clung to conventional wisdom when clearly polls were showing them what was coming.  I hate the start of this general election, the way that the media has decided that they have to have a horse race and so constantly trumpet about these being the "most unpopular candidates EVER" even though the most popular candidate ever at this time of the election, or at least the one who had the best positive/negative ratio was Michael Dukakis, who went on to be routed in the general so popularity is worth squat in June.

But most of all I hate what Donald Trump has done to this most hallowed of American traditions.  I am genuinely, truly terrified of Donald Trump winning.  I can comfort myself with knowing that the polls show him completely down, by numbers that Mitt Romney didn't even suffer in 2012 at this time, but I know that that can change in an instant, and polls have been wrong.  Just look at Brexit this past week, where essentially the UK was so desperate for a change in its government that it was willing to throw away its entire future in hopes of finding some sort of change in the world.

I didn't feel this way about Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, or Bob Dole.  Not once.  Don't get me wrong, I despised most of these men, particularly Bush and Romney, and thought they would be terrible for the country.  They stood for beliefs I couldn't have even imagined aligning myself with, and I felt that they also relied on some of the same belief systems that Donald Trump has tapped into, even if they did it without his bombast or rhetroic.  But I never doubted that they were ready for the presidency.  Whether through their decades of experience or with surrounding themselves with a strong team or their strong grasp on the issues of the day, I knew that they respected America's role in the world, that they knew what being president meant to our citizenry and though they would go about it in different ways, they would not put the country in such danger where you worried about the safety of every citizen.

I can't say that with Donald Trump.  I am truly terrified of what he will do with a literal army to back him and access to the nuclear codes.  This is a man who has shown no restraint or ability to grasp complicated situations even when he's clearly trying.  His speeches on foreign policy are a joke, tantamount to him reading off of notecards-he clearly doesn't know what he's talking about, but thinks that he does.  He has no foreign policy experience, and is quite frankly not smart enough to be president.  We've had men who weren't as intelligent as, say, Bill Clinton sit in the White House but they showed a capacity to learn and to grow, which Trump seems incapable of doing, and surely won't be willing to do when he is the "most powerful man on earth."  He is a dangerous, thin-skinned narcissist, someone that openly trades in bigotry, sexism, and lies to try to win people to his side.  And as was witnessed in Brexit, telling people what they want to hear, even when it's clearly not going to happen, still can win you the election.

I worry that I'll never be able to look people I know in the eye in the same way after this election, quite frankly.  I have never voted Republican in my life, but I can respect people who do.  I can respect people who are pro-life, who want a more limited government, who want to rely on a more robust national defense, and who want to embolden the private sector in hopes of creating a more sustainable economy.  But I can't respect someone who voted for Trump, knowing how dangerous he is and the views he espouses.  I finally realized someone who is, in fact, a Trump supporter that I have known in my life and I realized all respect I had for them is lost, probably forever.  I keep thinking about people in my life that are "undecided" or say "they're both the same" and I can feel my opinion of them falling to the point that it won't get back to a place I'll ever really be able to take them seriously.  I imagine that it'll be impossible to forgive them if Trump wins and they decided they couldn't bring themselves to vote for either he or Hillary Clinton.  The election is shaping my opinion of other people in a way I never really thought it would in the past as I prided myself on not being one of "those political junkies," which feels like one of those nasty side effects of partisanship that I felt I was immune to in past elections.

I have said this many times before, but if Kanye West was running against Jeb Bush, I'd vote for Jeb Bush.  I would cry about it, I would hem and haw and pray for a third party candidate, and I would openly weep for the candidates that are placed before me and would count the days until I could stop his reelection, but I'd vote for Jeb Bush because voting for a narcissist who has no grasp on his role in the world is unthinkable to me, and I could not put other people in danger just because I don't personally like a candidate.  I am hopeful that that's still the case for undecideds in this race.  I hope that as the months wear on, and names like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson become more historical footnotes and not real options that people will find their way to casting a valid, valuable vote and not a protest one (because, again, we saw how that turned out in the UK).  I hope that I will eventually rest easy enough in polls that Hillary Clinton is going to win that I will pay attention to down-ballot races and not break out into a nervous panic every time someone brings up the election.

But I'm confident that even if she wins, I'll still have a tinge of "I can't believe you would take that risk" with people who skipped voting, as if that ever sent a message to anybody.  And I know that I will not cry out in celebration when Hillary Clinton is projected the winner, but instead say a silent thankful prayer to God that we averted castrophe.  Donald Trump is a dangerous, dangerous moment in an election that, truly, is the most important of our lifetimes.  This will be an election your grandchildren will ask you how you stood.  You can hate what he's done to our election this year just like myself.  But don't let hatred blind you to your civic duty to vote such an odious man as far away from the Oval Office as possible.  Whatever dislikes you may have for Hillary Clinton, the alternative is far, far, far worse.  

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