Sunday, October 30, 2016

It's Clinton or Trump: The Choice is Yours

Okay, I've had it.  We need to talk America.  We are now nine days out from an election that, let's be honest, we're all sick to death of at this point.  We want it to be over.  We have all seen the 2016 memes-perhaps the Mayans got it four years late?-and have made the jokes about how sick to death of these two candidates we are, and why can't we have better nominees?  Some of us, myself included, are clinging to every early vote report or pol that comes out with some sense of hope or impending doom, thinking that our actual lives depend on the outcome of this election, because, well, they probably do.

And that's where I want to start this conversation.  This is not, as the media would have you believe with their continual and conventional reporting, an average election.  The candidates in this race are not equal.  And I'm not talking, in this case, about their politics.  In the past, one could argue that one candidate was slightly better than the other and that you should vote for whichever one reflected your issues better.  Who would make it easier for you to find work, better aid your family, implement social changes that better reflected your religious or personal beliefs, but this year is different.

The Democrats, for better or worse, have nominated a candidate who largely fits that mold of a traditional standard-bearer.  She is a conventional candidate, someone who reflects most of the Democratic Party's beliefs.  Yes, she's a little more conservative on some issues (specific economic and foreign policies), and more liberal on others (immigration, for example) than your average Democratic voter, but by-and-large she's pretty much your standard candidate.  She's held public office, she's well-versed on political issues, and is someone that would be as prepared as a person can be to be president.  Like all politicians, she's not infallible.  She has endured some controversies, some manufactured (Vince Foster), some self-inflicted (the email scandal), and some guilt-by-association (Monica Lewinsky).  But every politician of this level has endured scandals, and nothing on this list approaches something akin to Watergate or even Iran-Contra or a scandal of that magnitude.  Just relatively run-of-the-mill scandals we've come to expect from presidential candidates and their subordinates.

So on the Democratic side we have a relatively normal candidate.  You can spit vitriol about her all day long, and deal in Breitbart-fueled talking lines about her emails or Benghazi, but the reality is that in the former, the FBI didn't uncover any prosecutable offense, and James Comey's ill-planned announcement on Friday has basically been proven since then to have no connection, even if it's new evidence, to Clinton herself (and quite frankly could just be duplicative of emails they've already seen), and in the latter it's a tragedy that has been proven through countless congressional hearings that she did nothing criminal.  Both of these controversies have seen exhaustive, some would say redundant, investigation by Republicans who were salivating at the prospect of pinning something on Clinton, but the reality is that there wasn't anything to pin-if there were, they would have found it.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is not a typical candidate.  I would never have voted for Ronald Reagan or either George Bush or John McCain or Mitt Romney, but I never feared for my personal safety as a result of them becoming president.  Trump is different, and it's time we truly acknowledge that, because treating him as a status quo, sideshow attraction is what got us into this mess in the first place.  Donald Trump has repeatedly, constantly shown a casual disregard for any person that is not a straight, white man, to a haunting degree.  He has called Mexicans rapists and murderers, called women dogs and pigs, attacked American soldiers and their families, and has called African-Americans thugs who live in crime-ridden hellholes.  He has shown no interest in learning the nuances of a foreign and domestic policy that shapes the lives of billions of people, including yours and your family's.  He reduces every complicated issue to its bluntest point-is this good for me, or does this person like me-and attacks accordingly, without any sense of how it will impact other people around him.  This is a man who has stated, point blank, that he would consider sending a nuclear bomb to Europe, and that we should let more and more countries have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.  He has shown a flagrant disregard for America's interest abroad, saying that he would end NATO, therefore threatening or eliminating our alliances with stalwart American friends Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, not to mention giving up our position in Turkey.  He has sided, repeatedly, against even his own running-mate and almost all American military advice in places like Syria and in his relationship with Vladimir Putin.  He has shown a flagrant disregard for the first amendment, stating that media organizations that mock him should be eliminated and he has barred major newspapers and media outlets from his rallies; indeed, he encourages violence at his rallies against the media, and some of the most haunting videos you'll see from this election shows the vitriol and violent hate that his supporters spew at journalists.  He has categorically stated, despite the judicial process having already been done and finding no wrongdoing, that he would jail his political opponent were he elected, and has asked for a foreign power to investigate her and try to sway the campaign, which, in turn, it appears he has succeeded in as both the email hackings and Wikileaks have exclusively focused on the DNC and the Clinton campaign, rather than anything related to the GOP.

The media, desperate in the face of years of pressure of being called biased, doesn't know how to react to such a man, trying to equate him to Clinton on a baser level even though that's next-to-impossible.  As a result of this, you have heard Clinton's email scandal, which at worst at this point was bad judgment from a politician that, after decades of being harangued by the Republican Party over controversies that had little to do with her (Vince Foster, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky), has become increasingly private, and seen it equated with Donald Trump literally bragging about sexually-assaulting women against their will.  Let that sink in for a second-a man who repeatedly brags about sexually predatory behaviors could be the next president.

I wish it was hyperbole to say this, but it's not: this is the sort of thing that happens in dictatorships.  This is, in fact, how dictatorships start, and if you scoff, most dictatorships also start with a lot of "that could never happen here" type mentalities.  I don't like saying this-it makes me deeply uncomfortable to say this, in fact, but it's time we look at what is actually being said and not what we wish was happening in this election.  We look at Donald Trump as a man that is silly, because his views we see as silly.  We make excuses for him-no one could possibly believe the things that he says, and his opponent is someone we have been taught through his rhetoric is a bad person, someone with "evil in her heart."  The reality is that Donald Trump repeatedly, flagrantly, unabashedly plays upon people's fears with lies and rhetoric used to marginalize some by appealing to the minority.  The things he says have never been said by someone so close to the White House, and we assume because his successors were good men who had America's interests of freedom and liberty as the basic tenets of their beliefs, that he must be being misunderstood.

But Donald Trump doesn't get the benefit of the doubt here, and you can't wish him away by trying to make him seem better than he is.  Trump's comments show not a willingness to work to ensure a better future for all people and having America's best interests at heart, but someone who is willing to say anything to win power, and to trade in bigotry, hatred, and a casual disregard of the law in order to win favor with his most ardent of supporters.  Believing that he won't do the things he says, destroying America's image abroad and potentially putting the lives of our fellow countrymen and our children at stake for the next four years to inflate his ego and power, is something that only a naive person can look at this election and proclaim isn't on the ballot.  Trump must be stopped-this isn't an election where you get to count on America still looking the same for you if he wins, because it's not.  This is, in fact, the most important election of your lifetime because it is shaping the future of the country in a way that we haven't seen in decades, if not centuries.  It might be the most important election since 1964, or perhaps 1860, a once-in-a-generation decision over whether or not freedom is important to you, or whether you are willing to give up your freedom to a strong-armed con man who is only out for his own self-interest.

And the only way, the only way, to do that is to vote for Hillary Clinton.  Republicans who look at that sentence and look away, I have stated repeatedly that I get your pain.  I could chastise you and point out that 71% of America didn't vote in the primaries, so in some ways this is your own party choosing what to do, but I do understand it.  I would be horrified to vote for Jeb Bush or John Kasich-they stand against almost every tenet I believe in, and it would be with a heavy heart that I would give away four year's worth of issues that I am so passionate about, but I would do it.  If the future of the safety of my family, my children, and the world were at stake, which it is here, I would do it, and would have no regrets because I could look myself in the mirror the next morning and know that I stopped a demagogue from taking the White House.  I wouldn't like it, and no one's asking you to like it, and I would campaign as much as humanly possible for Democrats down-ballot to keep a check on the Republican president, but I'd do it.

Third-party choices are not an option this year, because Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Evan McMullin are not going to be president.  That's a fact-polling has repeatedly, consistently shown that they won't be president.  Even in a year with an erratic number of polls that show a cornucopia of solutions, none of these three have polled higher than single digits in more than 1-2 states.  Voting for them may appease your inner turmoil, but it does nothing to stop Trump.  In fact, it makes the bar lower for him to win.

And not voting is not acceptable.  If you're legally able to vote, you're an adult, and adults sometimes have to make difficult decisions, sometimes decisions that they don't like making.  Not voting in an election like this, where America's future is at stake, is an act of pusillanimity.  It makes you a coward.  You cannot hide behind the idea that both candidates are equal, or you don't feel informed enough to vote, or that you don't have the time.  Men and women have died over the past 200 years in the hopes that when a moment like this comes, you step forward and defend their memory by voting against someone who shows a flagrant disregard for the Constitution.  In four years, we will hopefully have a return to normalcy-a campaign between two competing visions that have America's best interests at heart, but different maps on how to get there.  Those who wanted to support the Democrat will support the Democrat, and those who wanted to support the Republican will support them, and those who see a vision of an independent candidate can support them without fear that our way-of-life is sacrificed in the process.  But this is not that election.  It is either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  On Election Day, unless you go into a ballot box and check Hillary Clinton's name for president, you are responsible if Donald Trump becomes president, whether or not you actually cast a ballot for him.  You own everything that happens to the world as a result of his presidency.  You don't get to look in your mirror and say "I did what I could to stop hatred from winning."  Because you didn't.

Edmund Burke once said "that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  On November 8th, you get a chance to either do something good, or to do nothing.  The choice is yours.

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