by Delphine Burns
This one goes out to anyone still planning to write in Bernie Sanders’ name on the ballot come November 8. This is for anyone presuming that a vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson is not a vote for Donald Trump, because they wish to exercise their free speech, rebel against the broken system, and teach politicians a lesson. This is for anyone casting any sort of “martyr” vote, or not voting at all, to prove a point rather than elect the next president. Congratulations. You’re standing up for what you believe in, and I respect that immensely. But you’re making a decision with potentially grave consequences, and I desperately need you to hear me out before you proceed.
Have you ever played the game “Would you rather?” You know, “Would you eat a live worm or a dead bug?” The typical person does not want to do either. That’s why it’s a compelling game. The obvious solution is to respond “neither,” but if you do that, you lose. This children’s game is sort of like the 2016 Presidential Election, because if you choose neither, you lose, and so does the rest of the United States.
Thankfully, your choice is easier. Rather than answering the question about the live worm and the dead bug, you’re faced with a decision that more closely resembles a question like, “Would you rather eat a live worm, or a leftover piece of pizza?” Yeah, the pizza’s not fresh out of the oven, but it’s also not a live worm. You don’t get to write in, “I’d like a five-star meal and neither of these,” because at the end of the day the only two objects in front of you are the live worm, and the cold pizza, and you need food to survive. It’s a great privilege to choose a five-star meal rather than the worm or the pizza.
You might be saying to yourself, “but this is a democracy, not an oligarchy! I need my voice to be heard. I need to exercise my right to vote for whomever I choose, not just the lesser of two evils. We need to dismantle the system.”
Yeah, we do need to dismantle the two-party system that for too long has prospered and benefitted from the exploitation of Americans. However, voting in the presidential election will not dismantle the system. Before dismantling it, you must understand it. When people post articles and Facebook statuses about voting third party to “dismantle the system,” it’s evident they lack a basic understanding of the very system they are trying to defeat. You must understand that if you truly would like that system dismantled, you must start voting in local and state elections. You must start writing to your senators and representatives, you must start exercising your right to vote not only when the whole world is watching, but always. To take ownership of your right to democracy is a beautiful thing, but this is not the time to do it.
If you cast a vote for anyone other than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, your vote is for no one but yourself. The reality is that there are only two people in this country that have any shot of being the next President of the United States, and those people are Clinton and Trump. Even though that is not how this election should be, now is not your time to suddenly rise up against the system. Where were you during your local and state elections? If you stayed home for those and are now suddenly interested in revolution, you need to think about your actions and true intentions. If you’re that selfish, be my guest and vote for Jill Stein, but that is a privilege. To vote with only yourself in mind, and not consider the potential impacts of a Donald Trump presidency not only on the United States, but internationally, is one of the greatest exercises of narcissism one can indulge in this November.
Consider for a moment families and individuals who are undocumented and living in the United States. They do not get a voice in this election, yet the oppressive policies of Donald Trump will likely impact them far more greatly than they will impact many voting Americans. In fact, I have spoken to several undocumented people myself who cannot wrap their mind around why anyone would not vote for Hillary Clinton when there’s a chance of a Trump presidency. If for no other reason, cast your ballot for Clinton for those people who do not have voices in this election.
Bernie Sanders himself has endorsed Clinton, not even necessarily because he aligns with every single one of Clinton’s platforms, but because he has some basic knowledge of how the United States political system operates. Politics is more than supporting a candidate that accurately depicts 100 percent of your political views. It is about looking at the potential effects of each administration on society as a whole, and determining what is best. Political participation should not be selfish. It should be insightful, astute, vigilant, and intentional.
Sanders and the millennials who supported his campaign made noticeable political change by shifting Clinton’s policies to the left, and ensuring that millennials are involved in the political process. Now it’s between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
In the 2000 Presidential Election, many voters who would have otherwise supported Al Gore chose instead to vote for third party candidate Ralph Nader to rebel against the binary party system and raise their voice against its injustice. But was voting for Ralph Nader still consoling once George W. Bush got elected rather than Al Gore? Where would we be today if people had not voted for Ralph Nader out of rebellion or discontentment with the system? We don’t know where we would be if not for the George W. Bush presidency, but we have a second chance this election to not mess up again.
If nothing else, check your privilege during this election. Remember whose voices are being heard and whose are being silenced. Remember that unlike undocumented people, you have the privilege to vote for a third party candidate with no likelihood of winning within the current electoral system. When you mark that third party candidate’s name, write in a candidate, or refuse to vote at all, ask yourself what you’re gaining besides your own pride and dignity.
When I was a little kid and didn’t get my first choice of what I wanted, I was taught not to insist on getting it, but to make the best decision given the options I had. If given a choice of a world run by Harry Potter or Voldemort, I’d love to write in Dumbledore’s name. But Dumbledore is gone, and we have to support Harry with all our strength.