Before I outline my thoughts and feelings on voting for Hillary Clinton this upcoming election, I first want to share my love and appreciation to one Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders gave the progressive movement a voice and a leader. For his entire career he has fought valiantly for progressive ideals, acting way ahead of his time and colleagues in terms of social and economic consciousness. In my thus far young life, I hadn't had the privilege of truly loving and supporting a candidate with all my heart before Bernie ran for president. It was an honor and privilege to vote for him at caucus, and I value the experience of following and supporting his cause, seeing his speech when he came to Utah, and watching him continue to do the work he has always done.
Thank you, Bernie. Your fight will continue on.
It should be clear that in my heart I am with Bernie all the way. But the reality is, he didn't win the primary and decisions had to made on what to do next. I have been pondering what I should do and what I would do ever since Bernie announced his support for Hillary. It's not an easy task to settle for someone when the person for whom you could enthusiastically vote has been beat after a long and arduous campaign. But after much deliberation, I find voting for Hillary will not be settling. Instead, it is the next necessary step in fighting the good fight that so many Bernie supporters have been a part of.
Hillary is the best chance we have at improving our democracy and improving the lives of Americans. She may not be ideal to the average Berner, but a vote for her is a step forward, not a step back.
I want to address the many people considering a vote for a third or alternative party this November. I want you to know, I understand it. I understand and respect not wanting to vote for what you view as the lesser of two evils, and I appreciate the courage it takes to cast that kind of vote. However, I must opine that, especially for this election, it is folly.
Toppling the two-party system is a worthy goal, but it's not going to happen by November. It won't happen by then because drastic change like that happens from the ground up. It happens in local elections, gathering support and familiarity on a small scale that grows into something bigger. That is how Bernie became so successful. Though he ran on a Democrat ticket for president, he is an Independent. He's spent decades doing the work and we came incredibly close to electing and Independent to the highest office in the land. But, the two-party system still exists. To topple it, vote Independent and Green and Libertarian in local elections. In fact, don't wait for someone to come along for whom you can vote, run yourself! The next four years are ripe for changing the system--but only if we maintain our passion and do the work. Only if we make compromises along the way and recognize that while the current system is flawed and frustrating and inconsistent with many things we value, at least it is a recognizable system that has resulted in tremendous change before. If Trump wins, who knows what he will do? I'm not alone in thinking HE doesn't even know what he'll do. That is not a workable framework for progress--that is only chaos. The sad fact of our current system is, any vote that doesn't go to Hillary ultimately helps Trump, and Trump is without question the worst thing that could happen for progressive ideals, for liberty, for this nation.
Like me, you may not admire Hillary with the same fervor with which you supported Bernie. You might disagree with her policies or things she's done. But look at the good she HAS done. Hillary has coherent plans. Hillary respects human life and values diversity. Hillary isn't dripping with racism, xenophobia, or misogyny. Hillary has a track record that includes plenty of good works for America's children. Hillary has been breaking barriers her entire career. Hillary is full of hope instead of hate and fear.
And that brings me to the last two weeks of conventions. I am utterly grateful the Democratic convention followed the Republican convention. At the end of last week, I was morose and absent of hope. Not because I believed the hateful nonsense that spewed from the GOP, but because it was so hateful, and was met with such enthusiasm. Every word was some mixture of hate, fear, and untruth. The GOP convention was emotional terrorism and yet everyone in that crowd cheered with unadulterated glee. It didn't matter that the speakers spoke lies. It didn't matter that American ideals were quashed in favor of authoritarianism, fear, and a revocation of liberty. It was terrifying to behold, and I spent all week listening to Harry and the Potters and watching Harry Potter movies to help me cope. I also spent the week mentally preparing myself to do whatever it takes to fight fascism in the event Trump wins, even if that includes making a human barricade at the Mexican border or being arrested for harboring "illegal" Muslims or standing with any other group Trump has spit upon.
That is how my week ended after the GOP convention.
The Democrat convention on the other hand, was nothing but hope. Michelle Obama won the first night and reminded us that America is already great and that, "when they go low, we go high." President Obama once again inspired us with hope and unity, telling us, "Don't boo. Vote." And, whether you're a Hillary supporter or not, whether you're Republican, Democrat, Independent, or otherwise, history was made at the Democrat convention. For the first time in America's history, a major party has nominated a woman for president. And Hillary herself said one of the most remarkable and plain truths I have ever heard from a politician: "...Simply caring is not enough. To drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws. You need both understanding and action."
Watching the Democrat convention I realized, I don't have to be 100% behind Hillary, but I sure can support a party so full of hope and so willing to welcome Americans of all stripes. That isn't to say I think the Democrat party is without flaws, or that if Hillary is elected it will be a walk in the park for progressivism. No, we still have to do the work. But to start with hope, which Brené Brown calls a conscious choice, is without question a better place than fear and hate.
And now, my fellow Bernie fans, I know your pain. I teared up the day he endorsed Hillary and teared up again when the DNC emails were leaked. I have never encountered a politician I could so easily and fully admire. It breaks my heart that his run did not end with him as the nominee. However, Bernie is only one person. He broke our silence and uplifted our voices, but he is not the movement. He lost the election, but his fight isn't over. He will continue to do the work he's done his entire career, and if we as his supporters really feel the burn (note the intentional change of spelling on 'burn'), we can't boo and give up just because he lost. We have to take what he's given us and keep moving forward--fight alongside him with the movement he led. To me, that means voting for Hillary.
I know plenty of Bernie fans are using the same argument to vote third party, and I respect that--I understand it. But, like President Obama said in his convention speech, this isn't a normal election. Every vote that doesn't go to Hillary ultimately goes to Trump. We don't know what Trump would do, but you can bet he wouldn't work with you on progressive goals.
Bernie gave us so much, and one of those things is a highly progressive Democrat platform. He held out on his support for Hillary long enough to ensure she adopted some of the ideals and plans we are fighting for. He have us the power to hold her accountable, and you can be sure he will also hold her accountable.
As much as we want Bernie or a third party, at this moment in American politics, the only true way forward is through Hillary.
And finally, to my Republican friends: I invite you to join me in voting for Democrat this November. I know you don't want to, but I also know so many of you abhor Trump. As much as you dislike Hillary, we can't open the door to fascism. We disagree on so many policies and how things should be done, but I hope we can agree on that stark reality. Trevor Noah put it simply: the worst thing Hillary could do is be a bad president, which is something we as a nation have dealt with before. We'll survive. A fascist braggart is a different story altogether.
We need truth, we need leadership, we need respect and actual plans, and we need to maintain the positive relationships the U.S. has developed abroad. We cannot have a president who invites Russia to digitally invade us, or who at every turn infringes on First Amendment rights. We cannot have a president who mocks our citizens and allies. We cannot have a president whose primary accomplishment is acting like a buffoon and degrading everything we value as Americans.
Please, vote Democrat. We can fight and debate until the proverbial cows come home about policy, but we cannot relinquish our American soul to a fascist.
And so, after days and weeks of pondering and reading and questioning, I'm with Her. I can comfortably cast my vote for Hillary, complete with plans to hold her accountable for progressive works. And I will also cast my vote for progressives at every stage of government, working to make Congress a functioning body again, and my local government one that reflects liberty and progress.
Bernie made us feel the Bern, now it's time to take that and keep moving. Nothing is perfect, but we can move forward with hope and passion. Only then, will America become the nation it needs to be.