Dear Jacob, This is your first Presidential election, and I know you understand the importance of your vote – especially since you’re casting your ballot from college in Ohio rather than in Massachusetts. You, as did so many of your Oberlin classmates and other millennials, voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. The Vermont Senator is about the same age as your grandparents but spoke up on issues that really matter for you and your friends: student debt, climate change, health care for all, economic and social inequities, and avoiding war. Not that your grandparents lacked concern. We mostly just doubted Bernie’s ability to make it all happen and, in the process to pay for his programs. The question today is: given the choice you now face, what do you do with your all-important vote on November 6.
Many millennials are mulling a third party vote or, worse, not voting at all. I’m deeply relieved to learn that you and many of your friends understand that there are really only two of the four candidates who can win the Presidency and that there is a real possibility that the winner will be Donald Trump. This must not happen, which is why Bernie is out campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Bernie knows we can’t have a leader of the free world who is a pathological liar; whose temperament is so volatile that having possession of the nuclear code presents a clear and present danger at home and around the world; whose core values are racist, homophobic, misogynistic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim. Look at The Washington Post editorials this week on the great dangers Donald Trump can do as Chief Executive without regard to who controls Congress.
I acknowledge that Hillary is also seen as lying, and is disliked and distrusted by a majority of the American people, nearly as much as Trump. But there is no equivalency here. Of the four candidates, she is the only one with the temperament, experience and intelligence to serve as President. It’s why newspapers across the country, even papers that have never endorsed a Democrat, have endorsed a Democrat this year.
Of course millennials are fed up with Washington gridlock and the traditional way of doing (or not doing) the work of the people. (So are we.) Hillary is seen as the status quo, which, when you think of it, is odd for the first potential woman President in the centuries since the country’s founding. Casting a vote for anyone other than Hillary is either voting for a man totally unfit to be President, another woman (Jill Stein) who, despite superficially acceptable positions on some issues, appears ditsy and not a credible candidate, or former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate.
At first blush, Johnson would seem to be a reasonable alternative as a protest vote. Libertarians say they are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. So are we. But look at the implications of his party’s platform. He opposes the income tax, so that means no money for education, health care, housing, Social Security, infrastructure. He opposes the minimum wage as well as government action on climate change. When he campaigns, he often seems befuddled by well-known facts (“What is Aleppo?”), can’t name a single world leader whom he admires and displays perplexing behaviors (like talking with his tongue outside his mouth) when being interviewed. Why waste your vote on someone like that when every vote counts to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.
Please spread the word, Jacob. Add it to your pre-election day to-do list. It’s easy, especially for a first-time voter, to lament having to choose among flawed candidates. Papa and I have learned over a lifetime we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Democracy often means that, if the choices aren’t perfect, we can’t walk away.
It might be easy to take a pass and head for the library, class or Frisbee field rather than become engaged in the campaign and go to the polls. But the stakes have never been greater for the lives you and your friends will lead long after Papa and I are gone.
We love you, and, by the way, the popcorn is on the way.
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