As we stand on the twilight of election eve, my frustration with the pained and privileged “I can’t vote for either candidate” sentiment has reached peak agitation.
When we speak on privilege, we often view it through a white, male, heterosexual lens. But in the context of voting, or not voting in this case, the privileged class suddenly expands to most Americans, be they black, white, Latino, gay, straight and more.
To put it simply, to choose not to vote is a luxury that women, African Americans and countless other minority groups did not historically have the right to. Furthermore, the third-party, moral high-horse vote also lies within that same spectrum because you are making a choice to opt out of the two-party system. In essence, it is a vote of omission.
And when you weigh the risks and consequences of a potentially Trump-leaning election, the implications of “tapping out” are far-reaching.
To be clear, in an election with such high stakes, a vote of omission is dangerous, reckless, and self-serving. And here’s why.
Donald Trump & Secretary Hillary Clinton are inarguably two of the most polarizing presidential candidates in the history of our political system.
The last year of campaigning was cluttered with unprecedented scandals and accusations as the American people watched controversial headline after headline pop up with everything from Benghazi email coverups to p*ssy grabbing.
And while there is fair criticism against both candidates on each side of the aisle, there is only one presidential hopeful who has ridden a campaign of hate onto the highest political platform in the world.
And that’s Donald Trump.
Despite his noted career as a misogynist, xenophobe, tax evader, and racist, many Americans are still looking at this vote as a choice between two evils. So much so, they are opting out of the political process all together or throwing in a third-party candidate vote in a self-righteous show of ‘values.’
I call this sentiment privileged because frankly, if you are a wealthy, Christian, White man, many of the social ills Trump advocates for won’t affect you. A four-year Trump reign could potentially play out with your money, health and social standing remaining relatively untouched.
On the other side of the coin, the implications and dangers of a Trump presidency are real and terrifying for citizens with dual-consciousness as both American and other. The divisive language Trump employed during his campaign encourages a society where Black men and women can be racially profiled on the streets, where Muslim-Americans are seen as ‘radical Islamic terrorists’ and Mexican-American families can be divided with a wall. For these populations, not voting or writing in third party candidate is too risky a bet for us to place our collective futures in.
Or perhaps you are anti the whole two party system–understandably frustrated with both the democratic and republican nominee, so you choose an independent candidate who will not win, but aligns with your values and beliefs. While this decision may feel noble and moral, opting out serves your own short-term self-interests more than it serves this country and its people. I’m sure many liberals, like myself, would love to topple our flawed electoral system and start all over, but realistically, undoing a 227-year-old political infrastructure in one election cycle is a beautiful dream in the face of a harsh reality.
Last, there are some Americans who have fallen into apathy, who say ‘my vote doesn’t matter.’ Yet if that’s true, how do you explain away the history of voter suppression and intimidation tactics used to disenfranchise some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations?
When you are presented with two candidates, one who is more defamed for her husband’s legacy and her private email server (which the FBI found no criminal wrongdoing) and another who unashamedly advocates for racist policy, participates in and excuses sexist jeering, and celebrates xenophobia as a way to make America great again, the choice is clear. The choice may not directly affect you if you are someone who falls into the realm of racial, economic or gender privilege. But for everyone else, we can’t afford not to choose.
One of the big-ticket candidates on the ballot will win. So by tossing this vote to an independent candidate or choosing to withdraw from the process all together to satiate your own sense of self, you are inadvertently harming all women, black men, immigrant populations and impoverished communities and children.
Not making a choice is making a choice. It’s sitting idly in the face of oppression and selfishly choosing yourself.