According to a poll taken by the American Psychological Association, 52 percent of Americans polled said that the presidential election is a “significant source of stress” in their lives. As one American who has been stressed out by the most tumultuous election in my lifetime, I am surprised that more Americans have not been driven to the brink of insanity. We have unpopular candidates; an angry and divided nation; discredited institutions; a mistrusted press; and social media that brings out the worst in people.
Though previous elections were not without controversy or scandal, they tended to remain in the background of our lives until Election Day (unless, of course, we were involved in a campaign). Today the 24-hour media keeps bombarding us with the crimes, follies and misfortunes of candidates, their families, staff and allies, until we are sick and tired of it. To run for office means having your life dissected by a basket of deplorables (to quote one of Hillary Clinton’s most unfortunate phrases) who spout their hatred on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat under the cover of anonymity. Whoever is elected president on Nov. 8 will be hated by half the population, who with their supporters in office will try to make her administration a living hell.
Faced by such an unsavory prospect, it is no surprise that many voters, especially Millennials, have given up on the whole mess. What’s the point of voting, they argue, if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are equally bad; and minority candidates Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Evan McMullin have no chance of winning? Though I may sympathize with Millennial angst, having gone through it myself four decades ago, I truly believe that not voting is the wrong thing to do, for several reasons. First, voting is our duty, as citizens of these United States. There are many people in many countries (and even a few here) who wish they could vote. Second, there are other races that deserve our attention, and our vote. Third, those who think that Clinton and Trump are equally bad and equally unqualified are wrong. Clinton has her faults, from her email fiasco to her alleged used of her job as Secretary of State to promote her husband’s foundation. But Clinton at her worst is nowhere as bad as Trump, whose business record, personal history and off-the wall opinions make him completely unqualified to be president.
Trump brings out the worst in people. Clinton brings out the best in people. Clinton’s running mate is Tim Kaine, not the most exciting person alive but a dedicated public servant. Trump’s running mate is Mike Pence, a Religious Right stalwart and the most anti-LGBT governor outside of North Carolina. Clinton voters are mostly good people, who are appalled by the prospect of a Trump presidency. Trump voters, though not all “deplorable,” are infected with the virus of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, germs that will infect our body politic if Trump is elected president.
As a Baby Boomer, I regret the mess that our generation made when we took over. I hope Millennials and others do not make their own mess by not voting. Voting is important and it is essential. If we vote and win, we can congratulate ourselves on a job well done. However, even if we vote and lose, at least we did the right thing.