I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. Here’s a quote from my friend Keryl McCord’s Facebook post that explains why:
So tonight I’m calling bullshit on progressives who still think that voting for, well, you know, Voldemort, is okay for progressives because it isn’t. You may want the system to be destroyed but the dogs of war will be unleashed on black and brown people, on Muslims, gays, and women. And if knowing that you still think that’s an option then you are not progressive, nor an ally. You’re just another foot on the neck of the people you supposedly support.
Let me be clear that it isn’t just Voldemort straight up: a vote for the Green or Libertarian candidate is also a vote for Trump, because it does nothing to close the gap between Trump and Clinton. I’m voting for Hillary because voting for Jill Stein, or any other third-party candidate whose views are closer to my own, would help elect Trump. That would be a disaster for the nation as a whole, and most particularly for the groups Keryl listed, those Trump has called out by name.
I’m voting for Hillary Clinton, and trying to wrap my mind around the political viewpoint that prizes personal ideological purity over disastrous consequences for the vulnerable. I supported Bernie. The Bernie-supporters who say they are voting for Stein or Johnson or even Trump inevitably marshal the same arguments: I have to vote my conscience, I can’t support the lesser or two evils, the system is corrupt, Bernie was cheated, and I can’t stomach being part of it.
It reminds me of a Talmudic inquiry. A question is posed: is it better to give one dollar to charity with a full heart, or ten grudgingly? The self-regarding obsession with purity that flavors so much of contemporary politics has to think hard before answering “One dollar with a full heart.” But really, there’s only one answer. Charity exists to benefit those in need. Ten dollars gives ten times more relief. How you feel about it is your problem. At bottom, it’s a simple act of empathy, valuing others’ interests—especially those who would suffer the consequences of a wrong decision on your part—as much as or more than your own.
There’s only one answer to “how shall I cast my ballot to help avoid the election of Donald Trump?” This is a real-world political decision informed by the actual impact of elections and real awareness of consequences. Whatever else is going on, voting for Hillary is a simple act of empathy for those who would bear the brunt of a Trump regime. How you feel about it is your problem.
I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. All the way to the ballot-box and all the way beyond, I’m pushing as hard as I can to move her policies toward freedom, justice, and equity.
Right after Bill Clinton’s Speech at the Democratic National Convention, a well-respected activist I know (who happens to be Muslim) shared Peter Beinart’s piece in The Atlantic calling out one of the former President’s remarks:
”If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together, we want you.” The problem is in the assumption. American Muslims should be viewed exactly the same way other Americans are. If they commit crimes, then they should be prosecuted, just like other Americans. But they should not have to prove that they “love America and freedom” and “hate terror” to “stay here.” Their value as Americans is inherent, not instrumental. Their role as Americans is not to “help us win” the “war on terror.”
(You’ll find an account of other tweets, posts, and comments on Clinton’s words in this excellent Liberal Islamophobia Companion published by Imagine 2050.)
I shared Beinart’s essay on Facebook with this comment: “If this doesn’t make your blood run cold, substitute the name of any other religious or ethnic group for Muslims here. The candidate should apologize for her husband immediately.”
I got lots of comments, many agreeing. (Someone took me to task, saying Bill Clinton should apologize for himself, but I thought it would be best for the candidate to distance herself from remarks that had given offense).
But there were also long strings of back and forth with commenters I mostly didn’t know, all white men, quite angry at me and asserting Bill Clinton’s positive intentions. He didn’t mean it that way. He was only “responding to the RNC’s rhetoric of hatred.” “We don’t know his intent.” “It is inaccurate to condemn him.”
I kept replying with the same point: “What matters more? Your own judgment of his intentions? Or the actual impact of his statement on Muslims as I am hearing it directly from those affected?” The passionate defenses of Clinton’s positive motives, the repeated assertions that he was only trying to respond to Trump’s vitriol—this was so much a collective repetition of the interpersonal experience of being told “you’re just imagining it.” As a Jew, a woman, the child of immigrants, I have had so many opportunities to experience this type of denial, it rang a too-familiar bell.
It doesn’t matter what the feelings of the charity-giver are; what matters is the help given to the recipient. And it doesn’t matter what Bill Clinton’s intentions were; what matters is the impact of his words on those he was talking about.
I ended up writing the following as my final Facebook comment on the post: “I appreciate these responses, because they have made me reflect on what feels like an important question. What is it that makes asserting the innocence of Clinton’s intentions more important than prioritizing the response of those who have good reason to fear they will not be equally accepted or granted equal human rights in this country? For me, if the people most affected by the comment feel it is necessary to speak out, that suffices to justify a correction. Positive intentions seem to mean very little compared to actual impact.”
None of the angry commenters responded. Just as with the progressives Keryl’s comment addressed, it seems the principle of considering harm—and conversely, Cicero’s ancient question, “Who benefits?”—can’t compete with the need to sustain a self-image of purity.
I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. A big part of the reason I’m doing it is how worried I am about the future of this country when I contemplate the massive failure of empathy on the part of the privileged that is becoming increasingly evident in so many political exchanges. Under Trump, political life would be about fighting to hold the line against further incursions into human rights and freedom. Under Clinton, we’ll be able to continue the great and increasingly widespread work being done to cultivate empathy and social imagination. Often, I have observed, it doesn’t take much to strike a spark of compassion. Just helping someone imagine the consequences of a world without the Golden Rule may sometimes be enough.
Think before you vote, I beg you. If you refuse to vote for Clinton, is your choice expressing the conviction that your self-image is more important than the suffering of countless others? Forget about intent. Imagine someone who belongs to Trumps’s vilified categories—perhaps you’ve brought to mind a Muslim who happens to be African American and lesbian. How might that person perceive your choice? When it comes down to real consequences, which side are you on?
Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics, “It’s About Time.”
I would add one point: A vote for Donald Trump is a vote against the overwhelming science of climate change. Even four years of a Trump presidency could spell disaster for our children and grandchildren, and for the next many generations of humankind, of all colours and all religions and all orientations.
Thank you Arlene, for your clarity.
Thanks, Daniel! So true and so frightening!
The article is excellent, but I wish you hadn’t based your argument on the notion that marginalized people will suffer most from a Trump presidency. There are millions of marginalized people who will not vote for Hillary or at all because they see ways that Hillary will be a danger to them as well and they have no good options. They aren’t voting as a mass and there is diversity of opinion among them.
I happen to agree that Hillary will do less damage, and that impact matters more than our personal feelings or self-image when it comes to who we vote for. I just might consider addressing the points in the article below because they weren’t mentioned in your article. See this for more: http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/youre-not-voting-for-hillary-to-protect-me/
I’m just sharing because I think it will sharpen your argument, but the ‘privilege’ angle has some problems with it. Best!
Thanks, Tim. I made no positive claims for HRC’s virtues. I see her as highly problematic, just not a narcissistic megalomaniac whose statements are packed with overtly racist, sexist, and elitist ideas and is accountable to no one. The messages that led me to write this post came from people of color. Keryl McCord, whom I quoted by name, is African American, for instance, and her post inspired me to write. Of course, there’s no more unanimity in communities of color than among white people, although the numbers so far have favored Hillary by a very significant margin. Look at the Super Tuesday results. ” Clinton won more than 90 percent of black voters in Alabama and Arkansas, according to exit polling. She also won more than 80 percent in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.”
The piece you linked here has basic data interpretation problems (i.e., it counts people who declined to state in the polls as non-voters for Clinton—why?), and in the end, turns on the same point about personal virtue: “at least be fucking honest and stop pretending like you’re some heroic person.” One thing is clear: if you vote for Trump, you make a Trump presidency more likely. If your politics are generally on the left and you sit out the election rather than voting for Clinton, you make a Trump presidency more likely. Unless you’re in a state where this doesn’t matter at all because there’s a 100 percent certainty Clinton will carry the vote, both choices are, in effect, a vote for Trump. I’m hearing from people who think that’s okay, and of course, they have that right. I pray I’m wrong about the difference it will make in their lives.
[…] for whatever rains down under a President Trump empowered by two Republican houses of Congress. (I wrote about it back in July as an empathy deficit, and I stand by that […]