Okay–I have to get this off my chest.
Dana Milbank said it best, in a recent column in the Washington Post:
Moderates and reasonable Republicans who are considering voting for Trump portray it as a choice between two unpalatable options. But it isn’t. It’s a choice between one unpalatable option and one demagogue who operates outside of our democratic traditions, promoting racism, condoning violence and moving paranoia into the mainstream. This presidential election, unlike the six others I have covered, is not about party or ideology. It’s about Trump’s threat to our tradition of self-government.
More recently, Thomas Friedman made a similar point in a column for the New York Times.
Anyone who says it doesn’t matter whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton wins this election needs their head examined. The damage that Trump could do to our nation with his blend of intellectual laziness, towering policy ignorance and reckless impulsiveness is in a league of its own. Hillary has some real personal ethics issues she needs to confront, but she’s got the chops to be president.
These and a number of similar opinion pieces are efforts to get through to people who dislike both major-party candidates and insist that they intend to “vote their consciences” and avoid “dirtying” themselves, by opting for a third-party candidate.
Let’s “get real,” as the kids might say. No third-party candidate has even the remotest chance of winning. (And if, by some unimaginable chance, one did, they couldn’t govern from outside America’s a two-party system; like it or not, that’s the reality within which we operate.) Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.
Here’s my message to those who are planning to “vote their consciences.”
You may think that casting a “wasted” vote makes you virtuous, but the reality is that every non-Clinton vote cast in November helps Donald Trump.
I realize that many people detest Hillary Clinton. I am not one of the Clinton haters, and I have my own opinions about the source of the intense animus people feel for her, but I am not going to waste blog space arguing about “Hillary hate.” I am going to argue that those who hate her should hold their noses and vote for her anyway.
Even if most of the accusations thrown at Hillary Clinton were true, that would mean she’s not much different from other, similarly flawed politicians–several of whom have occupied the Oval Office. As libertarian P.J. O’Rourke put it when he declared he’d be voting for Clinton, “she’s wrong, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”
Donald Trump, on the other hand, really does represent an existential threat, not just to American values, the Constitution and the rule of law, but to the world. The thought of someone as ignorant, venal, thin-skinned and volatile having his finger on the nuclear button should be enough to make sane people shudder. (It has certainly had that effect on virtually every living high-ranking member of the defense community, both Republican and Democratic.)
The identity of Trump’s core supporters–the racists, misogynysts, anti-Semites and xenophobes who have crawled out from under their rocks to cheer him on–should give pause to anyone willing to narrow the margin by which America rejects him.
In 1991, Trump supporter and Klansman David Duke ran for Governor of Louisiana against Edwin Edwards, who had faced two racketeering trials before being acquitted in 1986. Edwards won, after a campaign featuring a popular and memorable bumper sticker reading “Vote for the Crook. It’s important.”
I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton is a crook, or anything close to it. But even if you do believe that, you should vote for her.