One of the insights that comes with age is the recognition that nothing is ever perfect. That recognition is particularly applicable to politics, which is by its very nature combative, messy and endlessly contested.
There is no perfect candidate. No perfect president. No perfect system.
That being the case, I found a recent column from Buzzfeed absolutely “on point.” It was titled “What To Do If You Hate The Democratic Nominee.” It began
After the 2016 election, you promised yourself you’d do everything you can to beat Trump in 2020. You marched and protested, knocked doors in the midterms, wrote postcards to voters, donated to anyone whose video caught your eye, and maybe even got caught up in some ridiculous social media squabbles.
Now the time has finally come. The 2020 election is here, and the Democratic primary is very slowly narrowing, with only a handful of candidates remaining. You’ve been preparing for this for three years, and yet: When you look at the possibilities, you’re deflated. Or maybe you feel it more viscerally: You cannot stomach the idea of casting a ballot for ______, let alone knocking a door for them or giving them money. You know you have a moral responsibility to act, but there is simply no way you can do it on behalf of ________.
Don’t worry. There is another, equally important, way to make a difference this November that won’t require you to fake it through a canvassing shift: Go local.
With your time, money, attention, and most importantly, your vote, you can help beat Trump and build sustainable power for Democrats without ever saying the Democratic nominee’s name.
As the article points out, within an hour of almost every American zip code, there’s an election where a Democrat not running for President can use your help. In some of those states (think Kentucky), your help can really make a difference.
Those down-ballot elections, from Statehouse to “district attorneys, school board, county clerks, tax collector, judges, justices of the peace, and library boards” are incredibly important–more than the lack of media attention might suggest.
Go knock doors for those state and local candidates. Your energy will yield dividends — because the voter contact you do will make a difference for the entire ticket: young people and communities of color, especially, who often feel dismissed or ignored by national candidates, can be more directly energized by local issues and candidates. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which Democratic campaign gets someone to the polls as long as they get there
What about your money–assuming you have some to contribute? Given Citizens United and the prevalence of dark money (which is spent on behalf of even the most anti-money ticket), It probably wouldn’t make all that much difference to the Presidential nominee anyway. But it will matter to candidates for city council and your local statehouse. A lot.
Take whatever money you’d budgeted for beating Trump, and split it in down the middle. Give half of it to local candidates who catch your eye. Give the other half to an organization (or a few) that will exist past Election Day 2020…. Give to organizations that do deep relationship-building in states that a presidential campaign is never going to organize in because the Electoral College doesn’t incentivize it. If you can afford to, make your donation recurring and plan to let it run into 2021.
So what about that Presidential vote? Should you work for those local candidates and then refuse to vote for President? Or write in someone you’d prefer? That’s your right, after all.
But especially if you’re a person with any kind of privilege, you have a responsibility to think beyond your self-interest. This election is about the most vulnerable among us who need you to be an ally.
This election is also for the soul of America.
Every vote against Donald Trump is a vote against racism, misogyny, autocracy and incompetence. No matter how much you dislike the eventual candidate, no matter how imperfect he (we know it will be a “he”)is, he will be immeasurably better than the mentally-ill criminal who daily disgraces the Oval Office.