As I write this column, the smart money says that Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. And that’s a good thing.
That’s a good thing, but not because I support Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. I do not. It’s a good thing because I can finally do with a clear conscience what I decided to do several months ago. For the first time in my adult life, I will not vote for president.
This is the hardest political decision I’ve ever made. When I turned 18 in 1972, I joined the first teenagers in American history to receive the vote. I was elated. Back then, boys my age were dying in Vietnam but couldn’t cast votes to affect the most unpopular war Americans had ever fought.
I’ve voted in every election since, national, state and local, from president to senator to constable. I’ve even run for local office — a decision not for the fainthearted, even (or perhaps, especially) in a town of 4,200 people.
The reason I won’t vote isn’t because I can’t decide who would make the better president. That’s Hillary, hands down. Donald Trump is a real estate magnate, reality TV host, and bully. Hillary was secretary of state, and a U.S. senator who worked tirelessly (if unsuccessfully) to legislate health care reform. She transformed the role of first lady from ceremonial ribbon cutter to “two for the price of one,” as Bill Clinton promised.
But Hillary is also a serial liar, whose lies are of a breathtaking and unprecedented depth, breadth, and scope. Her husband’s lies were “only” about sex, consensual or otherwise. (The “otherwise” is also called sexual assault, perhaps the one pastime President Clinton shares with Mr. Trump.)
But Hillary’s lies are about national security. From “What difference does it make?” in Benghazi, to her secret home server (I picture her checking e-mails while folding laundry), to those 33,000 classified e-mails that went missing, this woman is not to be trusted. Add to that her demonizing of Bill Clinton’s sexual assault victims, and this champion of women’s rights becomes a champion of one thing only — her “right” to become president.
There, I’ve said it. And now, Gentle Reader, I see your fingers flying across your laptop as you race to tell me that I am a total idiot. Am I ignorant of the fight for Women’s Suffrage? The disgraceful disenfranchisement of African Americans that led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act? The fact that citizens, here and abroad, have died for the right to vote?
My family, friends and acquaintances have been hyperventilating since I’ve shared my decision.
There is the conservative acquaintance who, upon learning I would not vote, yelled, yes, yelled at me, in public, “If Hillary wins, it will be your fault!” (She also expressed her concern that there are an awful lot of non-white people in our community lately. That my Latino son, adopted from Chile, is one of them, did not seem to register.)
Then there’s my favorite cousin, a gifted professor who sees the evil triplets of sexism, racism, and classism lurking behind every door. The media’s criticism of Hillary’s lies is “gendered,” she tells me. Does that mean it’s sexist to call a woman liar a liar?
Finally, there’s my beloved college roommate. We became friends when, in the midst of a campus housing shortage, we shared a triple with another friend. How do three 19-year-old women get along in one tiny room? When one of them keeps her mouth shut. Her political opinions have been a mystery to me ever since. But suddenly, she’s sending me regular e-mails of increasing urgency. “I’m not telling you who to vote for, but please, please, please do not vote for Donald Trump, and please do vote!”
I hear them all, loud and clear. And while I respect their right to their opinions, most of them, I suspect, want me to vote — but only for their candidate.
I believe that the right to vote is sacred. But I believe that the presidency of the United States is, as well. I don’t mean “sacred” in the religious sense, but in the sense that our choice for leader of the Free World should not be a choice for the least horrible. Most folks I know aren’t voting for one candidate as much as voting against the other. That’s nothing new. What is new is that both candidates have by far the lowest negatives in American history. What a tragedy that a free country of 320 million people is stuck with this disheartening choice.
So I will go to the polls on Election Day – but only to vote “down ballot.” Though the new POTUS will hold a victory party, this presidential election will be no victory for the citizens of the United States.