For a long time I’ve been complaining to myself, about every four years or so, of having to choose between the evil of two lessers. Over the course of my life, my politics have been all over the spectrum, from Democrat in my youth (think McCarthy and McGovern), to a 40-year stint of drinking the GOP Kool-Aid (I still think Reagan had the best interests of the nation at heart, but Cheney & Co. put an end to my straight-party history), to Libertarianism (too close to narchy for comfort), and back to the Dems since 2008, because like many Americans, I really was hopeful for some change, particularly in the economic arena.
While I don’t agree with all his politics or agenda, our current President has had a pretty good run if you look at the numbers. Those on the evangelical right tend to see him as Satan incarnate, the enemy of all righteousness, attacking foundations of “moral America” with jackhammers and wrecking balls, but despite what the John Birch Society would have you think, no religious code is enshrined in the Constitution; morals remain, thanks to the First Amendment, a matter of personal choice and personal accountability.
Bernie Sanders was the first real breath of political fresh air I have experienced on the national stage in my entire life. I worked for him, I stumped for him, I contributed my $3.00 (several times over, if the truth be known), I was a caucus captain for him in Maine, and I was really hoping for someone in the White House who would pay less attention to politics or private interests than those who have occupied that seat of power during my sojourn on earth.
Now those hopes have been extinguished, and once again I am left to choose between two people whose politics I do not endorse, and must choose the lesser evil. Or perhaps not.
Donald Trump is a caricature of all that is wrong with politics, a real-live Oliphant cartoon (I deeply regret this great commentator’s gentle slide into retirement, especially during this circus of an election season), Tammany Tiger in the flesh, the ghosts of Leona Helmsley, Imelda Marcos, and Joseph McCarthy brought back to life in one horrible package of xenophobic one-percentism. The prospect of a Trump presidency terrifies me, and the thought that a fraction of this country approaching 50% thinks he would be good for this country leaves me with cold sweats.
Despite my own feelings, I have a huge circle of friends who support both Trump and the GOP, and there are parts of their fears and frustrations that resonate with me. The “giant sucking sound” Ross Perot referred to with regards to American jobs – not to Mexico, as it turned out, but rather to Asia – is of deep concern. The rotting factories of America, the economic terror that is snapping at the heels of a far-too-great segment of our nation’s families, the social unrest, and a general trend in our country toward an “anything goes” outlook are valid concerns in the minds of many people. The growing fear of Islamic extremism is a real phenomenon; remembering that the enemy of freedom is not Islam but rather extremism of all stripes and ignorance has become ever more difficult since 9/11, an event that scarred my soul and twisted my Weltanschauung despite my being aware that it did so. But championing trickle-down economics and outright jingoism and fear-mongering are not the answers to these pressing problems, and these are precisely the principles upon which Donald Trump has built his campaign.
On the other side of the aisle we have Hillary Rodham Clinton, part of the “Buy one, get one free” package that we inherited under the presidency of her husband. During the Billary days, there was a joke circulating that was so cruel and petty that I can’t repeat it here, but it underscored the notion that both Bill and Hillary were crooked and dishonest. It’s worth considering that much of the “crooked Hillary” rhetoric that seems to have become part of the American psyche could be the result of a decades-long smear campaign by her opponents on the right, but for good or ill it has affected me. I don’t know if I trust her to act ethically and honestly for the good of America’s citizenry, and that’s admitting freely that as a person, I don’t know her from Adam’s off ox. The Clinton presidency appears to be settling on the positive side of the historical ledger, but the moral lapses of our 42nd president, followed by the web of deceit and duplicity that followed, add to the general feeling that having this team back in the White House will do more good for them than for us.
Coming back to Bernie Sanders, there is a segment of his constituency who have adopted the “Bernie or Bust” philosophy… and I understand that as well. My franchise under the Constitution is precious, and casting a ballot for someone I don’t support seems like squandering that franchise. I supported Bernie so fervently that it seems folly not to ignore the dominant candidates and cast my ballot for him as a write-in, or vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein to bolster third-party strength. But that’s not the attitude that Bernie himself has adopted; he’s a career politician, has stayed on message for over 3 decades, and he understands clearly that politics makes strange bedfellows.
From where I stand, Senator Sanders’ support for Hillary at this time is an effort to make the best of a less-than-optimal situation. Even his decision to run as a democrat was a calculated political move, and one that paid greater dividends in the long run than having run as an independent might have done. I like what he stands for. He has a lifetime in the political trenches. I trust him. And if he’s asking his supporters to support the Democratic candidate at this point in time, it makes sense that I do so now.
From a faith-based standpoint, I should be on the far right. I believe that there are certain standards of conduct that, if followed, will bring greater overall happiness to mankind than the alternatives. But I am also a fervent supporter of free agency which I see as the core principle of our earthly probation; the whole concept of “I don’t believe in eating cake, so you may not have any either” just doesn’t fly with me. As a result, the efforts of the Christian right to impose morality on the nation by political activism is just as worrisome as the jihadis who would impose Islam on the world by the sword.
So there’s the dilemma. I can’t just stay home and not vote, because that would be an insult to those who dedicated their lives to creating a republic where my franchise is guaranteed. I can’t really justify voting Libertarian or Green, because neither party has a hope of winning in the general election, and I can’t write Bernie in for the same reason, as much as I would love to see him at the helm of state. I can’t vote GOP, because the Republican Zeitgeist at this moment in time seems to revolve around a world that works for the rich, the few, and the holy.
Yes, I think there has been a lot of jiggery-pokery in the political process this year, perhaps more than in the past. I think the DNC basically shafted Bernie and his supporters with a cactus, and that the game was essentially rigged from the start. But in the end analysis, I have to ask myself “Which party’s ideals intersect most strongly with my own?”
The answer, for myself, is clear. I will vote for Hillary in November, not because she is the lesser evil but because I believe she will accomplish the greater good. But in the meantime, I will continue to work for and support candidates at the local and congressional level who support the ideals that Bernie Sanders offered the nation: equal opportunities for all, a political process free of corporate money and influence, universal healthcare, universal human dignity, and – in the words of R. Buckminster Fuller – “making the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”
The Old Wolf has spoken.