October 14, 2016

Voting, the direction of the country, and those left behind

Voting, the direction of the country, and those left behind

This is my one political post about the 2016 election in the United States. I used to write a lot more about politics on my blog. Part of the reason I don’t is they way that our online lives have changed—I now share and talk more politics on social media. Part of it is that my blog is a more “permanent” home to thoughts and ideas, and elections are more ephemeral, they come and go. But starting today, there’s a run of states with deadlines to register to vote, so I wanted to weigh in.

First of all, if you’re not registered, you need to. Who leads our nation is very important. But don’t forget, there’s all kinds of other positions besides president on the ballot. This is your opportunity to determine who represents you at every level of state and federal government, to weigh in on judges and propositions and other issues. If you don’t vote, you can’t really complain when you’re not happy with the results. You didn’t do your part.

But you can’t just register to vote. Democracy only works if we have an educated electorate. So register to vote, and then read up on the candidates and the issues. Learn how government works, what the various roles are that the candidates are applying for. What the repercussions of the various ballot proposals are. Don’t listen to TV ads, read news and analysis and think for yourself. You know what happens when uneducated people vote with their emotions rather than their brains? Trump.

If you follow me on social media, you already know I support Hillary Clinton. If not, let me direct you to John Scalzi’s endorsement of Secretary Clinton, which basically says everything I would say, and I cosign every word he wrote. I am someone who votes for Republicans and Democrats. I think for myself and don’t vote party lines. But Trump is not a candidate. He is a bigoted, self-obsessed, boorish, sexist disaster in designer shoes. That’s why none of the pundits gave him a chance—they are educated voters, and assumed that others would see him as a fraud. But an uneducated electorate believed his dog and pony show, and now that his campaign is imploding even those who didn’t want to face that fact are beginning to run out of excuses.

In some ways, his candidacy might have some positive effects on society. By becoming the darling of the openly racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic, he has brought those issues front and center. As much as we would like to think that we as a society are progressing past those ugly hatreds, they still burn hot. Now that a major candidate for president has been outed as a sexual predator who uses racist and sexist language, maybe that has brought the issues mainstream enough that we can take an honest look at what it’s going to take to get to where we want and need to be as a society, and to actually start taking steps to get there.

But not everyone who supports Trump is racist or stupid. Trump appeals to a rural, mostly white, mostly male, undereducated segment of the population that has been increasingly left behind by globalization and urbanization. They see their towns decaying and their jobs and opportunities drying up and all the attention going to the cities, all the economic growth and vitality happening elsewhere, and that’s real and scary. The issues that most candidates talk about don’t resonate with them. But Trump addressed their issues.

However, so did Bernie Sanders. He also wanted to make sure that the least had opportunities and hope. The difference between Sanders and Trump—well, besides absolutely everything about them—is that where Trump is all hot air trying to gin people up and tell them what they want to hear so that he can be coronated king for his own ego, Sanders has spent a lifetime actually trying to help people. So that’s my suggestion for the rural community: vote for Hillary, and join Sander’s Our Revolution group. Even if you feel Hillary isn’t your candidate, and doesn’t care about you, Sanders will hold her to her campaign pledges. And she owes him, she’ll listen.

I worry about violence after the election, that the racists and those left behind will be so ginned up that they’ll start shooting each other. But the answer is education, is learning how the system works, is paying attention, and making sure your nominees represent the kind of people you really want them to be. Sure, Trump truly represents a certain type of person, but there’s not enough of them to be the nominee without a lot of help from party-line zombie voters. Register to vote, but don’t be a zombie. Vote with your brain, and make this a more compassionate, functioning society for everyone in it.

Thanks for reading this far, and now back to more fun stuff.