This is not really a message or an argument that I imagine will be terribly relevant to a lot of TPM Readers. But I think it’s an important one to state. We’re now seeing a trickle of high profile Republicans or Republican elected officials announcing that they will not vote for Donald Trump. So far though I’m only aware of one Republican member of Congress or Governor who says they are voting for Hillary Clinton – Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY).
The simple truth is that unless you’re saying who you’re voting for and in practice unless you’re saying you’re voting for Hillary Clinton it’s a cop-out, an effort to distance yourself from Trump on the cheap. In a first-past-the-post electoral system like ours, elections are binary choices.
I do not discount the difficulty of taking this step. Far more than in recent decades, partisan affiliation is deeply tied up with personal and public identity in America. This isn’t just me spitballing. There are numerous studies showing that far more than in the past our partisan affiliation (or more broadly liberal versus conservative political self-definition) affects who we’re friends with, who we’ll date or marry, etc. It has become very basic to how many Americans define who they are. If you’re a Democrat, just imagine if the Democrats had nominated someone who not only had extremist views but was clearly too mentally unstable to be president. How easy would it be for you to vote for say Jeb Bush? I’d figure that for many that would be a hard hill to climb.
But even with all that said, it’s a binary choice. It certainly helps to some degree depriving Trump of a single vote. But by not voting for Clinton you’re also depriving the only person who has a chance to beat Trump of a vote.
Now, this isn’t to say that voting for Gary Johnson is some kind of moral failure. Lots of committed Libertarians have been voting for the Libertarian candidate for decades. But as a way to take a ‘Never Trump’ stand, nope. It doesn’t cut it. Same goes for writing in Mitt Romney, or George H.W. Bush or Unicorn.
I have little doubt that for years into future, probably decades, this election will be seen as a historical testing moment for the country, one people will very much want to say they were on the right side of. For Democrats, this part of it’s easier since they were never going to vote for any Republican. For Republicans and swing voters it’s a different story.
You can’t compare something as vast as the Civil Rights Movement to a single antic election. But I see an analogy here, inasmuch as still decades later countless people who were reliable supporters of Jim Crow still try to pretend that somehow they weren’t. This is that time when the Republican party, one of America’s two major parties going back over 150 years, nominated a white nationalist candidate who beyond abhorrent policy positions is clearly not mentally fit to serve as President. His mental, psychological unfitness for the office is for a million reasons but most tangibly because of the awesome destructive power entrusted, with few if any real checks, to the President in his role as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military with its vast nuclear arsenal. (Thinking it’s a terrible idea or even immoral is not a sufficient reason to refuse a president’s order for a nuclear strike.)
It’s simple. If you really oppose Trump, the danger he poses and what he represents, you need to vote for Hillary Clinton, difficult a step as that may be for many. It’s that simple.