blue is the warmest color (abdellatif kechiche, 2013)
music friday: david johansen

why i left my ballot blank for president

I’ve written and deleted this post a dozen times over the past several weeks. On occasion, I’ve constructed it as a Facebook post, only to delete that, as well.

Recently, a friend wrote, “I swear, this presidential campaign has caused me to lose respect for people for whom I had no respect before.” I took me awhile to wrap my brain around that one ... at first, I misread it and thought the friend had lost respect for people he admired, but once I paid attention, I realized he was pointing out how many people for whom he had no respect had reached new lows during the campaign. In his case, he was talking about people who were shilling for Clinton.

I don’t really feel the same. Very few people have surprised me with their opinions. The people who have always been mainstream Democrats have rallied behind Clinton, the people who are to the left of the Democratic Party have for the most part taken a critical stance towards Clinton, whether or not they intend to vote for her. Republicans are wobbly because their candidate is so noxious ... I suppose the people like Gingrich and Giuliani who persist in supporting Trump are even more vile than I thought possible, but mainstream Republicans seem to wish Trump would quit embarrassing them and their party. That the tenets of mainstream Republicanism over the past few decades have made Trump possible escapes their notice, I guess. But then, Hillary Clinton strikes me as very much the culmination of mainstream Democratic politics ... both candidates are, to my mind, representative of their parties, except Trump is openly disgusting.

My voting record over the years has been all over the place, if by “all over” you mean “on the left”. I was first able to vote in 1972, and to best of my recollection, I registered as an independent (“decline to state”) right from the start. In 1974, I registered as a Democrat so I could vote for Jerome Waldie in the Democratic primary for Governor of California ... he was a decent man who grew up with my father and whose family was close enough to my wife’s that she called him “dad”. As soon as that primary ended, I re-registered as an independent. There were a couple of years where I registered Green ... to be honest, I can barely remember why any longer. Suffice to say that for the vast majority of my 44 years of voting, I have “declined to state” what party I was in (because I didn’t want to be in a party).

In all of my voting years, I have never voted for a Republican. I always assume if you have chosen to be a member of that party, we are too far apart politically for there to be much common ground. This is not to say I have always voted for Democrats. I voted for many marginal, third-party (more accurately, sixth-party) candidates whose names I have forgotten. Long before 2016, I voted for a woman to be president (she didn’t win, and no, I don’t remember her name, either). In 1984, I voted for Geraldine Ferraro for Vice-President, just to be on the right side of history (of course, she had about as much chance of winning as those marginal candidates for whom I had voted in the past). The only time I can remember voting FOR a major-party presidential candidate rather than voting against their opponent was my first time, when I voted for George McGovern. Since then, I’ve found all the major party candidates lacking, even as I occasionally voted for Democrats.

I did have the honor of voting for, first, Ron Dellums and then, later, Barbara Lee as my representative in the House. Lee makes me proud to be from Berkeley.

And I’ve told this anecdote too many times, but once I took a leak next to Ron Dellums during one of the elections, maybe 1988, and I asked him to convince me to vote for the Democrat. He began to answer, and then as we left the rest room with his bodyguards, he walked with me awhile. He was quite eloquent, but his argument boiled down to “well, we can’t let that Republican win.”

I haven’t agreed with a whole lot that President Obama has done, but I did vote for him twice. So why am I so reluctant to vote for Hillary Clinton?

I can only think of two reasons to vote for her. One, she is a woman, and two, she isn’t Donald Trump. There is no denying either of those points, and I do believe they are important. It will be a big symbolic step when a woman finally becomes president, just as it was when Obama became our first black president.

But ... and here I can blame myself for not digging deep enough, Obama was a bit of a mystery, and I was taken in by his great speaking abilities, and in truth, most of what he proceeded to do was not far from what anyone who paid attention could have predicted.

Clinton is different. She has a long public record on which we can evaluate her politics. In fact, this is often cited as a reason, in itself, for voting for her. She is, we are told over and over again, the most qualified presidential candidate in our history. First lady, Senator, Secretary of State ... not only is this resume above and beyond Donald Trump’s wildest dreams, it’s above everyone else’s.

But I can’t count her role as Secretary of State as a plus, when I thought she was so bad at it. She is a stone-cold hawk, especially in the Middle East, and this isn’t going away ... she’s already talking about what she’ll do when she is president. She is completely pro-Israel. This is not someone I want as my president.

But Trump would be worse, we are told. Trump is a maniac, so much so that I doubt he’d accomplish anything if he somehow managed to become president. But Clinton, as we have all seen, is capable of accomplishing great things. Who is more dangerous, a nutcase who won’t get anything done, or a hawk who will get lots of things done?

And, as Belén Fernández has written, “You can’t be a pro-war feminist”:

Clinton’s performance on the international battlefield over the years makes a mockery of any pretense of support for the rights of women not to be violated, either sexually or otherwise. ... unfortunately for Clinton’s current campaign against sexual violence, the “harm” that continues to plague the nation of Iraq courtesy of the U.S. and its friends has included plenty of instances of rape by invading soldiers—as tends to happen in such situations.

My presidential vote doesn’t matter ... California is going for Clinton no matter how I vote. Which made my choice easy. I wanted to say I voted for the first woman president ... yes, I’ve voted for other women for president, but Clinton is going to win. But I don’t want to vote for this particular woman. It’s not about her personality, it’s not about my being unable to handle a powerful woman. It’s about her expected foreign policy. I believe Lyndon Johnson was the best president in my lifetime, yet he was a big failure because he couldn’t keep himself out of Vietnam. Whatever else Hillary Clinton stands for symbolically, I predict her legacy will be like Johnson’s ... too bad about that war.