Vote your conscience

“Trump is the outsider – he’ll watch out for all of us, including the little guy.”

“Hillary is the most qualified person in the history of the office.”

“Trump is a demagogue with indefensible policies and stances.”

“Hillary is the quintessential dishonest politician and will say and do anything to get elected.”

“I’m going to sit out this election because Bernie was clearly wronged by the DNC.”

“I’m going to vote for a third party or write in because the top two are defenseless.”

“I’m going to sit out this election because I don’t fully agree with either option.”

“I’m going to sit out this election because [Trump/Hillary] have turned the [Republican/Democratic] Party into something it shouldn’t be. Party values have been lost.”

Think I pretty much covered most of the comments that have been floating in the social media ether (read: cesspool) over the last couple months and will continue until early November. I’m not going to waste your time or my word count talking about why I agree or disagree with any of these. What I am going to do is tell you who I voted for in the Texas primary, who I will vote for in the general election, why I made those choices and why I think it matters. I am not looking to change anybody’s mind. I am not looking to start an argument. If you start writing a comment with the sole purpose of changing my mind or starting an argument, I wish you well. That being said, continue on at your own risk.

If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you that I am a progressive, but that doesn’t mean I favor every platform of the Democratic Party (not a huge fan of Big Labor for one, which doesn’t win me many friends in progressive circles). I might be a smoldering Liberal, but certainly not a flaming one. Here’s a brief rundown of my stances, in no particular order:

  • Climate change is a thing, and we are past due to do something about it. We (in the global sense) must transition completely to renewable energy sources, and do it pretty quickly. Conservation of natural areas and re-investment in National Parks must also be a part of making our planet viable for generations to come.
  • Common sense gun legislation is possible and is supported by the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners: universal background checks, re-institution of the Brady Bill, reasonable limits on the type of weapon and ammunition that can be owned by a private citizen, mandatory training on the use and safety of firearms. This does not mean the Second Amendment is in danger of getting repealed, so the gun nuts can calm the fuck down. I just don’t want to walk into my grocery store and see someone buying a gallon of milk with an assault rifle strapped to their shoulder.
    • I keep hearing arguments about some recent shootings in Europe, which have much stricter gun laws. Nobody, even those far to the left of me, thinks gun reform will eliminate gun violence. But our current trajectory is simply unsustainable.
    • Then the gun-nut argument turns to banning knives or any other instrument to make reforming gun laws seem ridiculous. If you give me a cheese grater at 5pm on the New York subway system, I bet I could do some damage. But it wouldn’t be as much damage as a semi-automatic gun with a 30 round clip. (For the record, I have no plans of wielding a cheese grater at rush hour at any time in the future.)
  • We need immigration reform, but that does not mean building a ridiculous wall, deporting 11 million people, or punishing young men and women that came here with their parents who themselves have worked hard and have only wished to be part of the American Dream. The Dream Act and a reasonable path to citizenship, which will allow the vast number of productive families to come out of the shadows, should be a cornerstone of that reform.
  • Marriage equality for LGBT is the law of the land, but a gay person can still be fired for being gay. And if you’re employed by a state or local government, any religious objection you may personally have is simply not relevant. Do your job or get another one. ‘Religious Freedom’ laws are just barely veiled attempts at legalized discrimination.
  • Saying the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ isn’t going to solve anything. What will help is continuing to work with our allies in getting a comprehensive and united front against ISIL, not alienating our allies and making not so subtle intimations that we may not live up to our end of signed treaties or that our allegiance can somehow be purchased.
  • I am Pro-Choice, which, by the way, does not make me Pro-Abortion. Terminating a pregnancy is an intensely personal and difficult choice for any woman, but it should be her choice. Further, if she does choose to terminate, she should have access to a sterile, professional place to have it done. If you disagree with that, then I hope you are a staunch advocate for sex education in public schools (including the proper use of birth control measures), comprehensive adoption reform, and full pre- and neo-natal support.
  • I believe that health care and public education (including post-secondary education) should be a right for all people. Finances should not be a hindrance to obtaining basic health services, nor should it prevent a motivated individual from continuing his/her education at a major university without accumulating staggering debt. Continued health care reform should also include mandatory paid family leave.
    • K-12 public education also needs serious reform, but neither conservatives nor progressives are going in the right direction in my opinion.
  • Major criminal justice reform, including the non-criminalization of marijuana. To be clear, I have no personal desire to light up in the foreseeable future. But those laws are wildly biased toward low income and minorities. If you don’t believe that, open your eyes. Another part of the reform should be the complete abolishment of the death penalty. You can read my post on that here: https://edreformblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/death-or-life/
  • There will be two, possibly three, Supreme Court vacancies in the next few years. After decisions like Citizens United and the decimation of the Voting Rights Act, and coming future challenges to Roe and other important issues, I prefer to have a progressive third branch of our government.

After all of that, and I’m sure I left out some, you can probably take a guess who got my vote. During the primary season, I definitely felt the Bern. He talked about the majority of the issues above in very similar terms. But, alas, not enough people nationwide felt the same way and the delegates added up to Hillary Clinton getting the nomination. I see many people, some of whom are paraphrased at the top of this post, say that the DNC was always in Hillary’s corner and that there was a conspiracy all along to make sure Bernie didn’t get the nod. Well, duh. Though ‘conspiracy’ is a poor word as that implies some kind of secret cabal at work. They were about as subtle as a fart in church. But that does not change the fact that more people voted for Clinton. Was Sanders always playing against a loaded deck? Sure. But he certainly got more momentum and press and exposure than the DNC wanted him to. The result is a fairly progressive platform that, while it is non-binding, gives me some hope for continued progress. Is my hope naïve? Maybe. Probably. But I choose to hope anyway.

So, since my candidate was beaten, unfairly or otherwise, who will get my vote in November? As much as I would like to see a third party become truly viable, I just cannot justify voting for either Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. Quite frankly, since I live in Texas I probably could vote for one of those since Trump will probably win this state fairly easily – but that is the kind of thinking that put Ted Cruz in the Senate (although he does get my grudging kudos for not endorsing Trump). But, my vote will be for Hillary Clinton. That is my conscience. Has she been dishonest with regards to her stint as Secretary of State? Yes. Was she previously a proponent of marriage being defined as one man and one woman? Yes. Did she support the 1994 crime bill that has been universally vilified since then? Yes. Has she changed these positions, and I’m sure many others, as a matter of political expediency? Probably. Will she change her mind again to turn back on the issues I have spoken about in this piece?  Possibly, but I sincerely do not believe so, at least not in the next 4 years. That is the risk I am willing to take.

The alternative, Donald Trump, is not someone I can in any way support. He incites fear and mistrust. He promotes demagoguery and stereotypes large swaths of people based on the actions of very small percentages of those groups. His policies would not only damage our domestic future, but damage our standing on the global stage. He uses name-calling, most of which is rarely seen outside an elementary school playground, as a substitute for tangible policy positions.

But that is my conscience. I strongly encourage you to vote yours. I am ready to defend my choice of Clinton, whether she is elected or not. You should be able to defend your choice as well. Whether you live in Texas, or California or Alabama or New York or Ohio, your vote really does matter. Maybe, just maybe, if we can have a voter turnout of 80-90%, we can actually have the kind of representative government that we read about in our history books.

Educate yourself. Learn. Vote. Vote your conscience.

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