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Letter from K

July 30, 2016

Daughter K sent this email and gave permission to “read it into” the novel:

I decided I’d send you a few of my thoughts about [your possibly voting for Jill Stein, as a vote supporting a woman candidate but protesting Hillary’s ties to the megawealthy] and about why I think you and others should vote for Clinton.  Clinton’s supporters are not laboring under a false consciousness.  There are important reasons why we will vote for her, and why we will unashamedly encourage others to vote for her.

I offer the following arguments . . .

Against:  The Excuse of “The System is Rigged!”

Of course the system is rigged.  All economic and political systems throughout humankind have been rigged.  The United States is the most powerful and wealthy country the world has ever known.  Its political system is rigged proportionally.  (It was even rigged when Obama won — he’s a politician from Chicago, for crying out loud!)

So yes, the system is rigged.  And it’s unfortunate that a bunch of (largely) white people — from both parties — are only now protesting the evidence and the candidates who benefit most.  (In fact, even Bernie has been a player in that rigged system for decades, just not in the Democratic party.  He has benefitted from political calculations and from votes in office based on that rig.  And had he become the Democratic nominee, he too would have accommodated the riggin’ in order to propel his positions forward.)

But not voting for Clinton because the system is rigged is an excuse that may credibly be used only by one who has never before voted and never intends to.  (And with such a person I would like to speak further.)

Against:  Protest Voting (for a third party candidate, or even for Trump himself), or Abstention

Dan Savage has already made the best argument on this [for instance].  But I’ll add my thoughts.

As we all know, if Trump wins he will control all executive functions and both houses of Congress.  Every incremental improvement we’ve managed to gain under Obama will be reversed at best.  Most likely those improvements will be replaced with laws that destroy any chance we now have for meaningful political, economic, and environmental improvements going forward . . . possibly forever because our species’ existence on this planet may depend on what happens in the next crucial five to ten years.

Most importantly, a Trump regime would reconstitute the Supreme Court with a savage majority, ensuring that for the next twenty to thirty years no state regulation in support of civil, human, and environmental rights will be affirmed when challenged — and they’ll all be challenged.

A Bernie supporter may think that somehow we “have this coming” (yes, I’ve actually heard those words), and that only a catastrophe like Trump will teach us a lesson.  That tactic is childish at best, and both fatalistic and narcissistic at its most craven and cynical.

Moreover, it’s a luxury and a privileged position to hold.  Those who propose such a tactic are mostly those who will be shielded from its worst impacts — either because they are financially insulated, or because they live with other conditions that provide a measure of stability or security (including the condition of youth, from which comes a useful resilience but also a naive perception of the stakes at risk and the cruelty others will employ to obtain power and reap the benefits).

Most people around the world and in this country cannot afford a Trump regime; some may not even survive it.  The possibility that it might shake the cobwebs out of the brains of some of us on the left, or jolt us awake, is a dangerous folly.  Prominent Sanders’ supporters appear to fantasize that a Trump presidency would cause some kind of ‘shock and awe,’ triggering their romanticized political revolution.  There’s absolutely no evidence from history to suggest such a positive outcome.  On the other hand, there’s every reason to believe that a Trump regime would result in a massive slash and burn operation, triggering not a progressive political revolution but a third world war with all WMDs deployed.

In short, Sanders’ supporters may calculate that they can afford the price of Trump being elected as a protest vote, but I beg them not to force the results on those of us who cannot.  Please do not make the decision to burn my village because you think that in that way it will be saved.

For:  Voting for Clinton

Recently a political analyst on the radio mentioned an old New Yorker cartoon.  In the single frame are two dogs dressed in business suits, sitting at a bar.  One says to the other:  It’s not enough that dogs win . . . cats must lose.  The analyst offered this cartoon to explain the Republicans’ feelings about Trump and Clinton.  Their dog must win and the Clinton cat must lose.

But if we want to defeat the message on which Trump is poised to govern this country, we have to turn that around.  In order to say forcefully to Trump and to those who support him that we reject hatred, bigotry, racism, nativism, misogyny, aristocracy, etc., it is not enough that Clinton win.  She must win with enough votes that it finally shuts the Republican operatives down.  Enough votes that they will perceive themselves as having lost.

Because if Clinton wins but just barely, if many who would be expected to vote for her do not, then the Republican machine will cheer and jeer and get back to work immediately to exploit the weakness.  The machine will triple down in her first term and she will be forced to spend all four years in defensive mode.

We need Clinton on the offense.  We need her doing the work that we demand of her in exchange for our support and our votes.

For:  Voting for a Woman as President of the United States

All over the world girls and women are routinely enslaved, raped, sexually exploited, genitally mutilated, forced into marriage and pregnancy, stoned and burned alive for adultery and for the “crime” of being a rape victim, prohibited from driving or obtaining an education, and numerous other acts of violence and terrorism designed to secure their submission for the pleasure and profit of men.  These acts are committed with impunity by their communities’ leaders, their countries’ military, their fathers, brothers, husbands, and neighbors.

If we are to solve the greatest problems facing us as a global society, we need these women’s voices.  We need all women’s full freedom, their educated participation, their ideas and expressions of peace, and their labors toward justice.

To give girls and women around the world courage and strength, we can offer to them, and to the men who kill and enslave them, a president of the United States who is a woman.  We can offer the reality that the most politically powerful human in the world is a woman.

There would be no more powerful rebuke to the world’s regimes responsible for institutional violence against girls and women than for the president of the United States to be a woman who is herself powerfully pro-woman.

For:  A Place Holder President

I’ve recently heard a positive way of thinking of a Clinton presidency for those supporting Sanders:  Clinton can be a place holder president.  One who ensures that we don’t lose ground as we forge ahead with pressing our more progressive issues, and seek to elect a true progressive next time.

Clinton is not the left’s ideal candidate, but there is no measure by which if you’re truly on the political left you could find that the results of her presidency would be on par with a Trump presidency.  And even if you’re one who thinks she is the lesser of two evils, recall what many have already said:  the lesser of two evils is less evil.  A nihilist, or romanticist, might cast the die on a chance that more evil prevails, but less evil is always the rational person’s choice.  Less evil means fewer people experiencing evil, including your own daughters and granddaughter(s).

Clinton as a placeholder candidate will ward off the harms that Trump would inflict, while those on the left who would prefer to vote for Sanders or Stein or even Johnson work hard to develop enough support actually to elect a more progressive candidate.

This only works, however, if progressives don’t stop caring and canvassing after the presidential elections are over, as generally happens.  They/we must actively organize the vote in midterm and off-year elections, and support progressive candidates for local and state offices as well.  This is unglamorous work, which is why it’s rarely pursued.  But progressives have only themselves to blame for that, and for the fact that enough support wasn’t there this year as a result. W e shouldn’t hold others responsible for our inability to remain focused and on task, even when there’s no exciting presidential candidate to motivate us.

This November, faced with the very real possibility of a Trump presidency, every Democrat, Green, progressive, cat and dog should vote for Clinton . . . and then hold her feet to the fire.  Don’t let up the way we did with Obama, only returning to support him again four years later during his second run for the office.  Vote for Clinton and then press the ground offensive constantly.  Make sure there’s so much progressive pressure on Clinton that Congress must concede to our / her demands or face a real revolution.

Given where we find ourselves now, and for the reasons above and many others, it’s possible to make voting for Clinton the most politically powerful and radical vote you could possibly cast in your lifetime.  We should all be proud of that vote.

[Second letter]

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