June 12, 2016

A Time to Choose

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;

                                                                     —James Russell Lowell, “The Present Crisis”
The words of James Russell Lowell are from an earlier time in our country’s history, but they are surely relevant to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

It should be clear to thoughtful Americans that Donald J. Trump is a bullying, narcissistic, ignorant, and prejudiced demagogue possessed of a temperament incomparable with public office, much less the highest office in the land. Despite all this, Mr. Trump is apparently going to be the presidential nominee of the Republican Party.

Distressing as the Trump candidacy is, even more disheartening are the attitudes of many voters and, particularly, Republican Party leaders. Increasingly, notable Republicans who clearly appreciate Mr. Trump’s myriad deficiencies are declaring their support, however grudging, for his candidacy. A few have said that they cannot vote for Mr. Trump, and some of these have suggested that they will either not vote at all or will vote for an unspecified third-party office-seeker. No prominent Republican of whom I am aware has indicated an intention to vote for Hillary Clinton.

If, however, a person believes that a Trump presidency represents an existential threat to the Republic (or even only a serious threat), does not that person have an obligation to vote for Hillary Clinton? Even if you believe that Ms. Clinton is flawed and has a distressing habit of pushing the envelope of what is legal and proper, it cannot be denied that she has a sterling résumé and a temperament unlikely to cause widespread anxiety simply because her finger is on the nuclear trigger.

I do not believe that Hillary Clinton is the duplicitous person that Republicans have made her out to be in their years-long attack on her character. But even if she were, it is important for everyone who recognizes the danger inherent in a Trump presidency to vote for her, not to refrain from voting, and not to vote for a third-party candidate. It would be better to elect a reasonable but flawed candidate rather than chance electing an unqualified and unpredictable one. Donald Trump must not become president, and Hillary Clinton is the only realistic alternative. 

I would remind people of the 1991 runoff election in Louisiana between former Democratic governor Edwin Edwards and neo-Nazi David Duke. Edwards’ popularity was low and he was widely (and, no doubt, correctly) viewed as corrupt. Nonetheless, even Republicans such as President George H.W. Bush urged voting for Edwards in light of the alternative. The election became famous for the bumper sticker that read “VOTE FOR THE CROOK. IT’S IMPORTANT.”

I will vote for Hillary Clinton because I believe she will make a fine president, even though she is not my ideal candidate. But even if you think she is morally challenged, she must be viewed as the lesser—very much lesser, actually—of two evils. No to vote for her can only help elect Donald Trump.

Those who refuse to choose the lesser of two evils bear responsibility for those who choose the greater of two evils.
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