Within a span of just a few minutes Wednesday evening, I read George Matysek’s excellent article in the Catholic Review (“When the choice is Clinton or Trump, what’s a Catholic to do?”) and I looked at the stack of mail my husband had dropped on the kitchen table.
It contained my sample ballot for the presidential election.
Normally I get a little thrill of anticipation when I receive my ballot. I open it up and see my preferences listed there in black and white, and I’m satisfied at the thought that I’ll get to cast a vote for my guy. That I’ll get to have a say.
As a conservative on many issues, I’m used to feeling politically lonely in Maryland. I know that most elections aren’t going to go the way I want them to. But when I look at that ballot, somehow I always have a little hope. I guess it’s the egalitarianism of paper and ink: those two (or more) names sit right there on the page together, listed as equals.
For a moment, the polls and commentary and lopsided campaign treasuries fade away. There are simply a couple of names on a piece of paper, and I get to choose between them.
This year when I opened the ballot, however, I didn’t so much experience the thrill of anticipation as I did a funny kind of curiosity. Was I really, truly, going to see Donald Trump’s name on that page? How would it look next to Hillary Clinton’s? What sort of write-in candidates and instructions would I find? And what about the rest? This presidential campaign has so dominated our imaginations that it’s been easy to overlook the other races we’ll get to determine on Election Day.
Opening the ballot, the first thing I saw was the list of officially-filed write-in candidates. I don’t know if that page is always first or if it’s just first this year because there are so many. (I counted at least thirty.) Maybe I only noticed it because that was the page I was most interested to see. But at any rate, my finger followed the print after the large “Notice” heading and I was grateful to find at least two write-in candidates I could support. (Including the candidate for the American Solidarity Party, which is mentioned in Matysek’s article.)
The article leads me to stop and reflect, again, on my priorities as a voter.
In a normal election year, I tend to think on my broadest policy priorities, rank them, and then choose the candidate who best represents the ones I’ve ranked highest. For presidential candidates, this has always lead me in the past to choose a pro-life Republican.
But this is no normal election year. This year my old method just doesn’t work.
For one, I honestly do not think there is a pro-life candidate at the top of either ticket. And for another, my priorities aren’t only about policy.
I value honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, character, capability, practicality and savvy. And I suppose I’m an anomaly in this, but I want a president who knows and can work within the political system. I think one of President Obama’s greatest weaknesses has been his limited experience in Washington. I think he would have been better served to have a more realistic, more complete idea of how to get things done in that environment.
No one person, of course, could ever live up to all of my priorities. I might like to expect that one could exhibit all the virtues I listed, but I definitely can’t imagine finding a major party candidate whose policy positions align entirely with my own. (That is, against abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment, but not against immigration and social supports for the poor.)
This year none of it seems to work. Neither of the two major party candidates seem to be pro-life, neither of them seem to exhibit many of the virtues I seek in a president.
So this year, I’m simply throwing out my old method. This year, I’m refusing to choose between two terribly flawed candidates. This year, I refuse to be part of the problem.
This year I won’t really be voting for a president, I’ll be voting for an idea.
I’m not going to suggest some particular person for you to vote for, but I am going to suggest that if you’re really, truly unhappy with the Trump/Clinton match-up, you should cast your vote for a write-in or third-party candidate. (But do cast your vote – don’t just stay home. Elected officials need to see an upswing in votes for something other than what they’re offering.)
If I don’t like where either of the major parties are right now and I don’t like the directions in which they are heading, then I shouldn’t be supporting them. It’s as simple as that. There has to come a point where we stop propping up systems we dislike.
I think we’ve reached that point. If we haven’t, well… how bad does it have to get before we do?
This post is part of a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on my personal blog, These Walls, on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.