Here we are, one month from “the most important election in the history of our country” between “the worst president we’ve ever had” and “a puppet of the radical left movement.”
Put on your Sorels, people, the hyperbole is getting deep.
I spent ninety minutes of my life watching the debate on Tuesday. Normally, I’m a big fan of presidential debates. To see two fine speakers with diametrically opposed philosophies go head to head in a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates is a poli-sci major’s dream.
(Oops, have I lost you? Back in 1858, Abraham Lincoln (who later became president) was running against Stephen Douglas for U.S. Senate. The two lively speakers engaged in a series of debates around Illinois that have become icons of political debate in that they placed high value on logic, ethical values and philosophy.)
I was practically salivating back in 2012 when I pined for a debate between Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich (“The answer to who is New Gingrich and why should I care”). Alas, it wasn’t to be. Gingrich flamed out, and Mitt Romney debated Obama.
It’s safe to say Donald Trump is no Mitt Romney, so I was looking forward to watching the fireworks on Tuesday.
It was ugly, as you probably heard. A real shitshow, according to CNN’s Dana Bash (I heard her say this live, and I nearly choked on my popcorn).
I feel compelled to ask, as an aside to my bigger point, “Is what we want in a leader what we really need?” A few years ago, I compared a list I found in a Real Simple survey about what we look for in a leader (“an open mind and a tolerant attitude,” “humility,” “kindness and sympathy,” and “the ability to help people with opposing viewpoints find common ground”) to a Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs I was reading at the time. Isaacson used words like “bratty,” “arrogant,” “demanding” and “harsh” to describe the perfectionist behind such products as the Macintosh personal computer and iEverything. After reading the Jobs biography, I know I’d never have made it at Apple Computers. I would have hated working for such a jerk. Yet I admire the work of that jerk (“The intersection of a good leader and what I’d like to see in a leader.”)
But back to the debate this week. So unsavory it was, some citizens of this fine country have decided to skip voting. Or so says the fake news.
I considered joining them. And I’m a dutiful voter (for the most part, I’m a dutiful everything). One of my first Minnesota Transplant posts a dozen years ago was about casting my vote and teaching the next generation about its importance (“Exercising my rights”).
In a democracy, you don’t run the country, but you elect who does. If you care about how your country works (or doesn’t), you ought to care about elections. The simple act of voting is not too much to ask in return for the American infrastructure and freedoms you enjoy every day.
So to skip an opportunity to vote is a terrible waste. I’m going to the polls, and I’m going to have my say.
But our options, at least in the presidential race this year, are none too pretty. My apologies to the yuge fans of our reality TV leader and the unwavering supporters of our former vice president (and by extension, the American way of life as we know it). Or maybe I should say, my condolences to you. If you’re being honest about your allegiances, your strongest feelings are probably negative ones. It isn’t that you love Trump or Biden, it’s that you hate Trump or Biden, amiright?
But just so we’re clear, my dear fellow citizens, you don’t have only three options: vote Trump, vote Biden or don’t vote at all. So many members of the media who cover a political campaign like it’s a horse race might have you believe otherwise, but you have more choices than Fox News and MSNBC blather on about twenty-four hours a day (in an era when nonbinary is a thing, they have no excuses).
No, in fact, you have at least three other options. If you’re among the group of potential voters who’s had it up to here with the nonsense that is the 2020 election season, please reconsider not voting. Voting is too important a right to just shrug your shoulders and give up.
Option 1: Third-party candidate
If you can’t stomach either Trump or Biden, consider a vote for a third-party candidate. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and Green Party’s Howie Hawkins are options in most states. As an alternative, Jorgensen has the added bonus of not being an old white man. Talk about progressive.
Option 2: Split ticket
Or you could consciously split your ticket. Vote for Trump and every other Democrat on the ballot. Or vice versa: vote for Biden and every Republican option.
No president, however extreme, is going to get too much crazy stuff done without the help of a same-party Congress. The framers of the Constitution ensured it by enshrining separation of powers in our government. All the bickering the media loves to cover ad nauseum? That’s built into our democracy. We’re supposed to bicker in order to arrive at a more perfect … compromise. We can limit a president’s power by voting for Congressmen and women who will stake a claim in an opposing opinion.
Option 3: Skip the presidential line.
That’s right. Show up and stand in line (or follow to the letter the minute instructions on your mail-in ballot) but leave the presidential chad unpunched. Vote in the other races. This will register your attendance and obligation to duty but allow you to protest the options you’ve been presented for leader of the free world. To be sure, someone will be elected but you will not be blamed.
Now before you freak out and accuse me of encouraging people to “waste” their vote by choosing one of my alternative options, I’m only suggesting these ideas for those among us who are thinking about skipping Election Day altogether. If you feel strongly about Trump or Biden, more power to you: vote for him (or his vice presidential running mate if you believe our 70-something top-of-the-ticket options are not long for this world; however, I feel compelled to warn you: astrophysicist and ALS victim Stephen Hawking went on to write several books after I chose him as a shoe-in in a celebrity death pool in the mid-1990s. Death is as certain as taxes, but no one knows when the bell tolls for thee, or some mixed metaphor like that only a year like 2020 deserves.)
Don’t be passive observer. Pick a side or no side, but vote.