I just voted for the next President and VP for the first time in my life, and I am ashamed.
I’m only 21. I haven’t had a chance to vote for anything higher than a state official until today. Before I turned 18, I looked forward to voting as much as I looked forward to my 21st birthday, and many other coming-of-age rituals. From my first election, I set my own rules for elections –– ignore all the annoying commercials and focus on my own research.
But this election was different.
Dozens of candidates courted voters, trying to ignite their own fire in the hearts of those who would decide a winner.
My fire was ignited by a little old Jewish man named Bernie Sanders. He wasn’t perfect, but he gave me hope. I was excited, confident, and invigorated by the belief that I might vote for someone I truly believed in. Sanders gave the youth of the nation, many who would be voting for the first time, an amplified voice. He quickly rose to popularity as a candidate for the Democratic party, and did it mostly through the work of youth across the globe.
Primaries began all across the US, and outrage rang out. Bernie Sanders began losing left and right, with Hillary Clinton eventually winning the nomination for the Democratic party. Voter fraud was in all the headlines of articles written by secondary news outlets, suggesting that Bernie had been betrayed by his own party, in favor of the Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Our system had betrayed us, the youth who so passionately backed the little old man from Brooklyn.
Then Bernie came out in support of Hillary, asking his large following to support Clinton in her fight for the White House. How could Bernie Sanders support a woman in a party that had so deliberately worked against him? How could die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters now give that support to a party that had proven that it would go to questionable lengths to get Hillary the nomination?
How can I, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, support a woman who hasn’t until VERY recently supported me?
And I don’t have an answer, other than “Never Trump”.
My POC friends have been pleading on Facebook for people to not vote Hillary. My neurodivergent friends have been pleading for people to not vote Stein. My queer friends have been pleading for people to vote for Hillary, or Stein, or anyone that isn’t named Donald Trump. My Bernie-or-Bust friends have been pleading for a 3rd party vote. I don’t have a plea, other than “Never Trump”.
So, when I woke up, realized “today’s the day” and sluggishly got dressed, I sat down for a while. I did all the research I could. And my research was failing me. I only had two candidates that I felt comfortable voting for, and neither made me happy about my decision.
My two options: a vote for Stein, which would do nothing other than maybe get future Green Party candidates involved with presidential debates, or a vote for Hillary, which would potentially lead to more war and show support of a party that plotted against one of its own members. Should I support the 3rd party that I know isn’t going to be elected this cycle, or the woman who has countless skeletons in her closet, but has a decent chance of keeping Trump out of the White House?
And why is this the kind of election I have been stuck with?
The drive to the polling center was not my usual drive; I wasn’t singing with the radio or enjoying the cold autumn air hitting my face. I was unhappy, but I had a job and I was going to do it. I walked into the church where I had grown up, got in line, checked in and signed my name on the line for voter 163.
Unhappiness turned into a somber resignation at what I was about to do.
I walked into the booth, voted for a state representative (neglected to vote for other local elections since many were republicans running unopposed), and clicked over to the presidential vote. My eyes flickered from Hillary Clinton to Jill Stein, and I hesitated for a while. My hand was shaking, more than I’ve ever seen it shake before. I made my choice, got my sticker, and walked out.
I drove in silence to the coffee shop where I work and started writing until one of our regulars struck up a conversation with me about the election. He shared my feelings, and seemed to have been just as conflicted as I am.
He told me “there are a lot of people like yourself that do in fact feel like ‘hey this game is stacked against me and the people who are in control don’t want me to have a chance to advance’. If I was a young person, like you, probably accruing some student loans, trying to figure out what jobs I could get in the future, whether I’ll have a house or not, worrying about having enough money to go to the doctor, I would want someone who was truly interested in me.”
This man, who has lived through numerous presidential elections perfectly summed up my issues with this cycle. The candidates I was presented with, the candidates that were sure to win due to their association with the two-party system, do not speak for me. And they don’t speak for those I try to support.
He voted for who he thought was going to do the least amount of damage, knowing that his choice would not win South Carolina, and would more than likely not win in the electoral college. And I voted for the candidate that I knew had the best chance of beating Donald Trump.
That does not mean I voted for the lesser of two evils, because I did not. I voted for the comfortable evil, the ‘safe’ evil.
Choosing the comfortable evil means a vote for immigration reform but also a vote for military interference and war. It means voting for the right for a person to decide what to do with their bodies in pregnancy, but shows support for someone who allegedly kept abuse victims quiet. It means a vote for gun reform, but shows support for someone who believes black men are criminals. Every positive is followed by the negative track record Clinton would like us to forget.
Choosing the comfortable evil also means a vote not given to a misogynist. It means refusing to support a white supremacist. It means a vote against a man with no experience, and no solid plans of action. It means a vote against radicalism and hatred. It means compromising with my core beliefs and settling with the candidate most likely to keep a pig out of office.
I have drifted so far away from the excitement and passion I had when Bernie Sanders was a presidential hopeful. He gave me a fire that Hillary refused to feed and Donald snuffed out. All I can do now is continue to vote; vote for representatives and state politicians that can continue the revolution Bernie Sanders began.
My “I Voted” sticker is not a symbol of pride. To me it shows that I decided something today and it was a hard decision, but I’m going to have to stick with it. It shows that I took part in the end of a burdensome, stressful, and heart-wrenching election cycle. It is a symbol that is on the shirts of hundreds of thousands of people who, just like me, are disheartened about the direction the nation is going in and feel betrayed by the system.