Final Thoughts on the Election

In these final few days, I urge everyone, especially conservatives, to vote mindfully, to give careful thought to each candidate, and choose someone who is morally palatable.

After a year filled with infantile insults, petty disputes, and mean-spirited political banter—all of which have severely degraded the American political process—the countdown to Election Day is nearly over. I cannot wait for the day after November 8: news channels can return to reporting (somewhat) meaningful stories rather than irrelevant campaign gossip; people will stop acting like politicians’ words have any intellectual weight; and I can open Facebook without fear of being blasted with headlines about Trump’s latest pussy-grabbing scandal. Everything will go back to normal—or so I hope. Yet, Election Day is rapidly approaching and there is still the perplexing issue of who to vote for.

With reality TV show star Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee and former Secretary of State and First Lady, Hillary Clinton, as the Democratic counterpart, most of the media attention is focused on them. Perhaps due to widespread dissatisfaction with these two front-runners, there are many third-party options as well: pot-smoking Gary Johnson, former CIA agent Evan McMullin, and doctor/Leftist Jill Stein, among other lesser known candidates. It would be an understatement to say this is an incredible slate of candidates, if only because it is mind-blowing to think we must choose from these mediocre options. To be sure, many voters will find their ideal candidate amongst this group, someone whose worldview is in close alignment with theirs; but for a solid chunk of the electorate, particularly (fellow) conservatives and right-leaning thinkers, this is not the case.

Conservatives are confronted with a unique moral dilemma because the Republican Party, from which we’ve come to expect conservatism, has instead offered, in NYT columnist Frank Bruni’s words, a “know-nothing, say-anything egomaniac”: Trump. He has no understanding of conservative tenets and has run a presidential campaign centered around blatant demagoguery and distorted ideology, all supposedly to “Make America Great Again,” the deafening chorus of his campaign. Admittedly, I think his tweets, television appearances, and all-round asininity are entertaining, but my amusement is not indicative of approval and I’m certain many others feel the same way. Does this mean, as many have suggested, that we should support Hillary Clinton instead—a politician who cycles between positions based on the level of public support they enjoy, sells political influence for financial donations, and supports policies that encourage government interference in people’s private, moral lives?

My peers at the University of Michigan certainly seem to think so. On many occasions I have encountered register-to-vote volunteers and student activists holding clipboards and flashing warm smiles emblazoned with Hillary’s trademark H logo or the now trite “I’m with Her” slogan. These volunteers take every opportunity to ask “Have you registered to vote?” Sure they mean well, but at 9:00 AM when I’m half-awake and meandering through the Diag, I don’t want to be asked if I’ve registered to vote—especially by someone who will also likely ask if I am willing to volunteer with the Clinton Campaign . As bothersome as they were, however, I enjoyed their enthusiasm because they made a thoughtful choice to manifest their civic duty through volunteerism or activism.

While I will miss this campus activism, my excitement for an end to this election cycle is tempered by an underlying appreciation for the importance of this election. As ridiculous as this campaign season has been, no amount of caricatural comments, hackneyed usage of buzzwords, or Aleppo gaffes can diminish its magnitude because, to repeat an oft invoked cliché this may be the most important election of our lifetimes. With political polarization at an all-time high, a Trump or Clinton presidency would have vastly different implications. Not only do they disagree on solutions, but they don’t even agree on the issues! This division, indicative of a deep chasm in our nation’s politics, is unlikely to be reconciled by any of the presidential candidates—third party or otherwise.

Trump may be antagonistic to my beliefs, but that isn’t an argument to vote for Hillary Clinton. Neither of the major party candidates exhibits the qualities that I look for in a president  and I have considered voting for a third-party, writing-in a candidate, or even abstaining from voting for president. To me,  it’s better to vote for someone I believe in, even if they have little or no chance of winning. Besides, for the most part, one deviant vote is inconsequential to the outcome of the presidential election. However, there are some tight congressional elections in which every vote truly counts; and so, it is still possible to vote conservative without a conservative option for president by voting Republican in  House and Senate races. I know that’s what I will do, along with writing-in a presidential candidate.

In these final few days, I urge everyone, especially conservatives, to vote mindfully, to give careful thought to each candidate, and choose someone who is morally palatable.

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About Neil Shah

Neil Shah was a contributor to the Michigan Review.