The decision to vote in this U.S. presidential election could not be easier. Between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, any sensible person would vote for Hillary — unless you want someone as debased as Trump to become president.
Somehow, however, this seems rather difficult for some people to understand. There are scores of commentators on the Left who think that both candidates are the same, or at least equally bad, and at the end of day it doesn’t matter who comes to power anyway. Some even say that people should abstain from voting altogether in order to not take part in a fundamentally oppressive and rigged system.
One star intellectual on the Left, Slavoj Žižek, recently went so far as to say that it would be better to have Trump in the White House because, as the dialectical process would seamlessly have it, a psychopath running the most powerful nation on earth will finally jolt people into action against the system.
This kind of puritanical approach is the preserve of those who are detached from reality and live lives ensconced in privilege — those who think it’s possible to be morally impeccable when it comes to making consequential, real life decisions. But real life decisions come with all sorts of contradictory pressures and demands — and often for the better. Voting for Hillary Clinton is the only right choice.
The Green Party’s Jill Stein is not a viable option. If you’re in a “safe state,” one that Trump can’t possibly win, then by all means vote for Stein. But if you’re in a swing state, vote Hillary. Not voting is not an option because Trump must not win.
Credit will go to those who come out and vote for Hillary, realizing the need to do so given the danger that Trump poses. Those who think they’re too pure to get involved in matters of society will have to answer for their inaction if Trump wins.
Refusing to vote is also an insult to those who fought and gave their lives to win the right to vote. The women’s movement and the civil rights movement were epic battles that included demands for the franchise to be extended to the oppressed and marginalized. The right-wing has always been about voter suppression.
In Trump, you have a candidate who has incited all kinds of hatred against the very people whose ancestors gave so much to be able to vote. “Make America great again” is his unsubtle call to reverse historic gains, as legendary performer and activist Harry Belafonte noted in a recent New York Times op-ed. But here we have some leftists, these so-called social justice activists, who think it’s better not to cast a ballot.
Such self-centeredness is something a capitalist or a libertarian could only envy. Right wingers will be thrilled if some leftists pay no regard to the social struggle of the past that won many people the right to vote.
Creating fantasy scenarios is the work of demagogues, and no one on the Left seems to have lost hold of reality more than this particular Slovenian intellectual with his “after Trump, us” nonsense. His hallucination that Trump coming to power would trigger an awakening against the system reminds me of another set of ideologues.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, some Iranian clerics and leaders welcomed it since in some obscure Shiite text it’s written that when the army of the Rum (Romans or Christians in Arabic) enter Iraq, the Messiah will reappear to save the world. One would have to ignore the countless lives lost in the Iraqi conflict to have cheered on the apparent fulfilling of this prophecy. One would also have to suspend reality and ignore all the dangers of Trump to nod in agreement with the Slovenian ideologue who thinks along the same lines.
There is an awakening against Trump — and the ones who are woke are those voting against him today, such as the Latinos who are reportedly coming out in record numbers. They know what’s at stake.
The push to make Bernie Sanders the Democratic Party's candidate was also a progressive push against the system, a hopeful sign that millions of young people in particular are waking up politically.
But while Sanders campaigns tirelessly to defeat Trump, others on the Left remain asleep. Let’s hope it’ll take something less tragic than Trump coming to power to wake them from their slumber.