Last week, after I delivered a speech at the impressive campus of Morgan State University, a historically black college in northeast Baltimore, a woman approached the mike during the question-and-answer period to raise an issue that she and I both found frustrating: What to say to young people, particularly young African-Americans, who have decided either not to vote in the forthcoming presidential election or to cast a protest vote for a third-party candidate who will most assuredly lose?
This is a very real issue this cycle. Many of these young people feel that there is no good choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
On Sept. 4, The New York Times published an article pointing out the devastating impact this lack of enthusiasm could have on Clinton’s prospects:
“Young African-Americans, like all voters their age, are typically far harder to drive to the polls than middle-aged and older Americans. Yet with just over two months until Election Day, many Democrats are expressing alarm at the lack of enthusiasm, and in some cases outright resistance, some black millennials feel toward Mrs. Clinton.”
The article continued:
“Their skepticism is rooted in a deep discomfort with the political establishment that they believe the 68-year-old former first lady and secretary of state represents. They share a lingering mistrust of Mrs. Clinton and her husband over criminal justice issues. They are demanding more from politicians as part of a new, confrontational wave of black activism that has arisen in response to police killings of unarmed African-Americans.”
Furthermore, as Farai Chideya pointed out on FiveThirtyEight:
“An ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week found that among black Americans of all ages, Clinton is leading Trump 93 percent to 3. But an August survey of young voters by GenForward found that 60 percent of black Americans aged 18 to 30 supported Clinton — or about 30 percentage points less than African-Americans at large. Fourteen percent of black millennials said they would not vote, 5 percent said they would vote for the Green or Libertarian candidates, and 2 percent planned to vote for Trump.”
When I am confronted by the “not voting” or “protest voting” crowd, their argument often boils down to one of principle: They can’t possibly vote for Trump or Clinton because both are flawed in their own ways.
I know immediately that they have bought into the false equivalency nonsense, and additionally are conflating the casting of a ballot with an endorsement of a candidate’s shortcomings.
Both ideas are incredibly problematic and potentially self-destructive.
First — and this cannot be said enough — Clinton and Trump are not equally bad candidates. One is a conventional politician who has a long record of public service full of pros and cons. The other is a demagogic bigot with a puddle-deep understanding of national and international issues, who openly courts white nationalism, is hostile to women, Mexicans and Muslims, and is callously using black people as pawns in a Donnie-come-lately kinder-gentler campaign.
Second, a vote isn’t just about the past — although comparing these two candidates on their pasts still leaves one as the clear choice — but about the present and the future.
There is a simple truth here: Either Clinton or Trump will be the next president of the United States. Not Jill Stein. Not Gary Johnson. Clinton or Trump.
There is another truth: That person will appoint someone to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court (assuming that the Senate doesn’t find religion and move on Merrick Garland before the new president takes office) and that person will also appoint federal judges to fill the 88 district court and court of appeals vacancies that now exist (there are 51 nominees pending for these seats).
These judgeships alone could cast a long shadow — not just for one or two terms of a presidency, but for decades, until those judges retire or die.
This election isn’t just about you or me, or Clinton or Trump. This election is quite literally about the future, all of our and our children’s and their children’s futures.
You can’t say you’re upset about police interaction with minority communities and not understand that the courts are where police tactics are challenged and where precedent is set.
You can’t care about this issue and risk having those judicial seats filled by a man who allowed Sheriff David Clarke to speak at his nomination convention. Sheriff Clarke has called Black Lives Matter “a separatist movement” comprising “slimy people” with a “hateful ideology” that should be added “to the list of hate groups in America.”
You can’t care about this issue and risk the ascendance of a man who last week was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, a group that in its questionnaire to candidates claims: “Fringe organizations have been given a platform by the media to convey the message that police officers are a ‘militarized’ enemy and it is time to attack that enemy.” The questionnaire goes further: “There is a very real and very deliberate campaign to terrorize our nation’s law enforcement officers, and no one has come to our defense.” This, of course, is cop fantasy, but this group is the nation’s largest police union, representing some 330,000 officers.
You can’t care about this issue and risk the ascendance of a man who said of black people this week that they are “absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before” and has said before that his key to restoring safety in black communities is in part “more law enforcement.”
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You can’t have taken part in a march for Eric Garner, chanting “I can’t breathe,” and risk the ascendance of a man who has as one of his chief advisers Rudy Giuliani, the grandfather of the very “broken windows” policing strategy that sent officers after low-level offenders like Garner.
You can’t have supported the marching in Ferguson, and applaud the Justice Department’s findings that the city was systematically oppressing its black citizens, and allow Trump to pick the next attorney general.
You can’t have been enraged by the video of Freddie Gray and risk the ascendance of a man who tweeted about the unrest that followed: “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!”
You can’t be irate about the environmental injustice in Flint and risk the ascendance of a man who didn’t set foot in that city this cycle until the final stretch of the campaign, when he was engaged in his fake black outreach. And even after he did, he attacked the pastor who interrupted him and lied about details of the visit. You can’t allow that man to pick the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
You can’t have cried about Tamir Rice’s case and allow the ascendance of a candidate who would have his convention in the city where Tamir was killed and not even once reach out to Tamir’s mother or invite her to the convention. You can’t allow the ascendance of a candidate with the audacity to return to Cleveland to tape a town hall with his television booster Sean Hannity about issues facing the African-American community — taped in front of a largely white audience judging by the pictures — and still not reach out to Tamir’s mother to participate. Tamir’s blood cries out for better.
You can’t detest racial-dragnet-policy stop-and-frisk policing as not only morally abhorrent but thoroughly unconstitutional and risk the ascendance of a man who on Wednesday reportedly suggested that he would consider using stop-and-frisk more across the nation.
You can’t pretend to be “enlightened” or “woke” or “principled” and sit idly by and allow real and sustained damage to be done to the very causes you hold dear.
You can’t in good conscience compare Trump to the candidate who has embraced the “Mothers of the Movement,” has an expansive racial justice agenda outlined on her website, has been engaged with Flint for months and has won the praise of that city’s mayor, and will surely appoint more liberal judges.
As Bernie Sanders himself said last week: “This is not the time for a protest vote.”
Protest voting or not voting at all isn’t principled. It’s dumb, and childish, and self-immolating. I know you’re young, but grow up!
Date Posted: Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 , Total Page Views: 1530
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