OK, before I start this, I want to make one thing clear: I am not, N-O-T NOT going to tell you how you should use your vote. It would be presumptuous, arrogant, and absurd for me to think I know better than people in the USA what the real needs of the people there are, and would require a breathtaking level of narcissism for me to imagine that anyone at all would even consider changing their vote based on what some tenth-tier blogger thinks. This is not an attempt to interfere in your election.
But on the other hand, a few USian friends have asked me what I would do if I were in the US and able to vote in the election. Not, I think, for advice (most of my friends are capable of making their own minds up), but just because I sometimes have thoughts that are interesting to them. It’s on that basis that I am writing this.
My opinions of the two major candidates are not favourable, but one is distinctly more unfavourable than the other.
Hillary Clinton, I think, is an example of everything that is wrong with the current political consensus, both in the US and the UK. She’s a centre-right hawk with little in the way of principles other than “Hillary Clinton should have power”. If she gets in, I suspect her to make no more than token attempts — at most — to avert climate change, to stop the ongoing massacre of black people by the police, to stop the mass incarceration of (mostly black, mostly poor) people for the victimless “crime” of drug use, to prevent persecution of trans people, to increase the power of labour against that of capital, or to improve the economic situation of the poorest. I expect her to continue and possibly escalate the US’ ruinous policy in the Middle East. I expect her to continue and possibly increase the use of the death penalty. I expect her to attempt unworkable and abhorrent invasions of privacy in the name of “counter-terrorism”.
In short, I think that in the *very best case* scenario, thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of people will die, and many multiples of that will have their lives severely worsened, as a result of deliberate, conscious, avoidable choices she will make. More people’s lives will be ruined by her than a human mind is capable of comprehending.
But I also think it probable that she will — slightly — improve the lives of a majority of Americans in the short term. She will almost certainly not vastly *increase* the rate of climate change, the number of black people being murdered by the police, and so on. Things that are getting worse will still get worse, but the rate at which they’re getting worse won’t increase much, and may in some cases decrease, and at the end of her time in office, she will leave office without a fight.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a monster. He is clearly, to use Altermeyer’s terms, a right-wing authoritarian with social dominance orientation. Put another way, he will make *everything* worse. He will not make a single decision that would not cause death and destruction. Everything that Hillary Clinton would make worse, he would make worse. Everything that Hillary Clinton would make better, he would make worse. He is Nixon, but with half the brain, no previous governing experience, and a coke habit. I would put the chances at as high as ten percent that if he becomes President he will start a nuclear war.
I go into less detail with Trump because detail isn’t even something that applies. Just “fuck no, not that”.
So, were I a voter in the US, my first priority would be to make sure that Trump was defeated, and defeated as thoroughly as possible. My *second*, longer-term priority would be to try to ensure I didn’t have to make such a choice in future.
So if I were anywhere where my voting for Clinton would possibly make any difference to the electoral college result (say if I was in the twenty states in the middle of the range for “swinginess”) I’d vote Clinton without a second’s thought.
If I were in a state that was definitely going to go one way, I’d investigate the policies of smaller candidates who were standing. It may be that I’d still think Clinton the best of a bad bunch — if so, I’d vote for her. If I didn’t, though, I’d vote for a third-party candidate in the hope of giving them some prominence or funding in future years.
But then, down the ballot, I’d become as close to a single-issue voter as possible, on the subject of electoral reform (which, in many ways, I am at the moment, modulo the UK’s very different but equally bad system). I’d find out the positions of every candidate on the ballot on the subject, and write to all of them stating my own position, stating who I’d voted for, and why.
(There may well, of course, be other issues that would influence my vote. If I were in a state where the choice was, say, one candidate who campaigned on a slogan of “basic income, universal free healthcare, an end to the drug war, and free chocolate for people called Andrew” and another who campaigned on a slogan of “impose theocracy now! Death to all non-Mormons! And a preferential, proportional, voting system!”, I would with reluctance cast my ballot for the first).
I’m under no illusion that voting down-ballot for pro-electoral-reform candidates would fix anything in the short or medium term, but unless people start to see it as an issue that’s worth specifically voting for, there won’t even be that tiny amount of pressure to make anything better.
I’d also make sure I was a member of the Democratic Party and able to vote in primaries, and do so.
So what I’d do in US elections would essentially be what I do in UK elections — vote for whoever would make the least-worst government short term, work within the least-worst party to turn it from the least bad to one that’s actually good, and push for electoral reform over all else so that one day someone may be able to vote for the best candidate rather than just settling for one that won’t set them on fire.
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