Election Day at last

The election is at last here, although with the expansion of early voting, millions of Americans–myself included–have already voted. I voted for Hillary Clinton for president.

This is actually my first vote for a Democrat for president. In 2008, the first election year I voted, I voted for John McCain, whom I had always admired. My admiration was a bit tainted by his shift to the right in order to win the primary and his selection of Sarah Palin as running mate, but I thought John McCain would make an effective president and commander-in-chief. I somewhat regret that, as I think Barack Obama has been a much better president than I gave him credit for in 2008, although I still think McCain as president wouldn’t be bad.

In 2012, I was living abroad in Ukraine while in the Peace Corps. My intention was to vote to re-elect Obama, but I never received an absentee ballot in time (or at all, really). I’m somewhat embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t vote. But obviously my opinion of Barack Obama changed in those 4 years, enough to decide to vote for him over Mitt Romney. Why?

I remember when it started to change. In 2010, I was still skeptical enough of Obama–or at least wanted Congress to be able to check a Democratic president, if nothing else–that I was somewhat pleased by the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives that year, reading from abroad. I thought this would force Obama to govern more from the center and lead to a more consensus-based government. How wrong I was! The Republican Party’s behavior since then has led me to totally regret any support I ever gave them. Their single-minded opposition to any form of compromise, rejection of almost any sensible bipartisan measures (notably on taxes and gun control), constant fear-mongering and blatant falsehoods propagated by both politicians and conservative medias, ranging from Obamacare’s death panels to the shrill screeches in response to the Iran nuclear deal last year, has led me to believe that most Republicans are fundamentally unfit to govern this country. Most, not all. The Republican primary process has shown that it forces politicians who are by nature centrists or center-right moderates to bend to the right in order to pass through highly partisan electorates. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, insisted he was “severely conservative” during the 2012 primaries. It doesn’t produce candidates that can govern or even be palatable to a diverse nation.

That being said, a year ago, I considered myself not really in support of any one candidate, although I was leaning toward whoever won the Democratic primary, especially Clinton. I had my doubts about Bernie Sanders’s policies, even if I liked him (or what I knew about him) as a person. On the Republican side, I allowed myself that I could be convinced to vote for candidates like John Kasich, George Pataki, or Jim Gilmore. Donald Trump was interesting to me. At first, I followed him for the sheer spectacle of it all, like most people probably did, not expecting him to go anywhere. When he did, I looked more critically at him. I liked that he didn’t emphasize social issues, and that he was seemingly willing to deviate from conservative orthodoxy on many issues. There was maybe, maybe, a window in which I could have been convinced to vote for him. But it closed very quickly.

There were a few reasons for this. One was the relentless barrage of childish insults coming from him as well as the incendiary, racist rhetoric. Another was the blatant disregard for facts or truth in any meaningful sense. No, inner cities are not hell, the unemployment rate is not as high as 40 percent, crime is not the worse it’s ever been, and ISIS is not infiltrating the U.S. through refugees. Selecting Mike Pence, a social conservative who has supported gay conversion therapy and inane “religious freedom” bills to permit discrimination against gay couples, as his running mate was another. When Trump finally did get around to defining his positions on various issues, that was another. Cutting taxes for highest earners while doing essentially nothing to rein in spending is a recipe for disaster. Treating NATO and other alliances like mafia protection rackets is not what a world leader and a country that prides itself on maintaining global order does. Acquiescing to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and not-so-secret war in Eastern Ukraine is shameful. Bringing back waterboarding and “worse” is not something I could ever support as something the president endorses. Insisting that the elections and polls are rigged when things don’t seem to be going your way is what a whiny toddler does. The “scandal” over Clinton’s private email server is not the worst scandal since Watergate.

My hope tonight is for a strong win, even a landslide from Clinton, not for her sake but for the sake of rebuking this idiotic, farcical campaign from the Republican Party.

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