I watched Donald Trump's acceptance speech last week, and it was my Paul on the road to Damascus moment. His campaign has been filling me with dread and fear, but that speech put no doubt in my mind that the stakes in this election are higher than any in my life and perhaps any other that will ever take place in my life. It wasn't just the constant fear mongering and racist targeting of marginalized groups, I'd heard that before from him. It wasn't just the talk of NATO being obsolete, even though I am sure that if he were elected that Putin would invade the Baltic States within minutes of the oath of office. It wasn't his red-faced calls for "law and order," despite the implications of that statement. All of those things have been worrying me for months. The moment that truly, truly frightened me was his statement of "I alone" am the solution. That, friends, is the purely unadulterated language of authoritarianism.
One thing authoritarians do not respect in any way is the rule of law. People have been asking questions about how Trump could possibly ban Muslims from entering the country or deport 11 million people. Well, here's your answer: through dictatorial means. This is a shameless man who has never shown one iota of respect for anyone except himself. After the convention, he even had a video made touting how long the applause was for him! Anyone who has studied current or historical dictatorial regimes saw this as a major red flag.
As I sat watching the prospective tyrant rant to a baying convention hall, I became sick at heart with the knowledge that many people I love and respect will be voting for this man. This despite the fact that his behavior contradicts completely the values that they raised me with. Tens of millions will be voting for Trump simply because he is the Republican candidate. By securing the nomination he and his noxious hate will now be in the political mainstream, even if he loses the election. So many of the Republicans who did not vote for Trump in the primaries but will in the general election seem blind to how high stakes of a Trump presidency are.
The same goes for a lot of folks on the left. The release of the DNC hack, timed for maximum chaos, has only inflamed the passions of the "Never Hillary" crowd. Plenty of my lefty friends are flooding Facebook with their hatred of Clinton and proclamation that they will vote for Jill Stein. This too makes me sick at heart. I am no fan of the DNC and have been plenty critical of the Democratic Party for the same reasons my friends have been. It is too beholden to corporate interests and it does not listen to its base on issues from education to policing.
You know what will never change that? Voting for Jill fucking Stein. That changes NOTHING in the left's favor. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nichts. If Clinton wins the election with a bunch on the left defecting, then she can safely ignore them. If she loses because of large Stein votes in key states, that means these moralistic types will have handed the presidency to Donald Trump, a catastrophe of historic proportions. You know what will change things? Organizing. Run candidates in local elections. Get involved in local party politics. Spread your message outside of college campuses. There are people already doing this, support them. And when Clinton gets elected president, push her administration. Let it be known that your vote is conditional. Ever wonder how the conservative movement got control of the GOP? There's your answer.
But in November, you better sure as shit show up to the ballot box and mark one down for Hillary Clinton. I don't care if you cross your fingers, close your eyes, or curse as you do it. The stakes are too damn high for you to worry about your ideological purity or your (well-founded) reservations about Clinton. I voted Green in 1996 and 2000, but right now (as 2000 should illustrate) stakes are too damn high for that shit.
I take this a little personally, because when Trump starts attacking undocumented immigrants I think of my old neighborhood in Newark (which this blog gets its name from.) It is an immigrant neighborhood, with plenty of folks who are not here legally. It is full of the kind of people that Republicans claim they stand for: hard working, religious, and family-oriented. I have never in my life lived in a place where people were friendlier and more generous with each other. These are the families that Donald Trump wants to break apart. These are the people that his baying broods of bigots want to evict from the country. I have nightmare visions of jack-booted troops dragging people out of buildings on Ferry Street and Adams Street and Jackson Street in dead of night, their children abandoned or sent to live in a country they've never been to.
The stakes are too damn high. They're too damn high for you to vote for a man simply because he's a Republican. They're too damn high for you to wallow in apathy and stay home. They're too damn high for you to lodge a protest vote. The stakes are so high that your decision will be discussed for generations to come, especially if you make the wrong decision. Your descendants will wonder how people could be so petty and short-sighted in the face of such an obvious threat. They will know what you somehow refuse to see: the stakes are too damn high.