From the Editor
November 2, 2016
I saw a pretty funny meme not too long ago. It was a picture of an obituary for a Richmond, Va. senior who passed away earlier this year. It ascribed the woman’s cause of death, hilariously, to “the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.” Dark humor aside, the line was absolutely accurate in at least one regard — that many American voters simply cannot bring themselves to support either Clinton or Trump, whom they view as equally unattractive presidential prospects.
As The Week’s Michael Brendan Dougherty so perfectly articulated it, the repugnant idea of punching in a ballot for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is, for many potential voters, one of “existential despair” in which the Republican nominee is an “unstable imbecile” and his Democratic counterpart a “bottomlessly cynical, power-mad grifter.” He argues that there is no shame in sidelining Nov. 8, 2016; any person who values their nonalignment convictions, he reasons, ought not to resign to a lesser of two evils. For many voters — and young people especially — such rhetoric is becoming increasingly convincing.
But as humorous and witty as his article is, he’s got it all wrong.
It is, of course, your right to refrain from participating in this election, or any election. You are not required to vote in the United States, as you would be were you a citizen of Argentina, Australia, Belgium, or eight other nations that penalize noncompliance with compulsory voting laws.
You may still feel a lingering bitterness over Bernie’s primary defeat, or resent that the reasonable Kasich only won his home state of Ohio. Or maybe you just despise Crooked Hillary and Dumpster fire Donald. That’s all fine.
But reality is reality.
Whether you are thrilled or terrified with the two nominees, they will be the two names at the top of your ballot come Tuesday, Nov. 8. And, come next January, one of the two will call the White House home.
But aside from that, the American voter is endowed with an incredible responsibility. We are citizens of the most powerful nation on the face of the planet. As such — regardless of whomever the Democrats and Republicans select as their nominees, in any netelection — the consequentiality of participating in our time-tested decision-making process cannot be overstated.
Outside of Independence Hall in the streets of Philadelphia in 1787, Ben Franklin said something interesting to a crowd that had gathered to learn of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention and the new government it produced.
“What have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” a woman is said to have anxiously asked. “A republic,” Franklin replied. “If you can keep it.”
It’s apocryphal, sure. But it’s still no less applicable, especially to our situation at present. Franklin’s seemingly ominous warning — a republic, “if you can keep it” — is really a reminder of the paramount duties that come with being an American citizen. Our democratic government cannot function, cannot represent the will of the American people, if her citizens do not safeguard the system via direct participation.
After all, how could you call yourself a believer in the republican process if you choose apathy over contributing to the events of Nov. 8?
As young people, this responsibility is amplified. For those of us who will be casting our first ballots, it is we who will longest experience the benefits or suffer the consequences of our new government. There will be other elections, sure. But the choice is literally at our fingertips. The future is as unlimited as the vastness of our hopes and visions.
In the words of Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda, America is a “great unfinished symphony.”
As the newest participants in our proud democratic tradition, the time has come for us to submit our first of many scores.