Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Election That Changed The Way We Vote

Leander Edmiston |

Before the Ohio Primaries the conversations at my parents house routinely danced around summer plans, fear and amazement at the growing GOP candidate Donald Trump, my little sister's violin lessons, skepticism of Hillary Clinton and support of Bernie Sanders. Weeks later I cast my vote for the more alternative democratic candidate, Sanders. My philosophy was that voters vote for the candidate who best represents them. My parents didn't think so. They understood that an election is a scale with many arms, each standing for a candidate, and which tips in ways you can predict and influence. At the primaries my parents voted for John Kasich, not because it was the right choice, but because it would cost the world less. If you remember, many Ohio voters had the same idea, which brought Kasich a victory of 46.8 percent over Trump’s 35.6 percent.

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Last Friday, Timothy Egan, a columnist for the New York Times, published his most recent op-ed, “The Conscience of the Contrarian Voter.” The article is a subtle but confident argument against voting third-party this election. Egan is the same kind of voter as my parents, and he wants to make sure idealists understand the weight of their vote this November. I would like to examine some of the rhetorical devices Egan uses to present his argument and the consistent idea that pervades his thinking, that emotion has no place in an election.

Egan’s article begins with a delicate and deceiving appeal to character. “[Gary Johnson] was then the Republican governor of New Mexico, a rare politician with a glib sense of humor, rolling his eyes as his fellow Western politicians sucked up to bolo-tied suits from the oil industry. We talked mostly about marathons and mountains; he’s run the 26-mile race in under 3 hours, and climbed the apex of the planet, Mount Everest, as well.”

Egan assures us that Johnson isn’t a typical backroom politician, instead Egan’s Johnson is likable, authentic, and common. Oh yeah, and a badass. Egan’s emotional persuasion makes what comes next hit like a kick to the chest. “I liked him instantly. And as I’ve followed him since then, my regard for Johnson has grown … would I ever vote for him? Not a chance.” Egan likes a lot of Johnson’s ideas, like a less interventionist foreign policy and an end to the drug war. But Egan also sees a lot of problems, a lack of policy to combat climate change, health care cuts and the deregulation of Wall Street. But this year none of it matters. It wouldn’t matter if Johnson had developed  thorough action to combat climate change, or further regulated Wall Street. It doesn’t matter if Johnson is the perfect candidate. Egan believes that we are too far entrenched in a two party system to make any confident ground, and the stakes are higher than ever.

Egan quotes Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and author who’s warned us about the effects of climate change for decades. “What matters is the movement toward change, he said. But this year is different. Trump ‘is bad in a unique (in American presidential history) way that scares me to the marrow.’”

On a normal year, Egan says, you could vote for the candidate that represents your ideals, but this year a decision like that could “burden a citizen with a lifetime of guilt for handing the world over to Trump.”

They're right, the stakes are higher than ever, and most votes for Johnson are probably votes that would go to Clinton. Donald Trump may cost the world a lot, but to vote for something you don't believe in is to perpetuate a broken system, which may cost the world a whole lot more.

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