An Election of Fear and the Fear that Got Us Here

I have to admit that I’m a bit scared about this coming election.

I try to remind myself that everyone gets hotheaded about politics and acts like it’s the end of the world partially because we Americans don’t do well with having our worldview threatened and are easily swayed into feeling annihilated whenever someone dares to disagree with us.

But then there’s Trump: a racist, egotistical, misogynistic, power-hungry despot-wannabe.

I want to believe that he’s a joke, that he won’t be effective even if he gets into office, but I also don’t want to allow myself to be blind to the fact that he is deliberately trying to whip people up into an emotional frenzy at his rallies, that he’s espousing rhetoric and tactics that look very reminiscent of things we fought wars against a few generations ago.

I’ve been wondering how we got here. I see people say they support him because “at least he’s different” or because “Hilary would be worse.”

I hear liberals screaming that we need to unite behind Hilary and vote for her to keep Trump out of office, even acknowledging that maybe she’s not the best candidate but that she’s “better than Trump.”

Granted, I heard the “vote for the lesser of two evils” argument last election, back when I was falling in love with Jill Stein’s campaign. People told me that voting third party would be wasting my vote. At the time, I shrugged it off because, while I might dislike the alternative candidates, I didn’t see them as particularly fear-inducing.

We all have to live through presidencies that we don’t like, but that’s no reason to destroy the voting process by convincing people they don’t have a choice.

Now, this election, I actually feel a deeper pressure. On the one hand, I find Hilary as distrustful as I did Obama. I agree more on certain social issues but despise the dishonesty, the willingness to go to war, the violation of basic privacy, the support of fracking, etc.

But Trump! Good God that man wants to be Hitler if ever anyone did!

I want Bernie to win the nomination.

Or if he doesn’t, I want to vote for Jill Stein again.

I want to vote for the person that I think would be the best leader, the person who would be the least corrupt, and the person who would respect human rights both at home and internationally.

Basically, I want to use my vote to do the thing it’s supposed to do.

But I actually fear what might happen in this election. The “lesser of two evils” feels like a legitimate pull for once.

Unfortunately, as I am writing this, I’m aware that it’s the “lesser of two evils” choice that has fueled Donald Trump’s rise. The two parties have been hiding behind that line, scaring people into voting against an opposing candidate rather than for a candidate for years now. People are clearly frustrated with the status quo and want it to change, which is why crazy, angry, antagonizing men who tap into their frustration seem appealing to some.

This election is a hard choice. If I vote for the candidate I like, I fear the candidate who might win. If I vote to prevent the candidate I fear from winning, I might stave off this presidency but I feed into the cycle that led to this choice in the first place.

In a recent interview, Jill Stein actually outlines how the voting process can be removed from fear with tiered-voting that allows a person’s vote to be cast to their second choice if their first choice candidate doesn’t make it. However, she also talks about how the two main parties have stonewalled her efforts in getting that established because they rely on people’s fear to maintain loyalty.

My question is, do we really want to be a nation of fear?

In his farewell address, the first President of the United States foresaw and warned against the problems we are currently facing. Washington said:

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Is that not what we are seeing? The Democrats and Republicans have campaigned against each other’s party for ages, convincing voters that working together is both impossible and unwise, that stepping outside of those parties was obfuscating and giving the victory to the “enemy,” which has led to this very moment where the majority of voters don’t like the options and want a third party but still feel coerced into rallying behind one or the other.

The best thing I can hope to come out of this election season is that the American people realize how fucked up a two-party system is and take active steps to ensure that there are more choices next election.



Like a Virgin: Voting

This wasn’t my first time voting, but in many ways it was. In the past, I voted who I was told to vote for. I didn’t dare think outside the box because I was terrified of what might happen. The few people who were brave enough to openly support Obama at Bob Jones University were looked down on and ostracized by their fellow students, and I’ll admit that I was one of the students ostracizing those brave souls. Between the peer pressure and the terror stories told by the preachers about what would happen to America if we didn’t vote her back to fundamentalist principles, there never seemed any other option. I voted blindly. I voted fearfully.

This time around, there was a similar fear, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. As I watched the consistent attempts to whittle down women’s rights and listened to the rhetoric that made me feel like I had entered an alternative universe, I felt like, once again, I had no choice. Even though I was unhappy with Obama for having extended the Patriot Act and concerned with the potential ramifications of H.R. 347—even though I was dumbfounded by the fact that both were almost unanimously passed through Congress—I still felt like I was being forced to vote out of fear of what might happen if a Republican won . . . until I discovered that there were more than two choices.

People told me it was a wasted vote. They told me that “third parties” never won and that the two-party system was just the way it was. They told me their own disappointed stories of having voted for third-parties and nothing coming of it. They said the United States had been that way since its birth and wouldn’t change.

But I decided that I wasn’t comfortable just letting it go and voting what I was told. I looked into each candidate. I thought I would probably come back to Obama because he would still seem like the best choice, but it gave me comfort to feel like I was making an informed choice.

To my consternation, I found myself falling in love with Jill Stein and the Green New Deal. I fell in love with her stand for freedom, her refusal to take corporate money, and her unflinching honesty about topics that the Democrats and Republicans were staying as far away from as possible.

Still, I heard that voice whispering that I needed to vote for Obama . . . or else.

Or else what? Something bad might happen if I step out of the two-party peer-pressure system? Such classic avoidance training! Yes, something bad might happen if I take a chance to express my disapproval with both Democrats and Republicans . . . the candidate I like least might win.

But nothing good could happen if I voted out of fear.

Both Democrats and Republicans have betrayed freedom, in my mind, by passing legislation that attacked various rights. I definitely think Republicans have made more obvious attacks, but they both made attacks. Voting out of fear would just mean I was making a choice between which rights I was willing to forego. Was I willing to overlook my right to privacy in order to vote to have my right to choose? Were my rights as a bisexual worth more than my right to protest, to freedom of speech, or to due process?

I don’t think I should be having to weigh which rights I’m willing to take a hit on. Talk about wasting a vote! Voting for someone I don’t believe in because I am too scared not to is a wasted vote!

Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for saying, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I’ve been thinking about that statement and the personal power it implies all afternoon, and I think she was onto something much deeper than just feeling bad or good about oneself.

No one can take away my power or my rights without my consent. No one can take away my choice or my autonomy without my consent. No one can take away my voice without my consent.

I hear so many people complaining about the way the elections are functioning and expressing dissatisfaction in the lack of choices, and the infuriating part is that we are the ones locking ourselves into this because we too scared of what might happen if we step outside of the box we’ve put around ourselves.

But isn’t that what I left fundamentalism to escape? A life controlled by fear isn’t what I want. My power is my own. I will not give it up by believing that it can be taken away.

Today, for the first time, I voted for the candidate who I felt represented freedom the most.

For the first time, I feel like my vote actually counted because it wasn’t a tool in someone else’s hands; it was the clear and unequivocal exercise of my right to express how I want government to function.

I can’t even express how excited and proud I was to walk into that booth and know that I was making my own choice. I dream of a day when we can all recognize the tremendous power of change that we possess and stop this silly business of voting the party line out of fear.