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.