Voting Is a Statement of Values

There’s a wordy meme that’s been going around, the point of which is something to the effect of I won’t think less of you because of who you vote for. My own husband shared this meme, and it’s taken everything in me not to publicly reply to his post, Sorry, honey, but I disagree with you on this one. Until now.

I understand why he posted it. There are a number of people in our social circle–acquaintances, associates, friends, and even family members–who voted for Trump in 2016, who have no remorse for that vote, and who display enthusiastic support for him now. Sharing that meme was my husband’s way of expressing that he was keeping a door open for them in case they change their minds.

I view the sentiment of that meme differently, though. I think it lets people off the hook. It forgives them for voting for a man who is in many ways the antithesis of everything I value. If a person votes for such a man, that tells me that their value system is very different from mine and, honestly, why would I want that sort of person in my life? I agree that we should leave an opening for those who are seriously contemplating the consequences of the past four years of the Trump presidency, but I have little regard for anyone who is out waving a flag for him here and now in 2020.

If there’s one thing most of us can likely agree on, it’s that there has not been, nor is there now, a perfect candidate to vote for. Each of us can imagine the characteristics of that person who would be the perfect candidate for us; not only does that candidate not exist, that candidate would not be the perfect candidate for many other people besides ourselves. Perfect is an ideal that is unattainable in a political candidate.

So, each time we vote we must decide between the imperfect candidates on the ballot. And we do this by determining which of those candidates is closer to our ideal. We evaluate which candidate best aligns with our own values. The conflict that exists between political parties as well as between individual factions and members within any party is an expression of the difference in our collective value systems.

Here’s what I see when I evaluate the two major party candidates currently on the ballot for president of the United States: On one side, I see someone who is selfish, dishonest, uneducated, uncurious, crass, cruel, domineering, abusive, misogynistic, and racist. On the other side, I see someone who is humble, compassionate, congenial, informed, honest, experienced, open-minded, and empathetic.

Some who voted for Trump and/or still support him today are particularly offended when Trump’s racism is called out or when it’s pointed out to them that supporting a racist makes one racist themselves. Some want to claim they oppose his racism, but continue to support him because they feel it’s what’s best for their own financial well being. All this tells me is that, like Trump, they value materialism, and they value it more than the lived experience of people of color. This admiration of Trump for his faux financial success also tells me that his supporters are willing to overlook dishonesty and criminality so long as it serves their own purpose.

Some who support Trump are still on that train back to the past, to some supposed era when American life was better. When exactly was this time, and what made it better? Please don’t tell me it was the 1950s or 1960s, when women could not work while pregnant, could not apply for credit in their own names, and could not obtain birth control. Please don’t try to tell me that it was better when black and white children could not go to school together, swim together, or sit on a bus together. As a woman, I value being able to control my own life without needing permission from my husband, and as a mother, I value diversity in my children’s schools as well as in our community at large. I don’t need or want to live in an all-white community.

Some try to argue that Trump is the law and order candidate even as he hides his own tax returns; even as numerous members of his administration have been indicted and/or convicted of crimes; even as he has locked up men, women, and children at our borders without due process and without the decency of caring for their basic human needs; even as he has hunted down and deported people who have been living peacefully in this country for years and who have been contributing to their communities here. This tells me these supporters define justice very differently than I do, another important way our values differ.

I could go on, but would it matter? Those people who are going to vote differently than me this year likely won’t be swayed by any of my arguments, because they simply don’t value the same things I do. They don’t care about affordable health care for everyone. They don’t care about strong public schools. They don’t care about how many animal or plant species are disappearing or about clean air or water or about devastation due to strengthening hurricanes or wildfires. They don’t care that US citizens in Puerto Rico are still waiting for help in rebuilding after storms that hit two years ago. They don’t care that allies we’ve had for generations can no longer count on us and no longer respect us. They don’t care that the rest of the world is moving forward while we are falling behind. They don’t care that over 200,000 people here have died this year unnecessarily.

I’m always ready to show grace to someone who renounces the evil that is Trump and his administration. But I have no respect for anyone who supports him this year. You are showing me who you are, and I believe you.

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