Here’s where I stand at the moment. (This is long.)
I believe that Bernie Sanders has a lot of good ideas, and — for a time — was doing a lot of good in pulling the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton further to the left of middle than they’d otherwise have been. I sent in my absentee ballot for Sanders in the WA Democratic Caucus, and I voted for Sanders in the (pointless) WA primary. At the same time, I think Sanders stumbled in a number of areas (particularly in his outreach, or lack thereof, to minorities) and then miscalculated by staying in the race too long and not conceding. What he ended up doing was mobilizing and encouraging the far-far-left, our corollary to the far-far-right, existing at the point where the two extremes of the political spectrum are so close in fanaticism that they risk bending the spectrum into a circle and meeting at the far side.
I don’t believe Sanders ever had a real chance at winning the Presidency, and he certainly wouldn’t now, even if by some bizarre set of circumstances he actually got the nomination. No matter how much I support his ideas and ideals, no matter how much I think we should be working towards them — and, generally speaking, I do — I don’t believe that it would have happened, even if he was able to become President. There simply would have been too much resistance from Congress and much of the American populace for the drastic, sweeping changes he was proposing for them to have gone through (look at what Obama wanted to do with health care versus what he was able to, and how much resistance there still is to that small, imperfect step towards actually ensuring that everyone in this country has the health care they should).
I think that Sanders will continue to do what he has been doing for years, working to promote his Democratic Socialist ideals and trying to pull the Democratic party back to the left, and I wish him luck and much success. But he won’t be doing it from the White House.
I don’t think that Clinton is perfect — but neither do I believe that she is the scheming, lying, backstabbing, crooked caricature that a depressing number of people seem to think she is, thanks to years of Republican attacks. I think she is a marvelously successful, effective, and savvy politician, who has had a long career during which she’s done things that I disagree with, but has also done a lot of good. I expect this will continue if she gets into office — no big surprise there, because that’s really the best that can be expected of anyone who gets into that office. I think Obama is far and away the best President this country has had in my lifetime, and he and his administration have done a number of things that I find questionable or strongly disagree with; that’s simply the reality of the office. Besides, Clinton has been attacked and investigated for years (decades), over and over again, for all sorts of reasons (some more reasonable than others), and not once have any of these investigations turned up any reputable evidence that she was doing anything more sinister than being a politician.
I don’t believe that the primaries and caucuses were rigged. I think the Democratic party’s mish-mash of primaries, caucuses, and superdelegates is problematic at best, and would much rather we simply went with open primaries across the board. However, the system we have, such as it is, worked as intended, even if many people don’t like the intent. Independents not being allowed to vote in the Democratic primary isn’t a bug, it’s a feature, even if it’s a feature you disagree with. While I haven’t done a deep dive into the reports, it looks like the DNC emails are a lot of fuss over little actual substance; since the organization’s goal was to select the candidate with the best chance of winning the Presidential election, showing favoritism to Clinton over Sanders (especially as it became more and more clear that he simply didn’t have the popular support of the American people) isn’t corruption or conspiracy, it’s doing their job. They could likely have done that job better in many ways, but it’s not a scam.
I’m far more concerned by the very strong possibility (perhaps even probability at this point) that the DNC email dump is an attempt by collusion between Putin (and/or his administration) and Wikileaks (an organization I have serious issues with, given its support for Milo Yiannopoulos, that it’s headed by an accused rapist avoiding extradition on said rape charges, and its willingness to doxx innocent bystanders in its information dumps) and possibly the Trump campaign or Donald Trump himself. Basically, it looks very strongly like this was an organized attempt by a foreign state (Russia), possibly in collusion with the Republican party’s candidate himself or his campaign, to influence our election — and I find that much more troubling than the content of the emails themselves.
I respect, understand, and sympathize with many of the concerns of those who look seriously at or support third party candidates. I fully support supporting candidates from outside of the two primary parties, have no problems with those who vote for them, and it’s entirely possible I’ll be voting for some of them myself — at non-Presidential levels (local, district, city, county, borough, state, etc.). But I don’t believe that the major systemic changes advocated for by many third-party candidates have even the tiniest, remotest chance of being successful unless we start at the bottom and work up. Like it or not (and many don’t, and that’s fine), the “revolution” isn’t going to happen. A third-party candidate is simply not going to come out of nowhere and take the Presidency. Third-party candidates can be elected and start making differences at local levels (and a few have started, at least in the Seattle area), and that needs to happen so that they can build their base and support and work their way to the Presidency. That stands a chance, and we collectively should be putting more effort and support toward these candidates when we feel that they’re in line with our goals. But “cutting the head off the snake” just isn’t a viable political strategy at the national level.
I am extremely concerned that the current state of the non-Republican parties (Democratic party plus independents, third-parties, etc.) is such that Trump stands a depressingly and frighteningly high possibility of actually being elected as President. Generally speaking, the Republican party is extremely good about unifying behind their candidate and mobilizing their voters, while the non-Republican parties consistently fall apart in this respect. Idealism is all well and good; idealism at the expense of reality is dangerous. The current fractures in the Republican party are unusual, and while they make for good entertainment, I don’t for a moment believe that they’ll really split the Republican vote apart the way that non-Republicans have a tendency to do. As a whole, Republicans believe that a candidate who is imperfect but is more in line with their beliefs than the Democratic nominee is the better choice; meanwhile, there are a disturbing number of non-Republicans who believe that a candidate who is imperfect but is more in line with their beliefs than the Republican candidate still isn’t good enough.
I would love to vote for a candidate who in every way espoused every belief I have and hold dear. But if such a candidate existed (and none ever has) and I knew that no matter how much I liked their stance there was no real chance of winning, they wouldn’t get my vote, especially when there’s even the slightest chance that someone like Trump might win. I’ll support them as much as I can — as I said above, I supported Sanders in the early months of his campaign, and I still think that he has a lot of good ideas and that he should continue working for them however he can — but generally, I’d much rather have an imperfect Democratic candidate in office than a Republican candidate, and that’s particularly true this time around.
Generally speaking, Republicans don’t scare me. I disagree with many of their viewpoints, but the vast majority of them are at least reasonable people. But the current incarnation of the Republican party has been co-opted by the far-right wing, and preys on fear, sexism, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and general hatred of anything other than straight white male. In many ways, Trump himself doesn’t even really scare me (though he comes closer than any other major Republican candidate ever has), but the fact that he’s tapped into such a strong vein of hatred and fear that he’s actually been able to capture the Republican nomination does scare me. His followers scare me. I don’t really believe he’s any more able to get many of his wilder promises enacted than Sanders would be. But those that he and a Republican controlled congress would be able to enact would likely be disastrous; beyond that, his being elected would be even more of a call for the worst of our society to make their prejudices known in visible and often violent ways than we’ve seen yet with his candidacy and nomination.
I’ve been very pleased to have seen the great strides forward in tolerance and acceptance over the course of my lifetime, and I fear that we’re on the precipice of losing much of that progress. I have too many friends, family, and loved ones who stand a very real chance of being adversely affected by a Trump Republican presidency. I’m very saddened by seeing people who I agree with in many respects declaring that they’d rather risk Trump than vote for Clinton — especially as most of those who think along these lines are those who have the privilege (be it racial, economic, sex or gender identity, health, or any other sort of privilege) to not have to worry about actually being seriously affected by whatever might happen under a Trump presidency. There’s a real blindness here, whether willful or unconscious, to the very real possible effects of a Trump presidency on people who don’t have the privileges and resources that they and many others (including myself) do.
I will happily, willingly, and uncompromisingly be voting for Clinton in the general election. I understand that many won’t be able to vote for her happily, willingly, and uncompromisingly — but I do hope that you’ll at least vote for her, even if you grumble while doing so.
(That said, if you can’t, and if you vote for someone else, that’s entirely your right, and I won’t say you shouldn’t. But if Trump ends up in office and you complain about his policies, I reserve the right to cast some serious side-eye your direction.)
(And if you’re one of those who simply won’t vote? As far as I’m concerned, you have no right to complain about the direction this country goes. None. And I will never apologize for holding that particular view.)