We Can't Afford a Moral Victory
mor·al vic·to·ry noun A defeat that can be interpreted as a victory on moral terms, for example because the defeated party defended their principles.
I was in Oregon recently and had the pleasure of hanging out with women I’d never before met, beautiful, smart, informed women who were diverse in many ways. There were doctors, a midwife, an electrician, several therapists, and a psychologist. As a heartbreaking aside, one was a native of Columbia who, after being in the United States legally for 26 years on student visas, was being deported the next week because she could not obtain a work visa. We all had one thing in common: a passionate interest in the politics of the day and doing what we could to effect change.
Inevitably we turned to the question d’heure: who are we supporting to face the abomination-in-chief? Everybody had their favorite, but when it was my turn I said “You know what? Whoever emerges as the nominee gets my complete support – I’ll be out there canvassing and working my ass off, I don’t care who it is.” Several women agreed heartily, but I could tell that I had disappointed at least one or two. When I spoke to one of them afterwards, she simply said she could NEVER vote for one of the front-runners (who we’ll call “Bernie”), invoking the value of a “moral victory.” I could only shake my head.
When I got home one of the first Facebook posts I saw prominently featured a verbal gaffe made by a Democratic front-runner (who we’ll call “Joe”), accompanied by the caption “Never Joe.” My first reaction was, “Yeah, unless he runs against Trump.” My second reaction was that the person making the post as well as those who commented on it appeared to take some pleasure in showing us all just how unqualified for the presidency “Joe” is. My third reaction was much like the one I had in Oregon: People better get their act together about this election. We all have our ideas about who the best person is to face Trump, and we all have the right and responsibility to advocate strongly for our choice until the primary process yields a winner. At that point we all need to get on board.
There’s a great deal of debate about why Trump won in 2016, and no one single factor explains it. Consider these facts about the 2016 presidential election, though:
although a record number of Americans voted (i.e., 137.5 million), tens of millions of registered voters failed to cast a ballot.
· Of those who didn’t vote, the percentage who cited a “dislike of the candidates or campaign issues” reached an all-time high of 25%; in 2012 only 13% of non-voters cited this as their primary reason.
· The 2016 presidential election was decided by around 107,000 votes – .0077% of the total votes cast – in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
· The two top “third-party” candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, received combined vote counts in each of those three states that exceeded Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton; in Wisconsin and Michigan, Jill Stein’s vote count alone exceeded Trump’s margin of victory.
Again, this is not a simplistic situation and these facts don’t tell the whole story, but they do support the premise that some voters were sufficiently turned off by the major party candidates to not vote at all or to vote for another nominee. And in an election that was razor close, it is not irrational to suggest that the outcome was shaped at least in part by these decisions.
I truly believe that everyone has the absolute right to make their own decisions, and I respect that. I also believe that everyone must realize and own the consequences of those decisions. Sometimes those consequences go well beyond the decision-maker. In 2016 people who didn’t support Clinton – by not voting or voting for someone else – got their moral victory. The country got Trump. People who can live with that risk are beyond me.