Opinion Editorial by Cara Ober
I was eighteen the first time I voted for president. It was 1992 when I cast a ballot for Bill Clinton, a young Democratic Governor from Arkansas whose energetic speeches made one-term Republican George H. W. Bush seem even more old and boring. I was a college student living in DC and there was an incredible enthusiasm for Clinton, a man who grew up poor, raised by a single mom and grandmother, whose smarts and determination, as well as an intelligent and driven wife, had elevated him to the highest position in the United States.
As President, Clinton raised taxes, setting the stage for a huge budget surplus, and invested time and resources in developing a single payer health plan for all Americans, which was soundly rejected by Congress. He also signed the welfare reform act, a Republican initiative that limited the time an individual can accept government welfare, with the goal of “reasserting America’s work ethic.” Looking back, his accomplishments and failures are mixed, but he was beloved by many Americans because he was a real, relatable, person – he played the saxophone, attended Baptist church, and went jogging around DC flanked by secret service agents who weren’t supposed to let him eat at his favorite restaurant–McDonalds–because he was told he needed to lose weight. He was one of us.
I voted for Clinton again in 1996, but this time his presidency was tarnished. The scandals investigated by a Republican congress, the constant media attention despite few results, and their decision to impeach him, left wide divisions between Americans. After his second term ended in 2000, his quiet and somewhat nerdy Vice President Al Gore ran for president on the Democratic ticket. After all the scandals, it wasn’t surprising that the squeaky-clean Gore distanced himself from Clinton on the campaign trail.
A lot of young voters today probably don’t remember who Al Gore is. It’s still hard for me to comprehend that this man won a majority of the popular vote–he got more votes than the other guy–but still lost the presidential election because a Republican-leaning Supreme Court intervened in a close recount in Florida, where the Republican candidate’s brother was governor.
Even though Gore won more votes than Bush, a lot of young and liberal voters were sickened by the Clinton scandals and sat home this election or voted for Green party candidate Ralph Nader in protest. Gore didn’t have a wide enough margin to win where it really counted and, as a result, our country stagnated and faltered. In many ways it felt similar to our political climate right now (minus Twitter and that whole “grabbing them by the pussy” thing). There was a general sense of malaise and frustration with the corruption in politics, and I heard numerous people my age say that both candidates were the same, and that their votes didn’t really count. As we saw in Florida that year, a few hundred votes (plus a Supreme Court) made all the difference.
Clinton left office on top of a thriving economy and a huge budget surplus, but his legacy did not continue. Our federal government was flush with money and we had an opportunity to keep the good times going. But we made a critical U-turn.
We elected a man who claimed to favor small government, who took our surplus dollars and, instead of collectively investing in our future, decided it would stimulate the economy if every American received a check for a few hundred bucks. After that, he eroded our collective investment further by tax cuts, and then launched a bogus war that cost billions of dollars and, more importantly, hundreds of thousands of lives.
We knew at the time that Iraq was not responsible for 9/11, but it seemed that most Americans didn’t care. Bush, of Texas oil money, channeled America’s collective anguish into an opportunity for his Vice President and others to make millions off of this war, while anger and patriotism surged and seethed onto misplaced targets. This is a tragedy of monumental proportions that we are still grappling with as a nation.
If you want, you can argue that a Democratic president would have also taken us into war over oil, but it’s highly doubtful considering Al Gore has spent the last two decades educating the world about global warming and renewable energy. You can say that both parties were corrupt then, and it didn’t matter who was elected in 2000, but that’s clearly not true.
Had we elected Al Gore, as the majority of the American people voted to, our country’s surplus could have been invested in our collective health and wealth – in the crumbling roads and bridges that we are now faced with, the failing water systems poisoning people, in research and development of renewable energy, and in steeping the rising costs of higher education. Would Al Gore have successfully avoided the quagmire of war and death that is now the legacy of George W. Bush? We’ll never know for sure, but he certainly did not have the ties to big oil and the Middle East that George W. Bush inherited from his family.
Why am I feeding you this political timeline, and asking you to consider events that occurred before many of you were born? It’s not because I’m trying to present Bill Clinton as a perfect president. He wasn’t. I’m trying to say, by way of recent history, that YOUR VOTE MAKES A DIFFERENCE and in the 2012 presidential election 74% of millennial did not vote. That is crazy and sad, considering our fore-fathers and mothers suffered, marched, protested, and even died for this right.
Political parties are shitty. They’re too self-serving and cater more to wealthy donors than the people who are struggling to make ends meet. We can all agree on that. America should have more legitimate political parties, limit donations to political campaigns, and do away with the Electoral College, which unfairly favors less populated states over those with more people.
However we dislike our political system, please recall that our two major political parties do support radically different agendas. One party supports a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion, while the other wants to outlaw the practice. One party believes in global warming, while the other suppresses clean energy and keeps big oil afloat. One party has legislated that ALL people deserve to marry the person they love, and the other believes marriage should be only between a man and woman. One party believes the little guy needs protection from big business, while the other thinks the free market should run unfettered.
Maybe you respect Hillary Clinton, as I do, or maybe you think she’s an evil skank.
News flash: it doesn’t actually matter if you LIKE the person you vote for. Liking the person is a bonus, and is mostly irrelevant, when it comes to politics. What matters is which candidate will promote the agenda that you want for your country.
One candidate has promised to build a giant wall between the US and Mexico, to overturn Roe v. Wade, and to cut taxes on the wealthy. He’s also promised to bring back factory jobs for people that have been largely replaced by machines.
He’s also been endorsed by the KKK, has publicly mocked people with disabilities, refused to release his tax returns, proudly judges women by the way the look, uses a bogus foundation to pay his own legal bills and buy stuff for himself, said the election was rigged until his poll numbers rose, and lies on television on a daily basis. We all have the video and twitter feed to prove it.
Hillary Clinton is not a perfect candidate. She has baggage and flaws, most notably her husband and a lack of knowledge of email. She will be hounded and dogged by the same Republicans who have blocked President Obama at every chance they get, and he’s been as damn near perfect a president as we’ve ever had.
You know Trump is a scumbag, but you’re troubled by Clinton’s past policies and scandals. If you’re thinking of staying away from the polls this Tuesday, it’s time to get over it. You want your vote to serve as a protest to teach both political parties a lesson? Trump wins. Your righteousness is a luxury our nation cannot afford right now.
There is too much at stake. We have too much to lose. Our imperfect, but better-than-ever-before country has become more progressive in the past eight years under President Obama’s leadership. It’s been slow and frustrating, fixing the mess and paying off the debt left by President George W. Bush, now reborn as a painter of dogs and shower scenes. We’ve come so far in eight years, and even though we’re not quite the country we want to be, we’re closer to the stated goal of valuing all people regardless of race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. President Obama has built so much progress and it’s all at stake.
Do you want a president who acknowledges that the prison industrial complex and current police practices are serious problems that need to be fixed or a man who bellows, “Law and Order” and nods and winks like Mussolini?
If you don’t like Hillary, fine. Start looking for a better Democratic or Green candidate to challenge her in 2020. But right now – it’s time to hold your nose and vote for her.
If you have friends in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, or North Carolina, you should let remind them as well.
Cara Ober is Founding Editor at BmoreArt and comes from a family of proud Democrats.
Top Image: Vote posters from MICA’s Globe Press
Cartoon: via the Huffington Post
Hillary image: Your Body is my Battleground, faux Barbara Kruger ad from Hyperallergic April Fools Post
If you’re voting in Maryland – please consider Democrat Chris Van Hollen to fill Senator Barbara Mikulski’s legendary but tiny shoes.
And vote YES on Question 1, which seeks to change the practice of retaining the political party of the office of Attorney General and Comptroller (elected officials) if a new one has to be appointed by the Governor. In other words, it means the voter’s will is retained and the governor is not allowed to appoint someone of his own party arbitrarily.
Lastly, Baltimore City, PLEASE vote for Ryan Dorsey for Baltimore City Council! How amazing to have an artist in elected office in our city!