Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

As usual, I’ve seen quite a bit of nastiness on Facebook lately with regard to the presidential race. Merciless attacks. Hateful insults. Only these exchanges aren’t between Republicans and Democrats. They’re among members of the same party.

What I’ve found interesting (and not in a good way) is the level of hostility displayed toward individuals who do not intend to vote the same way in the general election as someone else. On the Democratic side, it is mostly Hillary supporters who are furious or frustrated that certain Bernie supporters have pledged not to vote for Hillary even if/after she wins the nomination. The claims are that they will still vote for Bernie, vote for an independent candidate such as Jill Stein, or not vote at all.

Personally, I will vote for the Democratic nominee, no matter who it is. It’s not because I’m undyingly loyal to the party – in fact, I cringe to label myself as a Democrat, even if the vast majority of my views are extremely liberal. I will vote Hillary if need be because of the pragmatist in me (it often has to fight for space alongside the idealist in there). While I don’t love everything about her, what she says she plans to do and where her motivations and passions lie align closely enough with my own that seeing her in the White House would be far preferable to the alternative. If it comes to it, I would rather give my vote to someone who could realistically benefit from it in a real and tangible way.

The other option for someone who merely considers Hillary the lesser of two evils is to vote their conscience. To take a stand based on principle, and choose instead to vote more symbolically for someone they believe in and feel passionately about, even when they know the recipient of their vote doesn’t have a chance, and even when they know that large numbers of voters doing the same could conceivably split the vote enough to hand the presidency to the right – in all likelihood, Trump.

I understand the allure of voting that way. I’m all about principle and integrity. The thought of giving my vote to someone I consider a lesser candidate doesn’t particularly thrill me. While I happen to feel that the stakes of this election are too high to make a statement vote at the risk of catastrophe, I can’t judge or blame someone for placing the integrity of their support above judiciousness.

My question for the community is: should this topic of discussion really be one that inspires such acrimonious response? There’s no reason we can’t engage with someone who feels differently than we do, explain our viewpoint, and even try to sway someone, without resorting to abuse…is there? If Hillary clinches the nomination and someone insists they are Bernie or bust, that’s how they feel. They will have made a conscious choice to climb aboard a sinking ship rather than jump on board another that might keep them afloat, but ultimately won’t take them where they want to go. They recognize the potential consequences of their decision. They have weighed the pros and cons and determined that their loyalty in the face of defeat is worthwhile.

Is it possible for us to disagree without disgust?

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