(When The Atlantic released its first endorsement of a presidential candidate since 1964, the online news community shook and rattled just a little. What woke The Atlantic from its long slumber? As I read its endorsement of Hillary Clinton, it occurred to me, “Hey, what if every registered voter put into words—THEIR OWN words—why they planned to vote for a candidate? What if we all ignored Google and other people’s thoughts and relied only on our own?” So I posted that on Twitter on a Wednesday, two days before the you-know-what really hit the fan in the Trump campaign, and about six people read it. I determined that maybe I should just shut up and write. And I did. I wrote this the following Friday. And now I am rereading it after enduring coverage of Clinton’s own October Surprise, and I have determined that I still stand by it—compromised security, sordid emails and all. So here I am, hitting “publish.” It’s time.)
For lo, these past 12 months, I have listened to Donald Trump approach his campaign for the presidency as if it were the season finale of “The Apprentice.” Like everyone else in this free world, I have listened to him degrade and insult minorities, patronize and objectify women, mock people with disabilities, and demean the U.S. military and its leaders. I have listened to him posit his theories on military science with the grace and dignity of a person who gets his news from a cell phone at 3 a.m. while shouting at the dog and eating ice cream from the carton.
Some might say I fall in that demographic of Trump’s Worst Nightmare: the kind of person who questions him and his make-believe insight into our national policies and who doesn’t give a whit about his fortune and his brand. I’ll take it. I’ll wear it like a badge of honor. Give me that mic. I’ll host a debate or a town hall. I’ll even bring snacks. Because I have a few things to say. Not that he would ever listen. He never does. He doesn’t even know me.
I am the granddaughter of a WWII veteran, the granddaughter of an aeronautical engineer who had no formal education past eighth grade and no training yet wrote the manual for the C-5,the niece of a surviving Vietnam War veteran, the niece of a Vietnam War soldier killed by friendly fire, the great-granddaughter of a woman who some suspect was at least half Cherokee, the great-granddaughter of another woman who didn’t finish high school, the granddaughter of a woman who graduated as salutatorian of her high school class in the thick of WWII while also raising a son while her husband was serving in the Navy, the daughter of a woman who returned to college at 40something, the daughter of a man who taught me to argue, the product of some straight-up middle-class upbringing, the mother of four children (mostly grown), a college English instructor, a wife to the same man for 26 years, and a Christian who believes in a God who gives us brains and freewill and a nice place to live and still trusts us to do the right thing. We have to respect a God like that.
I also happen to be a college-educated suburban white girl.
Since 1984, I have voted straight-ticket Republican. (In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t recall ever actually “checking the box” that would indicate a straight ticket, but item by item, I have, with neither apology nor shame, checked off each and every Republican candidate—municipal, state, national—since 1984. Because everyone should be represented by even a Republican coroner, yes?)
What I am writing here on this page all feels somehow a betrayal of my former self—a compromise of my core political beliefs. I have taken “reaching across the aisle” to a most ridiculous level and have completely switched my political party affiliation. At times, it feels like one of those long commutes, when I get to my parking place at 7 a.m. and wonder, “How did I get here? I don’t even remember taking the exit.” That’s what this has been like.
But if I were to be completely straight here, I have been fully conscious and aware. The journey of this past year has been less of a “reaching” and more of a fitful dragging of my kicking, angry body across the carpeted aisle so that I can muster the courage to stand proudly among them, maybe wearing a fake nametag.
Hello, My Name Is Linda.
The five phases of mourning—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—easily apply to this journey. Denial that Trump would be the nominee. Anger that Trump is the nominee. Bargaining with God to do something that would effectively undo Trump being the nominee. Depression about Trump being the nominee. And finally, acceptance that I would not, could not vote for the Republican nominee.
What has been moderately helpful during this mourning process in recent weeks is one particular realization. The identity of the two major political parties has been diluted to an unrecognizable extent, and we have seen the stereotypes and predictability of old completely and thoroughly scrambled in a social and political Mix Master. (Don’t shake your head and mutter incoherent words. You know it’s true. Every last one of you.)
Like you, I would guess, I grew up in an age where the identity of the Democrats and Republicans was deeply etched in stone—maybe on Mount Rushmore somewhere. I can’t remember where I saw it. But it’s somewhere. And the social and political stereotypes logically followed, and we could rely on them. Trust them. Count on them. Abide by them.
But they are largely gone—at least on the Republican side. Somebody dynamited them off the face of that mountain. Party identity, gone. Political stereotypes, gone. I am grateful. Because if this election has taught me anything, it is this: Both parties have much to offer in terms of ideology. Sebastian Junger points this out in Tribe. Christians are absolutely wrong to believe that one political party has the corner on Christian ideals. (He explains this far more eloquently and logically than I can here, but know that he does it. Go read it for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.)
Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s the digital media and the abundance of information it heaps on our overworked and tired brains every. single. day. Maybe it’s the worldwide political climate that leaves us wondering, “Has it ever been this bad before?” Or maybe it’s just Trump, who has colored this election in such a way that we have no choice but to ask ourselves, “Is it unbearably cold and intolerant in here? Should I move to a warmer, gentler place?”
In a way, I suppose I owe Donald Trump a … “thank you”? Maybe he deserves a “thank you” for freeing voters to shed our made-up stereotypes, trade in our longstanding histories, walk away from our allegiances, and make up our own minds without a party or a segment of the media telling us what we should do. Maybe we all owe him for encouraging us to use our God-given brains and consciences and reading abilities and cable TV to discern what is toxic and dangerous and stay the hell away from it.
This is why I (have to) endorse Hillary Clinton for president.