Why We Sometimes Have to Vote Against a Deplorable Candidate

I can actually empathize with young people who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary. While I wasn’t exactly young at the time, I went through many of the same things during the 2004 primary.

Having grown disgusted with the establishment’s lack of response to Bush/Cheney, I decided that Sen. John Kerry was their representative, something I revised as I watched him work tirelessly on the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate accord years later. But he had voted to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq, and in 2004, that was enough for me to question whether or not I should support him.

While I was wondering whether or not to work on Howard Dean’s campaign, I went to hear the late great Molly Ivins speak. She said something that helped me make that decision and has been a mainstay ever since. It was, “In the primary, vote with your heart. In the general…go with you head.” That rang true as I watched Kerry lose in the general election and experienced another four years of the disastrous Bush administration. In other words, I learned the importance of voting against someone when your preferred alternative doesn’t win the primary. That is, apparently, something I share with many people in France who voted for Macron simply to stop Le Pen.

Given what Catherine Rampell wrote this week about the war Trump is waging against millennials, I have to wonder whether or not they aren’t learning that lesson as we speak.

Trumpcare is, on the whole, terrible. But if you’re a millennial, it does have one thing going for it: It’s virtually the only piece of the Trump platform that advantages the young at the expense of the old.

The rest of the Trump agenda could be broadly characterized as full-on generational warfare against the young. If enacted, it will rob millennials and subsequent generations of earnings, benefits, consumer protections and even — if you look far enough into the future — a habitable place to live.

Rampell highlights how the Trump agenda affects millennials when it comes to taxes, students loans and climate change. But given that at least half of millennials are women, it is also important to remember that the administration isn’t simply challenging a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, they are striking out against having access to birth control. Also, one doesn’t have to be black or brown to realize that failure to hold police accountable presents a danger to a sizable portion of millennials, that deportation policies are a threat to DREAMers and that reinvigorating the war on drugs puts a new generation at risk for mass incarceration. Finally, voter suppression efforts, which this White House will encourage rather than challenge, are aimed not only at people of color and the elderly, but at college students.

Even if someone considered Hillary Clinton to be part of the establishment that isn’t changing things enough, it is not hard to imagine that none of those things would have been happening if she had been elected.

So as Molly said, it is a great thing to put your heart and soul into your favorite candidate in a primary. But if they don’t win, you have to go with your head. As someone who has been voting now for over 40 years, it has been my rare privilege on a few occasions to vote enthusiastically for someone in a general election. Those are moments I hold dear. But I’ve never been sorry for those times that my only choice was to vote against a deplorable candidate. That might not feel as good, but it has been every bit as important.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.