When I saw St. Jane Media's call for essays about how women are voting in this year's election, I immediately knew I wanted to voice my opinion.
As a single, white, and college educated woman, my vote is statistically supposed to go to the Clinton camp (I checked all the demographic boxes I’m in and that is true). When Hillary was running for president in 2008, I was with her. Until I looked more into Barack Obama. I was seduced by a promise of a better America and dutifully fell in line, voting for him twice. Even though by 2012’s election I felt he had let me down.
Guantanamo Bay was still open. Not a single financial institution was penalized for the financial disaster of 2008. So when murmurs of the 2016 race began and Hillary emerged as the obvious candidate, I was ambivalent about electing another Democrat. Then Bernie Sanders threw his hat in the ring.
Now, I'm kind of a politics nerd and my views are way left of center. I read the news and political analysis obsessively. I've been following Bernie Sanders since he won his Senate seat in 2006. Bernie and his policies were nothing new to me. The message was just more focused and directly in line with the policies and political stances I think the country needs to prosper. Universal healthcare, free college education, overturning Citizen's United, Wall Street reform, real work on climate change policy. Not only was Hillary Clinton not speaking to these issues, she was speaking against them in some cases. Maybe I was idealistic, but I thought Bernie had a real shot. Hell, he did win 23 state primaries and caucuses.
Clinton prevailed as the Democratic nominee however, which means I'm supposed to acquiesce, but I don't want to. I don't want to give in to empty promises and be disappointed. I don't want to feel like I was lied to when the policies I am hoping for don’t come to fruition. I do not want to vote for a woman for president just because she's the first woman candidate (which I'm sorry to say seems to be many more people's motivation for Hillary's candidacy than I am comfortable with). So I won’t.
I am lucky to live in a solid blue state. There is no risk of Clinton losing here, which gives me the freedom to vote for someone else. I don't have a lot of choices, though. Unfortunately there's no third party candidate who fills the void that Bernie left.
Jill Stein is too problematic as a candidate and it seems as though she's running more as a protest candidate. Gary Johnson could never be an option just by considering his astonishing ignorance of world affairs, forget the rest of his abhorrent economic policies and small government mentality. For me personally, at this point, this election is about my conscience.
Hillary Clinton is more than qualified to be the president of the United States. But I don't trust she will enact the policies that are important to me. I don't trust her to keep us out of unnecessary wars. I don't trust her to protect us from predatory banks, or snooping federal agencies, insurance price gouging or any other litany of horrific and unfair things our government lets happen to its citizens.
I'm throwing my vote away, so to speak. I'm going to write Bernie's name into my ballot. Although I know he's not going to win, and my vote in this election will be meaningless, I will be able to live with myself, knowing I did not lie down blindly, that I kept my morals.
For a while I considered voting for Donald Trump. I was so angry that other people didn’t see the issues and solutions to the country’s problems the way I did. But ultimately a vote for Trump is a moral quandary I couldn't allow for myself. There is too much at stake, my progressive ideals will never be met with a demagogue in office, and I could never live with myself if he actually wins (Hello, Brexit!).
My vote will have more weight in my local elections anyway, and I intend to study up and choose the most progressive candidates possible. If Bernie taught me anything through this, it’s that change is possible but it starts small. No matter what happens on November 8th, my conscience will be clear.