Why I Can’t Afford Not to Care About the 2016 Election

If you ask the average person their opinion on the 2016 election, they’ll probably tell you, “I just can’t wait for it to be over.” It’s easy to see why Americans are growing weary with this election cycle; the insulting rhetoric and shocking allegations thrown at the candidates is disheartening coming from a country that gave us Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt, to name a few.

I don’t subscribe, however, to the attitude that we should ignore this election cycle because of the personalities or scandals. I, along with many other Americans, simply cannot afford not to be invested in this election.

Barack Obama was elected when I was ten years old, meaning I had the privilege of coming of age under an administration that cared about and protected the rights of women, students, and the middle class. Unfortunately, I spent the last few years of my time in Indiana under the dystopian administration of Governor Mike Pence. On multiple occasions, I watched him make the state a national disgrace for the bigoted, discriminatory policies he enacted against the LGBTQ+ community, Syrian refugees, and the women of Indiana.

I started to experience politics directly for the first time during Pence’s term as governor. Many of the adults in my community, a very conservative suburb of Indianapolis, were relieved that such a staunch conservative had been elected. It wasn’t long before those conservative policies began to have a real effect on the Hoosier population.

Perhaps the most concerning part of Pence’s decisions as a governor is that he used religion as a defense. While crucial to a leader’s personal moral compass, faith should not dictate policy. This is what upset me the most about seeing Pence’s name next to Trump’s on the Republican ticket: rather than a narcissistic, inexperienced tyrant, someone whom many consider credible because of his faith is in a potential position of power.

The Pence nightmare is but a microcosm of what could happen if America were to witness a Trump presidency. When I came to college in Ohio, sharing the fact that I was from Indiana was often met with comments on how my peers had last heard of my state: in the news, over RFRA or Pence’s refusal to admit refugees into the state, or “Periods for Pence,” etc.  As someone who has experienced a glimpse of what this kind of administration means, please take it from me: America’s minorities cannot afford a Trump presidency.

If you identify as queer, you cannot afford to let Trump win this election. If you are a person of color, you cannot afford to let Trump win this election. If you are a woman, you cannot afford to let Trump win this election.

It’s true that I get mad about politics. I’ve come home from debates crying, ranting, often tweeting or writing a Facebook post. I know this may bother some who don’t consider political engagement important, but I won’t apologize for caring about the issues that will decide my own fate and that of my peers. I believe this passion is justified because it’s infuriating that the governor of my state refused to grant an entire nationality asylum—even in their time of need—because he suspected that their race represented terrorism. That was the most blatantly racist policy I’ve ever lived to see, and yes, I am infuriated that our elected leaders are allowed to make these kinds of decisions. I’m enraged that a candidate for the Presidency is a proven perpetrator of sexual assault and is still able to run virtually unscathed. It angers me that the highest office of service to the people in the country apparently now can be filled by someone with no political experience and no knowledge of political function. Seriously, is it so wrong to want a qualified candidate to be President? It seems that “experienced politician” has become a bad word among voters.

This is why I think it’s important to follow politics, and why it’s important to get invested in your candidate or cause. My way of life, as well as those of my loved ones, could drastically change if the candidate vowing to protect my rights loses. For those I know who consider it impolite or even inappropriate to talk about politics, understand this: the 2016 election will determine the course of real human lives.

Maybe this election isn’t particularly impactful for you. If you have a comfortable income, reliable healthcare, and especially if you’re a straight white man, neither Hillary nor Trump will drastically change your way of life. If you’re an immigrant, though, and you already feel systematic prejudices working against you, a Trump presidency could mean governmental discrimination at best and deportation at worst. If you identify as anything other than straight, you have reason to fear for your right to marriage in a Trump presidency. If you're a woman—much like the ones Trump likes to brag about sexually assaulting—your rights to reproductive health services are greatly endangered.

Even if your stakes are low in this year’s election, please remember that others’ are high. Your friends and family are facing what could be a complete reversal in way of life. If it really is a decision between the lesser of two evils, consider what evil could mean for your loved ones. It takes a lot of empathy to understand but only the push of a button to cast a vote. Whether or not you experience it directly, the government plays a huge role in our lives as Americans; some of us can’t afford not to be passionate when it concerns life as we know it.

 

Image credits: 1, 2, 3