I want you to imagine that you’re driving cross country and, after several hundred miles of empty countryside, your car begins to make a funny noise. You stop and lift the hood, but you can’t tell what’s wrong. You continue on a bit and now some smoke is coming from under the hood. But, you’re in luck; just up ahead is a small town, the only one you’re going to come to for another several hundred miles. And, as you push your car the last mile into town, you check your cell phone and find out that there are only two repair shops in town. Yelp tells you that one of them — we’ll call it Pub’s Car Repair– is run by an old man described over and over as shyster, a crook, a con artist, a guy who will charge you way too much for a “repair” that fails within a few miles. The other — we’ll call it Demo’s Auto Repair — is run by a guy regularly described as knowledgeable, a good diagnostician, and a businessman who treats his customers fairly. One or two of the review say that his waiting room has old magazines and the fake leather on some of the chairs is cracked. He doesn’t offer free coffee and sometimes it can take a day or so for him to get a part shipped from the city.
That’s it. You’ve got a binary choice to make. The majority of us would call Demo’s and ask for a tow. We wouldn’t say, “Well, neither of these sounds absolutely perfect; neither meets my high standards for car repair shops. So I’m just not going to use either of them. I’ll just sit here and wait in the hope that maybe in a few years a new shop will open and I’ll like it better.” Nor would we say, “Oh, I see that the Cafe used to be a car repair shop so I’m going to push my car to the Cafe and ask them to fix my car. They probably can’t, but at least I won’t have patronized a less-than-ideal car repair shop.”
You can probably see where I’m going. We’re heading for the 2018 election — one of the most important elections in U.S. history. We’re going to be voting for Congresspersons and Senators and, in many cases, a lot of local seats that can have a huge influence on the quality of our lives. It’s probably our last, best shot to save America from Trump and his fascist, racist, agenda. In many places, the November election will be preceded by primaries and it’s quite likely that most primaries won’t be like the two-shop town described above. You may have a number of choices and you may even decide to vote, for example, for the more progressive candidate for the Democratic ticket, even if you’re pretty sure that a more centrist Democrat will wind up on the ticket, opposite the Republican candidate.
But come November, you are going to be faced with what is, in reality, a binary choice. Either the Democrat or the Republican is going to win and your vote could be the one vote that makes the difference. (We can debate whether it would be better if the U.S. had an active third party (or more), but the fact is that right now our car is broken down in a two-car-repair-shop town and all the debating in the world won’t change it in time for us to get our car fixed and get back on the road.) So you can’t stay home. You can’t throw your vote away on a third-party candidate who won’t win, but who may draw enough votes away from the Democrat to throw the election to the Republican. In the general election, you have to be a grown-up who understands making the best of a less-than-perfect situation, who realizes that life often offers imperfect choices, and who lives in the real world. I’ve been voting for a long time and I’ve yet to see the perfect candidate, the one who didn’t come with some positions I don’t like and some personal warts. That doesn’t keep me from voting for the Democrat.
In the last presidential election, we saw people who stamped their feet and said, “A candidate has to earn my vote and I’m not voting for Hillary because [insert her less-than-perfect response to your pet issue here].” Or, “I don’t vote with my vagina and Hillary hasn’t earned my vote because she [voted to authorize force in the mid-east a decade ago and hasn’t apologized in exactly the right words/gave paid speeches/said “super predators” decades ago/etc.]” All of which was fine for the primary. If you didn’t like Hillary, you could vote for Bernie, or Martin O’Malley, or Lincoln Chafee, or you could write in Jill Stein or even yourself. But once it came to the general election, if you stayed home, voted for Bernie or Jill Stein, wrote in someone — if you did anything other than show up and vote for the Democrat — you’re to blame for the Trumpian mess we’re in.
As we head for the November 2018 general election, now might be a good time to start accepting that you’re going to have another binary choice. You’re going to be sitting in a hot, broken car, thumbing your cell phone, looking at Yelp reviews, and deciding that — old magazines, cracked leather, no free coffee, and a wait for parts notwithstanding — you need to call Demo’s and get back on the road to civilization. You don’t have to fall in love. You don’t have to be bowled over. You just have to get the car fixed, here, in this town, not in some ideal town with the perfect car repair shop.
It’s what grown-ups do.
Picture found here.