This hurts to write. Damn it hurts.
But I have to write it. And I have to say it. And if I could sing, I’d sing it too.
If Bernie does not win the Democratic nomination, I would vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election.
I really don’t want to contemplate it but I think we have an obligation to strategize all possibilities; brown people don’t have the privilege of not having a Plan B. Don’t get me wrong: Bernie can still win this thing and IF we do our job (MAKE NO MISTAKE—THE REMAINING PRIMARY SCHEDULE GREATLY FAVORS BERNIE. ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE!!). There’s a very real possibility that he could win!! Math is math—she’s winning. But we will win if we work hard enough (or she gets indicted—for those that say it cannot happen, there IS an active investigation, as you all know). There are paths to victory for Bernie.
But IF we DON’T win the victory, what then?
I wouldn’t want to vote for either candidate in that situation. Trump stinks and Hillary is also a profoundly flawed candidate, one that has consistently been on the wrong side of history and policy as it relates to people of color. She’s an anachronism, a reminder of machine politics when Democrats could and would take the votes of people of color for granted because where else are they going to go?
All those critiques are true. For example, Hillary hasn’t shown any real commitment to reaching Native people or a commitment to championing any substantive positions for Natives in any public space in 2016. She hasn’t done nearly the outreach to Native communities that Bernie has—the Hillary campaign could learn a lot from Bernie’s outreach to Native voters this cycle and should adopt Bernie’s platform toward Native Nations. That would be revolutionary. Likewise, she has never shown any meaningful consideration to her “firewall,” the black community. It does look like she’s finally slightly considering the voices of black organizers and the impact of her support of mass incarceration/three-strikes laws. Yet I see that as more of a testament to those black organizers’ work than to Hillary soul-searching and finding value in black lives.
There would be nothing idealistic, aspirational or progressive about a vote for Hillary over Trump. My vote would simply be for the lesser of two evils, two candidates that have histories of harming brown and black people. But one candidate—Trump—has made explicit intent to harm more brown people part of his presidential platform. If Hillary began to embrace Bernie’s platform on Native people and disavowed her history of interventionism, it would make it somewhat easier, but still not aspirational.
Therefore I would vote for Hillary if she defeats Bernie for the nomination. Moreover, I would likely go to a battleground state to work to make sure that she gets elected. But when I cast that vote for her, it won’t be for her, but will be a vote against Trump and his blatant racism against our Muslim and Latino sisters and brothers. Not that Hillary doesn’t have LOTS of blood on her hands—her interventionism (from Afghanistan in 2001, the Iraq War in 2003, the Honduran coup in 2009, Libya in 2011) has resulted in many, many deaths, not to mention mass incarceration and increased police presence domestically which disproportionately affects brown and black bodies.
Her record of intervention speaks for itself. But at the very least she isn’t saying that she is going to target certain groups for persecution.
Voting for her would be the very definition of “lesser of two evils.” But NOT voting is a privilege of those who are not in physical danger. Since there would be brown and black bodies in even more physical danger under Trump than Hillary, voting for Hillary would be a necessary evil in that situation.
LET ME EXPLAIN WITH A SHORT STORY:
Recently, I had dinner with a group of my good friends. One of my friends is a Latino brother, Mexican-American. An election year, of course we ended up talking politics and the question came up: “Who are you going to vote for?” We all went through our spiels—I have been a notoriously loud Bernie supporter since before he declared his intention to run for President. I explained all the reasons that I support him and not Hillary. They all agreed—we are all progressives and think that he is by far the best candidate available.
We’re feeling the bern.
Then the inevitable follow-up question came—“What if he doesn’t win?”
We grew uncomfortable. We didn’t want to talk about that. I told the group that I likely would not vote. I honestly felt like that. It made sense to me—to voice my protest by withdrawal from the system, and also to organize with a group of folks who likewise do not feel like the larger systemic questions are being answered by this current structure. Leverage our non-vote! “Ok Hillary, you want our vote, then come address our concerns! Actually apologize for your support of three strikes and your out laws and show us how you intend to undo the damage you created to black and brown families!”
My Mexican-American friend looked shocked and pained. He asked me “really?”
We finished our dinner and made an unspoken vow not to talk politics again during this cycle.
In another election year, this strategy might be justified. I don’t go for the rhetoric that “the stakes are too high this year” that folks say whenever someone brings up a third-party candidate. That’s fear-mongering and I won’t let that determine my decisions. Candidates always try to convince us that this election year is unique.
But 2016 actually is unique.
Look, I agree that it will be difficult for any president to pass any meaningful legislation no matter who that president is. Agreed. It is an obstructionist congress and in the same way that Obama had great difficulty getting anything through, any of these candidates will have an equally difficult time, if not greater.
That said, 2016 is a unique election cycle where a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has openly declared war on our Muslim family as well as our Mexican family. He has made no qualms about his intentions—he is going to construct a huge wall between Mexico and the United States, not allowing any Muslims to come into this country. One of the reasons that he feels this wall is necessary is because he believes the Mexicans who come to this nation are rapists and drug dealers. This is a unique and ugly type of discrimination against discreet groups of people within this Nation. You all have seen the video footage; Trump has proven his racist rhetoric with action, encouraging violence against black and brown people at his rallies with absolutely no provocation.
That is a unique threat to brown and black people that hasn’t been present in recent elections.
That’s why my Mexican-American friend looked at me shocked and pained; “This guy is talking about deporting members of my family and you are contemplating not voting? What kind of friend, what kind of progressive are you? 11 million people. Many of those people Indigenous.”
Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric and threats of violence are unique in recent history—Mitt Romney didn’t use this type of rhetoric, didn’t encourage violence and removal against brown and black voices. McCain didn’t either. Bush Jr. didn’t either. Donald Trump is a unique threat to the lives and well-being of Muslims, Arabs, Mexicans, Latinos generally and therefore a threat to everyone. And that’s just at his rallies; can you imagine if this racist has the power of TSA, Homeland Security, the FBI and Secret Service behind him?
I assure you that it would be bad for our Muslim and Latino family. If it were in an election against any of those aforementioned candidates (McCain, Romney, etc), maybe we sit that election out in protest with the prospect of such an underwhelming election between two bad candidates as Hillary and the Donald.
But we cannot sit this one out. It is unique.
We know that racism is a very real thing; imagine if that racism didn’t even have to hide, didn’t even have to pretend that it respected our humanity.
It would be like Donald Trump’s rallies.
There would be openly condoned state-sanctioned violence that is unique and horrible. This isn’t about Hillary. Forget her. It’s not about Democrat or Republican. Like many of my friends, I’m neither. It’s not about theory—the threat of Donald Trump harming brown and black people isn’t theoretical, it’s real. He said exactly what he will do when he’s in power. History tells us that when white men say they’re going to do evil things to people of color in this nation, we should believe them.
I believe him.
“Vote Blue No Matter Who?” Oh hell naw. And I ain’t conceding either—I’m 100% #BernieSanders2016 and I’m holding out hope that folks come to their senses and realize Bernie is the best candidate!
We can and should maintain and even amplify all of our critiques of Hillary, the Democratic Party and the electoral system. Absolutely—we have to. Bernie absolutely has a viable plan for victory. Still, if Bernie does not win the nomination I would be in a battleground state working, except it will be for Hillary. Because it’s bigger than Hillary. It’s bigger than Bernie. He is a great and a justice-minded white man who makes racial and economic justice a priority. That is powerful. Yet we cannot allow our political allegiance to a white man threaten real brown and black lives. Trump’s vitriol against the Muslim and Latino communities is real and not theoretical. Therefore, IF Bernie doesn’t win the nomination, I will vote for solidarity for brown and black lives that are in a unique type of danger and against blatant, violent and state-sanctioned racism under Trump. In its place, I believe that we can work together to foil Hillary’s pattern of harming brown and black lives both domestically and abroad. Perhaps we can hold her more accountable than Trump—that is the hope.
It would hurt if Bernie didn’t win and Hillary was the only choice vs. Trump…but it wouldn’t be a vote for Hillary, it would be a vote against Trump’s blatant racism. That’s it, nothing more.
Let’s go help Bernie win in the upcoming states. Seriously—let’s go. And if that doesn’t go as planned, I encourage all who are likewise #BernieOrBust and are considering sitting out of the upcoming election to consider this viewpoint and to rally around our Muslim and Latino family. People of color have to help each other and Hillary is less bad for brown and black people than Trump; that’s the only reason that I could bring myself to vote for Hillary if Bernie did not win the nomination.
#HillaryIsTheLesserEvil #NeverTrump #NativesAgainstTrump #BrownSolidarity #BrownPeopleAgainstTrump
Wesley Roach, Skan Photography
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories