I have a vivid memory from my sophomore year of high school in an intense discussion of California’s Proposition 8 with one of my best friends. We yelled back and forth over whether or not religion should play a role in defining legal marriage. Our conversations were always futile, for no matter how much we discussed, we were already set. I was a Democrat, she was a Republican. That difference determined how we thought on these issues, and that was never going to change.
This political division carried throughout the rest of high school, through mock debates in government class, op-ed assignments for newspaper and the excitement of the 2012 election. My peers and I navigated along a political dividing line, and though we were always respectful of beliefs different than our own, we remained deeply rooted in our household party preferences.
My college education at UC Santa Barbara shaped me into a fierce progressive. I learned about all these problems in the United States that were so systemic and desperately wanted radical change that never seemed to happen. For millennials, our political era has been characterized by intense congressional gridlock to the point that politics seems to be more about blocking the actions of the other party rather than creating a better society.
I began to really resent the two-party electoral system in America, and I was frustrated with my own party within that system. I am a registered Democrat, although I like to identify myself as a “liberal” rather than a “Democrat.” I felt that the leaders of my party talked a good game, but never enacted the progressive policies I wanted to see.
So naturally, when Bernie Sanders came along, I really felt the Bern. He understood my generation, people who so desperately wanted to believe in a candidate, but felt that no one truly spoke for us. A generation that wanted to break away from the two-party identifiers and vote based on values rather than party loyalty. He was the anti-establishment, progressive champion that I, along with so many of my peers, had been hoping for.
Of course, Bernie didn’t win the nomination, and I found myself conflicted. I didn’t hate Hillary Clinton, but had serious problems with some of her decisions. I couldn’t get on board with her support for Israel, I didn’t understand how she could promote clean energy while simultaneously supporting fracking, and I doubted what she would do to foster racial equality in the U.S. without outwardly condemning the Tough on Crime Bill. Ultimately, she embodied the seasoned politician within the two-party political establishment that I found to be so frustrating.
That being said, I’m still voting for Hillary.
I think everyone should exercise their right to vote. Many say that voting for a third party candidate is a waste of a vote—but that is not true. The only waste is not going to the ballots on November 8.
However, I challenge those choosing to vote for third party or write-in candidates as a moral imperative. Because voting third party is not a moral vote. For me, a vote for Hillary Clinton isn’t just a vote for party loyalty—it’s a vote for my values. It’s a vote to protect the right to make my own reproductive choices. It’s a vote to strengthen our health-care system. It’s a vote to protect our communities while respecting the rights and lives of all people. A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for progress, maybe not as radical as I’d like to see, but progress nonetheless.
My moral obligation is to do everything in my power to elect a candidate that will fight for the rights and values I believe in. I still have my reservations with Hillary, but I trust her to uphold what I love about America. I trust her to protect what matters to me—most of which Donald Trump has sworn to take away. Voting third party and risking the election of a candidate that I believe to be a dire threat to the United States is not a moral choice. The only true moral choice is a vote for Hillary Clinton.