The best way to protest is to vote smart

Anti-Trump protest, January 2017

Anti-Trump protest, January 2017

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

–George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905

Massive protests are planned in Washington, D.C. and around the country against tomorrow’s inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Most of the people who will be protesting are on the political left. How many of these people voted against or publicly attacked Hillary Clinton when she was the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee? How many of them didn’t vote at all? If they did those things, they helped elect Trump. Protesting now is certainly in the American tradition, but voting smarter in the first place would have greatly reduced the number of things against which to protest, or even eliminated the need to protest at all.

In the 2000 election, a similar thing happened. Purists on the left voted for Ralph Nader after he repeatedly said that the Democratic and Republican Parties were like “Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” with “not that much” difference between them. Nader went on to get enough votes each in Florida and New Hampshire to take the election away from Al Gore and hand it to George W. Bush, via the Republican majority U.S. Supreme Court. The result was the worst president in U.S. history (until tomorrow), who gave us the Iraq War and the Great Recession, neither of which would have happened under President Gore. Nader was proven dead wrong over and over again.

Unfortunately, American liberals and progressives did not learn their lesson from 2000, or pass on such lesson to young voters in 2016. Like Nader, Bernie Sanders lumped the Democratic and Republican Parties together for criticism, often attacking the Democrats even more than the Republicans. Even worse, Sanders used innuendo and sometimes racism and misogyny to attack Clinton in the Democratic Party primaries, implying, for example that Clinton was just as corrupt as the Republicans because she gave a speech to Goldman Sachs. Any basic research of Clinton’s record, instead of relying on inflammatory rhetoric, would have revealed her decades of hard work for progressive causes, from healthcare to women’s rights to early childhood education, in sharp contrast to the Republicans’ positions. Though Clinton still went on to beat Sanders for the nomination by nearly 3.7 million votes, her reputation never recovered from these attacks, which the mainstream media repeated with gusto. Jill Stein also attacked Democrats viciously, and now it turns out that Stein was a tool of Vladimir Putin, who used Stein and instigated other leftist attacks on Clinton and the Democratic Party to help Donald Trump. In short, many leftists were played due to their purism and naivete.

The next four years under President Donald Trump (and the six Goldman Sachs bankers he has hired thus far), with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress and soon on the U.S. Supreme Court, are going to be very painful. Hopefully, some liberals and progressives will learn their lesson and vote smarter next time.

Photo by Francisco Daum, used under Creative Commons license.

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