Forty years ago, I cast my first vote for president. I voted Republican, and I’ve done so in dozens of elections since.
I worked in the White House for President Ronald Reagan and have advised many of California’s Republican politicians. The GOP has been my home.
But not this year. This year party loyalty must take a backseat to what’s best for America. This year I’m voting for Hillary Clinton, and given the alternative, it’s an easy call.
What’s not so easy is making sense of the hostile reaction to my choice. It’s a free country. And we are free to vote for whomever we choose.
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But some Americans would rather hand the Oval Office to a petulant, dangerously unbalanced reality TV star than support a Democrat.
That’s disturbing, and the partisanship it reflects makes me concerned for our country.
I’ve weathered a strong dose of that partisanship recently. When news of my decision to support Clinton aired in late May, the reaction was strong and swift. My interview with CNN trended on Twitter for a full day, and I was flooded with emails, voicemails, texts and Facebook notes from friends and strangers.
Most of the comments were encouraging. But many were hateful. I knew I’d get some flack, but I expected mostly good-natured jabs and honest disagreements. There was some of that. But there was also a current of viciousness that surprised even someone with thick skin like me.
One writer said he wanted me to watch my family endure violence from illegal immigrants. Others called me a “moron” with an unprintable adjective and other things not fit to print, and said they hoped I’d die before Trump took the oath of office.
Some might dismiss these venomous comments as the work of a few wackos, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think it’s a matter of monkey see, monkey do. Trump is hateful, so it’s no surprise that his amped-up troops are spewing hate too.
Trump also fuels this behavior with his portrayal of our country as a place of us versus them, a place where somebody – probably with brown skin or an unusual surname – is to blame for our troubles. His answers – Build a wall! Deport 11 million illegals! – are so appealingly and appallingly simple, it’s no wonder many people are drinking the Kool-Aid.
But the world is a complicated place, a place in which diplomacy, reason and wisdom are needed to steer a good course forward. Putting a rash, narcissistic bully like Trump in charge of our nation would be disastrous.
And so yes, this year I will vote for a Democrat for the first time, for Hillary Clinton because I believe four years of Clinton as president is better than one day of Trump. While she holds many policy positions that differ from my own, her qualifications cannot be disputed. And while she is flawed, she has the temperament and experience needed to lead our nation.
Trump does not even come close, and his policies, conduct and belief system don’t represent the Republican Party I’ve known and loved.
Trump has built his sickening brand on a foundation of xenophobia, tapping into people’s fears and struggles to hoist himself as some sort of divine, orange-haired superhero.
Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton took note of this, saying “He’s not just trying to build a wall between America and Mexico. He’s trying to wall off Americans from each other.”
That’s not what the United States is all about. That’s not “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
I’m predicting that sanity will prevail and this nightmare will end Nov. 8, and I’ll be staying up late to cheer.
Doug Elmets owns a public affairs firm in Sacramento, Calif. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.