Viewpoint

Vote for the crook. It’s important.

Milligan
Milligan

No matter how much Donald Trump seems to damage his own candidacy, there are still many who can’t get past the feeling, “I still think she’s a crook!”

I understand that feeling. I’ve seen it before. I moved to Louisiana in 1991 just in time to hear something similar – something that taught me a lot about 2016.

In Louisiana in 1991 a gubernatorial election was in full swing. One candidate was Edwin Edwards, a three-term former governor running for a fourth. Edwards’ administrations had been plagued by allegations of corruption, including a grand jury investigation and two trials on charges of mail fraud, obstruction of justice and bribery.

So when I moved there I was astonished to see bumper stickers reading, “Vote for the crook – it’s important!” I was baffled.

Then I was told the reason for the bumper stickers: Edwards’ major opponent was David Duke – a well-known white nationalist, anti-Semite, Holocaust denier, and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard.

My friends were almost uniformly horrified by the thought of a fourth term for Edwards. But they found supporting an ex-Klansman as governor absolutely unthinkable – so they held their noses and “voted for the crook.”

In a run-off election Edwards beat Duke, 61-39. Louisiana “elected the crook,” and saved themselves the disaster of a Klansman governor. (It turns out that they weren’t wrong about Edwards: he was later convicted on 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, mail fraud, and wire fraud, and spent two years in the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth.) But I never heard anyone express regret that Louisiana failed to elect a Klansman as governor.

My friends hated voting for Edwards. They had been disappointed and embittered for too long. But they had no choice but to vote against Duke – in any way they could.

And here we are, this time on a national level, with two candidates for president who are both loathed as widely as about any candidates in history. By now we’re all familiar with the chants of “Anybody but Hillary.”

But too many Americans – including a growing number of Republicans – are finding the thought of a Trump presidency terrifying.

So more and more it feels like it’s time to have those bumper stickers reprinted. If you don’t like, if you mistrust, if you’re disgusted by, the thought of Hillary Clinton as president, if you still feel like Hillary is a crook ... folks, “Vote for the crook. It’s important.”

Milligan is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Charlotte.

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