2016 has been the year of the wild card. If there’s anything that we’ve learned, it’s that tragedy has no cap—and no matter how absurd our reality might appear, it is not safe to assume that overnight, things won’t get even worse.
It’s not safe to assume that by tomorrow night, things will not get worse. According to the latest poll released by The New York Times on Thursday night, Hillary Rodham Clinton has a 3 percent edge over Donald J. Trump among likely voters—45 to 42. The same poll cites that “more than eight in 10 voters say the campaign has left them repulsed rather than excited.”
Yet can anybody really blame them? Every day—it’s sexual harassment charges, it’s the release of shady e-mail records, it’s the confession to a total ignorance of the state of international affairs. It’s the director of the FBI contending directly with the President of the United States. In the past year, those of us with news notifications on our phones have probably started few mornings without a deep sigh.
I remember the day that Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. I’d been in the middle of writing an article speculating about his likely triumph over HRC. I felt at the pit of my soul and senses that it was the beginning of the end. But I really had no idea how bad it would be. Nobody did. Life has never been so easy for the writers of Saturday Night Live. We laugh—sure. We laugh the the same way people do when they’re told of a horrific accident. It’s a panic response.
We are in full panic mode.
For the past couple of months, watching the circus that has been the 2016 election has left us feeling helpless at best, and blood curdling anxious at worst. It wasn't too long ago that so many of us—and by us, I mean Sarah Lawrence students—were plastering the campus with signs to Get Out the Vote. The day of the primary was beautiful. I sat on the rock at Westlands Gate for hours and directed dozens of people to get into vans to cast their trusty vote. When the voters returned, they bore their “I VOTED” stickers with pride. There was hope in the air. Our man—the white-haired pseudo-Socialist wonder—still had a chance. And then he lost New York, and everything quietly fizzled out from there.
It hasn’t quite been the same ever since. Maybe it’s the lack of a politically decked out Subaru making its rounds down Glen Washington that’s left me uncertain. Maybe it’s the knowledge that statistically, the odds are against us young people. Last semester, I wrote an article imploring readers to “rip the metaphorical duct-tape off of one’s mouth and cease the cycle of voluntary disenfranchisement via apathy and ignorance.” The fact is that in the 2014 election, only 20 percent of 18 to 29 year olds cast their ballots. In the face of anxiety about the realities of political apathy, I turned to the numbers. I wanted people to get out there. And that was the primary.
What I understand now that I didn’t then is that numbers don’t matter if people are tired. No amount of scare-mongering via millennial guilt-trip think pieces will force a young person to cast their vote for Hillary Clinton if Hillary Clinton represents everything they hate about politics, or if they think their people abroad will be put in danger by her foreign policy. I’ve had a hundred and one conversations about people’s decisions to not vote.
Alexander Wah ’19, canvassed for Barack Obama in 2012. But on Tuesday, he might stay home. He might vote third party. But as he told me, there’s no way he’s voting for Hillary Clinton.
“I’m generally an optimist, but I do feel disenfranchised. Hillary is the most non-messed-up candidate but it’s hard. She’s corrupt. It’s like we’re between a rock and an amorphous, changing hard place,” he said.
Wah’s hesitance echoes the thought of many. It’s not easy to know the right answer. One can acknowledge that voting is a sacred right—one that has been afforded to many of us through the bloodshed of our ancestors, and one that millions abroad continue to fight to the death for. Yet one can also know the discomfort of feeling the metaphorical gun to the temple—the authoritative voice of mass media seizing your pencil and forcing you to choose “the lesser of two evils” because that’s what people who care about their country would do. Rebellion is a natural response to being put in a moral chokehold. But every rebellion has a cost. It’s up to you to name your price.
Come tomorrow, voting vans sponsored by DAPS and the Office of Student Affairs will be making the rounds to take students to vote.
To quote the Donald himself: “History is watching us now.”
Kate Bakhtiyarova '19