The immediate aftermath of Brexit was a flood of analysts trying to determine exactly what the referendum meant for the United Kingdom, its trade partners and global politics. Would others follow? Would Scotland, mostly in favor of the European Union, vote to leave the U.K.?
The next day, Google reported that Internet users in the U.K. were asking such questions as, “What is the EU?” Some citizens admitted that they had voted for the referendum to protest the government, not because they actually favored leaving the European Union, and Prime Minister David Cameron’s immediate announcement of resignation shocked even ardent Leave supporters, who were busy backing away from untenable campaign promises.
But no degree of surprise could change the outcome. Leave had triumphed over Remain, and the EU Parliament pressured the U.K. to secede as soon as possible to avoid economic uncertainty.
On the other side of the pond, we are preparing for our presidential election. At this point, it’s cliché to refer to both Clinton and Trump as poor options. Clinton is the consummate insider in a nation that is increasingly frustrated with career politicians. Trump has maligned a number of interest groups in advancing a platform that has been described as xenophobic, inconsistent and impractical.
Clinton has only recently escaped indictment for using a private email server to transmit classified information. Trump faces legal action of his own over allegations of fraud at his eponymous for-profit university.
Neither candidate has unified his or her party base; Clinton has come closer than Trump, but has left a legion of Bernie supporters unsatisfied. In reaction to what many Americans are coming to see as a presidential race between two evils (look no further than the favorability ratings for the candidates), some would rather not make the choice altogether.
If you’re have decided that you’re better off sitting out the 2016 election, or, even worse, casting a “protest vote” for a candidate you don’t believe in just to express your frustration, I ask you to reconsider. Not because voting is integral to the American fabric or because democracy is dependent upon the consent of the governed — this is not an episode of “The West Wing.” Vote for the person you believe in because this election and its consequences are far too significant to act otherwise.
The next president will face a number of challenges and have many opportunities. He or she will shape the judiciary branch, perhaps nominating three justices to the Supreme Court, not to mention numerous district and circuit court judges. Abroad, contending with humanitarian crises in the Middle East and an increasingly complex relationship with China will be routine.
At home, immigration reform and increasing racial distrust will be on the table. And for all the complaints we may have about the two major parties’ presidential nominees, their platforms are quite different. It is our duty to choose the approach we deem the most appropriate.
The process can be frustrating, but there are plenty of ways for us to express these frustrations. By speaking up and taking actions such as calling state and local representatives, the people can express their opinions and make an impact in ways besides the presidential election. If you are upset by national and local corruption, read up on your representatives and senators, and vote for those that you feel you can trust. The national election is not the only election that makes a difference.
But voting for a presidential candidate whose ideas you don’t support just to “stick it” to one you dislike is immature, not to mention dangerous. For all the positives of democracy, it enables citizens to rashly and irreversibly effectuate severe impacts.
In the past month, we have watched in awe as British citizens have dealt with the fallout of a decision that many did not even mean to make, one that could result in the end of the United Kingdom altogether. Let us not follow in their example and instead treat this crucial decision with the absolute seriousness it demands.