Avoid These Election-Year Mistakes


A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the Court.

We see words of caution everywhere: "Do not drive with sunshield in place." "Do not use thermometer orally after using rectally." "Do not iron clothes on body." As I study manufacturers' warning labels, I sometimes wonder what geniuses are buying their products. In a similar vein, partisan elections reveal impaired judgment in political consumers.

Perhaps you have noticed this. Your friend or relative, whose sensibleness and decency you generally respect, has decided to support Candidate X, whose brazen ignorance and naked opportunism your friend fails to recognize. Your friend is determined to see nothing but virtue in this candidate, and nothing but vice in rival candidates.

Because I care, I have compiled a list of election-year missteps we can all be on the lookout to avoid. (Note: This list is inevitably arbitrary and idiosyncratic. I therefore encourage my smart and savvy readers to share their own examples.)

Just because you get annoyed by Anderson Cooper's fits of giggling does not make him wrong when he observes that Donald Trump talks like a five-year-old.

Just because Sen. Lindsey Graham overcompensates by advocating unnecessary wars does not take away the lucid moment when he said choosing between Trump and Ted Cruz was "like being shot or poisoned."

Just because Paul Ryan is good-looking and not Donald Trump is no reason to let him make the next three Supreme Court appointments. The Court's gutting of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 unleashed aggressive voter suppression efforts by his party from Arizona to Wisconsin. So do us all a favor and moon over someone else's workout pics.

Just because Bernie Sanders raises legitimate calls for reform does not chart a successful revolution. Meanwhile, the #BernieOrBust pledge, which would hand victory to the GOP, is fine for people who can lament other people's suffering from their places of privilege.

Just because you think Hillary Clinton is too cozy with Wall Street does not require a side eye for her proposal to rein in large financial institutions, her diplomatic efforts against a nuclear Iran, her lifelong support for children's and women's rights, or her launch of a global LGBT initiative. Painting nasty caricatures is a dangerous game given the hate being stoked across the aisle.

Just because only 42 percent of American Muslims support marriage equality is no reason to make common cause with Islamophobes who think that number is too high.

Just because Republican Sen. Mark Kirk has a 78 percent score from the Human Rights Campaign compared to Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth's perfect score does not mean HRC doesn't have its reasons for endorsing Kirk. You don't have to get mad at HRC in order to agree with LPAC and support Duckworth. By the way, it's a bit silly to join the #DivestFromHRC movement when you weren't giving them money in the first place.

Just because North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is a lying bastard does not make it okay to insult the children of unmarried parents. While we're on the subject of the anti-LGBT bills racing through Red State legislatures, let me say that just because someone repeats "men in dresses" a hundred times does not make his ignorance of gender variance any less glaring, and does not change the fact that, based on past experience, you are likelier to receive unwelcome contact in a public bathroom from a United States senator than from a transwoman.

Just because your husband cheated on you does not mean you have to trade him in for someone who beats you. This is a metaphor for dumping imperfect Democrats in favor of Republicans who are worse. At the same time, just because going home alone can be sensible in personal relations does not make it smart to stay home on Election Day. You can go without a lover, but someone is going to be sworn in as president next January 20.

Spoiler alert: In William Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily," the title character turns out to have been sleeping beside her lover's corpse. If Paul Ryan can have Ayn Rand, I can have Southern Gothic. Neither, however, is a reliable basis for public policy.

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Blade and Bay Windows.

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