Heavy Meddle’s Lightning Round: Election 2016 Edition
Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions. You can use this form, or send them via email. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.
How do I discuss policies with friends and family at extreme opposite sides?
I’m impressed that your friends and family actually discuss policy. Much of what passes for political discourse at this point amounts to smear campaigns and bumper stickers.
That being said, the essential problem is that those “at the extreme” are often working with different sets of “facts.” This makes a reasonable discussion almost impossible.
I would decide whether or not you want to engage. There’s no shame in respectfully disagreeing with someone. It’s the essence of democracy. It may also be something you don’t want to deal with. That’s okay, too.
I’m 19, so needless to say this presidential election will be my first. For my own personal reasons I want to vote for Donald Trump. The problem is that my parents and most of my friends are dyed-in-the-wool Democrats. If any of them finds out who I’m supporting, I know they’ll try to talk me out of it. And worse, I’m afraid it will change their opinion of me. I’m torn: Should I keep my vote a secret, or should I try to explain why I really believe that Trump could shake things up in positive way for our paralyzed democracy?
You’re under no obligation to tell anyone how you’re voting. It’s your business, until such a time as you make it other people’s business.
I've never missed voting in an election, even when I've lived abroad and had to vote absentee. This year, however, I'm tempted to stay home. As a registered Independent, I am open-minded about both sides. But I'm sickened by Trump and Cruz, and I don't buy that Kasich is a softer, gentler Republican. Nor do I trust that either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton can effect real change in the White House, given the fierce partisanship that holds our current government hostage, and given Sanders's oversimplified stances and Clinton's flip-floppy ones. My question is: Does it really matter if I just don't vote at all?
Yeah, it does. Because your decision not to vote is putting the election in the hands of others. It’s so easy to be cynical about politics. But that’s the coward’s path. Unless you honestly believe that there will be no difference in any of the candidates — and I have trouble believing that a rational adult could argue this, let alone believe it — you have a moral obligation to vote for the candidate you believe will effect the most good. Or the least bad. As a reminder: millions of people have died fighting for the right to vote, including a lot of Americans. Your decision to squander your franchise represents a kind of toxic entitlement.
Hey, you asked.
My son is a Republican, and I don't know where we went wrong. We always listened to public radio, ate organic and donated to Green Peace. Now, he's canvassing for Kasich. I want to feel proud that the child I raised is politically engaged. Instead, I keep asking myself what I could have done differently. Do I celebrate my child's passion for democracy, even if I can't for the life of me wrap my head around his ideas?
p.s. He is also applying to business schools.
Pass the smelling salts.
Dear Smelling Salts,
Hey, welcome to democracy! Your kid has a mind of his own. So it goes. Maybe he’s rebelling against your values. Kids will do that. Also, on the bright side: Kasich! By your own reckoning, he could have chosen a lot worse.
How do I not feel upset that Donald Trump is doing so well?
I don’t know, how?
But seriously, folks. Lookie here: it’s not a bad thing to be upset that Trump is doing so well. In fact, it’s an appropriate and necessary reaction for those citizens who view him as a demagogue bent on inciting violence.
The larger question — and this applies to everyone from Bernie fans to Trump supporters — is whether you can convert your distress into meaningful political action.
I’m scared Donald Trump may win. Then what? Do I try to move to Canada?
Ready to Pack
You’re skipping the whole election. Please don’t do that. If you don’t want Trump to win — or, to put it more affirmatively, you want another candidate to win — it’s time to stop fretting and start getting involved in the political process.
If Trump still gets elected, you can certainly try to move to Canada. But don’t be surprised if our neighbors to the North impose a quota on American immigrants.
Everywhere we go politics come up and we don't agree. I want to stay off the subject but every social event is turning into a battle and I don't want to go to them. My partner wants me to go and fight it out, or just sit quietly and let it rage on. I just want to stay home, or go out solely as a couple.
What to do?
Every social event? Wow.
If talking politics is truly onerous to you, then sit down with your partner and make it clear that you don’t want to be subjected to political arguments. Period.
Help! I can't decide between Bernie and Hillary!
You have to conduct a self-inventory of what issues and leadership qualities are most important to you.
My wife, for instance, feels strongly that Hillary will be more effective as a candidate and as president.
I believe that true moral progress will only be possible when corporate money is bled out of our electoral system, and when Americans rise up and demand a more compassionate and responsive government. So I’m a Bernie guy.
They are both outstanding public servants. Be thankful for that.
Author's note: The political season has yet to even reach the fever pitch we can expect in a few months. Any lightning round questions or comments most welcome. Please send them along in the comments section below. And feel free to send a more detailed letter to Heavy Meddle, too. You can use this form, or send your questions via email. I may not have a helpful response, but the act of writing the letter itself might provide some clarity. — S.A.
Steve Almond is the author of the book "Against Football." He is the co-host, with Cheryl Strayed, of the WBUR podcast, Dear Sugar.