Two Wrongs: Deborah Paul on Voting

What fun is a competition if you can’t cheer for either contender?
Dear Donald and Hillary,

Let me be frank: Neither of you is an acceptable presidential candidate, and you have put me in a tenuous situation. I have voted in every election since I turned 21—legal age back when the earth cooled—and I am dismayed that this may be the first I feel compelled to sit out.

Donald, you are a loose cannon with no filter. You say inane things, such as suggesting that women who have illegal abortions be punished; call people childish names like clown, moron, and dummy; and use the term “disaster” to describe everything from the U.S. military to the Iran nuclear deal to Los Angeles International Airport. Granted some of these—say, the last two—are bad, but disasters? You have cost the word its credibility, and I vow not to use it again.

Funny story, Donald. My husband and I were having dinner with another couple, when the gentleman happened to recognize a former acquaintance at the next table. They began to chat and, yada, yada, turns out the acquaintance owned an electrical engineering firm contracted for work on one of your New York buildings. It seems you resisted paying upon completion of the job and dragged out the “negotiation” for months. Finally, you offered partial payment, even though the project was done in full. The guy’s firm ended up losing $800,000.

Selecting Indiana’s own Mike Pence as your running mate wasn’t altogether stupid, though. If we can forgive his support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—and that’s asking a lot—he is the calm to your storm. Granted, I was a little underwhelmed by Pence’s quote at the time of your announcement—“I’m very excited”—which is what my granddaughter says when we go to the Disney Store. It’s too late to take my advice, but know that in my tenure as a magazine editor, I learned the hard way that a good secondary cover blurb will never save a bad main story subject on the newsstand.

I am a woman, I like women, and I wish I could support you. But I can’t.

Hillary, you’re no walk in the park, either. You wear a mean expression, wave your arms around too much, and yell instead of talk. I don’t like your e-mail mess, the Benghazi bungle, your exorbitant speech honoraria, or the way you’ve flip-flopped on important issues from marriage inequality to the Iraq war. Who is supposed to pay back student loans if the government forgives them, as you propose, and how do you explain away the foreign investment flap involving the Clinton Foundation? I don’t trust you and never have. Let’s go back to 1998, shall we, when your husband’s activities with Monica Lewinsky were exposed. Rather than leave the lying scoundrel and set an example for women everywhere who have been cheated on, what did you do? Stuck by him to cling to your power base. This may be old news, but I have a long memory.

I am a woman, I like women, and I wish I could support you. But I can’t. If it’s time for a female presidential candidate, why not Oprah? She could self-fund her campaign and at least is reputed as honest and respectable. I also like the Today show’s Hoda Kotb and am thinking of writing her in as a candidate. She’s full of joy and optimism, speaks from her heart, and can dance. Ridiculous choices, of course, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

You two candidates make me feel unsafe. Recently, I dreamed I was an Iraqi soldier carrying an assault rifle and wearing a burqa. The eye slot was in the wrong place, and I couldn’t see where I was shooting. I’m no expert on dream interpretation, but I think this meant whoever is elected, it’s every man for himself.

In order to be engaged, I need to root for someone. I am prepared to either celebrate or grieve when my candidate wins or loses, but I must back somebody. I still remember a pep rally in 1963, when my high school team, the Broad Ripple Rockets, traveled to the Semi-State in basketball. We students were on our feet, hugging and yelling so loudly we were hoarse for a week. We were part of the process and, possibly, part of the outcome. What fun is a competition if you can’t cheer for one of the contenders?

I am a lifelong Republican who has lost hope. A recent tidbit in the Star’s “Let It Out” section summed up my thoughts: “Only the Republicans could nominate a candidate that the worst Democrat candidate in history could beat.” Amen to that. I have met many kind, hardworking Mexican immigrants with children born here. Therefore, because of your platform to deport illegals and break up families, I pledge not to vote for you, Donald. I don’t like the historical significance of rounding up ethnic or religious groups. You know where that could lead.

I feel wrong, unpatriotic, and lazy not voting at all, but I have no alternative. A close family member, also a Republican, says he will choose you, Hillary, as the lesser of two evils. Given that, I’ve considered reneging on my promise and selecting you, Donald, just to cancel out his vote and level the playing field. But that’s as dumb as expecting a rational, qualified candidate suddenly to emerge— Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, my man Mitch—so I’m out of options.

I guess for the first time in 48 years, I won’t be wearing an “I voted” sticker on election day, which would be a disaster. Sorry, make that “unfortunate.”

Deborah Paul


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Illustration by Clare Mallison