During the second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Republican nominee lurked menacingly behind Clinton, his orange face scrunching up in hatred as she calmly answered questions from audience members.
As women, we’ve all been there — forced to deal with terrifying jerks who feel entitled to inflict themselves on you just because they can. This was happening on national television in front of 67 million people. For the first time in this seemingly endless campaign, I felt a sense of commonality with Clinton.
Trump has run a campaign of racial and gender-based hatred, making turning on the television or going online a mental-health hazard for people of color and women. I fear what he inspires in his supporters. I fear that my two school-aged children will be the targets of actual violence. I fear that they will internalize the message of Trump’s hate-propaganda campaign.
This is a man who has publicly lusted after his own daughter and a 10-year-old girl he met in an elevator. In 1989 he called for the death penalty for the five black teenagers accused in the Central Park Jogger rape case—and continues to insist that they were guilty, even though their convictions were overturned after another man’s confession to the crime was confirmed by DNA evidence, and they received a $41 million legal settlement from the city.
It’s very painful to see poor whites embrace Trump for one simple reason: He makes it acceptable for them to express white nationalism openly. He will not help the white working class. He is anti-union. He has made it very clear that he is only interested in his own personal profit. Believing that he will help the white working class is as ludicrous as believing in the Easter Bunny, yet his base has not abandoned him, because he has made it okay to be racist again.
Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton’s claim to be a scrappy champion of progressive ideals still rings false to me. She was an active partner in her husband’s presidency. In that role, she helped pave the way for mass incarceration, more detention and deportation of immigrants, trade deals that disempowered workers, and a sacking of the safety net that turned poverty into destitution for millions of women and children. More recently, she has made millions of dollars speaking to Wall Street firms for six-figure fees. And who are the people most likely to suffer from the regime-change wars and coups she has helped to fan across the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America? Women and children, of course.
These facts are painful to admit. I had recently graduated high school when I voted for Bill Clinton, the first time I cast a ballot in a presidential election. I actually believed the Democrats to be the party of the people. What I know now is that Republicans and Democrats are both just the enforcement arm of corporations and banks. Both parties protect the interests of the very wealthy. These are the tragic circumstances we find ourselves in.
New York is a safe state for Hillary Clinton, so I’m voting for the Green Party. If I lived in one of the handful of hotly contested swing states that will determine which candidate wins 270 electoral votes, I would certainly vote for Clinton, out of a very credible fear.
I have never had to make such a dismal choice in any election before. We as a country should be deeply ashamed. When this is all over, we need to ask ourselves how we came to such a sorry place.
Maria Muentes is a native New Yorker of Dominican and Ecuadorian descent. She has been involved in the immigrant rights, educational equality, and housing justice movements.