Millennials and Election 2016: painful choice between idealism and pragmatism

Glen consulting the rail map

Glen Retief on Amtrak consulting the rail map

A South African in America

I am so fortunate that my partner, Glen Retief, is not American-born. Raised in South Africa during apartheid and then having taken part in both the anti-apartheid struggle and the South African queer liberation movement, Glen has a wealth of experiences.

And even after moving to the USA, he found himself in American hot spots. In Florida he lived through Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Perhaps nearly as harrowing in its own way, endured life in Florida during the infamous 2000 Presidential Election, when for several weeks we had no idea who would be the US president as a massive and absurd recount took place in Florida. (Anyone heard of those hanging chads?)

Election 2016: What is an American Millennial to Do?

Like most American citizens, he has been submerged in the current US Presidential race. He teaches at Susquehanna University where lots of students were/are ardent Bernie Sanders supporters. Still many of them struggle with the idea of Hillary Clinton as president. In a swing state like Pennsylvania, some are actually considering third party candidates or to just sit this one out.


Voortrakker Monument, Pretoria

Glen just published an excellent piece in the Pacific Standard in which he reflects on what turned out to be an especially important election in 1989 apartheid South Africa.  He struggled between voting and boycotting. In his piece, Voting, Even When it Makes You Sick, he writes:

Should I boycott? Or was this — to use Angela Davis’ recent word — narcissistic? The African National Congress’ advice notwithstanding, was I placing my own moral comfort ahead of the well-being of the country?

On Wednesday, September 6th, 1989, I spent the entire day agonizing about the election for the apartheid parliament. Twenty minutes before the polls closed, unable to bear the thought of helping the racist parties win more seats as a result of my inaction, I cast my ballot, feeling sick to my stomach.

img_4382Stuck between a rock and a hot mess

Glen does not make a direct comparison to the US situation today to South Africa back then, but he feels for his students who feel it does injury to their sense of justice  to vote for Hillary Clinton. Idealism says one thing, but political pragmatism calls Democrats, Progressives, and even Republicans to consider making a hard choice. He explains:

The potential negative impact of a Donald Trump presidency, too, seems mind-boggling, even beyond the headlines concerning crass misogyny. To mention just one, having the world’s largest per-capita polluter headed by a climate denier risks bequeathing Millennials a world of superstorms, crippling droughts, war, and climate refugees.

img_2000Read the whole piece for yourself:  Voting, Even When it Makes You Sick.

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And if you want daily election updates from a group of thoughtful, informed, and fun folks, check out the NPR Politics Podcast (and catch all of Sam Sanders’ Beyonce references)


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