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You've suffered through this horrible campaign, now go vote

Nov 4, 2016

In the past three days, I have talked about the campaign with people in all walks of life, from a state Supreme Court justice to a functionally illiterate janitor.

Their first words were all virtually the same. They can’t wait for it to be over. Unexpectedly, in the final weeks Michigan has become a key state for the first time in years.


Sometimes it has felt like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were really running for the presidency of Michigan. A few weeks ago, I could literally look out of my office window and see Clinton enter a building for a rally, and I just remembered that I couldn’t sneak off for a late lunch in Detroit’s Eastern Market today, because she will be speaking there a little later.

This weekend, it may be hard to get around Michigan without tripping over a Trump offspring or Clinton surrogate, and I always wonder if they don’t lose more votes by snarling traffic than they gain by exciting crowds who supported them to begin with.

Not that excitement is exactly the word for this election.

The poet W.H. Auden called the 1930s a “low, dishonest decade,” and that’s what this presidential campaign has felt like. The New York Times and CBS News today have a new poll in which they asked people whether the campaign had made them more excited or disgusted.

Eighty-two percent said disgusted. Every survey has shown people are far less enthusiastic about voting this year, and political scientists I know think the turnout will be far less than eight years ago, when President Obama was first elected.

His message then was hope. This year, there hasn’t been a lot of that. Yet as I see it, it is far harder to justify not voting. None of the Obama supporters I knew eight years ago really thought the nation would be destroyed if John McCain had won.

That seemed like a rough and nasty campaign. But when supporters told McCain they thought that Senator Obama was an “Arab” or an enemy of America, he swiftly and publicly contradicted them and said he was a good man. Today, the Republican candidate invariably calls his opponent “crooked Hillary,” and says she should be in jail.

Networks have actually aired interviews with Trump supporters who hint that the Democratic nominee will have to be killed if she wins.

This is something we’ve never before seen. And that is why it is more important than ever that you vote. There is one thing on which both Clinton and Trump both agree, and on which they are both right. And that is that you do have a clear choice.

There’s a very stark difference between them. Not only that, there are a lot of other important elections on the ballot, including whether southeast Michigan will finally have a real mass transit system. Whoever the new president is, they won’t be able to get anything done without Congress, and there are some hot races in the state.

Democrats have a chance to win control of one house of the Michigan legislature, which would mean major changes in how things work in Lansing. So however you feel about these issues, you owe it to yourself to go vote. Besides, people died just so you could.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.