Ever since I was old enough to vote in political elections, I have. I pride myself on having never missed an opportunity to elect our political leaders – particularly America’s presidents.
Unfortunately, my streak is likely to end this November when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appear on the ballot as the respective Democratic and Republican candidates for president.
For most people, I don’t have to explain why I’m not willing to cast my vote for Trump. In most of the circles I travel, the billionaire businessman is regarded as an arrogant, shallow, unsophisticated racist who has pandered to the fears of white Americans so successfully that they have selected him to be their Republican nominee for president. His bully tactics, divisive rhetoric and pure uncouthness has been an embarrassment and an affront to the political process that we Americans like to recognize as the world’s best.
Naturally, because I am an African American, the assumption most would make is that Hillary Clinton would surely get my vote – especially considering how I feel about Trump. That’s not the case.
As a passionate champion for the advancement of African Americans who have been significantly stifled by the apathy of politicians – or the outright opposition from them – regarding our agenda, my disdain for Clinton rivals my feelings for Trump.
I do understand why African Americans who are fixated with being part of America’s melting pot would find excitement in Clinton’s candidacy. After all, the melting pot includes gays. Hillary is willing to fight for them. The melting pot includes Hispanics. We know Hillary is willing to fight for them. The melting pot even includes undocumented immigrants. Which means if you broke the law to get into this country, Hillary is willing to go to battle for you too.
But as an African American who is more concerned with advancing the plight of people who look like me, I can’t get excited about Clinton or her melting pot agenda for several reasons:
I am fully aware that when she was First Lady during her husband, Bill Clinton’s, presidency, she was not part of his official advisory cabinet and was not in a position to help craft laws. But I can’t erase from my memory her staunch defense of Bill Clinton’s crime reform agenda, which advanced mandatory minimum sentences, inflexible three-strikes rules and a war on drugs that crippled the African-American community by disproportionately sending more of our men and women to prisons for much longer periods than their white counterparts.
In defense of those policies while campaigning for her husband in 1996, Hillary Clinton referenced young African-Americans as “super predators” to frighten America into embracing her husband’s draconian laws that still to this day are working to undermine communities like mine and are responsible for the modern day prison industrial complex that thrives off of disproportionally imprisoning people who look like me.
I assume because of their great disdain for Trump, many people are now willing to dismiss the apparent “untruths” that Hillary Clinton is accused of offering for using a personal email server in her home to conduct classified business while she was secretary of state for President Barack Obama.
The egregiousness of her error was compounded when her husband covertly initiated what was said to be an impromptu meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch just before a federal investigation against Hillary Clinton was suspiciously dropped. That example is reflective of an above-the-law-and-the-truth privilege that Hillary is willing to leverage in ways that I’m certain the many Black people were never afforded who are still in jail because of the policies she endorsed.
Worse than putting people in jail, I believe Hillary Clinton lied about the blood on her hands as a result of the terrorist attack at the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya that killed four United States citizens. The multiple conflicting stories she told about the attack suggest there was a bloody cover up of a blundered security detail that happened on her watch. To protect her ambitions to become president, I believe she intentionally side-stepped owning her shortcomings like most honest leaders would and instead left four grieving American families in the lurch.
As if having a history of issuing boldface lies and supporting legislation that has oppressed African Americans is not enough reason to withhold a vote from her, I’m also inclined to turn my back on Hillary Clinton’s bid to become president because she is a proud bastion of the traditional Democratic Party that has long since postured to take advantage of the African-American voters who have shown decades of unwavering loyalty to keep politicians like her in office and in power.
Since the 1960s, African Americans have traveled to the voting polls to cast a slow-to-dwindle and almost exclusive voting block for democratic politicians only to return empty-handed to their communities where they lack the resources and policies necessary to live the American dream.
It’s 2016. After so many years of loyal behavior, Democrats should now be embarrassed to ask African-Americans for their votes when our communities lack economic investment, our students remain trapped in underperforming schools and police kill us with no fear of consequences. These and other issues are all problems that can be improved through legislation. But instead of serving as champions for their most loyal voting block, democrats have prioritized gay marriage, restroom choice, illegal immigration and women’s rights – all while feeding us the line that “what’s good for all Americans is good for African Americans.”
I refuse any longer to give my support to any politician who doesn’t support me – especially democrats.
If it sounds like I’m being harder on democratic politicians than I am on republicans, it’s because I am. Republicans have assumedly yielded the African-American vote to the Democratic Party and as a result have put little energy into courting us. They don’t claim to want our vote and they don’t pretend to care about us.
Democrats, on the other hand, have learned how to sing the Black National Anthem, they make speeches at the NAACP Convention, they show up at our churches and they take selfies with our babies. And they do all of these things under the guise that they care about us and are operating in our best interest. However, for some reason, they are never able to produce policies that have any significant impact on the intractable challenges we face.
That is no longer acceptable to me.
At this point, I’m convinced that democratic politicians need African Americans more than African Americans need democratic politicians.
And because I recognize the power of my vote, I refuse to give it away to any politician who is not willing to fight for me like democrats fight for gays, Hispanics, women and undocumented immigrants.
From now on, I’ll vote for candidates who develop strategies and champion legislation to make inner city communities like mine in West Louisville the easiest places in America to do business. I’ll vote for candidates who develop a plan to specifically ensure African-American children are well-educated and provide special funding for “our” schools to recruit African-American teachers. I’ll vote for candidates who boldly attempt to enact policies that will make police second-guess themselves before they pull a trigger to shoot one of us and I’ll do the same for politicians who have the guts to eliminate the ability for any police department to investigate itself in the event their officers do get trigger happy. And in the spirit of Kujichagulia, I’ll vote for candidates who prioritize legislation that fosters African-American entrepreneurship and builds black wealth.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton haven’t prioritized agendas like these that are specifically in the best interest of African Americans. Therefore, I won’t be voting for either of them in November. And I’m not alone. There is a growing number of African Americans who, too, have concluded that neither Clinton nor Trump is worthy of their vote.
I’m sure the people in that demographic who share kindred spirits with me have been confronted with the same guilt trip that many of my African Americans friends and family members have tried to use to sway me to vote for Hillary Clinton.
They tell me, “Too many of our black ancestors fought, bled and died for you to have the right the vote. Not voting would be a great disrespect to them.”
I understand their sentiment, but I believe it is misplaced in this instance. My unwillingness to vote isn’t born out of a desire to be dismissive of my civic duties. I’m not using it as an excuse to be shiftless and lazy. My non-vote in the presidential election is a vote. It’s a protest demonstration that will be done in honor of my ancestors. Many of them sacrificed everything for me to have the privilege to vote. I believe wasting that vote on Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would be disrespectful to those ancestors, especially when I have the ability – in tandem with other like-minded African Americans – to use my non-voting privileges to make a resounding statement that could positively change how politicians respond to us in the future.
My great grandfather died a year after seeing me graduate from college. I had never seen him more proud of me than he was when I earned a degree. That’s because he was an old race man who took great pleasure in witnessing African Americans advance.
I believe voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will not advance African Americans. In fact, I believe African Americans, collectively, will be left behind under both of those administrations. Therefore, casting a vote for either one of them would be an insult to my great grandfather, Milton Dickerson, Sr.
For some, withholding my vote during this election is unfathomable. They believe that every non-vote for Clinton is a vote for Trump. They shudder at the thought of Trump running the country. And they all seem to resort to the same fear-mongering tactic of detailing what they believe a Trump presidency would be like in an attempt to persuade me to cast a Clinton vote.
What they don’t realize is that I won’t negotiate my vote out of fear of a Trump presidency – especially when I’m just as concerned about a Clinton presidency.
No, I won’t be fearful. Instead, I plan to be bold.
I plan to join many others in sending the democratic establishment the same message shoppers send to retailers when they enter a store but don’t purchase any merchandise.
If you’re a retailer who knows I have a pocket full of money (votes) when I enter your store (voting booth) but I leave without purchasing anything (voting), it’s a sign that your merchandise (candidates/political agendas) don’t interest me. That means if you’d like me to return to your store (political party) and spend my money (vote) you must first consider putting merchandise (candidates) on display that cater to my interest.
To be clear, the Democratic Party is about to learn a valuable lesson this election. And if it means enduring a Trump presidency is the sacrifice that has to be made in order for the Democratic Party to give African Americans the respect and priority they deserve, I’m prepared to see a reality television star in the White House.
It has been explained that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Well, my ancestors didn’t sacrifice their blood, sweat and tears for me to cast impotent, fearful votes that do little to improve life in 2016 for the people who look like them. I no longer plan to practice insanity. For this election in November, I plan to do something different.
DeVone Holt (better known as Aaron Holt’s dad) is host of the Saturday Morning Solutions Show and author of the book Hip Hop Slop: The Impact of a Dysfunctional Culture. You can listen to him every Saturday at 11m – noon (EST) on 104.7FM in Louisville or on WLOU on the Tunein app.