We live in an unfair world in which actions speak louder than words. As correct as we are to condemn the crass effluence spewing from the large wet hole in the middle of Donald Trump’s tangerine face, we would be remiss if we limited our criticism to only his verbal garbage. Our current election season is one that has brought out the worst in many of us, in no small part due to Trump’s ego-maniacal showboating, but also because his challenger is no paragon of virtue either. Many feel trapped into voting for Trump, an undoubtedly ignoble motivation for casting a ballot in a general election.

Yes, Trump must take ownership of numerous vile comments he’s made over the years against various women who have, for one reason or another, provoked his ire or other base instincts. His Democratic counterpart, however, has several actions she must take ownership of: Her vote for the Iraq war, a conflagration that resulted in catastrophic loss of life, and her ill-advised air-war in Libya which turned a functioning nation-state into a safe haven for terrorists, are two examples. Trump has indeed said many awful things. Hillary Clinton has done many awful things.

And so, the 2016 election season has become a referendum on the lesser of two evils. On one hand we have the lewd entertainer, Donald Trump, and on the other we have Hillary Clinton, a woman who may be characterized by her abject dearth of ethics as easily as Trump may be defined by his seeming obliviousness to common etiquette. The contest between historically dislikable choices in an artificially limited field of choices has trickled down to us, the voters. The discourse among ourselves, the voters, is colored through and through by an unprecedented nastiness; personal insults and hurt feelings, suspicion and accusations, paranoia, and all manner of uncouth and feckless behaviors pervade our national political conversation.

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But what else can we expect when we indulge in a competition between two obvious evils? Their sins become our sins as we support them, though we know full well we’re participating in and contributing to the perpetuation of their personal immorality projected on a national scale. We’ve tricked ourselves into believing good can result from empowering evil, so not only have we sold our souls to support the devil we know or the devil we don’t, we’ve also allowed ourselves to be overcome with an undeserved righteous indignation that no one can rightly claim while supporting one of two equally unacceptable candidates.

There are third party options of course, each of which possess a varying degree of dubious, hypothetical viability. It has been said that a vote for one of these alternatives is a waste because they have no clear path to victory. If winning is all that’s important to those who espouse this line of thinking then there’s not much that can be said in the defense of casting our votes for those candidates who have been marginalized by the Commission on Presidential Debates and their partners in public polling agencies and media at large.

But is winning all that matters in this, or any, election cycle? Is that what this contest has reduced us to? Is that the way we live our lives outside of politics? Should we as Americans embrace a win-at-all-costs attitude that sacrifices what’s right for possible victory? Or should we instead do what’s right, win or lose?

If winning isn’t all that matters then perhaps, if nothing else, we can redeem ourselves this November. We don’t have to sell our souls. We don’t have to empower evil, whether it be embodied in the boorish Trump or the ethical wasteland that is Hillary Clinton. We don’t have to squander our votes and abandon our values in exchange for a scorched earth political stratagem foisted upon us by a frenzied two-party machine that most certainly has outlived its usefulness. We can be better than they want us to be. We probably won’t win the election but we won’t lose ourselves and maybe, just maybe, we can send a message to the ruling class that a much needed and long over-due sea-change in our nation’s politics is, at long last, finally upon us.

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