This election cycle has created three groups of Muslim Americans. Those who support Donald Trump, all three of you. Those who support Hillary Clinton, which breaks into either those who believe Clinton is going to be a great president or those who have adopted the “lesser of two evils” endorsement of her. Then there are those who will vote for neither viable presidential candidate.
At first glance, the choice seems to be clear. Trump is a candidate who has targeted every minority community of color and has gone down an obscene warpath with dozens of women over the course of his campaign. With Clinton, we have a candidate who offers us inclusivity, respect and acceptance. However, for all of Trump’s aggravating rhetoric against Muslims and Islam, there are still a significant number of Muslims who are very uncomfortable with the idea of voting for Clinton. They view her as untrustworthy, hawkish, and many apportion blame on her for past events in the Middle East. A common theme heard is one candidate will kick us out while the other will bomb us. For those voters, the only principled path is to vote for a third-party candidate or abstain from voting entirely.
Voting for a third-party candidate or not voting at all is not the principled approach in this election; it is myopic and selfish, especially in the states where the margin of victory for Trump is narrow. Influence in any process comes from both sustained engagement of the process and understanding what that engagement should look like to achieve tangible results. We have complained a great deal as a community for not being given political influence. Well, it will never be given, it must be taken. In this election, it means voting for Clinton. Here are some common reasons why Muslims are not voting for Clinton but why they should:
Who is president does not impact me
The president can do three things that will directly affect Muslims. First, the president will select Supreme Court justices, at least one if not two, over the next four to eight years. The Supreme Court in the past 10 years has ruled on critical issues such as domestic surveillance, holding people in detention without charging them, and who even gets a lawyer. Each of these cases involved a Muslim. The law is not always unconstitutional on its face, often it is how it is applied. The Supreme Court may very well decide the future of your most cherished rights. Second, the president sets forth foreign policy. It is true Clinton supported the decision to go to war in Iraq, as did Trump and many others in Congress. However, Clinton has also shown the temperament needed to use diplomacy and strategic thinking to obtain peaceful outcomes. Muslim Americans still need to keep the pressure on her to convey better and more just policy options, however that only comes through constant engagement. Third, the president sets the tone for the nation. This is evidenced by watching the campaign. Trump’s vilification of Muslims and other minorities has led to violence by many who are inspired by such divisive rhetoric. Conversely unifying rhetoric, even if just words, sets the tone of what is not acceptable in America.
Clinton is no better for Muslim Americans than Trump
Trump has targeted Muslims throughout his campaign, from going after Gold Star parents to using such language as “bombing the shit out of them” when talking about the Middle East. His rhetoric has led to an alarming rise in xenophobia and hate crimes. Many Muslims live in swing states, and their vote could prove decisive in preventing Trump from winning the White House. As Muslims, your duty is not limited to looking after yourself. Even if you think there is no direct policy difference for Muslims between Clinton and Trump, you must vote with the collective community in mind and determine which candidate is more likely to help African Americans, Latinos, immigrants, refugees and most women.
Muslims are a pawn in the election and will have no real political voice
How loud has your voice been? How much effort did you make to change her mind on issues you do not agree with? Clinton is by no means a flawless candidate. However, she has proven that she is willing to listen. Clinton has reached out to the Muslim community throughout her career. She has also been the most inclusive of Muslims in her successive public office administrations, often appointing Muslims to senior positions and, in the process, getting ripped apart by the right-wing press. It has been a successful relationship. As a community, we have been achieving incremental progress through this relationship. If Clinton wins, we could expect this relationship to reach a whole new level and more importantly, we would be able to influence policy more effectively. A Trump victory would see years of that incremental progress wiped out — just when it could have turned into something substantive and permanent, and thereby cement the Muslim community’s voice in American politics. It would set our community back by years, if not an entire generation. A Trump victory is not just about Trump, it is also about the most insidious forces in America re-emerging from the margins and taking center stage in mainstream public discourse once more. As Muslim Americans, we can prevent a divided and repulsed America from sleepwalking into that dark place if we come out and vote for Clinton on Tuesday. The alternative would be more catastrophic for us than anyone else.
I must vote with my conscience, which is telling me they both suck
You do not always have the luxury of doing what is in your own personal interests. Sometimes the collective need outweighs your own. It is what we call sacrifice. First, by voting, you will raise the collective asset value of the Muslim vote. Voters who do not vote are worthless when the next election comes around. If you vote, anyone who runs a campaign can access that data. Second, if you throw away your vote in a state where it can make a difference and the outcome is harmful for all Americans, then you are being far from noble or principled.
The goal is for Muslim Americans to be part of the solution. That comes from making good decisions now and following up with constant engagement. It is the responsibility of the president to listen to the people, it is your responsibility to make sure you are heard. Vote for the greater good this year, not only by defeating Trump, but by electing a president who has proven she will listen.