today in black history

May 27, 2024

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, founded by the Quakers, established in 1837, is the oldest historically Black college.

I Will Vote My Conscience

POSTED: April 21, 2016, 7:00 am

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As part of Republican-led Reconstruction, the 15th Amendment bars states from denying the right to vote based on race.

Now that the New York primary has taken place, political pundits and journalists have all but ceded the presidential nominations of the Republican Party and Democratic Party to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton respectively. While both candidates continue to face discontent in their respective parties, there is a consensus that has been formed that the two will be on the ballot in November as their party’s standard bearers. The remaining state primaries are being cast as a fait accompli for both candidates, while their principal opponents, Ted Cruz in the GOP and Democrat Bernie Sanders are being encouraged to forego their candidacies and pledge allegiance to the frontrunners. In other words, we have a coronation to schedule and have no time for the messiness of a democratic process like allowing citizens to exercise their right of choice.

When New Jersey holds its primary in June my vote will be cast for Bernie Sanders. And I will do so with a clear conscience and a firm commitment to those principles I hold dear. I refuse to cast a compromise vote; to succumb to the politics of low expectations and marginalization. Bernie Sanders is not the perfect candidate and I don’t claim him to be the second coming or some mystical figure who will, with a swipe of the pen, cast into the shadows America’s tawdry history or current paralysis on issues of white privilege and racism. What Sanders does represent to me is a more truthful and morally defensible narrative of what our nation represents today, and a clear voice on the systemic barriers to creating a more just and humane society. While some criticize the lack of specificity behind his rhetoric, it is his vision and the clarity of his grievances that draw my support. We have had numerous presidential candidates in the past offer uber-detailed policy tomes that did little to move a truly progressive policy agenda. More than anything, in my estimation, the nation needs leadership unafraid to challenge the consciousness of citizens and daring enough to toss caution to the wind and admit that the status quo is insufficient. In other words, we need therapy before we can heal our sickness.

Hillary Clinton provides me no such hopefulness. Her candidacy is rooted in the status quo and her politics birthed in the reactionary agenda of the now defunct Democratic Leadership Council; a center-right movement, led at one time by Bill Clinton, to reclaim southern white voters at the expense of the party’s most loyal voting bloc, African-Americans. She is a “New Democrat” with “Old Democrat” tendencies but more sophisticated in her minimization of Blacks. While her ex-President husband played the saxophone to feign a cultural connection, candidate Hillary Clinton plays dominoes and confesses to keeping hot sauce in her purse as a way to claim kinship with African-Americans.

I truly understand the frustration of millennials; the future of our nation that has been consistent in their rejection of Hillary Clinton. The Republican and Democratic frontrunners are in more ways similar than different. Donald Trump is a wealthy white male who amassed a fortune through questionable business deals, relying on the public domain to finance his empire building. Trump’s defense is that it’s the function of capitalism to make money. Donald Trump is right and that’s why he’s not fit for the Oval Office. Hillary Clinton is a wealthy white female who through her ‘public service’ has aligned herself with corporate titans like Walmart and amassed a fortune speaking to and protecting their interests. When you make more money with one speech than most Americans and defend this practice by saying “that’s what they offered’ you have validated the suspicions many have of you. Hillary Clinton is right in describing the personal benefits she has received and that’s why she’s not fit for the Oval Office. Trump seeks to build a wall to keep immigrants out of the country, Clinton demonstrates unwavering support of a nation, Israel, that has walled off Palestinians and made them strangers in their own land. Trump embraces military force, Clinton is a hawk who has never questioned the diminishing returns of the military-industrial complex in America. Both candidates are firm believers in ‘regime change’ as a way to imprint America’s suspect ‘values’ on the rest of the world. Donald Trump manipulates the debate by exploiting a corrupt campaign finance system while Hillary Clinton takes full advantage of the influx of corporate money in politics while promising to reform the system. Trump can never concede his failures, while Clinton only confesses hers when pressed (thank you Black Lives Matters) and it becomes politically expedient to do so. These two leading candidates, while representing different parties, are two sides of the same coin.

I have been chided by some friends over my critique of Hillary Clinton. In their well-meaning objections my friends, every single one of them, suggest that Sanders is a hopeless liberal romantic, with no real plan, while Hillary Clinton is a doer who can make things happen if elected. Their line of reason is that Sanders will stand no chance with a hostile Republican Congress that will oppose him at every turn. They seem to forget that when Hillary Clinton, as First Lady, chaired the Task Force on National Health Care Reform and was pushing “Hillarycare” the Democrats were in the majority in the House (57 to 43) and Senate (258 to 176) in the 103rd Congress, with a Democrat in the White House. In other words, she had a stacked deck. Health care reform was so mangled it led to the Republican takeover of Congress and Newt Gingrich becoming Speaker of the House in the 104th Congress. Following the Democratic implosion in the 1994 midterm elections, the Clintons didn’t fight back, they capitulated. It was no compromise. It was the aligning of New Democratic politics with Republican neoconservative politics.

“The bloody fight for voting rights, from Reconstruction to 1965 to the present, has not been fought to elect a Republican or a Democrat. It has been a campaign for human dignity, for justice and for a reconstruction of a nation in the image of its lofty ideals.”

There is no ‘lesser of two evils.’ Evil is evil. When we start excusing gradations of evil we have lost our moral compass and will never find our way to a more just nation. It is not that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is evil. Their politics though represent an affront to the humanity of the poor, people of color in this land, and communities of color in the global community. It is the evil of a nationalism that exerts its will on the world by military might and economic exploitation, tramples the poor, demonizes single Black mothers, criminally profiles young Black men, treats Black children as disposable, disproportionately incarcerates people of color, excuses lawlessness as law enforcement, accommodates income inequality as the cost of doing business and extends to corporations the rights of individuals. It is not Republican or Democrat. It is the nature of a nation birthed in injustice and inequality.

The bloody fight for voting rights, from Reconstruction to 1965 to the present, has not been fought to elect a Republican or a Democrat. It has been a campaign for human dignity, for justice and for a reconstruction of a nation in the image of its lofty ideals. Dr. King once wrote, “However deeply American Negroes are caught in the struggle to be at last at home in our homeland of the United States, we cannot ignore the larger world house in which we are dwellers. Equality with whites will not solve the problems of either whites or Negroes if it means equality in a world society stricken by poverty and in a universe doomed to extinction by war.”

I refuse to vote in fear or surrender. My conscience won’t allow it and that’s all that I have to represent my humanity. Come November I will exercise my conscience and rights, and not cast a vote for President. My focus will be on candidates down ballot as well as state capitals where an effort is underway to fully disfranchise the poor and people of color. Whoever serves as #45 my expectation will be that they will serve the interest of bettering this nation, and I will continue to fight for that cause. However, if I must decide between a candidate who reflects the ugliness of our nation’s sinful past, and one that represents and defends the ugliness of our status quo – I’d rather not.

Walter Fields is the Executive Editor of

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