I have found myself being asked this question frequently from friends, family and people throughout my social media. It’s a tough question. It’s a personal question. In all reality, it’s a question that only the person asking knows. Every vote that is cast should be based on the values of the voter. Values can be vastly different for every person. The Trump presidency highlights that fact for us everyday. So, who do you vote for? Follow these 5 steps to figure it out.
Step 1: Determine your values
This seems like a very simple task. It’s easy to think of things like ‘be a good person’ or ‘do the right thing’. Take some time to think about it just a little deeper. What makes a person good? How do you decide the right thing? All of us have guiding principles swimming around inside of us that help govern our decision making. It’s not always easy to pin down what they are specifically. Here are mine:
- Integrity – be honest and trustworthy
- Inclusiveness – people’s differences don’t disqualify them from being loved, experiencing friendship, receiving respect and living a dignified life
- Empathy/Compassion – understand everyone isn’t dealt the same hand, see from others perspectives
- Team-oriented – other people’s successes matter as much as your own
- Justice – everyone deserves fair and thoughtful treatment, be willing to stand for what is right
Write them down. Not only will this help guide your voting choices, it may help you make decisions more confidently in general.
Step 2: Prioritize which issues are most important to you
There isn’t going to be a magic candidate that agrees with you on every single issue. (Lucky you if there is!) Take some time to figure out what issues have the greatest impact on your life and put them in order of importance. Remember to think about what is important to you. It’s very easy to let yourself become swayed by what you think other people’s important issues are. This list is about you and your family. Here’s mine:
- Access to healthcare
- Robust public education system that addresses all areas of learning – academic, emotional, physical, social and cognitive development – regardless of the ability, social class, income, zip code of every student
Mine looks like a short list, but I believe these two issues touch every aspect of society. Investing heavily in these two areas would alleviate much of the human suffering that Americans experience. It could have a huge positive impact on the trajectory of people’s lives. I also believe deeply that when everyone does better, everyone does better. It’s such a redundant phrase , but it makes perfect sense!
As some of you may have noticed, I did not include ‘capable of beating Donald Trump’ on my list. Obviously, beating Donald Trump is very important. The truth of the matter is we don’t know who can beat Donald Trump. We don’t even know if we are going to have an election that is free of interference. I have found for myself that if I dwell too much on these subjects I find myself considering my values less and less. It isn’t a citizen’s job to be a political pundit, a pollster or a fortune teller. Worrying about fundraising, media coverage, organization on the ground, how to debate Trump and how to navigate the political winds are jobs for the candidates and their staff. We, the people, are supposed to cling to our values, use our best judgment and cast our vote. The more we give in to the notion that the most important thing is to beat Trump, the more we are succumbing to fear. If everyone votes on the values they stand for, I believe we will beat Trump.
Step 3: Take your issues of importance and apply your values
Ok, access to healthcare is my number one issue, but how do I decide what I think the ideal healthcare system would be? This is where the application of your personal values come into play. This process is something I call ‘running it through the value filter.’ (I know, I know, my autism is showing!)
- Integrity – not necessarily applicable in this case
- Inclusiveness – Should people’s differences disqualify them from receiving the healthcare they need? It shouldn’t. Does a dignified life include receiving the healthcare that you need? Yes.
- Empathy/Compassion – Should a child born with [insert illness here] be denied the care they need to be successful because of the circumstances of their parents? No. Is there any situation in which a person’s life circumstances should disqualify them from receiving the healthcare they need? No. I believe that you can never know someone else’s situation fully. Every person has the inalienable right to life and denying access to healthcare for any reason infringes on that right.
- Team-oriented – Does society function better if we have a population that is as healthy as possible? Yes.
- Justice – Can a healthcare system function in a fair and thoughtful manner if income, job status, quality of insurance and profits are taken into consideration when delivering services? Absolutely not.
After my own personal analysis, I can determine that a healthcare system that fits into the parameters of my values would be nonprofit industry that grants access to all people regardless of income, job status, personal history or any other factor.
Step 4: Compare your vision to that of every candidate
Remember, it’s not your job as a citizen to work out how to implement policy, deal with the federal budget or manhandle members of Congress. It’s your job to understand what you believe the best path forward for your family is. That’s it. It’s the candidate’s job to take the vision and make it a reality.
Take your vision and compare it to those of the candidates. Go to each of their websites and look at their positions. Most of them have really user friendly, easy to read policy sections. When you are clear about what you’re looking for it doesn’t take long to make a decision about who is best for you.
Step 5: Cast your vote
This is by far the most important step! Voting blue in a red state can feel intimidating. Living in a household that is split politically can make it especially stressful. Remember, your vote is personal. You don’t have to tell anybody about your choice if you don’t want to. You can do this!
This election is going to have incredible consequences. All of us are going to have different ideas about the best path forward or the best strategy to defeat Donald Trump. We are all going to support our candidates passionately throughout this primary season. My hope is that we can all remember what we all have in common. Donald Trump is the antithesis of the values that we share. My hope is that whoever emerges as the nominee that we will continue to make our voices heard, continue to work together and rally strongly behind the person that is tasked with defeating him.