After all the bitterness, cheap shots, real contempt and false empathy let me just say I’ll understand. When you step up to that ballot next week, stare at your choices and finally pick a president, I’ll understand if you feel a little sick. Or you need a drink. Or you want to buy a canoe and start paddling for a distant shore.
I’ll even understand if you don’t vote.
Because as much as we may consider voting not merely a right but a duty, that presupposes a choice about which a conscientious voter can feel at least vaguely good – or ethical – or not nauseous. And for months now the polls have said that is not this race. The majority of voters have never trusted either of the main contenders, nor have they shown any depth of confidence in them.
Of course hardcore partisans, frothing for victory, hate talk like this. They suggest anyone who doesn’t vote or (gasp!) goes for a third party candidate is close kin to a traitor. I understand their feelings too. Hillary Clinton’s supporters have a fine argument she has the experience and judgment for the job. Donald Trump’s fans have just as much right to their claim his decisiveness and business skills could bust up D.C.’s status quo.
But again, the numbers show most voters have little faith these talents outweigh the contenders’ weaknesses. For most Americans, this is a Hobson’s choice: Do you pull the lever for one bad candidate or another? And can you walk away with a clean conscience either way?
I know, I know—if you’ve already decided which choice is better, it will be tempting to attack these struggling voters should your side lose. But don’t. Both Clinton and Trump have had many months and endless hours in the media to convince a clear majority of their merits.
So if your candidate has failed and loses the race, blame him or her. No one else. Then shake hands with your neighbor, no matter how that neighbor voted, and say “I understand.” This has been an ugly race for all of us.
CNN’s Tom Foreman is the author of My Year of Running Dangerously