The 2016 presidential election is arguably the most divisive in recent history. On one side is a blustering failed businessman with zero political experience, a predilection for spouting racist and sexist soundbites, and a laundry list of sexual-assault allegations against him. On the other, our potential first woman president, who — despite her extensive political experience and always-professional demeanor — is viewed by many citizens as untrustworthy and has a history of being a war hawk and getting cozy with Wall Street.
Each has their own enthusiastic fanbase, of course, but when Americans go to the polls to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton on November 8, some will be choosing to go with “the lesser of two evils” — whatever that might mean to them. Because, more than ever before, there is pressure on Americans to actually get to the polls (only 53.6 percent of those of voting age did so in 2012’s presidential election) — and specifically, there’s been a particular pressure on women to vote for Hillary Clinton for the sole purpose of defeating Donald Trump. But for some women, that’s not reason enough to vote.
The Cut interviewed six women — none of whom are politically indifferent or apathetic — who are choosing not to vote about why they’re sitting this election out.
Anonymous, 30, Teacher, New York
If I lived in a swing state, I’d vote Clinton in a heartbeat to defeat Trump. Since I don’t, I see no reason to vote for Hillary Clinton. I am antiwar; she is a war hawk. I am for universal, free, high-quality child care and humane paid parental leave for all workers that looks similar to plans in Europe. She has said she doesn’t believe bringing about Scandinavian-style social-welfare measures is possible in the United States, which I find unimaginative and (contrary to some of the sexist criticism of her) not nearly ambitious enough.
As a feminist, my concern is for all women, not just rich women working at tech companies and on Wall Street. Moreover, I do not believe that feminism can “trickle down” — that having more women on corporate boards will make life better for working-class women. If your primary concern is creating gender parity within the upper class, it’s rational to support Hillary Clinton. If you are a working woman, things aren’t so clear. She supported and advocated for welfare reform, gutting welfare as we know it, which has had devastating effects on working women, especially black and Latino women. Her positions on child care and parental leave are not nearly ambitious enough to start with — and I imagine she’ll compromise further — which is not a good thing! These policies are necessary and long overdue. Her foreign policy has been disastrous for women worldwide, particularly in Libya. She voted for the war in Iraq. Indigenous activist Berta Caceres, who was later murdered, singled Clinton out as someone who enabled and legitimated the coup in Honduras. I cannot and will not support someone with these morals. How can I vote for this woman? Why would I?
I’ve had pretty open conversations with friends [about not voting]. I’m very political, and I believe all people should be politically active. I’m just extremely disappointed in the two choices on offer — and the fact that we’re meant to choose between two choices in the first place. America would be better off with a strong third party of working people.
Alyssa, 25, Works in Marketing, Pennsylvania
I’ve only been eligible to vote in one election in the past. I voted for Obama and frankly I wish I could vote for him again. I have been pretty conflicted about not voting, mostly because of the pressure from celebrities and my peers on social media about how important it is that we do our civic duty and place our vote, but I don’t think it’s as cut-and-dry as that. I don’t really appreciate the two-party system, or the two candidates in this election specifically, that has been forced upon the nation.
I don’t like either Clinton or Trump as people or politicians and I don’t think it’s fair to be shamed into having to choose between them, neither of which I want representing me. I understand people’s choice to vote for Hillary Clinton just to go against Donald Trump but it doesn’t sit right with me to have to vote for a shit person just so an even shittier person doesn’t get in office. If I absolutely had to vote, I would write in Bernie Sanders, but then I’d get blasted for “wasting my vote.”
Because of all this, I have not shared with many people that I’m not voting and any hints I’ve dropped about it have been vilified. To some, it might seem like I’m a stereotypical millennial pouting about not getting what I want, but I think not voting speaks to a larger issue of politics in America.
Roqayah Chamseddine, 26, Writer, Lebanese-American Based in Sydney
I have not voted before, no. Nor have I felt compelled to, especially not for any Democrat or Republican presidential candidate. I’ve gone back and forth in terms of whether or not to cast a vote for the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), which is running a campaign for the U.S. presidency under Gloria La Riva, or not to vote whatsoever. While I wholeheartedly support the PSL’s platform, I don’t consider voting for the party during this election to be imperative.
As a woman, a Muslim, leftist, and Arab woman, both candidates pose a threat to my livelihood, and the livelihood of others. Clinton’s hawkish policies have had material consequences in parts of the world often ignored during U.S. election cycles. The frightening specter of Donald Trump is no reason for me to vote for Hillary Clinton.
My primary intention is to promote grassroots organizing, and to find ways in which to get more people involved in local efforts to disrupt the work of reformists whose sole purpose is to kill off the American labor movement by pacifying a tired base with empty gestures and flowery rhetoric. Everything else is noise. Voting, for all the hype it’s afforded, is the very least we can do.
Erica, 24, Works in Retail Management, Tennessee
I consider myself a Democrat; I voted for Obama, and if Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic nomination, I would have voted for him as well. I would never vote for someone as inhumane as Donald Trump, but I also couldn’t sleep well at night knowing I voted for Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump is a sexist, misogynistic, terrifying man. I can’t imagine the decisions he would make as president, especially pertaining to women’s bodies. Hillary Clinton, in my eyes, is the lesser of the two evils. I also find myself not trusting a word that she says. Both candidates have contradicted themselves, [saying] whatever makes them sound better in that moment. I can’t put my vote and my trust into someone who can be so easily swayed.
April Shugars, 43, VP of Operations, South Carolina
I am a mother of two girls and a registered Republican but have not always voted for my party. I have brought my children up with the idea that as an American it is our duty to vote in each election; however, this election I cannot bring myself to cast a vote for either candidate. I am a huge supporter of women’s rights, a huge supporter of the LGBT community, and pro-choice. It would seem that Hillary would be an easy choice for me, however that’s far from the truth. She flip-flops too much on her beliefs; one minute she is against same-sex marriage and then when it seems to be the popular idea she supports it. She is quick to point out Donald’s objectification of women but overlooks the documented crimes her own husband committed against women. She continues to lie and manipulate and as a strong women I am not proud that she represents women.
Donald Trump just disgusts me. When he first announced his candidacy I, like many others, thought it was a joke. The way he speaks about and to people is disgusting. I am not offended by the words he uses, but by the fact that he can even have that type of mind-set! He makes racist comments but then talks about making this country great. How is that possible when you are using words to separate us, not bring us together?
I have vocalized my plan not to vote — I have spoken up in social settings and also on Facebook. I have began to really look into third-party options, as it will kill me not to vote, so many people before me — men, women, black, white — fought so hard for this right and I don’t take it lightly.
Elizabeth King, 28, Writer, American based in Argentina
I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I did not vote in 2012. This general election I have felt torn at times about not voting. I still plan not to vote, but this is the first time where there have been moments where I kind of stop and think, Oh man, I should do it, I should do it. I’m still content with my decision, but it does feel different this time.
I feel absolutely zero compulsion to vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman and I think it’s because I don’t stand behind a lot of her policies. To me, that’s more important. There’s a part of me that, of course, wants to see a woman president, but I overall resent the office so it doesn’t really matter to me.
I have an analogy: In some sense [not voting] is a protest, but I think of it as vegetarianism. Some people say, “Why would you protest the meat industry by not eating meat? Other people are gonna eat meat anyway; you’re not gonna take down the big meat industry just because you’re a vegetarian.” Well, at the end of the day, vegetarians think it’s the right thing to do, to not eat meat, and that’s how I feel about voting.
I got ripped a new one for the Salon article on Twitter, to put it indelicately. Usually the reaction is something along the lines of “you’re very privileged and that’s why you’re not voting” — that it’s the ultimate expression of privilege. I do have many privileges, and I don’t think voting is an expression of them. The other big one that is very easy to ignore is “you’re a bad citizen,” or “you’re not fulfilling your duties” and “you can’t complain if you don’t vote.” I just think that’s reactionary bunk.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.