Sally Stephens: Waiting for the 11th hour to vote

I have never had so much trouble deciding who to vote for in an election as I had this year.

I always vote. For me, voting is a major responsibility of being an American. I usually vote by mail. But I always wait until Election Day to drop my completed ballot off at a polling place. This year, I was really glad I waited.

I have never had so much trouble deciding who to vote for in an election as I had this year. I wasn’t alone – my Facebook feed was full of people agonizing over the Democratic primary. I must have changed my mind at least 20 times in the past two weeks. First, I wanted to vote for the candidate I supported the most – Pete Buttigieg. Then I worried about electability since I honestly do not think our democracy will survive another four years with a narcissistic autocrat in the White House.

As the weeks went on, I flirted with supporting others, but I kept coming back to Mayor Pete. I never considered Bernie Sanders. I don’t think he is flexible enough to adapt his policies or rhetoric as situations change. He’s basically had the same message for decades. But I also worried that it would be too easy for Trump’s PR machine to paint him as extreme, and that could scare off a lot of the voters we need to take back the Senate, keep the House, and turn red statehouses blue.

Having said that, if Sanders does end up the nominee, I will vote for him. Even with his flaws, he will be a significantly better president than Trump has been.

About a week ago, I had decided to go with my heart, and vote for Mayor Pete. I’ve never put a lot of stock in candidates’ plans to fix problems. Even if elected, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to convince Congress to go along. Instead, I listen to how candidates speak, what words they use to describe things. And I liked how Buttigieg spoke. He is extremely articulate and unflappable, and I found his words calming. As was the case with Barack Obama, I felt better about almost everything whenever I heard Mayor Pete speak.

I liked when Buttigieg talked about American values and the sense of duty that drove him to enlist in the military and, later, leave a potentially lucrative job for public service. Values matter, and while Trump has been systematically undercutting traditional American values – freedom, compassion, diversity and opportunity for all – Mayor Pete eloquently supported them.

I especially liked to hear Buttigieg talk about how important his faith is to him and how it drives him to help others and to work to make the world better for everyone. I also liked that he doesn’t expect others to believe the same things he does. This is in stark contrast to Trump, a truly faithless man who believes only in himself, yet cynically pretends to be religious to court evangelical political support.

But then, I began to worry that Sanders would sweep Super Tuesday, making him difficult to stop. Because candidates have to win at least 15 percent of the vote to get any delegates, I worried that Buttigieg, who was polling at somewhere around 8 percent in California, wouldn’t be able to get enough votes to stop Sanders. My thinking then became: Who would have the best chance of taking at least some of our state’s delegates away from Sanders? and that meant either Biden or Bloomberg, who were both polling just under 15 percent.

I continued to waffle back and forth, and I put off marking my ballot. Last weekend, Buttigieg withdrew from the race and my decision suddenly became easy. Just before midnight on election eve, I finally filled out my ballot, voting for Joe Biden.

But I am so glad that Buttigieg ran. As Trump’s crudeness threatens to overwhelm our political discourse, Mayor Pete raised the level of the discussion, talking eloquently about values and faith. His calm demeanor reassured me that we can be both passionate and accepting of others’ views. He didn’t win, but his campaign went a lot farther than many people thought possible.

Thank you, Mayor Pete, for reminding me that politicians can be decent and moral, and still do well.

Sally Stephens is an animal, park, and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area. She is a guest opinion columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner.

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