In recent weeks, I have noticed a variety of qualifiers accompanying discussion in Maryland of the presidential election — statements like "we know Maryland won't have an impact in the outcome" or "Maryland will likely vote blue in November."
It's true that the polls show Hillary Clinton has a substantial lead in our state, and it's true that Maryland only has 10 electoral votes. But all this talk of the election already being a foregone conclusion for our state has me concerned, rather than relieved. Maybe it's because I grew up in Ohio, a state that prides itself as a prized battleground and gets to flaunt facts like this one: No Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio since Abraham Lincoln.
But as a proud resident of Baltimore, I find myself searching for meaning in my presidential vote beyond simply exercising my right as a U.S. citizen. Hearing language that diminishes our role in the election makes me fear that we have lost our sense of urgency and sense of efficacy, and that could come back to bite us. I saw too many "Make America Great Again" signs at the Maryland State Fair to make me comfortable.
As Nov. 8th approaches and Donald Trump continues to sabotage his own candidacy, many voters are breathing sighs of relief: Hillary Clinton appears to have the election in hand, and the nation appears to have avoided disaster. But I'm still holding my breath and plan to for the next four years because Donald Trump's political success is not a fluke of 2016. There are real historical factors — social, economic and political — that have made Mr. Trump's rise to prominence possible and have also given rise to similar political movements across the world, most notably, Britain's exit from the European Union.
And in the same way Mr. Trump's rise has been years in the making, what he stands for will not just go away after the election. If he loses by a narrow margin, Mr. Trump may be enticed to try again with the support of a Republican party that will have had four years to lick its wounds and mobilize their entire machine to support him. If, however, Hillary Clinton wins by such a margin that it appears Mr. Trump never genuinely stood a chance, we can hope a Donald Trump candidacy will fade into the SNL sketches and Stephen Colbert zingers it was always supposed to be. Then, perhaps, the Republican Party will figure out how to enfranchise its voters without resorting to fear-mongering as its primary political strategy.
A vote for Hillary Clinton should be more than a vote for the Democratic candidate, the qualified candidate and the long-overdue first female candidate. It should be a deliberate vote against Donald Trump, against "locker-room" banter" and against fear. The "change" this year's Republican ticket advocates is a fearful backtracking to less tolerant, more ignorant times. The only measurable action Mr. Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, have proposed is to repeal everything the Obama administration has accomplished. Even if you disagree with some of those accomplishments, even if you question Hillary's policies, we cannot go back in time. It is simply not possible. Our next president needs to face the challenges of 2016, not try to recreate the 1980s.
A friend of mine recently reminded me of the expression, "In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve." While I sympathize with those who believe we deserve better than Hillary Clinton, we deserve far better than Donald Trump. We cannot allow his behavior or his rhetoric at any level of serious public discourse, now or ever. Although we cannot rewind and re-do the Republican primaries, we can realize the mistake we've made and learn from it.
Come Nov. 8th, we cannot risk hearing "Donald Trump performs better than expected in Maryland" in the news or "Hillary Clinton narrowly wins Maryland" in our headlines. While Maryland's influence in the numbers of the presidential election may already be determined, we can still send a clear message: Mr. Trump, you are not welcome here. Let's communicate that loud and clear in the polls.
Jonathan Tomick is a high school English teacher in the Baltimore area; his email is email@example.com.