Real progressives can’t afford to cast a protest vote

Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally Monday in Fort Myers, Fla. Many voters remain undecided in the battleground state.
Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally Monday in Fort Myers, Fla. Many voters remain undecided in the battleground state. The Associated Press

With less than 50 days to go until the November presidential election, undecided progressives need to get off the fence.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are tied in the polls and, if the latest CBS News survey is right, that’s not going to change much among partisans.

The deciding factor in this election is, more than ever, the millions of Americans in the middle. This is particularly true for the left-leaning, undecided voters who are honestly – and inexplicably – still wrestling with the question of who should get their vote for president. Or, in some cases, whether to vote at all.

These are the voters who somehow insist Trump and Clinton are “the same,” ignoring his rhetoric, while saying they can only vote their conscience.

Many of them are millennials who swear they care deeply about social justice and equality, and are angry about Bernie Sanders losing the Democratic primary. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found Clinton’s support among voters under 35 is near 30 percent – only two points ahead of Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, and slightly above Trump at 26 percent and the Green Party’s Jill Stein at 15 percent.

But undecideds also include people who should know better, including the California Nurses Association. The union is still “in the consideration process” of who to endorse after their man Bernie berned out.

And then there are the people in swing states, such as Ohio and Florida. These voters are torn, so says the CBS poll, because they see Clinton as capable of handling the presidency on a daily basis, but Trump as most likely to change the economy and the political system.

We think Trump will make changes, too – not for the better. In just the past week, Trump has advocated for using racial profiling to ferret out terrorists and recklessly called on Clinton’s Secret Service agents to “disarm” and “see what happens to her.” That’s on top of his lies about birtherism.

Clinton isn’t the most inspiring candidate and has her character flaws. But her background doesn’t include discriminating against black renters, stiffing contractors or believing rape happens in the military because men and women serve together.

Over the weekend, Sanders made it plain. “This is not the time for a protest vote.”

He knows Clinton will uphold the values of progressives. A vote for Stein or Johnson would send a message, just as the vote for Ralph Nader did in 2000. But it’s a message few will remember kindly in the years to come, if Clinton can’t gather enough votes to win.

Trump and Clinton couldn’t be more different. To people who say they support progressive causes, this is the time to put up or shut up.