What it Means to Have a Conscience

 In news that should shock no one, Donald Trump is expected to end President Obama's executive action to protect young undocumented immigrants, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The program, instituted with great public support, allows undocumented immigrants who came here as children to stay in the only country they have ever called home. Trump is also cutting - by as much as 90% - spending to enroll people in health care under the Affordable Care Act.

This all follows a slew of disasters from the beginning moment of Trump's sorry presidency that has placated Nazis and white supremacists, scrapped equal pay regulations for women, gutted voting rights and brought back draconian drug policies, to name a very short part of a very long list. Oh, and the Republicans have successfully stolen a Supreme Court seat.

This has been the consequence of 2016. This has been the consequence of too many "progressives" outright refusing to vote or advocate for the election of Hillary Clinton - and many of whom actually voted for Trump.

The argument we hear most often defending progressives' rejection of Hillary Clinton - including on election day when she faced Donald Trump - is that they voted their conscience. No one has a right to their votes, they say; their votes must be earned. They found it unconscionable to vote for Hillary Clinton because, I guess, Clinton gave paid speeches to Wall Street. Or because she wouldn't commit to putting the weight of the presidency behind a brand new health care fight to institute a single payer system. Or because she merely wanted college to be debt free rather than free-free. Or because she talked too much about black people being shot and not enough white liberals' pet causes like a public works program or a $15 nationwide minimum wage. You know, priorities.

These progressives bought into decades of conservative smears against the most qualified candidate ever to seek the presidency because, for whatever their particular grievances were, they viewed her as inadequate, insufficient, not liberal enough. They saw her as the "establishment" that they were more interested in tearing down. Because their 'conscience' told them that they could no longer support someone so ... impure.

Conscience. In politics, it is a term that could be used to excuse anything. It can be used to avoid any responsibility.

But it shouldn't be. Conscience must be accountable. It must be responsible. And it must not exist in a vacuum.

The conscience that allowed one to make it one vote more possible for Donald Trump to be president must be held accountable for Trump's actions as president. The conscience that that faulted Hillary Clinton for supporting the status quo under President Obama now must be faulted for Trump's disastrous upending of that status quo. The conscience that refused to vote for Hillary Clinton because she would only promise to strengthen Obamacare must now be splashed with the blood of every life at risk of losing health care because of Trump's attempts to kill it - and them - by a thousand cuts.

The conscience that was uncomfortable because Hillary Clinton would not stop speaking out on racial justice and pretend instead that some economic scheme could solve our nation's oldest scars must now live with the stains of Trump's racism. The conscience that accused Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for not breaking up the banks must now answer for Trump's rollback of consumer and worker protections. The conscience that could not bring itself to support Hillary Clinton because she would not commit to "free" college for everyone must now confront the scar of Trump's attacks on our entire public education system.

If they cannot do so, these "progressives" must stop misappropriating the word. Conscience is about one's commitment to others. Conscience about seeing a just world. Conscience is about compassion for those who have less. Conscience is about making the best choice among options that are - and always will be - imperfect. Conscience is about sacrificing one's own dogma at the alter of the good of the nation. Conscience is about taking responsibility for one's choices.

If you could not support a woman who'd fought for the rights of the disadvantaged all her life and who served this country with honor and distinction even when she ran against the most dangerous megalomaniac candidate in modern history because she didn't meet your litmus test, you're confusing conscience with ego.

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