By Christine Todd Whitman
June 5, 2016

On Tuesday, New Jersey voters have a chance to be heard.

For Republicans, the party has a candidate in Donald Trump, but that does not diminish the importance of going to the polls. If Donald Trump is your candidate, fine, but if you do not feel he represents you or your values, send a message to the party and vote for John Kasich or Ted Cruz, who are still on the ballot in New Jersey.

Right now the leading candidates of the two major political parties have the highest disapproval ratings ever recorded for potential presidential candidates, so it is fair to ask: How did we get here? I would argue we have to look in the mirror for the answer.

For too many years those eligible to vote in primary or general elections did not bother to do so. Those sensible centrists who do not go to rallies, but care deeply about our country, effectively silenced their own voices. That sent the message to incumbents that they were either doing the right thing or that we just did not care. Either way, it resulted in more of the same in governance, with Washington getting more and more distanced from the people they serve.

As frustration grew at the tone-deafness of our governments, more and more people declined to vote because they did not like their choices. That vicious cycle continued until we find ourselves where we are today.

Trump’s recent attack on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, a federal court judge who is overseeing a civil suit against Trump University for defrauding and misleading customers who spent $1,500 for three-day seminars that promised to teach Trump’s secrets of success in real estate, is the latest example of why I will be voting against him on Tuesday. Curiel ordered the unsealing of 1,000 pages of documents related to the case, which is standard legal procedure.

In response, Trump spent more than 10 minutes at a rally attacking the judge in a racially tinged diatribe and complaining that the legal system is “rigged.” He noted to rally-goers that the judge was Mexican, and proceeded to rehash several of his critiques of immigrants from that country, even though Curiel is actually from Indiana.

These statements in themselves are rude and inappropriate, to say nothing of revealing of his lack of knowledge of the judicial system. But the real danger of this — just one of literally hundreds of similar incidents on the campaign trail — is that it incites his supporters to racism and a sense that the “system” is out to get them. Trump is not the victim of the judicial system; he is or has been the defendant in 3,500 lawsuits — that’s not the mark of a victim, but rather a perpetrator.

The New York Times editorial board summed up this situation well:

“Mr. Trump has said so many irresponsible or dangerous things so often and in so many settings that there is a real risk that many voters will simply tune out and his campaign will somehow be normalized. So it is particularly important to note when Mr. Trump’s statements go beyond the merely provocative or absurd and instead represent a threat to America’s carefully balanced political system. This is such a moment. It is not too late for Republicans who revere that system to question how they can embrace a nominee who has so little regard for it.”

Voting is the only way to make change in a democracy.

Give Trump and Bernie Sanders credit. They have brought more people to the polls than we have seen years. Even though the primary season is near its end, it is never too late to send a message.

I will be voting Tuesday and with my vote will let the Republican leaders know that I do not believe that Donald Trump represents the best of my party or what is good for the country I love.