I never wanted to write anything about politics in this blog. I didn’t want to be that guy. I still don’t. I’ve always been a political junkie, though, so the temptation is always there. It’s been tempered lately by the fact that this presidential election season has sucked out of me any joy, interest, or fervor that might have prompted me to write. The second presidential debate changed that.
I was, and still am, embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that Trump and Hillary are the best that this country’s main political parties can come up with. I’m embarrassed by their behavior, their snippy asides and ad hominem attacks. I’m embarrassed by the continual drudging up of dirt by both sides that substitutes for substantive policy debate. I’m embarrassed by the fact that, for both of them, there IS so much dirt to be dug. Finally, I’m embarrassed that, in order to do my civic duty as a citizen of this great country, I’ll have to push a button and vote for one of these two.
Of course, there are other options, but I want to circle around to that. I think a little personal disclosure is in order. I lean more fiscally conservative and socially liberal, which, most of time, aligns me most closely with the Libertarian Party. I’ve never voted for them, though. I’m much more conservative than liberal, so I end up voting for the Republican ticket every election, because they represent the candidate(s) that more closely align with my beliefs and have a chance of winning. But that’s settling. I vote so the Democratic candidate doesn’t win, because I almost never agree with them, and less because I want the Republican candidate to win. I vote strategically, as opposed to voting my beliefs or my conscience. I vote for the lesser of two evils every election.
To be honest, I did consider voting for a Democrat once. During the 2006 Senate race here in Tennessee, I really did want to vote for Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN). He was part of the “Blue Dog Coalition”, a group of conservative Democrats. I liked his stances and his voting record. I liked him, personally, more than I did his opponent. However, it appeared leading up the election that the Democrats were going to take the Senate, and I didn’t want to contribute to giving them more of a majority, as Harry Reid (D-NV), who I very much disliked, would be taking over as Majority Leader. So, I ended up voting for Bob Corker (R-TN), who won the seat and has mostly been a disappointment ever since. In this case, I didn’t vote how I wanted because I didn’t want to give additional power to the more liberal Democrat Senators from states in which I can’t vote.
So, after years of compromising away my vote, I was excited about this year’s presidential election. The Republican primary field was full of promise. Some were lackluster, but there were a few that raised my hopes. I honed in on Ted Cruz, although I would have been happy with a couple of the others. I initially regarded Trump as something of a sideshow, a loudmouth out to get some attention. What I liked about Cruz was that he was transparent. You knew what you were going to get with him. His record and stances were mostly consistent. To me, he seemed the obvious choice if you were a conservative.
Likewise, for liberals, there was Bernie Sanders. You knew what you were going to get from him. Sure, he’s a Socialist, but it’s been my contention for awhile that most modern-day Democrats are simply Socialists that can’t come out and say it. Bernie says it. His stances and his record were mostly consistent. I don’t agree with anything he says, but I can at least respect him. Meanwhile, Hillary was…well, Hillary. A shrill, pant-suit wearing carrier of scandal -ridden baggage. Whitewater, Benghazi, Deleted emails, trashing of Bill’s rape victims, flip-flops galore…all out there, available for public knowledge.
And yet here we are, less than one month from the election, and the Sideshow and the Baggage Lady are our presidential candidates. There were very clear, consistent primary candidates to choose from on both sides, in terms of voting records, stances, and ideology, but the country went the other way and we ended up having a Jerry Springer episode as a presidential debate. I really don’t think a Cruz/Sanders debate would look like that. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that with those two there would have been much less mud-slinging and much more substantive debate.
Which brings me back around to the Libertarian Party.
In studying Gary Johnson’s stances and record as Governor of New Mexico, as well as taking the test at I Side With, I’m right there with him on almost every issue. He’s a proven governmental administrator with a solid track record. Too bad that he wasn’t allowed to be in the debates. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, is who I’d actually like to vote for. But the consensus is that voting for Johnson is throwing my vote away. It’s voting for Hillary by not voting for Trump.
I wonder, how many other people would rather vote for Johnson but are voting Trump? What if all of us voted Johnson anyway? Are there enough to take Trump? Probably not, but what a shake-up it would be for the next election, provided that there is a next election after four years of President Hillary and First Lady Bill.
So, I’m going to go into the voting booth with a choice to make. I don’t want Donald Trump to be President. I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be President even more. I have to once again decide who’s the lesser of two evils – the evil we know or the evil we don’t. I feel like there’s the thinnest margin between the two of any election in my lifetime. If I choose to vote my conscience, well, then I’m voting for the evil we know by proxy. It’s a tight corner into which I, and many others, I’m sure, have been forced.
And I resent the living hell out of it.
POST SCRIPT 1/17/17: So, I feel like I should probably add a post-election comment and maybe even eat a little crow. As I noted above, Donald Trump did not impress me at all pre-election. I paid rapt attention and kept waiting for something he did or said to win me over, but it never happened. I never heard anything that I could think of as more than a platitude, something of real substance to reassure me that he was the right pick. That said, I’ve been turned around in the interim between election and inauguration. His cabinet picks have been impressive, his organization tight and streamlined, and his conduct presidential (even with the tweets). I’m finally optimistic.
That said, I still think that credible third-party candidates should have easier access to the electorate than they do in current elections.
photo credit: billy3001 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/50708465@N00/29931631671″>Adversaries</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>