A person of strong views, in half a century of voting I have never before been “undecided.” But this time it’s an agonizing choice.
Not voting is unthinkable. Voting is, for me, a sacrament.
In some past elections, where I was not enthused about either major candidate (well, the Republican), I’ve voted Libertarian. It’s wrong to think such a vote is wasted. Elections are not games where the aim is to pick a winner. And one vote won’t change the outcome. Instead, the purpose is to express one’s civic opinion, which has value even if few others share it. Maybe especially so.
Actually there’s no party that totally reflects my own politics: I’m a classical liberal (not to be confused with contemporary U.S. “liberalism”). In a nutshell, it’s laissez faire both in economics and personal life. (It’s the editorial stance of The Economist magazine, one of the world’s most respected journals.)
America’s Libertarian party does not embody that stance perfectly, but comes close. (Its foreign isolationism is my main sticking point.) Its candidate hasn’t been named yet, but will likely be, again, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.* And he seems a great guy, with views close enough to mine that I could gladly support him. (It’s still possible, though unlikely, that another good third party candidate will run.)
And this, if ever, should be the time for such a vote. I’m sure “not enthused about either major candidate.” Both, indeed, are awful. However, one is more so. A lot more.
So we come to the proverbial “lesser of two evils.” For a quarter century I’ve loathed Hillary Clinton. (Sorry, Berners, it’s over.) There’s not room enough here to itemize her indictment. But – to quote P. J. O’Rourke (on the radio show, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”) – while Hillary is wrong about everything, she’s wrong within normal parameters. She would not be an existential threat to the America I love. Trump would be. The Economist has explained why: click here.
The Republicans drinking the Kool-Aid and falling into line for the sake of party unity and winning the election are not thinking. They’re treating this like normal politics. It isn’t. Winning isn’t everything. If (God forbid) Trump wins, they’ll regret it even more than if he loses. (See this Michael Gerson column on the GOP ship of fools.)**
I’m pretty sure Trump can’t win (though like so many I was mistaken about his getting the nomination; and a major terrorist episode before the election could spook voters into doing something dumb). However, I want him not just defeated, but crushed, humiliated, annihilated, with all his “winning, winning, winning” talk shoved down his throat. Because I want it proven, finally, that Trumpery is wrong and is not, and never can be, a route to political power in America.
So will I hold my nose and vote for Hillary – piling mine onto, hopefully, a mountain of votes burying Trump? If my top wish in this election is Trump’s repudiation, isn’t it logical to vote for Hillary? And thereby also slap my own party’s face for the mess it’s made?
Still – a vote for a candidate is a positive act, an endorsement. In voting for someone, I feel I take some responsibility for that person in office. And I keep saying that ultimately it’s voters who are responsible for our wretched politics, through their ballot box choices. That’s why a third party vote can be justified. (What a pity so few voters are even aware of Johnson as an excellent alternative choice.) I do not support Hillary’s positions. And if I withhold my vote from her, then later I can criticize her freely, saying, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for her.”
But is that a kind of cop-out, a refusal to exercise responsibility as a citizen? Detaching myself from the battleground and climbing into an ivory tower? Wouldn’t it be the adult thing to face up to the true choice, which is between Trump and Clinton?
And I actually have hopes that Clinton might not be so bad after all. Fortunately I think she’s being (typically) dishonest about all the left-wing rubbish she’s felt compelled to spout, to fend off Bernie, like protectionism. Her foreign policy hand will be a lot stronger and steadier than Obama’s, a welcome change. And dare I imagine she’d have the strength to force Democrats into desperately needed entitlement reform? And might even – unlike Obama – seriously seek detente with a chastened Republican opposition?
So – should I just bite the bullet for Hillary?
Or should I stop overthinking this, and simply vote for policies I actually believe in, and hence for Gary Johnson?
I have not made up my mind. Count me “undecided.”
* My daughter in 2012 tortured me by refusing to say who she voted for, letting me suspect it was Obama rather than Romney (my choice). Finally, months later, she blew me away by revealing, “I voted for Johnson.”
** Climbing on board for example is Rick Perry, who once denounced Trump as a “cancer,” but now angles for the VP slot. Democrats would surely run ads featuring Perry’s scathing condemnation.