This is Part 1 of 2 of what I have to say about the 2016 election. The major political parties have made foolish choices in nominating Presidential candidates, and I expect most American voters to make more foolish choices next week. Even so, I want to share a couple of reasons I find myself encouraged by this election. I’ll do that in my next post.
First, I have several random, bite-sized thoughts I’d like to put together in one mangled, occasionally-not-so-polite rant. I don’t intend to be harsh. I love you all. But I feel like I need to say some of these things, even if they might be unpleasant. I’m not immune to making foolish choices, so I don’t pretend to be perfect. If my judgments are wrong, feel free to show me why. Barring an error, though, I think some of this needs to be said. Without further ado:
A vote for Trump is a vote for Clinton, and a vote for Clinton is a vote for Trump.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for one or the other of the major parties, I’d be rich. The problem with that argument is that it’s exactly the opposite of the truth. The reality can be seen in the actual history of the last century and a half of American politics. The D/R duopoly has actually resulted in DP and RP candidates coming in first and second in every election since the Lincoln era except for one: former President Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 (Republican Taft came in third). The high percentage of votes for the two major party candidates entrenches those parties. In other words, a vote for either major party is a vote for the continued dominance of both. The only way to unseat the parties that gave us Trump and Clinton is to decide not to waste your vote on either one of them.
A Clinton or Trump vote lowers the bar for future elections.
A vote for either of those candidates sends a clear message that their character and policies are acceptable in order to defeat the other. Both candidates, even the one who loses, receive a resounding endorsement which lowers the bar for the next election. The idea that “we will do better next time” is not supported by the historical evidence. What has actually happened is progressive degradation of standards for both character and policy (from a freedom perspective). There appears to be no lower limit to what’s acceptable to the American people. Voters seem content to support even pro-war Democrats and pro-redistribution Republicans who may all be criminals.
A Trump or Clinton vote endorses bad character for everyone.
I wouldn’t trust either one of them to clean my toilet, let alone hold the nuke button or set economic policy that affects the entire planet. In my profession, there is a legal requirement that we, “be of good moral character.” (14 CFR 61.153(c)) We ought to hold our Presidential candidates to even higher standards, not lower. Voting to put either of these candidates in the Oval Office tells our neighbors, children, church friends, coworkers, and school mates that the kinds of character flaws they habitually display don’t matter for anyone. When your neighbors leave a trail of bodies, engage in gross negligence, trade political favors for cash, habitually perpetrate sexual harassment, consistently default on debts to others, and so on, remember it’s because you endorsed people who do such things for the presidency.
A third-party candidate can win.
Actually, there are five other candidates that can win via the normal election process: Johnson, Stein, Castle, De La Fuente, and McMullen. Johnson and Stein can win without relying on any write-in votes (the others must win at least some states with write-in votes). Polls may predict winners, but polls don’t determine what’s possible. Not only is it possible that any of those candidates could get 270 electoral votes, but if any of them get any electoral votes at all, and neither Trump nor Clinton get 270, Congress will decide between the top three Presidential electoral vote winners, which would necessarily include at least one third-party candidate (contingent Presidential election has happened before). That third-party candidate could, theoretically, win with only a single state’s electoral votes. Likely? Maybe not. Possible? Yes.
The number of “wasted” third-party votes is dwarfed by the number of wasted D/R votes.
The most compelling wasted vote argument is this: if 1) you reasonably believe your vote may change the outcome of the election, and if 2) you would prefer the change you believe your vote can make to the next most likely alternative, and if 3) you knowingly vote in a way that will not so change the outcome (eg. for a third party candidate), then you have wasted your vote. I do not deny the validity of that argument, however, it depends on all of those “ifs” being true. Ironically, overwhelming majority of the very same people who forward those arguments in an effort to dissuade third-party voters actually waste their own votes. They do so in one of two ways: by voting for the losing candidate even reasonably believing they’ll lose, or by voting for the winning candidate even reasonably believing it would be a landslide even without their vote (excess votes). Such people who forward the wasted vote argument act to crush dissent while committing a grand hypocrisy. Unfortunately, it is quite successful, despite being illogical.
Blaming the election outcome on people who don’t support the winner is dishonest.
Several people have implied or even outright stated their opinion that I am somehow responsible for electing Clinton if I don’t vote for Trump, or vice versa. I’ve tried to be polite in my deflection of that criticism, but I can’t help but point out that such a claim is actually dishonest. The people who are to blame for electing the winner are the people who actually voted for that winner. Maybe you could extend the blame to those who lent other support such as campaign contributions and endorsements, but I have done none of those things. To say I’m somehow responsible ignores the tens of millions of people who aren’t me but did actually support the winner.
Your reasons for supporting Trump or Clinton reveal your own character.
To be fair, I have some friends who think that Trump is a truly good candidate, and some who think that Clinton is a truly good candidate. If that’s you, I simply disagree, but don’t mean to assassinate your character here. Sometimes, reasonable, moral people come to differing conclusions about important matters. But some of you clearly know that both Clinton and Trump are unfit to be President, yet you’ll vote for one to keep the other out. If that’s you, I think you’re in a much worse spot than merely disagreeing with my opinion. I’m not saying I don’t love you, pray for you, and remain ready to extend grace to you. And I’m not saying I am never afraid, nor consider expedient sacrifices out of fear. But, your willingness to knowingly support a person who embodies what you say you oppose, merely for fear of another bad outcome, speaks to your character, and not in a good way. I haven’t figured out how to see it any other way, though I wish I could. It pains me to see you compromise yourself and I really wish you wouldn’t do so.
But don’t despair. All these little rants may sound bad, and they are, but there is good news. I’ll share that in the next day or two.