Two days from now, Americans across the country will go to the polls to choose our next President. Whether you are descended from someone who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower or are a recently naturalized immigrant about to vote for the first time, it's your civic duty to engage in the democratic process and choose our chief executive and legislative representatives. Democracy is glorious and the fact that we get to participate in it so freely and fully in this country is the most precious gift America has given its people.
I only wish that the presidential candidates we have to choose from this year were worthy of our democracy.
I haven't ignored the election on this blog, but I have focused on discussing electoral reforms that I would like to see enacted (like ranked choice voting, redistricting reform, and a national popular vote for President) rather than discussing the candidates themselves. Well, since the election is now only forty-eight hours away, I've decided to go ahead and put my cards down on the table.
I can't really say anything about Donald Trump that hasn't already been said by hundreds of commentators. He is a puerile, ignorant, bigoted, dangerous, unstable, misogynistic maniac. Throughout his entire career, both before and after he announced his run for President, he has given ample proof that he has no business being an elected official. I wouldn't vote for him to be a city council member and I certainly won't vote for him to be President of the United States. The idea of Trump speaking as our nation's leader to the United Nations General Assembly, or placing a medal around the neck of a war hero, or addressing the country after a national tragedy, is simply revolting.
Trump's policy ideas, to the extent that he has really articulated any, are absurd. Banning Muslim immigrants from entering the United States is not only deeply immoral and against everything America stands for, but is blatantly unconstitutional. His trade policies would cause prices to skyrocket on just about everything and almost instantly throw tens of thousands of Americans out of work. His longstanding pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it, which has been the centerpiece of his campaign, is nothing but anti-immigrant, borderline racist grandstanding. But, of course, none of his policy statements are very solid or make much sense. On healthcare, for example, Trump's policy is to replace the Affordable Care Act with "something terrific". Such vacuousness is typical of the man.
His admiration for Vladimir Putin is particularly disturbing. Trump has asserted that he will say nice things about Putin simply because Putin says nice things about him and many of his advisers have close connections with Russia. If it were limited to this, it would be unsettling enough, but Trump has gone further and openly advocated a pro-Russian foreign policy. He has suggested at various times that he would recognize Russian territorial conquests in Ukraine and decline to come to the aid of NATO members in the event of a Russian attack. The latter is especially outrageous, for failing to meet our treaty obligations to our allies would smear our nation with dishonor and destroy our credibility with the international community. It needs to be stressed that Vladimir Putin, before becoming the de facto dictator of Russia, was a highly trained and skilled intelligence operative. He would be able to play a man of Trump's temperament and psychology as easily as a violin player plays his violin.
Another repeated phrase in Trump's rhetoric has particularly frightened me. During the second presidential debate, he told Hillary Clinton that, in the event that he won the presidency, he would immediately appoint a special prosecutor and "lock her up". This not only demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of how the American justice system works (the whole point of special prosecutors is that they are independent of the President's authority), but made plain the deeply disturbing authoritarianism that runs through Trump's character. Arresting and imprisoning your political opponents in something done by strongmen in Latin American banana republics or corrupt African dictators, not by Presidents of the United States of America. By repeating this idea again and again, and encouraging his supporters when they chanted "Lock Her Up!" at countless campaign rallies, Trump made it clear that he cares nothing for the Constitution, nor for the long tradition of the rule of law that has characterized the United States since its foundation. His statements about arresting and imprisoning Clinton constitute one of the worst moments in American political history.
Equally concerning is Trump's repeated suggestion that he would refuse to recognize the validity of the results if he ends up losing the election. I wrote about this in another blog post recently, so I won't dwell on it here. Needless to say, such deliberate undermining of America's constitutional system is corrosive of democracy and it sufficient by itself to rule him out as a person deserving of my vote.
Trump's casual and habitual degradation of women should disqualify him for the Presidency as a matter of course, even if the accusations of sexual assault that have made been against him are false. Add to that his past insulting of Mexicans, Muslims, disabled people, war heroes, and just about every other group, along with his lifelong avoidance of paying taxes and his refusal to pay contractors what he owes them, and a pattern emerges that has been clear for a very long time. Donald Trump is simply an odious human being, without a shred of honor or dignity. He has never exhibited any sort of civic virtue in his life, always putting his own interests ahead of the common good. There is no reason to think this will change were he to take the presidential oath of office, which is precisely why it would be a national disaster if he were to do so. The very fact that Trump has come so close to the office of the presidency should make all Americans deeply ashamed, for it reveals that there are many, many things very wrong with our country in this day and age.
All of this might suggest that I am eager to cast my vote for Donald Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton. Sadly, I am not. I consider Clinton to be a dishonest, corrupt, tool of the establishment. She is a poster child for the kind of politicians who have been slowly and steadily been pushing our once great republic towards ultimate ruin over the past few decades.
Clinton appears to me to have no firm political principles. There is a difference between changing one's views in response to long reflection and new evidence, but Clinton shifts her positions like a weather vane in response to shifting poll numbers. She opposed gay marriage and only changed her view when it became politically expedient to do so. She supported the Iraq War and only changed her mind when the war went badly. She was a supporter of free trade agreements and only turned against them when forced to by the pressure of her presidential primary opponent Bernie Sanders. It's impossible not to sense the obsessive ambition to be President that seems to emanate from Hillary Clinton whenever she speaks. One gets the clear impression that, if polling data suggested that she would have a better chance at winning the election if she supported having all schoolchildren dress in clown suits in class, she would propose a law to that effect the following morning.
While most of the alleged scandals associated with Hillary Clinton have clearly been inflated out of all proportion by her Republican enemies, there is no denying that her connections with Wall Street bankers and various foreign financial interests, made clear by the activities of the Clinton Foundation, certainly raise eyebrows. If she wins the election, I don't think we will have a person in the Oval Office who has the best interests of the American people at heart.
I took advantage of early voting and cast my ballot over a week ago. Walking into the polling both, I had a problem. I had to vote against Trump, but I didn't feel I could vote for Clinton. Perhaps I might have turned to one of the two third party candidates, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or Jill Stein of the Green Party. Neither has a snowball's chance in hell of winning, of course, but perhaps a symbolic throwaway vote would have served my needs. Unfortunately, this didn't seem to be much of an option, either. Taken a whole, the policy positions of both the Libertarian and Green parties are a mixture of the absurd and the unworkable. Johnson seems entirely uninformed about critical policy issues, while Stein holds many positions that I strongly oppose. Evan McMullin seems intelligent, sincere, and sane, which I think makes him better than other candidates in this race, but he isn't even on the ballot in several states.
Nor was simply not voting an option. I make it a point to vote in every election, even the most minor ones, because I believe I have a civic duty to exercise the franchise that was earned for me by the blood and sacrifice of our ancestors. People who do not vote insult the memory of thousands of men and women who died to preserve secure and maintain free government in this country, as well as the memory of the Founding Fathers who brought our republic into being in the first place.
I won't tell you what I ended up doing. I will tell you that I dearly wished that our ballots had a "None Of The Above" option, for this year I would certainly have used it. In the meantime, go cast your vote on Tuesday and say a prayer for the future of our republic. It's going to need all the help it can get.