Election day draws nearer for those fortunate enough to have an iota of faux-political power in these great United States, and predictably, the seething antagonistic rhetoric indicative of the deep cultural divides in our nation ramps up by the day. We have a mere eleven days left before we all have the option to stroll dejectedly into our voting booths to pull the lever for the new face of evil that will guide our political lives for the next four years. Those of us that are afraid of Hillary’s landslide victory are busy stocking up on weapons and ammunition, fresh water, and canned food—although, in this particular writer’s case, it’s unfortunately a little too late to begin digging that fallout shelter he always wanted. Those of us that are afraid of Trump’s landslide victory are also busy stocking up on weapons and ammunition, fresh water, and canned food—although, for some of our more liberal friends, they might have some ethical consternations about buying that dangerously seductive AR-15 available at their nearest Wal-Mart. In any case, as a nation, we are preparing for the worst, because the worst is what is, in all probability, to be upon us soon.
This brings up the biggest moral question of the 2016 election: can I pull the lever for a candidate that is so unashamedly and uncontrollably reprehensible? Can I vote for someone who has routinely tried to cover up or ignore sexual abuse allegations, has spoken glibly and off-the-cuff about violations of women’s rights, and whose mental health increasingly seems less controlled by the day? Trump’s sexual harassment tapes and questionable allegations of misconduct are black marks on his otherwise spotless public image, but the record of Hillary’s husband—the First Man should she win the White House—is even more incriminating than anything Trump has been accused of. Meanwhile, Trump’s erratic public behavior seems at least comparative to Hillary’s seasonal seizures, fainting spells, and the alien life forms she’s been coughing out of her lungs.
And can I vote for someone who has made a point of cozying up to our enemies, has spoken fondly of getting along with countries whose human rights violations number easily in the hundreds, and has publically advocated for censorship of the media? Hillary’s charitable foundation is turning out to be an indefensible slush fund for the Clintons themselves, and a vehicle for foreign powers to buy political favors from the US Government while she was Secretary of State—such as from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia who not only fund certain less-than-peaceful radial outfits in the Middle East, but also have a tendency to stone women and kill gays. In the meantime, Trump’s frequent admittance that he’d like to avoid a war with Russia (hard to fault him for that) and his general agreement that Putin is a strong leader (typical Trumpian mischaracterization of what the words “strong” and “leader” mean, I think), combined with the inevitable media spin, have turned his position of arm’s length diplomacy into some sort of weird political romance with Putin. It looks bad, even if there really doesn’t seem to be anything there. Oh yeah, and Hillary already has a record of having thrown at least one person in jail for the unfortunate crime of mocking someone’s religion with an internet video, and Trump has publicly implied shutting down some of the mainstream media outlets once he won the presidency. At least he doesn’t have a history of actually doing it, though.
Can I vote for someone so crass, clueless, and rhetorically stunted that they have a difficult time even in debates where they are moderated unfairly by someone who’s essentially on their side? Neither candidate has had a solid debate performance across all three of the general debates, and while Trump mostly won the first and the last, he did it mostly by slim margins and he didn’t win with enough of a stride to counteract the polling trends. Meanwhile, Hillary puts more effort into her debates than bicycling uphill in a snowstorm, even when those debates are moderated by mainstream media shills who are practically in her pocket already, and she still only barely grasps at victory in one of the three. For both candidates, this sort of news is simply embarrassing.
At this point, it should be obvious that questions that begin with “can I vote for a candidate who” have lost relevance—not only among the general mainstream media-consuming public, but even in the breakdown of the simple facts. Most of what can be leveled at one candidate this season can be turned around and leveled at the other, and that turns it into a game of which candidate can lie better; unfortunately, both of them are terrible liars, and unfortunately, both of them have the benefit of a powerful supporting base who can pretend to believe those lies. The Trump Train has some valid points about the corrupted and obviously biased media coverage, which fuels a general anti-establishmentarian drive present in most Americans; that makes them more willing to believe his words over the words of some newscaster or talk show anchor on MSNBC. Meanwhile, Hillary has almost the entire media establishment shilling for her—half of them seemingly for free. When Hillary tells a lie, the media spins it into truth and promptly forgets about it a day later, and the general public is left wondering what they just heard. When Trump tells a lie, his base spins it into truth and promptly ignores any criticism of it a day later, and the media establishment is left wondering what they just heard. This sort of coverage has turned Election 2016 into a tennis match in which one player has a baseball bat, the other has on the referee’s clothes, and the tennis ball has turned into a grenade.
So we get to the crux of the problem: can anyone with a conscience vote in this election? Corollary to this: does voting with one’s conscience mean voting for the lesser of two evils? Both of these questions essentially answer themselves: after all, in any foreseeable future, one of these two disasters is going to be president. The real question at heart here is deeper than this, however: does voting have anything to do with your conscience at all?
To answer this, let’s evaluate a few alternatives to voting for either Disaster A (Hillary) or Disaster B (Trump), but first we have to cover how our democracy presently works.
One person, one vote. That’s the idea, anyway. Being the most simplistic alternative to the seemingly authoritarian monarchies of old, the dictatorships of the present, and the complicated workings of theoretical republics, and a more humanist alternative to the financial oligarchies of the Second World nations, the democratic system seeks to place absolute political power in the hands of the people over whom the ruling body governs. This political power comes in the form of suffrage; every person receives a single vote weighed equally whether this person is an under-privileged African American whose eighteenth birthday was yesterday, or a ninety-seven-year-old Asian woman whose parents worked on the transcontinental railroad. Status, military service or rank, money, and privilege are all rendered meaningless in its midst.
The differences between a representative democracy (the likes of which the US generally operates by these days) and a more pure democracy is largely inconsequential in this case. Whether you’re holding a vote on administrative topics every single week or you’re electing a representative to vote in your favor to handle all of that, the result and outcome is the same.
So the idea, essentially, is that distribution of the political power to all citizens creates a level playing field upon which elected officials must earn their share of votes. This appeals to certain conservative strains of thought because it seems to imply that political power can be gained through appeals to common decency, morality, and virtue, resulting in the best men rising to power through a fairly elected process. It’s got just enough meritocracy involved to resemble the typical right-winger’s appreciation for the free market in economics; many people can run for the same office just as many people can make similar products, but it is ultimately up to the consumer to decide which product is the best and to invest—or in this case, vote—accordingly.
The problem is that universal suffrage does not correlate to economic freedom. For one thing, political power cannot be created in the same sense that wealth is; consumers gain wealth through work. Wealth is not something invented by a governing body and distributed to the people it rules over in the form of shares—that’s called communism, and the sort of ‘wealth’ it involves typically doesn’t refer to wealth at all. In any case, due to the nature of the vote, the political power of the average citizen under a democratic regime is the product of a top-down effort to level political power. It is a widget that is distributed by the state rather than something that has been earned.
As a result, democracy wills that all votes carry the same weight, regardless of any citizen’s experience, social contributions, intelligence, reasoning capabilities, and life skills. So long as they haven’t been convicted of a crime, an unintelligent, easily-manipulated, mentally-unsound lifelong welfare-collector’s political power is the same as the middle-class small-business owner who pays all of his bills and taxes on time and has contributed positively to his community. The people who take their civic responsibilities seriously have the same individualized political power as the people who do not.
It should be obvious how unfair and unsound a distribution of political power this is. It has always ever resulted in mob rule and the decapitation of civilized society. Man, as Edmund Burke noted a couple centuries ago, is governed more by his prejudices than by his reason. And any political system that expects all—or even most—men to operate in a reasonable fashion unfettered by their gut feelings is doomed to absolute corruption and eventual failure. There have to be checks.
Although the United States wasn’t founded on the principles of universal suffrage and democracy, and although it retains some semblance of the system of checks and balances originally instated by the Founders (an Executive branch, a House of Representatives, and a Senate—the Judicial system intending to be an auxiliary check on the whole system), the introduction of universal suffrage as an inalienable right of citizenry, rather than a privilege of it, has thrown the entire system into disarray. Coupled with the gerrymandering of voting districts, the unchecked immigration policies in place since the seventies, and the disastrous political handling of blacks since their emancipation, Leftist ideologies have found numerous ways to use the political structure to their advantage. The clashing ethnic groups have been fashioned into voting blocs manipulated by a handful of key leading figures, the redrawing of district lines has helped fracture otherwise homogenous communities and divide up blocs that would hinder the growth of state power, and both of these factors have exacerbated the cancerous growth of government such that the system of checks and balances has been corrupted. Keep in mind that this is the result of the Left, not specifically the democratic party; neoconservatives and key figures in the established GOP are every bit as guilty of actively partaking in this destruction of the republic as any of the hard socialists in the Democratic party are.
And this really shouldn’t be a surprise. Democracy has always been doomed to fail and for all the obvious reasons. Checks and limitations on political power must always be preserved, whether that power is manifest in a few individuals or in many. And part of this happened due to the cultural shift in the belief that direct political power in the form of leveled democracy is in any form a right.
So, with this in mind, it’s now time to turn to why this election is a failure on every level and why, despite all of it, any sensible citizen still has to swallow the hard pill and make a decision. Joy!
Voting for a Third Party
The alternative parties this election cycle seriously dropped the ball. In an election in which two of the most unpopular candidates in American history are running against one another, this should have been a good year for a serious third-party run—Libertarians in particular could have swept a state or three, had they fielded the right candidate. Unfortunately, the parties involved lived up to every single stereotype typically leveled against them; the Green party comes across as a party incapable of propping up anyone other than conspiracy-believing kook extremists that periodically make one or two good points, and the Libertarians came across as a bunch of uneducated stoners completely ill-equipped to deal with any contemporary issue whatsoever.
This is something that has come to be called “voting with your conscience,” since in this election, it’s fairly unfathomable that someone can vote for either Hillary or Trump with a clear conscience. The third party candidates of Jill Stein and Gary Johnson present appealing alternatives to the uninformed—Stein appeals to the socialist wing of disenchanted young Sanders supporters with her critiques of Hillary’s blatant corruption and the need for change, while Johnson should be appealing to disenchanted believers in the free market that had supported basically anyone on the Republican primary ticket short of Trump, Bush, or Kasich. In reality, of course, Stein’s message and platform is even more confusing and radical than Sanders’ was, and Johnson can’t form a coherent argument or say anything meaningful when thrown a few softball questions.
That said, Stein’s lunacy and Johnson’s cluelessness might very well be more appealing than Trump’s complete buffoonery or Hillary’s outright immoral corruption. But neither of these people have what it takes to pull more than 12% of the popular vote, and I don’t think either of them will be able to pull in any of the electoral college. They lack the savviness, the charm, and the campaign financing to mount that sort of popular alternative.
Third party voting is used primarily by the electorate as a protest vote. This buys into the same concept of free-market democracy that I covered above, and it’s a complete short-circuit as far as reasoning goes. Voting for a third party is waste of your vote; the establishment has about a hundred million-plus votes to work with, and sending even 15% of that to a third party is meaningless. Even that’s a high number (although a reasonable prediction, given this election cycle), but of that 15%, how many votes would go to either Stein or Johnson that might have gone to Hillary, or to Trump? How many would have gone to the third party candidates anyway? It doesn’t really matter.
This talk of voting third party is an inconsequential bid to avoid the struggle of making a real decision on election day. It’s a form of virtue-signaling, not unlike reposting pictures full of politically-charged quotes on Facebook to the annoyance of your friends. It’s an excuse to have participated in your civic duty but without having actually had to contribute in a responsible fashion, so you can sit back and proclaim, “You can’t blame me for Disaster Candidate X, I voted for the other guy!” And that’s even though you knew the other guy wasn’t even remotely a serious contender for the White House. Using a third party for a protest vote is nothing more than empty posturing.
Now, you could easily argue that either Stein or Johnson better represents your ideals and are more likely to act in your best interests than anything you’ve seen of Hillary or Trump. And that would be fair, however it still stands in the way of real action; neither Stein nor Johnson will be president. Either Hillary or Trump will be president. This is like a choice between a meal you don’t like and another meal you don’t like, and deciding to pick the one behind the glass that you’ll never get to eat is meaningless. You’re going to be stuck with one of the first two meals you don’t like whether you want either of them or not.
This brings us to the more radical position of not voting at all.
Not Voting (Alternatively, Only Voting Down-Ticket)
Admittedly, there are some regions in the US where your vote probably doesn’t matter if you aren’t voting congruent with how your state swings. I happen to live in a state that hasn’t swung for a republican presidential candidate in almost thirty years, and it seems unlikely that any ballots cast for the GOP will matter for us this year, either. But that isn’t really the point, nor is it an excuse not to vote.
This is the most appealing option to many conservatives this year, in particular all fourteen of the #NeverTrump people that are left. The reasoning is simple enough; not only hasn’t Trump sold them his pitch effectively enough, Trump has demonstrated his willingness to burn down the entire party and hollow it out from the inside, destroying the only major political force for conservatism in the country either by wildfire or by moving it to the Left. I mentioned in my last post about Trump that I think this has, for the most part, already happened. The damage has been done. Today, I’d go even further and suggest that I think the GOP is already at the end of its rope and has been for quite some time. Between the influx of neoconservative ideas, the degradation of the popular culture at large, and the passive acceptance of Obamanite leftism on both the political and social levels, Republican Party-style conservatism has been on death’s door for at least ten years by now.
Trump took advantage of all of this enmity and rage against GOP establishment types, despite himself being effectively even more establishmentarian than they were. And granted, he only won the primaries with something like 35-40% of the Republican voters’ support, so by those numbers it would seem like Republican-style conservatism was hardly dead. But I think the willingness of Republican candidates to stay in the race long after it was clear that they had no realistic path to victory—like Rubio staying in until after Florida’s primary seemingly out of spite, even when he knew he had lost, or Kasich stubbornly refusing to throw in the towel despite having lost months prior to his withdrawal from the campaign—are indicative of the sort of disorganization in the GOP political ranks. I say this not out of any love for Cruz, but it was pretty clear back in March and April that Cruz could have defeated Donald had the candidates been more astute about their strategies. Instead of working to put the most conservative person at the head of the party, during an election against Hillary Clinton and following the disastrous hard-Left administration of Obama, they ended up with the worst possible candidate imaginable to try and unite the country. Trump’s rise to nomination had more to do with extremely poor planning and judgement calls on the part of the other GOP candidates than it had to do with his own mythical four-dimensional chess skills.
So the #NeverTrump camp sits back and evaluates all of this. They still believe the GOP has a chance in the future, after 4 years of Hillary and God-knows-who appointed to the Supreme Court in that time, not to mention whatever is going to happen to the Republican majorities in the House and Senate both now and in two years. On one hand, Trump’s loss might give the GOP the excuse it needs to radically restructure itself and be rebranded as an actual party for conservatism, instead of this indecisive lummox of outdated sophistry that is today. On the other hand, four years under Hillary could very well leave us in the middle of a war with Russia, more cities on fire as a result of harmful leftist rhetoric inciting violence from ‘activists’ like BLM, more mass shootings from ISIS-indoctrinated lone wolves, and even fewer guns for law-abiding Americans to legally acquire. Given all that Obama accomplished under his eight years of presidency, all the unlawful administrative maneuvering, all the scandals he’s managed to still get away with, all the foreign policy disasters, the breakdown in civil order and protection, the spying on private citizens, the overregulation of entire industries and the prolongation of a stagnant economy—given all of that and more, I’m not willing to put any limits on terrible depths to which a Hillary presidency will plunge this country and the rest of the world.
But I do believe the #NeverTrump camp has a point. Trump’s actions are inexcusable and the GOP is falling apart, but the Democratic party isn’t exactly in much better shape despite their media coverage. #NeverTrumpers grapple with the question “Will Trump be worse for the conservative movement than Hillary will be for the entire country?” It’s a difficult call to make, but regardless of which side you can come down on, not voting for either one is again, intellectual cowardice, just like the third party protest voters that were discussed above. It still boils down to the same fundamental unwillingness to confront reality and commit to a decision. One of these two candidates is going to win. If Trump is truly as bad as is insisted, then cast the vote against him, because the assumption then is that Hillary is the better candidate. If, on the other hand, Hillary is worse, then cast the vote for Trump. It’s either one or the other, and every voter has the option to choose—every voter, regardless of intelligence, informedness, or education on the matters. They’re going to be voting. If they can make a decision, why can’t anyone else? More information on the subject and a keener mind for wisdom might make it harder to make that decision, but hardly impossible. Conscience has very little to do with it.
One of the other issues with the #NeverTrump position is that it operates according to a conception of both conservatism as a movement and the Republican party as an institution that simply aren’t realistic. For one thing, the position seems to indicate a belief that the GOP didn’t somehow have this coming, or that we don’t deserve the elected officials we end up with, I don’t think either of those are true. We do deserve what we’ve gotten, at least as a general population, and the GOP did have this coming. Their laxness and utter unwillingness to engage the Left on their own terms have made an election like this inevitable. Granted, it was a very slow decline, and it’s taken generations to get to this point, but without effectively combating it along the way, Leftist cultural doctrines triumphed simply due to pervasiveness. And anyone should have seen this election coming merely from how Romney was treated in 2012. While it’s admirable to fight the direction the GOP is going in now, at this point it’s far too little and it’s far too late.
My point through all of this, however, is the basis of the individual’s political power. Democracy is a nihilistic system that rather cynically requires a belief in the impossible, but it’s the system we have right now. We don’t know presently if the election will be rigged—a real possibility, but without substance or evidence. We don’t know the extent to which voter fraud will influence the election, or whether it will be cracked down on due to the media spotlights these past few weeks. And given how untrustworthy many of the polls have been, we aren’t even sure who’s actually going to win the White House. But you have a say. If you want Hillary to win, vote for her. If you want Trump to win, vote for him. Make up your mind. Anything less is effectively cowardice.