After the vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, it is even more painfully obvious that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is fit to be the next president of the United States. As I Tweeted, I’d vote for either Kaine or Pence over either Clinton or Trump. I even found myself wishing for a Pence-Kaine ticket. And I have substantial disagreements with the policies of both men.
When Kaine asked Pence how he could defend Trump’s many reprehensible actions and statements—statements about Mexicans, women, war heroes, Obama’s birth, Vladimir Putin, and nuclear weapons—it was obvious that Pence could not defend them. Instead, Pence shook his head, pretended that Kaine was mistaken (even though mostly Kaine was right about Trump), and changed the subject.
Meanwhile, when Pence asked Kaine to defend Clinton’s foreign-policy fiascos, budget-busting tax-and-spend policies, email server scandal, and political pay-to-play schemes, about all Kaine could do was say (very plausibly) that Trump would be even worse.
Both Kaine and Pence have the experience and integrity to ably serve as president of the United States, whatever mistakes they might make and bad policies they might pursue. Neither Clinton nor Trump does.
This election cycle has been nauseating, for me quite literally, as I’ve laid in bed with my stomach churning over the thought of Clinton or Trump as president. I think most Americans are in the same boat. If we had a national referendum tomorrow on the question, “Shall Clinton and Trump be removed from consideration for the presidency, to be replaced by Kaine and Pence,” the measure would pass overwhelmingly.
And yet, despite the fact that most Americans absolutely do not want either Clinton or Trump for president, almost certainly either Clinton or Trump will become the next president.
There is only one remaining Hail Mary that I see: Both Clinton and Trump could agree to drop out on the condition that the other drop out. Of course, this almost certainly will not happen, not only because each would have to figure out how not to lose the game of chicken, but because neither Clinton nor Trump could imagine putting the interests of the country ahead of their own narcissistic impulses.
Yet, if Clinton and Trump took seriously their own claims about their competitor, they would both seriously try to mutually drop out. According to both Clinton and Trump, it would be an utter disaster if the other were elected. I heartily agree. The surest way for Clinton and Trump to guarantee that the other won’t win is to guarantee that neither will win. But, again, I realize this is wishful thinking on my part, precisely because each is basically right about the other.
So, absent something close to divine intervention, what is the voter to do?
Clinton truly would be a disaster for the country. Not only would her tax-and-spend policies continue to inflate the debt and weaken the economy, but she has promised to censor political speech and disarm American citizens by bureaucratic fiat. And her foreign policy “experience” has been to destabilize Libya, empower Islamic State, embolden Iran, and watch idly as Russia expands its international power.
Trump, too, would be a disaster for the country. He would cut taxes but not spending. His ignorant, mercantilist trade policies would threaten to throw the country into a major recession. His immigration policies would terrorize and brutalize millions of peaceable people. Vladimir Putin, on whom Trump obviously has a man-crush, would play Trump like a fiddle. And we simply cannot predict when and if Trump’s mean-spirited narcissism would land us in a major international conflict.
Then there’s Gary Johnson. The joke is there’s a socialist, a Democrat, and a Republican in the race—and Johnson is the Republican. But we all know that Johnson will never be president. Anyway, Johnson is now tainted by nutty Libertarianism, and, when it comes to foreign policy, he is further out of his depth than an insect trapped in Trump’s hair.
How did we get into this mess? Joe Biden for whatever reason didn’t run, and Clinton was the only alternative to the “democratic socialist” wing of her party represented by Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. I’d almost vote for Sarah Palin over Sanders or Warren. I’d almost vote for the Libertarian convention stripper over Sanders or Warren.
On the Republican side, we got stung by the “winner take all” voting system in which strong (and bull-headed) candidates wiped each other out, leaving the ignorant lout (but outstanding media manipulator) standing. And apparently millions of Democrats were only too happy to help push Trump through the primaries.
We’re in the mess we’re in. What’s my advice? It is simply this: “Never Trump; down ticket vote Republican.”
I’m in Colorado, where apparently Clinton has (at least for now) regained her commanding lead. I see no hope of any Republican pick ups in Congress (and no real danger of Democratic pick ups). The real threat is two more years of a state government controlled totally by Democrats. The last time that happened, we ended up with a plethora of new taxes (such as the idiotic “Amazon tax”) and inane gun restrictions. So please, Coloradans, whatever you think about the presidency, vote Republican for state legislative races. Even if you dislike Republicans, remember that the governor is a Democrat, and he and a Republican legislative body (presumably the state senate) can keep each other in check.
If Clinton can avoid a complete foreign policy meltdown—which I’m not sure is possible—at least she could not accomplish too much damage domestically if checked by a Republican legislative body.
True, Clinton can and probably will royally screw up the Supreme Court, putting in rubber-stampers of statist policies. But the fact that Republicans make such a big deal of this only shows that Republicans know that Republican legislators generally are feckless. The Supreme Court is supposed to serve as a check on legislative abuses, not be our only bulwark against bad government. If Congress would do its job and abide by the Constitution, the Supreme Court wouldn’t have to do it for them.
Even though I say “Never Trump,” certainly I am not pro-Clinton. I think reasonable voters are in a no-win situation. Neither candidate is worth voting for, but either candidate is potentially so disastrously bad that voting for the other candidate might seem like the only non-insane move.
My problem is that I can envision plausible scenarios in which either Clinton or Trump could do irreparable harm. Clinton could let Islamic totalitarian terrorism get even more dangerously out of control, or she could err in the other direction and involve the country in a military quagmire. Seriously, who in the hell knows what Trump might do as commander in chief of the most powerful military force in the history of the world—that’s the problem. Either person could throw the economy (further) into chaos.
With either Clinton or Trump, I can imagine a perfect storm of global problems and presidential failures that could leave the country seriously weakened in four or eight years and ripe for a malicious demagogue. (By contrast, Trump is a petty demagogue who would harm the nation mostly by accident of his narcissistic impulsiveness.)
I can’t fault someone this cycle for how they vote in the presidential race—so long as a voter articulates the problems with both candidates and makes a real effort to mitigate the damage and preserve liberty. (Trump cheerleaders, on the other hand, are either delusional, dishonest, or drawn to Trump precisely because of the man’s worst attributes.)
I disagree with one thing Yaron Brook said on his recent radio show—he suggested that to vote for a given candidate is to assume some moral responsibility for what that candidate does. I think that’s true only if one explicitly supports the candidate’s policies. Sometimes, I think, a voter is in such a tough spot that voting for a really bad candidate can plausibly help stop an even worse one. By comparison, if a mugger demands your money or your life, we can’t fault someone for turning over their money.
In this case, my problem is that it’s not obvious to me which candidate might be more destructive; I could make a case for either Clinton or Trump fitting that bill. But I do personally find Trump to be more frightening; I think it’s his combination of haughty ignorance, petty meanness, and pervasive lying. I think Clinton at least basically knows when she’s lying and realizes the difference between her lies and reality; Trump seems to think reality is bound by his pronouncements.
Barring an almost-impossible turn of events, either Clinton or Trump soon will be elected the next president of the United States. It is now too late to change that.
What lovers of liberty can do is a) brace for the impact and prepare to fight like hell for better policies, whoever wins, b) resolve to push for better choices next time, and c) keep pushing the philosophic case for individual rights and rights-respecting government. As always, that last point is most important, long term, by far.
Personally, I’m going to try to stop worrying about this election, which I can do nothing else to alter, and start working now toward the longer term goal of a more fully just and free America.