Thursday, October 6, 2016

Conscientious Voting or Voting your Conscience?

I’ve voted in nearly every election I was eligible to. I’ve always viewed the act of voting as a civic obligation. I do the research on ballot measures and on the candidates up and down the ballot. I’ll skip over some contests if I can’t find enough information. One month out from Voting Day 2016 the drum beat of “vote” is ubiquitous. Perhaps it’s naiveté or a wistfulness to another time that I’d like to think those entreating citizens to vote are doing so out of what’s best overall. The reality is much more practical and cynical: when people beg others to vote – its with the expectation that they’ll vote their way.

When progressives say that there’s too much at stake to let Mr. Trump become President so make sure you vote – they’re not actually encouraging people to vote how they believe, it’s a not-so-subtle way of telling people they have to vote for Hillary Clinton. Conservatives likewise see the future of the Republic at stake and entreat you to vote. They too aren’t expecting that if you see the dire circumstances they do that you’d have no choice but to vote for Donald Trump.

As a libertarian I want people to both vote their conscience and to be conscientious in their voting. I’ve had the opportunity to engage with people who support all four of the major candidates for President in the 2016 cycle. I have very strong feelings about each of them – three very negatives and one positive. I know who I’m voting for. My reasons follow. Perhaps some will be swayed or be open to my “why’s” – most won’t be. I’m fine with that. That’s what America is all about. That’s what voting is all about. That’s what being a libertarian is all about – respecting others. It’s what supporters of the other candidates  don’t seem to have. I’ll be vilified, called names, accused of putting the nation at risk for my choice rather than being acknowledged for doing what I’m entitled and I believe obligated to do: vote for what I believe in.

To nobody’s surprise who’s read any of my blogs in the past five years – I’m voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for President. I’ve been a supporter of the party since 1993 after having previously supported Bill Clinton who then turned on the LGBT community and became the most anti-gay President in modern history. He enshrined into law Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and proposed and passed the Defense of Marriage Act to win re-election in 1996. It took nearly 20 years and untold amounts of damage to many lives and millions of dollars to undue this damage from a “friend” of the community. Neither Bill nor Hillary have apologized for their lie in 1992 or their actions during their 8 years in office and Mrs. Clinton only came to support marriage equality two years ago.

I’m not voting against Hillary, though there’s plenty to oppose. She’s a proponent of war – and I’m a pacifist. She’s for having the government regulate the economy further and I think a free enterprise capitalist system is best. And of course there’s her tendency to obfuscate rather than be direct.

I’m not voting against Donald either, though there’s even more to oppose. He’s an embarrassment to America. He believes America is broken and I don’t. I spend my life embracing and celebrating diversity and he all sorts of “ists” – racist, misogynist, homophobe, etc. More fundamentally, though, he’s failed at everything except building a brand for himself. He’s a loose cannon with a short fuse.

Gary Johnson is not just somebody I’m supporting because he’s not Hillary and he’s not Donald. He’s a two-time Governor – where he governed as a Republican in a nearly all Democratic state. He was re-elected overwhelmingly. He cut taxes. He shrunk government. He raised incomes.  

I think America needs somebody who has a proven track record of working both sides of the aisle as Johnson does. Will he be able to implement the Libertarian platform as written? Of course not. Neither would Hillary or Donald with their platforms either. Johnson has said he’d staff his government with the best people from all parties. Isn’t it time we all got along?

For a good part of the last six months Gary Johnson ran a great campaign. And then the mistakes started. He was on “Morning Joe” and was asked about Alepo. He blanked. The Syrian town has become shorthand for the war there. It was embarrassing for him and for his supporters. To his credit, and one of the personality driven reasons I support him is this: he went on “60 Minutes” and owned the error. He said he should have known. He apologized. That’s what I want in a President. I want somebody who will own their humanity and learn from their mistakes.

A local NBC affiliate had an interview with him about the debates. He chewed on his tongue in his response to the reporter. It was weird. It was odd. He was trying to make the point that even if he stood on the stage and chewed on his tongue that he’d get a huge outpouring of support because Hillary and Donald are so disliked and 70% of the public don’t even know there’s another alternative. It was a terrible way to make the point. As his poll numbers rise and his endorsements from major media increased – it was an ideal way to edit out the context and show him as crazy. That keeps the narrative easy: two person horserace. (I’m not blaming the media – Johnson was silly in how he made this point.)

MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews asked Johnson to name his favorite foreign leader. He couldn’t. Yikes. The media (social and traditional) pounced. How could anybody running for President who wants to be taken seriously not be able to name any foreign leader? Well, that wasn’t the question – but it made for a nice sound byte. Despite Trump’s omnipresence – interviews aren’t game shows.  Johnson didn’t articulate why he wasn’t naming anybody: that as an anti-government guy he didn’t see anybody in his tradition around the world to emulate. A lost opportunity which he again owned.

I list these three “gaffes” because Johnson himself talks about them. Both Hillary and Donald have made many mistakes on the trail as well – but it takes days, weeks or for Trump never – to remedy their errors. I also note them because it’s “buyer aware.” I’m aware my candidate isn’t perfect.



There’s the rub. I won’t be swayed. I know his strengths and his weaknesses as a candidate. Just as Hillary supporters and Donald supporters won’t be swayed either. I’ve carefully evaluated the platforms and the people and found the most alignment with Johnson. Others have with others. I support them though I disagree with them. That’s both conscientious voting and voting my conscience. I hope you do the same. There’s too much at stake. 

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