One thing you will never run out of in this world is people to make your choices for you. In the current election cycle, we started out with a number of people who chose to run for President of the United States, and those choices have now been whittled, so we have been told, down to two: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Donald Trump has no qualifications that should make him a serious candidate for the highest office in our land, as I have said before. Every word out of his mouth betrays a vast ignorance of and carelessness toward the basic tenets and ideals of the Constitution. The thought of him in the Oval Office makes me cringe.
Hillary Clinton has been pursuing the Presidency with single-minded intensity since 1996. It is her highest goal, and she wants it so badly that it frightens me. No one who wants power that badly is someone I trust with it. And as for her policies, no one said it better than P.J. O’Rourke: “She is wrong. Wrong on every issue. But at least she is wrong within normal parameters.” O’Rourke said this on National Public Radio, as a backhanded endorsement of Clinton (which is astonishing in itself. For those who may not know, O’Rourke is a lifelong conservative Republican).
Predictably, millions of people are looking for an alternative to these two candidates and recommending those candidates. And just as predictably, the same tired old beating stick is being hauled out to stop them: “If you vote for a third party, you’re just throwing your vote away. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Hillary,” (or alternatively, a vote for Bernie Sanders is a vote for Trump, though that’s looking less common now, as Bernie doesn’t seem to be contemplating an independent run, more’s the pity).
I was going to say something clever about this, but I’ve decided that it would be better to simply call this out for what it is: it is a lie. It is a lie, it is a damned lie, and I will not endure this lie any more. If we live in a free society, then the vote I cast means that I believe the person for whom I cast my vote is the best candidate for President of the Untied States. As a citizen of the United States, a nation which I love and respect (despite its flaws and sins, and they are many), it is my right and my duty to take that seriously. And moreover, it is my right to insist that a vote for Gary Johnson (or any third-party candidate, but I’m going to go with Johnson for now) is a vote for Gary Johnson. Not for Hillary. Certainly not for Trump. And if one of those two candidates wins anyway, then the onus, and the praise, for their election lies with those who chose to vote for them. It does not lie with me, or with you, if you dare to support a third party.
I have written about this before, and the plain truth is that other people do not get to choose where and how you spend your time and moral energy. Our nation has a moral claim on our actions, and deserves our loyalty. Political parties do not, nor should they. If they want our vote, they must earn it, and both Republican and Democratic parties have been doing a spectacular job of not earning our votes for the past two decades.
Can a third party win? Probably not. For the first time in thirty years I see a small — a tiny — chance that the Libertarians might pull off the upset. It would require some great stupidity on the part of both major candidates (a quality neither seems to be short of, but we’re talking heroic amounts of it) and brilliance on the part of Gary Johnson, but it might happen.
But whether our candidates can win or not isn’t the damned point! We’ve been altogether too worried in this nation about whether our candidates, our visions of the future, can win. And to that monstrous obsession of victory, we have sacrificed all other considerations, and now we wonder why our leaders seem to be completely unaccountable to us? The truth is that they are unaccountable because we do not hold them accountable. They are unaccountable because they know we will vote for them, not in the name of our ideals, not in the name of their policies, but in the name of winning. In the name of Not Letting Those Other Bastards Get Their Way.
They are unaccountable for the same reason that Jerry Sandusky was unaccountable: because winning was considered a sacred idol worth sacrificing our children to.
I will not sacrifice my children on the altar of Winning.
And here’s another hard truth. The people who win for their unpopular causes are the people who are willing to lose for a long damned time. If there’s one lesson the rest of us need to learn from our Black brothers and sisters, it’s how to lose, and keep on fighting. Black Americans fought for Civil Rights since practically 1866, and it took almost a hundred years for them to start winning. A winning third party (surely a much smaller goal than all of Civil Rights for Black Americans) will never win until people stand up and are willing to lose for it. And that starts by preferring principles and ethics to winning, even when it looks hopeless. And preferring them again. And again. Until we win. Until we take this nation back from those who would smugly tell us, that they have a claim on our votes simply because they can win.
My vote is not for Hillary. My vote is not for Trump. If you want to interpret it that way, go right ahead. I don’t care to stop you. But you’re not changing my vote, either. And you’re not tarring me with the blame when someone I did not vote for wins. That’s ridiculous, ethically, on the face of it. If you stand up and admit that you are voting for an evil politician because you can’t stand to see a more-evil politician win, then that is your choice, but stand up and own it. Have the courage to say out loud that what you are doing is voting for evil.The fact that you have numbers on your side does not make it less evil. And it does not give you the right to throw blame on people who chose not to share in that evil. What kind of perverted moral viewpoint does it take to contend that the few people who stand up and vote for what they believe is good are somehow more responsible for a bad outcome than the many people who cowered and voted for what they believed was second-worst?
Make your choice. Take responsibility for your choice. You will not make mine.
From Somewhere In Orbit