A vote for reform in a miserable election
North Carolina is a state where, curiously, it is a felony for me to share a photo of what is inside of this envelope.
Rather than keep you in suspense, I will share a picture of a sample ballot.
My aim in this post is to summarize why we do not support either “major party” candidate, explain how our vote is strategic rather than simply a protest vote, and invite you to join us. Finally I will conclude by reminding myself and our readers that the destiny of our Republic is not ultimately jeopardized no matter what outcome the electorate chooses; rather, that our unshakeable hope rests in the sovereignty of God.
Why we didn’t vote for Trump:
On economic policy: Although there are insufficient details on how he would change trade, his rhetoric suggests that he views trade as a zero sum game that America must win in order for other countries to lose, in the face of basic economics which holds that a voluntary exchange of goods and services benefits both parties. The idea that to “make America great again” requires starting trade wars to revive American manufacturing is short-sighted and anti-free market.
On immigration/refugees, we favor human freedom, and expanding rather than constricting paths to legal immigration and resettlement. The only effective way to control the flow of people is to address incentives, and we cannot be an open-borders nation without first addressing the welfare state.
On foreign policy: While Clinton is more of a war-hawk, the likelihood that Trump’s big mouth would cause diplomatic problems may be worse.
Character: The things he has said about/to women and minorities are inexcusable. Too much flip-flopping and lack of depth on complex issues to be trustworthy.
Overall, I reject the assertion that we need a strongman with questionable business acumen to be the Chief Executive. We need a freedom-minded public servant, not an egocentric authoritarian, to create prosperity and opportunity both for our native-born as well as the huddled masses yearning to be free.
Why we didn’t vote for Clinton:
On economic policy: Every domestic policy handout promised—from expanded Medicare to free college to mandatory paid leave to federal minimum wage—is a brazen step towards democratic socialism, burdening our already slow-growth economy with a millstone around our neck, economically speaking. It’s as though the only consideration is reallocating existing wealth with no regard whatsoever for the creation of future wealth. I wish someone would buy her an Econ 101 textbook.
On foreign policy, she is the scarier of the two, arming jihadists in Syria, including ISIS; provoking Russia towards world war with her proposal of no-fly zones. She supports registering my daughter for conscription into military service when she reaches 18.
Character: There is ample evidence from the Podesta emails leaked that Clinton is more like a mafia crime boss than a public servant. The email investigation that will likely lead to her indictment by the FBI is one thing, but the pay-to-play schemes she’s involved in are even worse. From Whitewater to Benghazi to the Clinton Foundation working like a personal ATM machine, she is immersed in scandal, and will continue to be whether she is elected or not. She obviously operates above the law for her own benefit and for the benefit of her elitist corporatist donors.
On life: Referring to the unborn as a “person” with the qualification “that doesn’t have Constitutional rights” reveals on the one hand scientific honesty but on the other a rather low and undignified view of humankind. She would rather have truth-telling whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden assassinated than reform the corruption that they have exposed.
Overall, I believe that big government is our country’s biggest problem, and a massive expansion of that government moves us further towards cradle-to-grave serfdom, indebts our posterity, threatens our freedom, and squelches free enterprise.
The Flawed Libertarian Option:
I could spend another (shorter) paragraph explaining why we don’t really like Gary Johnson or William Weld, but that isn’t the point. They all have flaws, and although I think Johnson’s fitness to be President exceeds the other choices, I’m a realist. Gary Johnson will not win this election.
So why would we both vote for Johnson—isn’t that basically throwing our vote away?
Unless a third party gets 5% of the popular vote, per the rules of the Federal Election Commission, they will be ineligible to receive a (roughly $10m) grant from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Although the Democratic Party and Republican Party eschew this grant because of the campaign finance limitations that it requires, it is a very meaningful milestone for a third party which typically has far less resources at its disposal. Other obstacles, like ballot access and debate access, fall into place much more easily after the party gets this official recognition. Right now the Libertarian Party has great opportunity with the major parties each nominating a historically unfavorable candidate. Current national polls put them very close to 5%.
In this way, our votes for Johnson are not merely protest votes, but strategic ones. Johnson is not a great candidate, but Austin Peterson who came in second at their convention appears to be a rising star that could generate a lot of excitement.
How you can help third parties gain ground regardless of who you vote for
As a sidebar, this fund is funded by the $3 checkbox on top of your tax return. This does not increase your tax liability, but diverts money from general purpose revenue to this Presidential Election Campaign Fund. I used to check it a long time ago, but had stopped as I had mixed feelings about public campaign funding. But now understanding that the present duopoly of elephants and donkeys do not benefit from this fund, and the most likely future beneficiaries will be voices for smaller government, I intend to check it off every year until someone sends me a convincing argument to do otherwise. It’s a double win to take $3 directly out of the mouth of the leviathan and (hopefully) put it in the hands of a party whose goal is to restrain the same.
Isn’t a vote for Johnson a vote for Clinton? Or a vote for Trump?
Both claims are made by different groups of people. Both incorporate a flawed assumption: that without a third-party option, our preference between the front runners would be the same as theirs. It isn’t.
To be very clear, in order for our strategy to make any sense, we have to consider a very unlikely (but interesting) result. First, that North Carolina, where we live, is the electoral difference-maker between President Clinton and President Trump. At the time of this writing, Nate Silver’s organization puts those odds at greater than 10%. Second, we have to imagine that we wake up to find that Trump has either won or lost NC by a single vote. Even though we are polling at a knife’s edge, “too close to call”, etc., the likelihood of a single vote separation is very slim. But we lived in Florida in 2000, so it’s not hard to visualize. It’s exactly the event that we have to consider. Do we wake up with any regret that our two votes did not stop Hillary? Or conversely, do we wake up with some regret that we could have prevented Trump from being President, and didn’t?
Short answer: no. As I kicked around this post in my head over the past week, the next sentence was going to be: “They’re both monsters, and we sleep better at night knowing that we did not aid or abet either’s ambitious lust for power in any way.” Only they’re not monsters. They’re people. They were both born into more privilege than I was, but they’re just people. And the public and private sins they have both committed could but for the grace of God and his restraint of my prosperity be my sins. They are not monsters, but still terrifying authoritarians, and I believe God’s wisdom is most manifest in our lives if we restrain from supporting or voting for either.
Two closing thoughts
We both know plenty of people who are voting for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a few that are voting for someone else out of protest or strategy, and my aim in writing this is not to incite argument or even to change anyone’s mind about which one is the better candidate.
But knowing that a lot of Hillary votes are really votes to stop Trump, and a lot of Trump votes are really votes to stop Hillary, I’m curious if I could frame this race differently for anyone. What if you could see this not as Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, but as our present political duopoly vs. fresh ideas about governing? Specifically, do you think a party whose main idea is that “all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose” deserves a seat at the grown-up table?
If you do, maybe you also have a preference between Trump and Clinton. But maybe you also live in a deep red state like Kentucky or a deep blue state like California, one whose chances of tipping this election are essentially nil. Does your vote make any difference at all, or would you for a moment consider joining me in getting the Libertarian Party to the crucial 5% milestone?
Finally, it’s hard to avoid the anxiety when every four years talking heads tell us this is the most important election of our lifetime, or that the future of our Republic rests on this election. They’ve said that my entire life. It’s false. In truth, I’m not excited about whoever our next President is going to be, but my hope rests ultimately in the promises of God and his sovereignty, and especially the final comfort that Christ gave to his disciples at the Last Supper:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33