Who's in charge anyway?
It's campaign time once again. Once again, promises, accusations, and other political rhetoric are to be found all around us.
This year, the two major political parties have ended up nominating individuals who are challenges to many members of each party. I've heard many, many people say they are going to hold their noses and vote for X, or I can't vote for X so I'm going to have to vote for Y like there are no other choices.
I'd like to remind everyone that there are other candidates. If you feel that X or Y will represent your interests, reflect your values, and you are totally comfortable with them, then by all means vote for X or Y. This posting isn't going to change your mind anyway, so you may as well stop reading and save yourself some time.
If you do fall into the hold the nose category, however, I'd urge you to consider the third party candidates this election. Voting for who you believe is the best candidate is never a wasted or thrown away vote. In reality, there are very few states where your individual vote will matter anyway. In my case, our state is almost without question going to vote for the Republican candidate regardless of my vote. For many state offices, Republicans run unopposed and we've only voted Democratic for President once in my lifetime. It is very likely you live in a state that is just like mine, whether it always goes in the R camp or the D camp. In these cases, feel good about yourself and vote for someone you like. The only caveat I will throw out is in this particular election, the third party vote needs to not be split 20 ways. That's a hard call for some of us to make.
I like the Constitution Party's platform, and have voted for its candidates for various offices if I felt they were better qualified than the R or D candidates. I've also occasionally voted for a Libertarian for the same reasons. I always try to vote for who I think the best person is to hold the office, regardless of party.
As of this writing, the Constitution Party is only on the ballot in 24 states and has write-in status in 19 states. They have write-in status pending in 5 states. They are not on the ballot in 3 states. As much as I like their party, without being physically present on the ballot in so many states, they have little chance in winning the election as too few people will make the effort to write in a name. This is also true of the majority of the other third party candidates. They simply don't have ballot access in enough states to matter. I can't stress this enough. If your candidate doesn't have ballot access across the country, they really have no chance to win the election. If no candidate gets 270 electoral votes, then it goes to the House of Representatives to decide, but the only candidates who have a chance at that point are the three top electoral vote recipients. If you don't win a state, you are out, regardless of your popular vote. So this election, we really need to focus on who is possible... There are just too many people who will hold their nose and vote the party line.
The Libertarian party has ballot access in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The chances of success are simply much higher than the Constitution Party, regardless of my feelings towards the CP. So if you're going to vote for a third party, give strong consideration to the Libertarian party as only a block vote for them will have a chance to affect the R or D results. I think there are enough unhappy people among both the Republicans and Democrats that there is a chance for a third party this year if the vote is unified as many disaffected voters from both parties could cross party lines in the general election.
How should we decide who to vote for in the election? Well - the best advice I could give would be to pray, but if you're like me, the listening to the answer part is hard to do. So here's a few thoughts about how to select a candidate for office. Many of the things mentioned here apply to all candidates for all offices, but this is primarily tailored to the top of the ticket.
The first thing to do is to filter out all the nonsense you hear spewing forth from the mouths of the candidates, their media team, their supporters and detractors, unless it directly relates to what the President and Vice President are actually legally empowered to do. All of the other words may give you some clue about what legislation they might sign or veto if a decent bill were to come out of Congress and it might give some clue as to who they might appoint to court, office and ambassador positions, but other than that they are just words. The greatest tax plan ever won't make a particle of difference unless Congress rewrites the tax code and we know how functional Congress has been of late. The obstructions there can be laid at both parties doors. It hasn't just been the Republicans or just the Democrats who have failed to compromise and legislate from the center.
So I'd encourage you to actually think about the powers of office of the President. You can go to the Wikipedia page, or read the U.S. Constitution but here's the highlights...
- They can sign or veto legislation - this requires actual legislation make it through Congress.
- They are the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. This may not take up the majority of their time, but it is arguably one of their most important roles that falls directly on them without much oversight or help from anyone else. Congress is supposed to be in the loop, but they really haven't been for a long, long time in any significant way.
- They interact with the Cabinet and through those channels affect the operation of the Executive Branch of the government - which has been abused to make end runs around Congress by many Presidents in recent and previous administrations.
- They make many appointments. The Supreme Court gets most of the attention, but it extends to many more positions. The Wikipedia article indicates around 6,000 appointments are made before they take office.
- They make treaties which need to be ratified. This, along with foreign relations, is another important job. They become the face of America to the world.
- There's a lot of other miscellaneous duties (reprieves and pardons, convening and adjourning Congress, and a host of other non-specified duties and obligations) to smooth the wheels of government both domestically and around the world.
Now think about candidates X, Y and we'll call the third party Z. For each candidate, ask yourself how well suited each is to fulfilling these jobs and duties. Along with that, consider the candidate and ask yourself these questions at a minimum...
- What is their character and temperament? Have the things they've done been wise and mature? Do they take responsibility for their actions and the results of those actions or lack thereof? Are they so covered in Teflon (® Chemours) that nothing seems to stick?
Do they fly off the handle? Are they easily provoked? Do they have their tongue under control? Is their speech full of grace and truth? Much of the work of the President is speaking.
Are they God fearing? Do they have "delusions of godhood" (to quote a phrase from Star Trek's "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode, thanks to Gene Roddenberry, Desilu Studios in 1967)?
Do they treat people justly and fairly? Are they charitable? Do they treat the poor and the downtrodden the same as the rich and powerful? How would they treat those who are struggling through no fault of their own? If you were struggling, do you think they would help you if you asked or are there so many layers between them and you that you'd never get close?
Is their past a hindrance or a help? Will they be bringing good experience from the past to the White House or will their baggage drag them down and consume their time? How many of their accomplishments do you actually believe were their doing? Are they now, or do you think they should be the subject of lawsuits for their past actions?
- How will they lead as Commander in Chief? If called upon to take the country to war by event or circumstance, will they lead well? Will their words and deeds lead to war and more attacks or will they help to bring peace? Will their presidency improve or harm relations with our allies? Will they mend fences and make new allies we can count on? Will we be in worse shape in four years than we are now?
- How beholden are they to all who have helped them over the years? What favors will they grant or try to push through Congress to pay off their political or business debts? Will the treaties they negotiate be fair to everyone or will they benefit their own or special interests?
- Will they stand up for the U.S. Constitution and make it apply to all citizens again, or will holes continue to be carved out in the name of "save the ___" or "protect us from ___"? Will the freedoms guaranteed to us in all of the Bill of Rights be on a firmer or weaker foundation because they have been in office? Will we have more privacy or less? Is freedom to practice religion free of government interference for all enhanced or diminished? Will our freedom to bear all arms be chipped away at or strengthened? Will we have more security or less? Will they find a way to make these not either / or conditions? Can we be free, private, and safe instead of just having one at the expense of the other two?
- Will the government be bigger and more intrusive in four years or smaller and less intrusive? Will our nation's debt be larger or smaller? I realize that due to the way Congress handles budgets, the last point is largely out of their control if you are X or Y. An independent might have more luck just vetoing the several foot Congressional budget bill and making the Congress serve up smaller pieces that would have to stand or fall on their own. The line item veto is something we should really try to get passed regardless of the party in power.
- Will they try to unite the country, including those from other political parties? Will they keep hammering away in a partisan fashion that benefits only their party? Will they get Congress functioning again?
- What experience do they have governing? Governing is fundamentally different than running a company. It is also different to actually be doing the governing as opposed to being near one who governs or having been active in some other part of that government.
- What if the worst things being reported about them are true? What if the worst things being reported about them are false? What does my gut say about their denials and protests to the contrary?
As you read the above you probably think I have either X or Y in mind when I wrote each line, and I did because I am just as disgusted with X and Y this year as most of the country is. But in reality, these questions need to be thought about for every candidate you vote for every year. No candidate should get a free pass.
Think about these things, and then think about X, Y, and Z. If you think about any of the candidates and have legitimate doubts about whether they even want to or could meet some of these criteria, then pick someone else. There are more choices than just X or Y. There are issues I have with some third party platforms. But there are also issues I have with the X and Y platforms. The thing to keep in mind is the platform really makes the most difference at the Congressional or state lawmaking level and in recent history really only matters to the policy wonks that like to think that is what their party stands for. The legislation passed doesn't usually match the platform anyway. There may indeed be a difference between the parties in their initial choices for appointments, but those have to be approved anyway by Congress so there are checks and balances there that are in place.
Worry less about the platform. Listen to the candidates themselves and ask yourself how you would feel working with them as your boss. Would you trust that you would have a job the next day or would the company take bankruptcy? Would you believe what they were saying? Would you feel they were looking out for you? If you can't answer yes to these things about your own party candidate, then vote for the person you feel meets these goals.
The candidates for the office of the President of the United States should mostly be judged based on character. Either your party candidate has good character or not. If not, they can't fake it for long. Much has been made of Mr. Johnson's gaffes in not immediately identifying Aleppo or not being able to name a favorite foreign leader. Facts can be learned. Character is what you bring with you.
Should any candidate name a favorite or for that matter a less favorite foreign leader in the first place? It seems to me that such a question would just lead to friction when bargaining in treaties once elected. Mr. Johnson joked on Twitter that after 24 hours he still couldn't name a favorite foreign leader. I do like his honesty. As far as Aleppo is concerned, can you locate it on a map? In 2013, the Pew Research Center asked people to identify a highlighted Syria on a map, with Syria, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as possible answers and only half of the respondents identified Syria. I will grant you that they aren't running for President, but Mr. Johnson is running for President of the United States - not President of the world.
Vote third party. Vote for the most likely third party to win. If everyone splits their votes among the Libertarian, Constitution Party, Green Party, Veterans Party and scattered Independent candidates (around 25), then either X or Y will certainly win. This year there are pretty decent third party choices. Become informed while there is time and make a choice you can be happy about for a change. Vote for Johnson/Weld (the other Republicans) who governed overwhelmingly Democratic states (New Mexico/Massachusetts) and were elected for a second term once in office by larger margins than for their first term.