Back in March or this year I did a writing piece on Donald Trump. I try to keep this blog apolitical, but I felt I had to say something about Donald Trump, given his unexpectedly large presence in the Republican primary campaign. While I had hoped that it would be my first and only political writing piece for this blog, in the days and weeks that followed the publication of that post it became clear that I would likely have to do a few more, one of which I resolved to write once it became clear who the presumptive Democrat and Republican nominees were. That time has now come. The presumptive candidates for both of the major American political parties are all but settled, and what a terrible choice stands before the voters this year. (As an aside, let the reader know this post is mostly a disorganized rant)
In the Republican camp, all challengers to Donald Trump have pulled out of the race, leaving last-minute shenanigans at the Republican convention as the only possible way of keeping him from being the official Republican nominee. On the Democratic side, although Bernie Sanders has not yet officially conceded defeat, Hillary Clinton has secured enough delegates to make her practically guaranteed to be the Democratic nominee, and the FBI has decided not to press charges related to her (mis)handling of emails during her tenure as Secretary of State. The party conventions have not yet occurred to make their candidacies official, but at this point it seems safe to assume that this year’s presidential election will be between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. While it is true that there will also be other names on the November presidential ballot from various third parties, the way American politics currently works means that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the only viable candidates.
So often in elections we are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, but rarely have we had an election where the lesser evil is so much in question. On one hand we have Donald Trump, a businessman demagogue who is unrepentant in his personal immorality and appears to lack basic knowledge of international politics. On the other hand we have Hillary Clinton, a career politician who will say anything to get elected and is the embodiment of the corruption of the current American political establishment. Both are chronic liars. Both have an insatiable appetite for power. Both are unfit for the office. Both I find absolutely repulsive.
It is a testament to the condition of both the Republican and Democratic parties that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are their respective candidates. As little as eight to twelve years ago we could have simply waited for their respective parties to come to their senses and then watch as a more reasonable alternative candidate from either party secured the nomination. This year, somehow, none of the even somewhat likable candidates from either party were able to secure the nomination. Instead, we got the worst possible set of choices. It’s like that old episode of The Simpsons, where both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are revealed to be evil space aliens. I was able to track down the clip on Youtube, and those who aren’t familiar with it can watch it below:
How am I supposed to choose between two awful candidates? Neither of them offers a probable outcome that I could be ok casting my ballot for. Voting for Clinton likely means voting for business as usual in Washington DC. Voting for Trump likely means voting for change, but with Trump we’re looking at a case where the proposed cure might be worse than the disease. Either way, America loses.
I cannot in good conscience vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and since I am committed to my civic duty of voting, I must therefore vote for someone other than the two of them. Common wisdom that says doing so is effectively the same thing as burning your ballot, and while I do understand that I would be voting for a candidate who doesn’t stand a chance of winning, I also believe that voting for a third party is a legitimate way for voters such as myself to register our disapproval of the candidates of both parties.
Related to voting for a third party, the thought has crossed my mind of whether I will be viewed as culpable by either side when Trump or Clinton inevitably becomes president. Recently a friend on Facebook shared the image below, which encapsulates much of what I’m feeling right now:
The friend who posted this image is a Bernie Sanders supporter, so for him Obi-Wan Kenobi is Bernie Sanders, Palpatine is Hillary Clinton, and Jabba the Hutt is Donald Trump. I do find the comparisons of Clinton to Palpatine and Trump to Jabba to be quite fitting, though in my own version of this meme Obi-Wan is someone other than Trump or Clinton, and then the order of Palpatine and Jabba can be switched around freely.
It’s probably premature to say this, but I’m going to go ahead and declare this year’s presidential election as one of the worst sets of alternatives America has ever faced in the modern era. Either choice feels like a loss for America and I shudder to think of what might happen to our nation over the next four to eight years. The one positive thing that I can think of that will come out of this is that all of our political science PhD students actually have something interesting to do their thesis on, though I can’t imagine their instructors will be thrilled to get a giant mass of doctoral papers on nearly identical subjects.