Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Six Presidential Candidates on My Ballot Not Named Trump

Sign in front of my house
I'm fairly certain I would vote for any Democrat or Republican presidential candidate since 2000 over both of the two main presidential candidates this year. Both Trump and Clinton have set records for being unfavorable, even among their own party (and especially with millennial voters like myself). If you remember back when this blog was regularly updated, I may have won $20 from family members in the each of the last 2 presidential elections and it looks like I'm about to be right again (though I was admitted way wrong about how far Trump would go in the primary and will likely break even this year).

Not too much has changed about my own personal political beliefs, though I have moved slightly the opposite of how you might expect based on my region (since I moved from NC to SC) and my age. However, like many voters, this presidential election season has been confounding. That's why, I'd like to make the case for 7 different options for Election Day (today):

Options 1-6) Vote for any of the other 6 candidates (at least on the SC ballot) not named Donald Trump. There's been plenty written to try and convince others to not vote for him. In fact, here's a good summary from fellow early 2000's blogger/friend Justin Scott. Though I should mention that his post was a little over a month ago so there's plenty more to add to the list. I got a chance to see conservative NYT columnist David Brooks here in Greenville a few weeks ago and he concisely stated that "Trump is the wrong solution to a right problem". If you'd like to get some real sympathy for why at least 40% of voters in the country is planning to vote for him, the Cracked Podcast has a great discussion (here's the shorter list version). I actually got a chance to do a short informational presentation on the election to the two campuses of my high school (one fairly urban and one very rural) and you could feel the stark difference (even in the historically very conservative Upstate of SC).

As for the other 6 candidates, they've gone through SC's fairly stringent process of getting on the ballot:
In South Carolina, political parties can conduct primaries. Filing requirements for presidential primaries are set by the parties themselves. An independent presidential candidate must petition for placement on the general election ballot. The petition must contain signatures totaling 5 percent of all registered state voters. Write-in candidates are not permitted.
I'd suggest that if someone has gone through the proper channels to legally appear on your ballot, then they are open to vote for them. That's not just my opinion, that's the law. There are certainly arguments of spoiler candidates, but that's only if you are first obligated to a party or candidate. If that means the party you normally side with "lost your vote" then you're now showing your vote matters. Hopefully that party won't make the same mistake again. So here are the non-Trump candidates:

1) Hillary Clinton (Democrat): Despite all the email scandals (there are actually several different ones involving several different people), I still think Clinton would make a much better president than Donald Trump. Comparisons aside, she was a relatively innocuous Senator so much so she was approved as Secretary of State 94–2. It wasn't until she became a candidate for president in 2008 that she became such a pariah to conservatives (or even Trump himself).

2) Gary Johnson (Libertarian): Having voted for him in the last presidential election he was easily my first choice. His Vice Presidential pick is even better than his last one 4 years ago. I think Johnson would make a very competent and fairly moderate president. He's the only candidate I've heard in decade reminding voters that the president can't actually pass laws and has to work with Congress (one of Obama's major pitfalls). I'd also nominate him for most likely to balance the budget.

3) Jill Stein (Green): She might be the only candidate on this list I might call into question. Her policies are health, energy, and debt are very concerning. However, I believe her and Gary Johnson are the only candidates openly calling for shrinking the federal military and decreasing US involvement in nation building overseas.

4) Darrell Castle (Constitution): I don't know a lot about Castle as a candidate, but my understanding of Constitution Party is that it is a more religiously conservative version of the Libertarian Party. If you appreciate Gary Johnson's honest efforts to shrink the size of the federal government, I believe Castle will push for similar things economically. However, they divide over issues like abortion, LGBT rights and other issues where the Constitution falls more traditionally.

5) Peter Skewes (American Party): I know nothing about Skewes personally, but the entire vision of the American Party is incredibly appealing, especially in this election. This was a party actually founded right here in SC with the mission of leading from the middle. Here's a quote from their site: "The central focus of the American Party is to increase the economic global competitiveness of our states and our country, by focusing on the implementation of common ground solutions".

6) Evan McMullin (Independent): The true wildcard among wildcards Evan may be the only 3rd party candidate to carry a state since Ross Perot in the 90's. Right now as a completely independent candidate he's polling above Hillary Clinton in Utah and drawing 24% from Trump in a state the Republicans carried handedly in 2012. If there's no majority in the electoral college, it could get interesting.

7) Don't vote. It's your right to vote and it's just as much your right not to vote. If there are no candidates that represent enough of your views accurately, then no outcome will express your voice. Plus you have a 1 in 60 million chance of making a difference. 1 in 10 million if you're in a swing state. Wasted votes aren't votes that don't make a difference. No one vote has ever made the difference in a presidential election. A wasted vote is one for a candidate that you do not want to be president. Which is why studies shows we mostly vote for our own personal or communal feeling of satisfaction (same reason I watched baseball for the first time in a decade on Game 7). In fact, after reading over "Why I Voted" from 8 years ago, not a lot has changed for me and plus, voter apathy may actually be a positive.

Like the Greenville News (who endorsed Romney last time), this year I'm not endorsing any candidate. I think all non-Trump candidates would be passable. My vote however will go to Hillary Clinton, who like her husband, policy-wise might turn out to be the boring president I've always wanted. And the policy issues we do disagree on (and there are plenty), I'm confident our system of Federalism and other two branches will do what they were made for (as I discussed on the issue of abortion just a few hours ago). It's also important to me how Trump loses. Whether it's a small loss or a big one likely determine whether we see a Trump/Christie type Republican Party in 2020 or my dream new version of the party with candidates like Kasich/Weld on the ticket. This also means I will have voted for 3 different parties in 4 different presidential elections. It feels good not to be tied to a party, which are at the end of the day just private organizations that nominate candidates for office. Instead I vote for who I think would be the best chief executive, a suggestion I got from Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate Bill Weld.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Abortion Issue is a The Red Herring

There are very few (on either side of the aisle) that see abortion as a celebration. It is a difficult, deeply personal, and delicate issue with real weight for individuals, families, and communities. For that reason I believe the laws governing abortion and those at impact abortion at the federal and state levels are very important, but the actual impact federal elections have on abortion laws are way overstated. I say that as someone who has personally been guilty of voting for candidates based on their public stances on the issue. Let's take a step back and get some historical context on the issue.

Before the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, about half of the states banned abortion. However, in that decision, 7 of 9 justices agreed that state bans violated the privacy rights of the mother. Since then, the Republicans have gradually increased their use of the issue to gain favor with the evangelical community. However, what they fail to admit is their own role in the Roe v. Wade decision. Here's the breakdown of justices' decision (and which party's president appointed them):
Harry A. Blackmun (Republican)
William J. Brennan (Republican)
Warren Earl Burger (Republican)
William Orville Douglas (Democrat)
Thurgood Marshall (Democrat)
Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. (Republican)
Potter Stewart (Republican)
William H. Rehnquist (Republican)
Byron R. White (Democrat)
The decision was made by an overwhelmingly conservative court with only two dissenters (one from each party appointment). You can actually read the conservative language in the decision that was framed as an issue of personal privacy and liberty:
This “substantive due process” right to privacy permits a woman to terminate her pregnancy for any reason during the first trimester. Subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the state may reasonably regulate abortions in ways related to maternal health. After viability, the state may regulate or proscribe abortions, but it must permit them if found necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother
And the court has kept a conservative majority for 45 years. Meanwhile, restrictions on abortion have come from the states, as the Roe v. Wade decision intended. As abortion made its way into the third presidential debate, like almost every issue in this election, it was more about personality than actually policy.

Forty-one states have some form of restriction on abortion, 36 of those ban it after viability (24ish weeks or before). That's 80% of the country that bans abortion at least at viability (with another 11% banning it at 29 weeks or the third trimester) and even for those states that allow abortion in the third trimester, it almost never happens. Though it's worth noting, third trimester (and even partial birth abortion is something Trump supported openly into his mid 60's and it's not like he has a good record of agreeing with Republican leadership these days. Here's a stat on third term abortions from the not liberal Fox News:
only about 100 are performed in the third trimester (more than 24 weeks' gestation), approximately .01 percent of all abortions performed. 
This is part of the reason why abortion rates have fallen to nearly half of what they were in 1980's under Republican presidents. Before you suggest that this decrease in abortions is the result of decades of non-compromising hard fought conservative actions, remember, all of those state laws were purposefully allowed for in the original conservative Roe v. Wade decision. In fact, most of these decreases aren't due to regulation, but through "liberal" policies aimed at decreasing extreme poverty and unintended pregnancy (most women who have an abortion already have kids).

My goal is not to decrease the importance we place on life or the privacy of our female citizens. Instead I just want us to have a more realistic view of what abortion actually looks like (early and rarer and rarer) and what impact politicians actually have (very little). You can think the issue important (I do), but if the candidate either will not or can not actually impact the laws, then it's disingenuous for it to be a primary factor in your decision.