A 2016 Voter’s Guide

A 2016 Voter’s Guide October 20, 2016

The 2016 Presidential campaign has been going on for two years (which is way too long, but that’s another rant for another time). On Tuesday, November 8, it all comes to an end. Many of us don’t have to wait that long – early voting in Texas begins on Monday and runs through November 4.

The last thing you need is yet another blogger telling you how to vote, but I’m a blogger and that’s what we do. So here’s my handy guide to voting in the 2016 elections.

1. Vote! I view not voting the way I view burning the flag. It’s your choice and I support your right to do it, but it’s still a pretty crappy thing to do.

I’ve seen some people on both sides of the political spectrum saying they don’t want “low information voters” voting or that they don’t want people who might vote against their candidate voting. I disagree. A democracy only works as long as people participate in it.

Remember: decisions are made by those who show up, and elections are won by the party with the biggest turnout. Vote!

2. Vote your conscience. My preferences are clear, but I cannot tell someone in good conscience that they have to vote for this candidate or that candidate. While only Hillary or Trump have a realistic chance of winning, there are at least three candidates on the ballot in every state, and at least four candidates on the ballot in 48 states. I do not recommend protest votes in a year like this (full disclosure – I cast one in 2012) but “they both suck” isn’t an excuse to stay home. There is someone on the ballot you can vote for and feel good about yourself.

3. Vote in all the races! I cannot overemphasize this point. The Presidential race is getting all the attention, but a President is not a dictator. We need to fill Congress with good, intelligent, compassionate, progressive Representatives and Senators. We need to fill our state legislatures, governors’ chairs, and other state and local offices with competent people. Do a little homework – party affiliation will only tell you so much about a candidate and how they’re likely to govern.

4. Vote for Hillary Clinton for President. I supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries. When Hillary clinched the nomination, I said it was up to her and her supporters to reach out to Sanders supporters, address our concerns, and give us a reason to vote for her. I actually had someone unfriend me on Facebook for that, saying it wasn’t her job to convince me to vote for her candidate. I’m still shaking my head over that – that’s what candidates and their supporters are supposed to do.

In any case, Hillary has convinced me that she’s not just more Presidential than Trump (a rather low bar) but that she will make a good President.

There are 40 issues on the HillaryClinton.com website – I agree with her position on all of them. I have disagreements with some of the specifics involved, but in general, this is an intelligent, compassionate, progressive platform. It stands in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s positions on the same issues.

Further, Hillary Clinton has lived a long public life and has a long track record. She is eminently qualified to be President, and we know how she’ll govern.

Both candidates are old. Trump would be the oldest person ever inaugurated as President, Hillary would be second only to Ronald Reagan. Perhaps more than in any other recent election, we must consider the Vice Presidential candidates. Tim Kaine is a moderate Democrat who would make a very good President. Mike Pence has a clear record as a regressive Republican with a strong anti-LGBT stand.

5. #NeverTrump. Where do we begin? With his scapegoating of Mexicans and Muslims? With his treatment of women, the disabled, and even soldiers suffering from PTSD? With his boorish behavior in the debates? This is not a man with the temperament to be President. This is not a man we can trust with nuclear launch codes.

You may not agree with Hillary’s proposals – at least she has some. Trump’s plans are vague bluster with promises that it will all be very very good and that we should trust him. Protectionist trade policies don’t work, his tax plan will take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich, and his environmental policy is nothing but lies from the fossil fuel industry.

It’s a sad statement on the condition of the American democracy, but perhaps the most impactful thing a President can do is to nominate Supreme Court justices. Hillary will nominate progressive judges committed to maintaining the individual liberties won in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015 – marriage equality), Lawrence v. Texas (2003 – decriminalization of homosexuality), Roe v. Wade (1973 – right to abortion), and Griswold v. Connecticut (1965 – right to birth control and the keystone of the right to privacy doctrine). Trump has said he will nominate judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia, a brilliant but misguided man who thought state legislatures can do anything that isn’t specifically forbidden by the constitution, no matter how much they violate spirit and intent of the Bill of Rights.

Assuming the Senate Republicans continue their dereliction of duty and fail to confirm Merrick Garland in a lame duck session, the next President will almost certain nominate two and maybe three Supreme Court justices. If those three justices are in the mold of Scalia, gay rights, women’s rights, and individual liberties in general are headed for a new dark age.

6. Beware strategic voting. Because of the undemocratic Electoral College, not all votes count the same. As we saw in 2000, it is possible for a candidate to receive the greatest number of votes and still lose the election. In most Presidential elections, if a state is reliable red or reliably blue, the outcome is not in question and you can, in good conscience, vote for a minority party candidate without fear that you’re helping a candidate you don’t want to help. This is one of the reasons I voted for Gary Johnson in 2012. I was displeased with Obama’s first term performance and Romney was certain to carry Texas – I might as well vote for a third party and help elevate their standing.

In this election, where the two major parties have both nominated candidates hated by the rank and file of the other party, I’m not sure any state is reliably red or reliably blue. As I write this, the usually reliable 538 website says Trump is likely to carry Texas by 6.8 points. But a lot can happen between now and November 8, and as good as 538 is, polls are frequently wrong.

It is unlikely Hillary will carry Texas, but she has a chance, and I would hate to wake up on November 9 and find she almost won, knowing I voted for a third party candidate who I really think would make a worse President than Hillary Clinton.

See #2 above – vote your conscience. If you’re a die-hard libertarian, vote for Gary Johnson and feel good about it. But a Hillary landslide would not only put her in the White House, it would send a clear message to the Republican Party to never, ever, allow a Mussolini-wannabe to get their nomination again.

I don’t remember 1964 and I was six years old in 1968 – all I remember is that Nixon won. But I remember every Presidential election since 1972. I’ve never seen one like this. I’ve never seen a campaign so vicious, and I’ve never seen a candidate as dangerous for the country as Donald Trump.

So please, vote. Vote your conscience. Vote in all the races. Vote for Hillary Clinton for President. And whatever you do, #NeverTrump.

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