This presidential election is almost over, and it is abundantly clear we don’t like our choice this year.
Not choices. Choice.
The two major parties in 2016 managed to present not a pair of distinct candidates but two sides of the same out-of-circulation penny. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have spent decades mixing politics and personal interests. Neither has a track record that, given even moderate scrutiny, speaks well of the experience they claim to bring to the table: business for him, government for her.
Both will tell a lie when the truth would be easier, and better. Both harp on the grievances and identities of their supporters rather than ideas with broader appeal. Both, chillingly, want to change the law to silence their critics.
Both would increase taxes and business regulations — he through trade restrictions, she via more conventional means. Both would continue to expand executive power, contrary to the Constitution. Neither wants to get serious about the entitlement math that will doom our finances sooner than later. Both favor the kind of foreign policy that could get us into more questionable conflicts.
But neither those nasty similarities nor their various differences fully explains, I think, just why Americans find this pair so loathsome. That comes down to this:
Both are running backward-facing campaigns when many Americans feel an urgency, an anxiety, about the future.
It’s style (Trump’s “Make America Great Again“) and substance (the unchecked items from Democrats’ yellowed wish lists sprinkled among Clinton’s proposals). Altogether, it makes their respective visions for the future simply unbelievable. Trump’s has come and gone. Clinton’s is always said to be just around the corner — and always will be.
In truth, it was unlikely 2016 would have turned out any other way. Clinton’s only real rival in the primaries was a septuagenarian who proposed backtracking to that point in his youth where we forked off from our friends in Europe, and trying to catch up with them down that dead-end path.
Meanwhile, the more youthful Republicans challenging Trump were, at best, not quite finished thinking through how their principles might lead to them to novel solutions for contemporary problems. At worst, they weren’t even asking that question.
So we are left asking if either Trump or Clinton is acceptable in the present. Not to me.
There is nothing about Hillary Clinton that could lead me to vote for her. But when the best-case scenario given for Donald Trump is that he probably wouldn’t be nearly as bad as your worst nightmare, that’s nothing I can endorse, either.
Trump is ill-prepared in thought, word, deed and temperament to lead our country. He has shown little, if any, sign during this campaign that he is willing to change or even to learn anything new. His decades of public comments about our problems prior to running for president show him to have the instincts of a typical, big-government liberal (what Ted Cruz ostensibly meant when he derided Trump’s “New York values”). To this man, who has been all over the place on issues from abortion to gun control, a conservative is supposed to entrust the fate of the Supreme Court?
In this case, one candidate’s relatively worse qualities do not excuse the other’s deep flaws enough to deserve a vote. They both pass the threshold of unacceptability. They need not exceed it by the same distance.
Given this choice, I will be doing something I have never done in my life as a voter. I will be writing in the most conservative and honorable candidate remaining: Evan McMullin. That at least registers a measure of discontent with this choice. At this point, that’s all I have left.