10/11/16

None of the above?

10/11/16
I really do not like Donald Trump. And I like Hillary Clinton even less. I will say that Trump has made the debates vastly more entertaining. If only we were voting for fake TV-show presidents.

I tend to disagree philosophically with much of the big Democratic Party positions, and have since I first started researching politics. I am theoretically open to voting for Democrats, and have liked a few of them in the past. It's just that even among the ones I like, they tend to go along with and support their caucus on everything that matters.

And that's another of many weird things about American politics. At least for the ideologically aware, even superior candidates on the other side of the isle you like are more likely to be worse than a bad candidate on your side of the isle you dislike. And when I say worse, I mean worse for the party line (or political philosophy) you tend to agree with. [This view may and will likely not hold true for small, local politics.]

Unless you're a centrist with little care or knowledge of political issues, supporting a perfect, brilliant, charismatic, and caring politician who happens to be with the Bad Guys is very difficult to justify.

I don't think most voters even think about this, let alone have put much thought into their political philosophy. So unfortunately, the point is largely moot. But I'm a nerd and nerds like to talk about stuff that barely matters.

This is why this election has been difficult for me. Not because Hillary Clinton is a perfect candidate, but because a twisted version of my point is what ideologically aware, right-leaning voters are facing.

Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate and Donald Trump is a bad candidate. Hillary Clinton is the devil we know and love to hate, but Trump is a devil we're not very sure about. He says he's on our side, but it seems that his side is how he defines "our side," at least for the times he hasn't explicitly opposed our side.

Maybe we should vote for Trump because that way, at least we have a chance of getting the things we care about, as opposed to guaranteeing getting things we don't want with Clinton--or so the thinking goes. Maybe that's enough for some. It was for me in the past. It's a gamble, but now the odds of "my side" getting what we want are the lowest ever. Trump is no conservative. Trump is definitely no libertarian. Clinton less so. In hyperbolic terms, it's like choosing Hitler or Stalin. Yea so Stalin killed more people, but he had a nicer mustache.

From there I just venture into wildly speculative questions about who would do the least damage. I can't answer that. Nobody can. We shouldn't even be in this situation. It's Douches and Turds all the way down.

But we still try. Scott Alexander suggests we support Clinton, because least variance. That makes sense, if you don't want variance. I however, am very open to variance. And I have my doubts any presidential candidate, from Jill Stein to Gary Johnson would introduce significant variance into the American equation. I guess it depends on what you think is significant, but it's all hypothetical at this point. If we were electing dictators it would be another matter (the office of the president holds enormous power, but we're still a constitutional democratic republic, or however the hell you want to label it--checks 'n balances yo). Judging by history, every new president will attempt to gain more power and will probably acquire some for the office. But short of revolution or coup, will not become a dictator.

So the implication is that the Donald will mildly shake things up just enough to allow the opportunity for things to worsen, or possibly improve. One attractive thing about Trump is that he is the FU vote. A revolution without the actual revolution. A cheap and easy signal that you're fed up. A tempting turd to vote for in that regard.

Let me collect my thoughts and summarize where I'm at after all this back and forth:
  • Political philosophy is out the window, there is virtually no hope for that.
  • Both are terrible candidates I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.
  • One is maybe kinda sorta more likely to change things for good or ill.
  • One is maybe kinda sorta more likely to keep things the same.
  • In either case, the power of the president will increase some.
  • Things will probably not change much, either way.
  • Third party candidates have no chance, and may actually help elect someone you don't want.
  • My vote is insignificantly small and won't help decide the election, so the only thing that matters is how I'll sleep at night (If you live in a swing state, this point is slightly less applicable).

In my right-leaning libertarian mind, this thinking points me in the direction of Johnson, maybe Trump, or abstention. Clinton represents no change. I want change, but I don't want to roll the dice for a low chance of getting things I want, with a moderate chance of getting things I don't want, from a person I dislike. I won't be sleeping well if I vote for either of them.

That leaves Johnson, who I agree with more than the other candidates, but believe would make a bad president. Which is a good thing since he has no chance.

He's a libertarian, I'm a libertarian. He doesn't seem crazy or corrupt. Not too smart about foreign affairs, but that's what advisors are for. Besides, the foreign policy guru candidate doesn't exactly have the best record on foreign policy. This might be a plus for Johnson.

Since he and third party candidates in general have no chance at winning, this is a luxury vote. At best, I can hope to send a message to the political powers that be that more of the country is more libertarian-oriented than they are, and nudge them to accommodate me and my interests. That's a nice thought. And even though Republicans and some Democrats seem to be tending libertarian more here and there, the trend of increasing statism is vastly more prominent.

At best, I will be able to sleep at night by hoping to send a signal to Washington by voting for Johnson, or any third party candidate. In fact, voting in any safe state your best hope for change via your vote is signalling. Strength in numbers. Does the winner have a mandate? Are the third party candidates really cutting into Pepsi and Coke's bottom line? Do we have to start paying attention to this bloc of voters?

At this point you're looking at poll numbers, thinking of how your vote could possibly have the most impact for the things you care about--strategic voting. This is all nice and nerdy except in the year 2016. Donald is the signal vote. If you're fed up, you vote for Trump. If you hate Trump, or want least variance, you vote for Clinton.

If you're both fed up and hate Trump, you still kinda have to vote for him--if "fed up" is what you're really wanting to say. Otherwise it's very likely your vote for Johnson will be interpreted as a right-leaning anti-Trump vote. In the world of Clinton v. Trump, your Johnson vote will be interpreted through that lens. Libertarian what?

I dislike Clinton enough to vote for Trump. I'm fed up enough to vote for Trump, but I'm wary of and dislike Trump enough to vote for Johnson. And yet I'm pretty sure my Johnson vote, if it even matters, will be misinterpreted.

I'm at a loss. Logic has failed me. I can't endorse anyone. I can at least endorse not voting for Clinton. Abstaining is weak, but it is there, and it's about as tempting as Trump or Johnson. Good luck deciding.

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