The first Presidential debate was aimed at a specific group of people. Whoever has already decided their vote, this wasn’t for you. Nothing either candidate said or did would have swayed you away from your choice made after the primaries. There’s a solid core of folks for each camp that can’t bring themselves to switch.
I watched tonight to see if Clinton could show a contrast to Trump, a clear contrast between smart, capable, rational, to pessimistic, ignorant, and ill-tempered. I want this difference as obvious as night and day. It’s the difference between stability and impulsive amorality.
Trump is a man who cannot complete a cohesive sentence. Great extemporaneous speakers can at least put together harmonious thoughts. Trump has trouble with this, particularly if he’s already ignorant of the subject matter and getting flustered. He does a trick where he sort of trails off and lets the audience fill in the blanks how they like and then applaud for him. It was telling tonight when he didn’t elicit those audience reactions that he was floundering.
This debate’s contrast was for my dear undecided, independent, third-party-leaning friends who need it most:
Please stop trying to shoot the moon. I know full well how sick everyone is of voting for the lesser of two evils. But putting your vote to a candidate or party so far outside the bounds of potential victory is taking your voice away to stop the greater of two evils.
In all clarity: this is an election between a life-long policy wonk of a politician and lying, mysogynistic reality TV show personality. One candidate understands the intricate web of connecting politics, economics, and military strategies that interweave our complex world, and the other stays willfully ignorant and is only looking out for his monetary advantages.
You can dislike Clinton’s policies, but she has them. You can bring advice, compromise, options to her and she will listen. Being the opposition party in Congress to a Clinton White House can be your voice of dissent.
To my Republican friends, the ones who cannot conceive of voting for Clinton at the top of the ticket, you’re welcome to abstain. Vote for Senate on down and avoid claiming Clinton is the better candidate for President if you must.
But to my young, independent, ruckus-loving friends: do not throw your voice away for spite. Please do not see Clinton and Trump as cut from the same cloth. You may not like the status quo, but the status quo is at least stable. Electing someone beholden to no party, prone to vindictive spats, praising authoritarian leaders (you do know autocracies are far worse for freedom than democratic republics, right?), and willfully ignorant of how large economies work, is legitimately dangerous to us and everyone else. We’re too large of an economy and military to be operating at the whims of someone who would prefer checks and balances be beholden to his golden name.
If you think that the onerousness of our military and bureaucracy would stop him, there’s a point where disobedience becomes a mutiny and a coup. This would permanently damage the bedrock of our great republic.
To be perfectly clear: your third-party candidate cannot win. And nor should they. A third party should start smaller, grow more organically, and build an infrastructure, get a few state houses and congressional seats in their camp. Republican and Democrat candidates both start getting intelligence briefs and start building their cabinets and policy papers at least the summer before election day so they can be best prepared for the massive task of running the United States government. Without starting smaller, building a base infrastructure for governance of maybe a couple states first, I don’t think it safe to put that on the world stage against a Congress with no allies.
All presidential candidates speak big about what they will do in office, but it’s an office of limited scope and power. Without any other elected officials backing them, without walking into the office backed by institutional knowledge, it’s a weak position for domestic affairs and a dangerous one for international affairs.
The current election can only be won by one of two people. One person has never held public offic, has revealed massive dark underpinnings of American culture, has caused a schism in the party that nominated him, has shown petty vindictive mood swings, and has made a complete and conscious refusal to advance and learn anything for the massive responsibility of representing our replublic. But at least he elicits feelings.
The other has a long career in politics with the trail of dirt and deals that follow it, has been in the national spotlight so long that every opinion shift can be seen, comes off as calculated and robotic in giving speeches. But at least she knows policy and international relations inside and out. Those policies may be awful to you, but the stability of the United States government and its relations around the world will not be at risk. All the unknowns that a Trump presidency might bring aren’t worth that risk.
Those are the two options. If you vote other than those two, you’ve thrown your hat in with risking our stability and standing in the world. You’ll be voting for the greater of two evils.