Based on many of the Facebook posts that I see, it appears that many people are either choosing their candidates solely on the basis of their party or else because they despise the opposing candidate so much. Others have latched onto one issue and are choosing the candidate they’re going to vote for based on it while some are choosing to avoid the two main parties all together and vote for a third party candidate. I think that especially in this election, when both of the main-party candidates are so disliked by the other side and carry so much baggage, our evaluation of the candidates and why we may vote for one of them over the others needs to involve more.
As I look at the issues and the candidates who support them, I find that each candidate values certain issues that I also value and each one supports ways of dealing with the issues that I also support. The problem is, there isn’t one candidate whose important issues and ways of dealing with them completely line up with the issues I feel are important and how I would deal with them. Most of the candidates (considering more than just the main two parties) also support policies that I am against. So how do I decide who to vote for?
I’ve always been against voting for third-party candidates, especially if they are nearer to my party’s candidate in values, fearing the loss of votes for my party. Many say a vote for a third-party candidate is a wasted vote while others forcefully contend that it isn’t. Other than to make a point or to be true to your conscience, until our system drastically changes, a third-party vote is essentially a waste and is sometimes detrimental to the similar candidate from one of the two major parties. Will it change the course of an election? That is very unlikely, unless the state you vote in is a close race similar to the Florida contest when Bush beat Gore by just a few hundred votes. With that said, looking at the candidates we have representing the two major parties this year, which pollsters tell us are the most disliked presidential candidates in the history of the United States, I am more inclined to vote for a third-party candidate if I can find one whose values align with mine.
In deciding who to vote for, it’s important not to learn about the candidates from Facebook posts. Many times people continue to “share” memes or statements about candidates that turn out not to be true or are greatly exaggerated. I also have trouble fully trusting news outlets, since all of them are biased in some way. I like the website Pro-Con which seems to be politically neutral and offers the views of the presidential candidates on 75 issues, though some candidates haven’t expressed their views on all of the issues.
Missouri (where I currently live and vote) has five presidential candidates on the ballot: Clinton (Democrat), Trump (Republican), Johnson (Libertarian), Castle (Constitutional) and Stein (Green) . I could go down the list of 75 issues and compare my views to each of the candidates on the ballot, but while I wouldn’t call my self a “one-issue” voter, I just can’t bring myself to vote for a pro-choice candidate (Clinton, Johnson and Stein), especially one who supports late-term abortions (Clinton), quickly narrowing the candidates I need to consider down to two (Trump and Castle). Do I think that Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned? No, I don’t. In over 40 years of a Republican-appointed majority on the SCOTUS, Roe v. Wade hasn’t budged, but the expansion of abortion “rights,” including partial-birth abortion can be limited with the appointment of the right justice.
On the other hand, a liberal candidate appointing liberal Supreme Court justices could extend the availability and extent of abortions, increasing the number of lives lost and suffering caused to unborn and partially born children. Additionally, the government should not fund abortions with the possible exception of the health of the mother being at risk or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, so the continued funding of Planned Parenthood (Clinton and Johnson) and other providers who focus primarily on abortion should cease and not be expanded. Also, if abortion remains legal, minors should not be permitted to get an abortion without the consent of their parents (which Clinton is against). Related to my “pro-life” stance, I would also find it difficult to support candidates who support legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (Clinton and Johnson). (For a 20-minute explanation of why I elevate being anti-abortion above the other issues, watch this video.)
There are a number of other issues, of the 75 on Pro-Con, that I have an opinion about which would guide my choice of which candidate to vote for of the two remaining pro-life candidates, Trump and Castle (Constitution Party). Castle isn’t on the Pro-Con site but other sites declare him to be 100% pro-life and he promises to veto any measure that would fund abortions, which keeps him in the race for me. However, Castle wants to repeal the Federal Reserve Act and end the U.S.’s membership in the United Nations, two actions I’m not convinced would be best for the United States. Castle is on the extreme right and while he does value the original intent of the Constitution I think that he may have a few too many ideas which I can’t fully support, though none that would necessarily prevent me from voting for him if there were no other pro-life candidates.
Trump, however, comes with a number of other concerns even before getting to the issues. His much publicized disrespectful statements about women, flippant comments about individuals and whole ethnic groups and complete lack of government experience should certainly give us pause. Many people are voting for Trump as a vote against Clinton but I don’t think that is a good enough reason to vote for someone. Others are voting for Trump based on his assurance to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices which could help reduce the number and extent of abortions, prevent federal funding of abortion, as well as protect and promote many other “conservative” ideals extending his contribution long after his time in the White House. That could be the best reason to vote for Trump, realizing that Clinton will appoint liberal justices who will seek to accomplish the opposite. The Witherspoon Institute article, “2016 and the Future of the Supreme Court” gives a good explanation of how the appointment of the wrong justice could do grave harm to conservative causes. I encourage you to take time to read it.
To vote for Trump would be elevating his conservative, pro-life position above his potential shortcomings, including his character, which raises the question, does a vote for a candidate register approval for everything wrong that they have done? In this age of instant news and Wikileaks, we know more about the candidates today than voters knew of any other candidates in our history. It’s very likely, and in fact proven in many cases, that residents of the White House have engaged in activities that if fully known could have ruined their runs for president. That doesn’t justify anybody’s wrongdoing but goes back to what I alluded to briefly in my last post, We Don’t Need to Fight, namely that we’re not electing a spiritual leader but rather a president.
Clearly, a person with a strong Christian faith would be the best leader in any office, at least with everything else being equal, but should the faith of a candidate take precedence over the less important (or even most important) issues? In other words, would Castle be a better choice than Trump since he is conservative, pro-life and an unquestioned Christian? And then, is Trump a bad enough choice that Castle is the more moral choice, even though Castle does not have a chance of winning the national election? Is voting my conscience more important than voting for the 2nd best with a better chance of winning, thus producing the greater likelihood of the issues that are important to me being addressed? And finally, should it impact my decision that polling in Missouri shows a solid lead for Trump, rendering my vote technically moot unless a large number of similar voters choose the same third-party candidate?
Hopefully, as I have hashed out my process in making a decision on who to vote for, I have given you something to think about and have encouraged you to not make a rash or hasty decision on November 8th. Ironically, as I finish editing this post, I still have not been able to arrive at a decision but since I am away from home and voting by absentee ballot which I have to mail, I’ll have to decide soon. . .
Hillary Clinton from the Hillary Clinton website
Darrell Castle from the Castle 2016 website
Donald Trump from the Trump-Pence website
Elephant & Donkey buttons from The Washington Times website