Random Thoughts on the 2016 Election

Let’s see if I can share my thoughts online here — on my own website — and avoid the wrath and threats that I’ve received on Twitter from both Trump and Clinton supporters.

I’ll state this right from the start: I am not a Republican nor a Democrat. I haven’t voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 2004, and haven’t voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1996. I’ve been disillusioned with both parties and their stranglehold on this country for years. I treat every vote I cast on an individual basis, and I generally tend to vote about 60 pct. conservative / 40 pct. liberal — i.e., independent and moderate.

This year, I didn’t vote for either Trump or Clinton. As soon as it became clear that these two were their respective party’s nominees, I knew I wouldn’t be able to vote for either. So I started researching other parties and candidates and found that I could support Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. There were numerous areas where I didn’t agree with him, but there were far more areas of agreement than I had with any other candidate. That, combined with him having integrity in spades compared to Clinton and Trump made the choice an easy one for me.

That said, it’s now about 24 hours (edit: I started writing this days ago, debated on posting it, and finally decided to do so) since the presidential election was called in Trump’s favor. I’ve watched more TV and read more articles about this election than any I can recall. Like most others I’ve come across, I’m stunned by the result. Just as I’ve done after previous elections, I want to put my thoughts down about this one.

It’s Hillary

Hillary has some very ardent supporters. But there’s an enormous disconnect between the level of admiration (I’d go as far as worship in some cases) they had for Clinton versus the level of dislike (or hatred in some cases) others felt toward her.

As I see and read the reaction to Trump winning, it’s pretty obvious that Hillary’s fans are (or were) totally unaware of how many Americans can’t stand her and would never vote for her for president. Or dog catcher. Or anything, really.

What Brokaw Said

CNN’s Van Jones shared a poignant, emotional statement in which he wondered aloud how he’d talk to his kids about Trump’s victory.

But of all the analysis I heard on TV (we switched mainly between CNN and NBC on election night), I thought the best came from former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. I tried to paraphrase his thoughts on Twitter:

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I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

Don’t Blame 3rd-Party Voters

A lot of Clinton supporters are blaming her loss on people like me (well, the ones in swing states) who voted for a so-called third-party candidate. In many states, candidates like Johnson and Stein got more votes than what Clinton lost by … so clearly it must be those voters’ fault she lost!

The mistake they make is assuming that all of these Johnson/Stein/etc. voters would’ve voted for Clinton. I think it’s arrogant to assume that, and it’s certainly not true. In fact, as some research has suggested, it’s likely that third-party voters helped Clinton in several states.

Having supported Johnson for months — reading his Facebook and Twitter posts, interacting with other Johnson supporters, reading articles about him and his rallies — I know for a fact that a significant portion of Johnson supporters were moderates/conservatives who, like me, couldn’t vote for either Clinton or Trump. “Yeah, but what if there were only the two candidates, Matt? You would’ve voted for Clinton, wouldn’t you, because Trump is so terrible?” Nope. If there were just two candidates, I would’ve skipped that race on my ballot. I’m not going to vote against my conscience just because the system wants me to only consider two candidates.

I’ve been criticized and even threatened with physical violence by random strangers who’ve seen me tweet support for Gary Johnson. People say I wasted my vote by not supporting Clinton or Trump. If you feel that way, I’d suggest reading D.M. Andre, who says you’re using a fear tactic to get people to vote against their will.

“But look how Ralph Nader gave Bush the win in Florida in 2000!,” they say, offering that as proof that third-party candidates can sabotage an election. Nope. That claim has been debunked more than once. In fact, shortly after that election, a Salon article with the headline How Florida Democrats torpedoed Gore explained how Gore really lost:

Now it gets really ugly for the Gore campaign, for there are two other Florida constituencies that cost them more votes than Nader did. First, Democrats. Yes, Democrats! Nader only drew 24,000 Democrats to his cause, yet 308,000 Democrats voted for Bush. Hello. If Gore had taken even 1 percent of these Democrats from Bush, Nader’s votes wouldn’t have mattered. Second, liberals. Sheesh. Gore lost 191,000 self-described liberals to Bush, compared to less than 34,000 who voted for Nader.

Bottom line: There’s too much going on in a major election to declare that a third-party candidate steals votes that would’ve gone to one other candidate by default.

Blame Evangelical Christians?

The number I’ve seen going around is that 81 percent of evangelical Christians voted for Trump. And that’s always accompanied by some kind of criticism or question about how Christians could vote for someone like Trump, whose behavior is so often very un-Christian. It’s a great question/point, but I think I can provide some insight here because I know several Christians who voted for Trump. In one word: abortion.

Trump had a lot of Christian support simply because they believe he’ll nominate pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. Personally, I wouldn’t be so confident if I were in their shoes — he’s changed his stance on abortion a few times over the years and seems unpredictable to me on this issue.

But Clinton is not at all unpredictable. Her support of abortion is crystal clear, and she’s said that she wouldn’t want the government to interfere with late-term abortions, either. That’s a non-starter for evangelical Christians, and the possibility of President Clinton appointing one or more pro-choice judges to the Supreme Court was enough to get them to overlook Trump’s faults and vote for him.

Final Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I’ve been happy with the results of a presidential election. And it’ll be a lot longer still until that happens. I knew I’d be unhappy no matter whether Trump or Clinton won, so my hope was that Gary Johnson (or any third-party candidate) would get 5% of the popular vote, qualifying that party for federal funding in the next presidential election. That didn’t happen; Johnson ended up at about 3% — more than any non-Republican/non-Democrat candidate since Ross Perot in the 1990s, but not enough. So it looks like the next time we elect a President, we’ll be back to the same two-party dominance that we had this time. I can only hope the two major parties put up better candidates than they did this year. Hard to imagine any worse.

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