Voting in the general election, 2016 edition

Today early voting started in my state, and because voting on November 8 would be a hassle, I made use of it.  It probably won’t surprise any of my regular online friends that my vote went to Hillary Clinton.

To be upfront, the Republican candidate would not have gotten my vote, even if they had been calm, sober, competent, and upstanding, as were John McCain and Mitt Romney.  I generally vote Democratic, mainly because I agree more with their vision of what our society should look like, and find the vision of many hardcore Republicans repugnant and, in the case of the Tea Party and “Freedom” Caucus people, outright dangerous.

I personally prefer a society where people can’t be discriminated against because they belong to the wrong religion, hold the wrong philosophy, have the wrong skin color or other ethnic marker, like the wrong kinds of sex, are the wrong gender or desire to be the wrong gender, or any other similar type of reason.  I know libertarians often share the same outlook on these social matters, but I find them far too focused only on discrimination from the government, and too unconcerned with discrimination from other social institutions such as churches, civic organizations, businesses, or society overall.

And given that scientific data and history show that none of us are as self sufficient as we might like to think, I also prefer a society with a robust cradle to grave social safety net, including universal healthcare, free (or low cost) education, more generous unemployment benefits, better care for those in poverty, and a wide variety of other measures, all of which I perceive are more likely to happen with Democrats in power.  At a minimum I perceive that the existing safety net, as incomplete as it is, won’t be further eroded if they hold at least one of branches of government.

I know conservatives often fear that providing this kind of safety net will somehow ruin our moral fiber or economic vitality, but that concern doesn’t hold up when you look at other developed democracies, most of which have stronger safety nets than we do, and none of which have descended into the kind of dystopian nightmare that we’re always assured will come about if we strengthen our own programs.

And I actually think we give up a lot of economic vitality by forgoing that robust safety net.  How many more entrepreneurs would we have if potential risk takers didn’t have to worry about losing health insurance for their children?  How many more people might follow their passion if doing so wasn’t so much more risky than simply working a job that, while safe, doesn’t maximize their contribution to society?

So that’s why I voted Democrat.  Now, it’s become very chic among progressives to bemoan that Hillary Clinton is our only viable option.  Many seem grudgingly willing to vote for her to avoid a President Trump, but are unhappy with Clinton herself.  That’s not my outlook.  My vote for her was moderately enthusiastic.

To be sure, Clinton is not perfect.  But from everything I can see, she’s spent a lifetime fighting for something like the vision I outlined above.  Yes she’s had to make compromises along the way, but if you’re not willing to get your hands dirty, you’re not going to make progress.  My perception is that Clinton is extremely intelligent, a ferociously hard worker, cares deeply about public policy, and is more prepared for the Presidency than just about anyone who has ever run for the office.  We can always imagine a more perfect candidate, but I think she’s in the upper tier of the people actually qualified to do the job.

But what about all the controversies?  What about her emails, paid speeches, the Clinton foundation, Benghazi, and all the rest?  I’ve followed all of these reasonably closely, and I can’t find anything actually nefarious in any of it (with the exception of Bill’s marriage infidelities, but holding that against his wife, the primary victim, is vicious stupidity).  Yes there are mistakes, but again we’re talking about someone who is human, not a public policy machine.  I certainly find nothing in any of it to justify all the hyperbolic outrage.

I can understand the amplified outrage from Republicans since it’s to their advantage to make as much political hay out any mistake that they can, but I’ve frequently been puzzled by the outrage from the left.  When I talk with progressives about Clinton, as we cross off each “scandal” that turned out to be nothing but a partisan witch-hunt, I’m struck by how often their attitude boils down to some version of “I just don’t like her” or “I just don’t trust her”.

Ultimately, I think Clinton’s problem, from a political perspective, is her gender.  I’m not talking about the knuckle dragging conservatives who might argue against the desirability of a woman President, but the unconscious bias many of us have against the idea of a woman commander in chief, even on the left, even among many women.

Clinton faces a trade-off that women vying for leadership positions today often face.  If they act in the traditional manner that society expects of women, they’ll be considered too timid for leadership.  If they’re strong and assertive, they’ll be perceived as annoying, grating, and bitchy.  I think we as a society need to outgrow this double standard, and stop holding women like Clinton to standards we’d never hold a male candidate to.

As I said above, Clinton has my enthusiastic vote, but even if I weren’t enthusiastic, she’s become the choice of sanity.  I’m not going to go on a rant about Donald Trump.  If you still see him as an acceptable option at this point, there’s nothing I can say that would change your mind.  For anyone else, including those holding their nose while voting for him, I’ll just note that a ranked voting system, particularly in the party primaries, might serve our country far better than the traditional first past the post system we now use.

I never seriously considered the third party candidates, Johnson for the reasons I laid out above on libertarians, and Stein because she has scant public leadership experience, and neither of them strike me as economically literate or particularly knowledgeable on public policy.  But also because only one of two people will be elected President on November 8, Clinton or Trump, and doing anything other than voting for Clinton increases Trump’s chance of victory.

Every election people say that the stakes are enormous in a bid to convince you to vote.  It’s often hyperbole.  But this time I don’t think it is.  Hopefully you’re registered, but if not, check your state’s deadlines, because many still allow you to register, and some allow same day registration.  This is not the year to sit out the election.  Consider doing early voting if there’s any chance you might not be able to make it on election day.

Your vote will matter.  Even if you’re in a non-swing state, contributing to the popular vote gives information about the country’s overall attitude toward the candidates, which might become important if election results end up being contested.  Don’t look at the polls and assume that the result is a foregone conclusion.  Polls can be wrong, particularly in catching late breaking changes.  Don’t take any chances with this election.  Do your part.  Get out and vote.  If you don’t, your opinion literally won’t count.

17 thoughts on “Voting in the general election, 2016 edition

  1. You know Mike, it seems perverse to me that around 60% of U.S. citizens want a third party, and yet only around 10% (I think) will ever vote for one. Is this election the greatest ever exercise in political tactical voting?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s probably true Hariod, but if you polled that 60%, they would disagree intensely in what they want to see from a third party. I think the problem is that many Americans are intolerant of compromise right now, and being a member of a major political party, which is a vast coalition of varied interests, inherently involves compromise. When the factions of that coalition are no longer willing to make those compromises (see Republicans right now), things start to fall apart.

      On tactical voting, perhaps. Since I’ve never seen a candidate I agree with 100%, I’ve always voted tactically. I often have to do it for local elections where my choices often come down to which Republican I consider less objectionable. I suppose if I lived in a part of the country where my local choices were various flavor of liberals, I might view Clinton as more of a compromise than I do.

      On the polling of Trump voters, yeah. I suspect we’ll be hearing from those people for years that they were robbed. (Unless Trump somehow manages to win, then they’ll complain that they were robbed when Trump isn’t able to do many of the incoherent things he promised.)

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Clinton’s hawkishness is one of the things I’m not thrilled about. I hope it’s the probably necessary sabre-rattling the first major female candidate for President has to engage in, and that her views will eventually be tempered by tactical realities.

          The Wall Street speeches don’t bother me. I’d be more bothered by a candidate who was reflexively hostile to an industry and refused to talk with them, but if you’ve concluded that the industry should be nationalized, I can understand how a candidate talking with them is probably less than ideal.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been a big fan of the ranked voting system idea ever since I first heard about it. A lot of people just don’t feel like either major party represents their views, and so for them, it’s not worth bothering to vote. We might see higher voter turnout if we had a system that includes more parties and gives those parties a real fighting chance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It allows people to vote first for their most preferred choice, but then rank other candidates they could live with. But crucially for this year’s situation, a candidate that the majority of the electorate finds unacceptable is unlikely to win, even in a crowded field.

      Another system that is sometimes considered is the run-off election to ensure the winner has majority support. We have that for most elections in Louisiana, and I think it works better than first-past-the-post, but sometimes the two craziest candidates make the runoff (such as the year the runoff election for governor included the brazenly corrupt Edwin Edwards and “ex” Klansman David Duke).

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Well Mike, it sounds like we’re also pretty square on politics. One potential difference I see however, is that perhaps I’m a bit more worried about how social programs can be taken advantage of? We do tend to selfishly abuse the government teat when we can. (Of course the capitalistic US healthcare system seems amazingly wasteful, so government money shouldn’t be the only way things are abused.) But for example, I believe that our public education system needs to be privatized. Why should government bureaucracy build better educators and schools than a free market system? Here the poor would receive tremendous education funding, with somewhat less for the middle class, and then no government funding would be provided at some point.

    I was happy to hear your strong endorsement for Hillary. I certainly thought her husband did a good job — no republican could have pushed through the North American free trade agreement. The obvious irony regarding Hillary, is that it’s the people who hate her the most that chose to let her run against a deluded fool. Serves ’em right! Will they learn their lesson sufficiently enough to challenge her next time?

    Regarding our two party political system, I like it. Here new ideas can seamlessly be adopted straight into the mainstream to the extent of their popularity. Observe how quickly the political parties have bent to accommodate the will of the people regarding things like homosexuality and marijuana. (If you recall, Obama wasn’t too pleased with gayness when he began.) Furthermore consider how disenfranchised many in England must have been, even under their parliamentary government, to actually “Brexit.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Eric. Happy to hear we agree on Clinton.

      I wouldn’t say I’m totally unconcerned about people abusing government programs. But it’s not rocket science to put controls in place, and I think that ends up being a stumbling block too often. Again, we can look at what other countries are doing, since they now have decades of experience with it.

      I’m not comfortable with the idea of completely privatizing education. From what I can see, the quality of private schools varies tremendously. We tend to compare only the best (and most expensive) one to the public system. And the for-profit university sector is infested with shady rip off schemes, more designed to extract student loan money than to provide a quality education.

      I agree about NAFTA. In general, I’m a free trader, and one of the things I do disagree with Clinton on is her rejection of the TPP. I think China will be delighted to see us back out of it. But unless Obama can get it ratified in the lame duck session, I fear that ship might have sailed. Clinton’s stand against it has been too adamant for her to back off of it now.

      I wouldn’t say I like or dislike the two party system, but see if as consequence of the way our constitution is structured. One thing I do like about a parliamentary system is that an administration can generally fall at any time if its actions become too repugnant. Although I’m not wild with the idea that a PM (or equivalent) can resign and a new one voted in by legislators without a new general election. No system is perfect.

      I think when we judge Brexit, we have to remember all the state ballot initiatives years ago against gay marriage. Sometimes voters just get it wrong. And if we had the UK’s demographics, I’m pretty sure Trump would be doing a lot better.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks for the insightful response Mike. It’s good to hear that you aren’t protectionist on trade, though it would have surprised me to hear that you were. Liberalism seems to have gotten far more comfortable with free trade in recent years (and the decline of unions may have contributed), while conservativism seems to have gotten far more protectionist.

      Furthermore I think you’re right to note that government programs don’t have to be all that abused, and especially when other countries are able to manage this.

      As for voters getting things wrong about gay marriage a decade ago or so, that did seem appropriate to me. I’d say we’ve been witnessing a massive cultural revolution regarding homosexual acceptance. Those initiatives were surely just futile defenses against changing beliefs. If only race relations could have gone similarly!

      Regarding education, I’m unhappy with it at all levels today, and private as well as public. It seems to me that the essential problem is that we don’t tend to work as effectively when we lack associated economic incentive. Once people have their credentials to teach (and perhaps even with unions and tenure) it’s not the market but administrators that must encourage productivity (should administrators even care). The Soviets were fairly successful at this for a while, though I’m sure it wasn’t easy!

      Perhaps it would be helpful to have state run doctors and hospitals for various reasons, but if the government also took over pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies, to me this would seem more similar to our government dominated education industry. Why must it directly be in the education business, when government might instead just provide worthy people with education funding? In that case the market should provide educators with economic incentive to teach well. Perhaps I’m simply wrong about this, since I’m not aware of any country which has a thriving private education market, but I don’t yet understand why.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Eric.

        Unfortunately, it seems like both liberals and conservatives, in terms of rank and file voters, have gotten more comfortable with protectionism, or at least opposing any new trade liberalization treaties. Although I don’t know if it’s really all that new. Trade agreements have always been unpopular, usually coming in toward the end of an administration as a strategy to minimize voter wrath, but it never seems to work.

        Sometimes I wonder if the best strategy for these kinds of things wouldn’t be a national referendum. I realize that in the wake of Brexit what I’m saying might seem foolhardy, but if handled correctly, it could serve as a opportunity to educate people on why free trade benefits them, and minimize the feeling that it’s something being done to them instead of for them.

        On your pondering why no one has a thriving private education market, I think we have to face up to the issue that the markets aren’t ideal for everything. They tend to function poorly for insurance (health or otherwise), education, policing, fire fighting, military defense, and other services. It might be because they’re all complex and/or involve anxiety, which seems to cloud most people’s ability to treat them like the question of which car to buy or which theater to go see a movie in.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Judging from recent experience here in Britain, a referendum on free trade vs protectionism would be disastrous. It is easy for populists to win support for stupid polices that sound convincing at first glance, and very hard to convince the public that policies like free trade have benefits. I’m afraid that I have become despondent about politics generally since Brexit. Stupid wins votes.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I can see where you’re coming from. But I wonder where it leaves us when politicians are just going to cave to popular opinion anyway. It seems like to have real change, we have little choice but to find a way to convince the populace.

            In any case, it’s purely hypothetical for the US since, while we have state level referendums all the time, we have no mechanism for one at the federal level. In truth, the only federal election we ever have is when the electoral college votes for the President and Vice-President. The vote we’re having right now is technically for the college electors.


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