My campaign to encourage the repudiation of Donald Trump has been quite explicit. Nonetheless, I was taken aback when one person recently asked, “So please tell me why you are voting for Hillary?”
What?! I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton. Who told you that? I’m likely going to write in a candidate. That’s been my stance since the days of “Bust the Ballot,” when my Democratic friends, terrified of a Trump victory, first got mad at me because they thought I was siphoning off the Clinton vote.
And then another friend has just commented, “I was surprised when you told that person that you are writing in a candidate. I just assumed in your anti-Trump writing that you would be voting for Hillary?” He had graciously struggled to process what he thought was true: that “I’m With Her.”
Actually, I’m not annoyed by these assumptions; they are in fact my proof of concept. They are, ironically, the MAIN reason I am not voting for Hillary Clinton, but more about that later. Here, for the record, are some of the reasons why I am not voting for Secretary Clinton for president in 2016:
1. Because I hate scandals
Now, mind you, I believe that in a Trump Administration we will witness scandals of historic proportion, surpassing those of Grant, Harding, or Nixon. The essence of presidential scandal is somehow the selling of the public good for private gain—and this can occur in any of the three branches of misgovernment: money, sex, or power. We can hash through—indeed we must—the details of Trump University, the Trump Foundation, or reports of sexual assault, but I’ve heard enough to conclude that for Donald Trump, the selling of the public good for private gain is not so much a scandal, as it is a business model. We shouldn’t be concerned about what type of appointments Trump would make to the Supreme Court; we should be concerned about whether he will sell them.
But you already know that I am not voting for Trump. Neither am I voting for Hillary Clinton. . . because I hate scandals. Some people want a small government; I want a boring one. My first memory of Hillary Clinton was when she became the only First Lady in American history to be subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury. This was the Whitewater Scandal, and it resulted in President Clinton ordering his Attorney General, Janet Reno, to appoint a special prosecutor, similar to what Nixon was forced to do during Watergate. Hillary Clinton was her own separate Whitewater investor, and while an attorney at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, she oversaw many of their transactions. You will have to read the details of the Whitewater Scandal elsewhere, but in the end, fifteen people were convicted on federal charges ranging from conspiracy to fraud to bribery to tax evasion—not the Clintons however, and in the final hours of his presidency, Bill Clinton pardoned four of these convicts.
If you have ever wondered where Secretary Clinton found such poise and stamina in the face of the Benghazi hearings, it could be because she was fundamentally convinced of her innocence, but it could also be because she is so well practiced. Here’s how TIME magazine reported her first public statement on Whitewater, on Friday, April 22, 1994 in the State Dining Room of the White House: “What happened was a riveting hour and 12 minutes in which the First Lady appeared to be open, candid, but above all unflappable. While she provided little new information on the tangled Arkansas land deal or her controversial commodity trades, the real message was her attitude and her poise. The confiding tone and relaxed body language, which was seen live on four networks, immediately drew approving reviews.”
Now I know that, except in the eyes of much of the public, Ms. Clinton has been excused, if not exonerated, in each case—Whitewater, Benghazi, e-mails, Clinton Foundation. And I also believe John Oliver’s (potty-mouthed) comparison of the Clinton and the Trump scandals to be insightful. Nonetheless, my point is that Secretary Clinton, and the Clintons, and the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton inner circle, and the Clinton people (and please God, not Chelsea) are prone to something I can only call “scandalness.” I like to see my president behind the microphone in the well of the House of Representatives. I like to see him or her behind the mic in the UN General Assembly. I like the way the sun glints off the microphone in the Rose Garden. I HATE to see my president behind the microphone in front of a Senate subcommittee, even if she is innocent or unjustly accused. Political capital, good will, tenure in office, media attention, staff work, hours in the day—all of these are finite resources for the person who swears the Oath of Office. But let a scandal emerge—either from the President or from one of his or her people—and then everything attendant in government to human flourishing or American progress comes screeching to a halt. There are chairs to set up, film crews to mobilize, floor votes to delay, personal grudges to resurrect, hearings on other issues to cancel. Consider the last two presidential debates. What is the percentage of questions asked about issues vs. the percentage asked about scandals? How many questions about issues ended up being answered with a quick pivot to the scandals of the other candidate? Where, for example, has there been time to even insert a question about climate change or immigration reform?
2. Because I have my own reasons.
Fairly early on in my anti-Trump campaign, I began to hear the complaint, “Lowell, why aren’t you saying equally bad things about Hillary?” I have three reasons. First, because the anti-Hillary forces haven’t needed my help. They’ve done a good enough job of identifying and heralding her deficiencies. Secondly, because I’ve been trained by my spiritual director of a wife not to respond to “pull.” The proper response, with the emphasis on two separate words, is apparently, “Please tell me, why do you feel the need for me to say equally bad things about Hillary?” (An annoying question, isn’t it?, but spiritually fruitful.) Thirdly, my audience of Honest Republicans and evangelical Christians are under no delusion about Hillary Clinton. Regarding Donald Trump however, the first warning sign of a grand delusion came when one of “our” leaders, Falwell Jr., announced, “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment.” I also wrote early on that it is a delusion to think you can pick up one end of the Trump stick (anti-Hillary, conservative justices, anti-abortion, Republican party platform) and not pick up the other end of the stick at the same time (sexism, alleged sexual assault, racism, xenophobia, scandal.)
Admittedly, there is a Clinton stick too, one which if you pick up the one appealing end (anti-Trump, wide experience, some good policy initiatives including on climate change), you also pick up the other end too. I’ve got a couple other reasons why I’m not picking up the Hillary stick, and they seem to be my own. I dislike how when she left the White House, she chose New York to be her Senate seat. I dislike carpetbaggers. She could have run from Arkansas or from her native Illinois. (I don’t like that Bobby Kennedy did the same thing in 1964.) If you are from everywhere; you are from nowhere. I want my representatives to be "of a people" so that in the end government can also be "by the people and for the people." I also dislike how Hillary Clinton often played it safe while Secretary of State, steering clear of the Middle East and of any other foreign policy issue which might derail her“one and done” term and her eventual race for the White House. I want my cabinet secretaries to be “all in."
Now for the real reason why I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton:
3. Because I don’t have to. . . and neither do you
Trump is going to lose and Hillary is going to win, without my vote making any difference to the outcome. Maybe I would think differently if I lived in Florida or Ohio or Pennsylvania—swing states with hanging chads—but the Kansas electors to the Electoral College keep red body paint mixed and ready for slathering, without my vote making any difference to the outcome. My home district (the Kansas 1st) is considered the 14th most Republican district in the nation. Interestingly, a recent FiveThirtyEight polling map showed that all districts in Kansas would go for Clinton if only women voted. Additionally, western Kansas towns like Dodge City, Garden City, and Liberal now have majority Hispanic populations. (Kris Kobach, watch out, the times they are a’changing.) What this means is that I can afford to do something else with my vote this year. I might, in fact, be able to offer it to my friends to help them out of a quandary.
Now don’t misunderstand me. If I thought for a moment that Trump was going to gain the White House, or that my vote could make the difference, I would without a doubt cast my vote for the only person in our so-called Two Party System that could prevent that from happening. In doing so though, I would be under no delusion that I am NOT picking up both ends of the Clinton stick. This is not a “lesser of two evils” choice for me, but rather I can find the other end of the Clinton stick survivable; we’ve survived scandalous Democratic (and Republican) administrations in the past. The other end of Trump’s stick however—unprecedented in its sexism, racism, xenophobia, and proto-fascism—I fear too greatly.
I find myself in the position of conservative commentator Erick Erickson who wrote an article worth of reading in its entirety: “Erick Erickson: Here’s what I decided after pastors begged me to reconsider my NeverTrump stance.” He writes: “A Clinton administration may see the church besieged from the outside, but a Trump administration will see the church poisoned from within.” He concludes: “I think Hillary Clinton will do lasting damage to the country. I cannot vote for her. Having fully weighed my opposition to Trump, I think Donald Trump will do lasting damage to the witness of the Church in America and I therefore cannot vote for him. I am without a candidate. I will not harm my witness nor risk Trump’s soul to serve my political desires.”
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT. Erickson challenges the Great Assumption of 2016, that you must, per force, vote for one of these two candidates. For many of my Honest Republican and evangelical Christian friends, the assumption has been that you must engage the conscience-troubling torture of a lesser-of-two-evils labyrinth that ends up defending, even excusing and accepting and promoting, someone of Donald Trump’s character and competency because you have no freedom to vote for the only alternative that you think exists. But look! You don’t have to vote for Trump AND you don’t have to vote for Hillary. Erickson proves that it is possible. I’m showing that it’s possible. My historically-Republican friends who are even now mounting a write-in campaign for Evan McMullin are showing that it’s possible.
And that’s what I mean by offering up my vote to my friends—simply to be an example. Some call it a wasted vote, but no, it’s not a waste if I can show my friends, whom I love dearly, that there is a peaceable path away from Donald Trump. Of course, if the path could end without Hillary Clinton in the White House, that would be cake that we could have, and eat it too. But alas, that’s a horse that already left the barn during the primary season. At least, since we are piling on the idioms, think about the fun of the shoe being on the other foot for a change. You can tell them, “Hillary’s in the White House without my vote.” “Oh,” they say, “You’re one of those Trump supporters.” And you reply, “Nope, didn’t vote for him either.”