What I’ve Learned This Election Cycle

[Note: Much of this has been pent up and brewing in me a long time (ask my wife). Please know I respect you, how you voted, and why you voted the way you did. Or if you didn’t vote, I respect that too.]

The most important thing I’ve learned in this election cycle, I think, is that Americans really want to back a winner. We love to win.

This is great for sports ball, but this election cycle I’ve come to think that it isn’t great in the realm of politics.

In sports ball, we can passionately disagree about a call, argue, debate the replay (then the replay rule), hold our opinions, and then respond, taunt, and jeer on social media. The call is made, the game goes on.

We turn proficient players into heroes, and root for them. Our heroes can do no wrong. Even when their character flaws and poor decisions are foisted into the limelight, advocates readily discount such things. It’s OK, they’re just sports-ball players, let them be. Support them because they’re good at the game.

This same attitude pretty much sucks with politics. Both major party candidates are deplorable, yet — because we Americans have this need to be on the side of the winner — we rationalize away the horribleness each candidate brings to the table.


Hillary Clinton’s best quality is that she’s not Donald Trump, and Donald Trump’s best quality is that he’s not Hillary Clinton. And that’s about the best I can say of either of them as candidates.

This election cycle, I’ve learned that this need to back the eventual winner can cause one to twist and contort things to rationalize candidate views and actions that shouldn’t be rationalized. Trump’s misogyny is “locker-room talk” and “we’re all sinners” and “God used David despite his sins” but Bill Clinton was assailed and impeached on grounds of, essentially, integrity and character because of sexual indiscretions? (Conversely, Hillary supporters want to use this as fodder on Trump despite their acceptance of it during Bill’s presidency?) Trump’s bigotry and flirtation with anti-semitism and white supremism is misguided but tolerable because the Supreme Court is all-important?

Yeah, right. Trump is an arrogant slimeball not worth the respect of the office. In the dictionary, in the entry for “Non-Presidential,” there’s a picture of him.

Fret not, the same is true of the other nominee, Hillary Clinton. Her email server indicts her, but Trump’s past actions of defrauding contractors, evading taxes, bankruptcies, and totally serving his own self interest in everything doesn’t indict him? Her documented poor decision-making in critical, stressful, and time-sensitive situations doesn’t matter, but Trump’s inexplicable carelessness in handling his own Twitter account does?

Seriously? Clinton, while experienced, hasn’t shown she can make the right decisions at critical junctures. (“Reset Button” with Russia, anyone?) Remember that entry in the dictionary for “Non-Presidential”? It has two pictures, to make the point. Hillary’s is there too.

All each of us is doing is casting our candidate in the light most likely to make the candidate attractive enough to vote for. We want them to be heroes. But to apply a phrase a friend has used in completely different context, we’re “polishing the turd.” And then on the social media we’re blasting people who purport to be our friends (or at least friendly to us) with invective and rationalization (and a twist of scare-mongering) of why the saintly, well-thought-out, unassailable view we have is completely perfect and cogent, and anyone with a contrary view must hate America and actively support its downfall.

This, my friends, is wrong.

This is what I’ve learned about presidential elections this year. And this is why I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either major party presidential candidate. Because to do so, I would have had to admit that my desire to back a winner (or to force a loser) was more important than matters I hold dear.

I long for a truly pro-life candidate. Abortion is one issue amongst many. For some it’s the only issue. I can respect that. But I want to vote for someone who values life such that they support stuff like:

  • Outlaw the death penalty
  • Guaranteed and available prenatal care for pregnant women
  • Guaranteed and available post-natal care for infants and post-partum care for mothers.
  • Abortions are minimized by pursuing every possible means.
    • We could pass a law today outlawing abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and threat to mother’s health. That is progress. We should support it and do it without thinking. If you hate abortion, why support elective abortion while holding out for a total ban? Why not win a victory and continue to fight the war?
    • Pregnant mothers who need it should have guaranteed access to financial assistance as inadequate finances are a frequently given reason for abortions and also for adoptions
  • Increase the Adoption Tax Credit and make it fully refundable
  • Increase federal support for state foster care programs and bolster adoptions within these programs.
  • Defund Planned Parenthood, force them to separate the actual women’s health programs they have from their abortion concern (as a separately held business entity, differently named, different facilities, etc.). Let them fundraise it on their own if it’s so important.
  • Outlaw euthanasia
  • Ensure that criminal sentencing guidelines for drug offenses are geared towards treatment, not punishment. For all races and all strata of society.

And that’s just a quick list made without much thinking. Find me a candidate (not a party, a candidate) who supports these sorts of things — who evaluates issues through the lens of life — and I’ll vote for him or her. Evan McMullin was the closest I could find, so I wrote in his name.

Now, please don’t talk to me about how I “threw away” my vote. It’s my vote. I have to be able to sleep at night after making it. I’ve learned that this is more important than backing a winner or forcing a loser. Unfortunately, it took Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as major party candidates to teach me this lesson.

Now, a word about the Supreme Court.

People on both sides, stop using this as a cudgel.

We have this system of checks and balances. A President doesn’t just name a Supreme Court justice (no, really, ask President Obama and Merrick Garland if that’s how it works). The President appoints, the Senate confirms or does not confirm. (Note: The Senate should act when they have a nominee; this current thing with Garland is a constitutional travesty and those actively involved should be ashamed. ’nuff said.) A person who can’t make it though that gauntlet doesn’t get the gig. It doesn’t matter who Hillary or Donald appoint if that appointee can’t get confirmed. Confirmation power lies in the Senate.


3 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned This Election Cycle

  1. Rick, great thoughts here and I agree completely. I also “wasted” my vote. But a friend told me that the only wasted vote is one that goes against your principles and conscience. Thanks for sharing this.


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