It’s the end of the Vote as we know it


In the spring of 2015 when the first ‘Ready for Hillary’ PAC banner ads started showing up with my email they were met with a shrug and a groan. The newly minted Republican Senate wasn’t 12 weeks into their term, but that didn’t stop the eager fundraisers from plying their trade. The smart money was forecasting a Jeb Bush/Hillary Clinton showdown, but missed half the picture: the erstwhile New York Senator did persevere through a serious challenge from her left flank, with a little help from her friends; Governor Bush was not so fortunate. He ran into a populist buzzsaw from New York with a regular audience of eager partisans who rallied behind Donald Trump’s vow to “make America great again.” The beltway Queen’s path to power remains obstructed by the Prince of Darkness.

The campaigning and debating that narrowed the field to this pair has been a grind, one that inspired Sheryl Crow to launch a petition that would “reduce the amount of time we are exposed to presidential campaigns.” The 18 months of jousting have been enough to drive people away from politics and point them towards the local tavern; I have occasionally sought refuge there. But the endless coverage has forced the candidates to answer questions, brought out their reactions to each other, and to real-world events. Donald Trump’s fondness for men like Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein has been on display, so has his enthusiasm for race-baiting, waterboarding and wild hyperbole. The billionaire developer’s failings, like his self-inflicted wounds, have been left out for everyone who will cast a ballot to see.

So have Secretary Clinton’s faults. The former first lady has been stubbornly disingenuous on key points, like when she told Chris Wallace the FBI had publicly confirmed her contention no classified material passed through her private server and when Mrs. Clinton was cornered at one debate over her praise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. At times she has shown a real disregard for people in West Virginia and parts beyond when she spoke of putting “a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” and joked about how half of Trump voters should be consigned to a “basket of deplorables.” What’s the fuss? As a candidate, the Democrat nominee has been Donald Trump’s polar opposite: she’s followed a highly scripted political prevent defense; so when flubs like these sneak out they offer a peek at the real Hillary, one this aspiring president would like to bottle up.

At this point I’m still jousting over which candidate to get behind on Tuesday. The choice would be relatively easy if party label were a deciding factor; it was enough to put Mitt Romney at the top of my ballot in 2012. The former Massachusetts governor had the persona of a used car salesman, but it wasn’t enough to inspire a shift towards President Obama…or away from both of them. There is a temptation to go third party and ignore the argument that a vote for Gary Johnson is a wasted one — all the more when the difference between a Republican and a Libertarian is one of degree, not philosophy. That certainty flickered when the one-time New Mexico governor was asked about Syria during an interview on MSNBC and fumbled the answer. Despite my reservations, I’m willing to cast what would be little more than a protest vote, one borne of antipathy towards Trump and Clinton. It’s the best choice left.

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November 8, 2016 · 7:20 am

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