I recently received a Facebook message from a Houston Chronicle reporter who is doing profiles on local voters. He’s trying to get beyond those who are supporting the two major candidates to also interview folks who are considering other options, and he noticed my Facebook posts about Evan McMullin. I asked him to pose his questions to me by email, and he did so. My reply turned into something of a major treatise of my political views. I know he can’t possibly publish the whole thing, but I decided to post it here for those who are curious about where I’m coming from.
I’m 38 years old, never married, was born in Maryland, and I’ve lived in Spring Branch since I was 6 years old. I own a condo and my younger sister lives with me. I have a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management, own my own business as a consultant for nonprofit organizations, and also work part-time for a Christian nonprofit.
I’m devoutly Christian (Protestant evangelical, if you want a label, although I am becoming increasingly skeptical of all labels and the baggage that is now associated with the word “evangelical”). My relationship with Jesus shapes every aspect of my life and my worldview, which of course drives my political opinions as well. Intellectual honesty, consistency, and principle are very important to me – more important than party politics. This election cycle has really made me reflect on that distinction! In general, I would say that I hold conservative views on social issues and libertarian views on economic issues. I value individual liberty over security/ authoritarianism, but I also believe that American military strength is an important (if very imperfect) stabilizing influence in the world and that we cannot afford to be isolationists when it comes to world affairs.
I don’t consider politics to be my calling in life, but I’ve enjoyed dabbling in discussions on Facebook and in other venues – I have a fairly diverse group of Facebook friends, so I read things from a lot of different perspectives! I did experiment with being more involved in the political process back in 2006, when I voted in the Republican primary and then went to my precinct meeting. Much to my surprise, I found myself elected to the senatorial district convention and then the state Republican convention as a delegate. But that experience was deeply disillusioning for me. I was horrified by the attitudes I heard expressed toward immigrants and the immigration issue.
I believe it’s important to secure our borders, but I also believe that we need to simultaneously drastically reform our immigration process (allowing the free market to set “limits” rather than trying to do so artificially through law) and provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who are already here. The three issues are inextricably linked in my mind; I don’t think you can do any one of the three “first” while ignoring the others. So at that 2006 state convention, I appeared before the Platform Committee to present what I hoped was a more balanced point of view as a proposed addition to the platform, and I was literally boo’ed out of the room by the spectators. At that point, I felt that I could either devote my life to politics and changing hearts and minds, or I could leave that task for others while devoting myself to other callings and continuing to vote my conscience.
I opted for the latter. I don’t have the stomach to be a political operative. But I guess you could say that was the beginning of a more arms’-length relationship with the Republican party for me. I have continued to vote in Republican primaries, generally looking for candidates who have a balanced view on the immigration issue while being solid on other issues that are important to me. If you had asked me before this year, I still would have said, “Yes, I’m a Republican, but I don’t necessarily agree with the party on everything.”
That has changed this year with the rise of Donald Trump and his ugly brand of authoritarianism. When I first heard he was running, I laughed out loud. I considered him a reality tv sideshow freak who couldn’t begin to stand a chance against the serious candidates in the race. Then all of a sudden he was leading in the polls, and I stopped laughing and started listening. Unfortunately, what I heard echoed back was a monstrous exaggeration of the worst things I’d heard in the Republican party ten years before. I wrote a blog piece about it back in February, which still accurately represents my views of Donald Trump, so rather than retype all that, I’ll just give you the link: https://yourtaxdollars.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/why-i-believe-donald-trump-is-more-dangerous-to-conservativism-than-clinton-or-sanders/ (His hateful, irresponsible, ignorant, racist, and misogynistic utterances since that time have only confirmed and deepened my opinion.)
All through the primary season, I hoped for better things from the Republican party. Ben Carson was the candidate who most interested me, and I actually ended up voting for Rubio in the primary, but I would have voted for any of them over Trump. And then, one by one, they folded and gave Trump their support. Each of them forever lost my respect when they did that, because I see it as a move of political expediency and partisan politics over principle. Quite a few so-called evangelical leaders have also forever lost my respect by jumping on the Trump bandwagon, some of them long before he was the “inevitable” nominee. My sister graduated from Liberty University, but I despise Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s opportunism in embracing Trump. It’s deeply discouraging and disillusioning – every time I think I’ve found someone to admire for standing on principle, they seem to cave in. I am wondering now who will be left with the moral authority to gather the tatters of the conservative banner once the madness of this election cycle has passed. All the “elder statesmen” of the movement seem to have gulped down the hemlock-laced Kool-Aid, whether reluctantly or enthusiastically.
However much of a walking disaster I think Donald Trump is, I still can’t vote for Hillary Clinton, with whom I disagree on nearly every major issue and whose character I deeply mistrust. I reject the argument that a third-party vote is a “wasted” vote. I know it is extremely unlikely (not quite impossible!) that a third-party candidate will win this election, but I’ve pretty much written off this election as a lost cause. I am looking to the future. And I believe the best hope for the future is to break the two-party, first-past-the-post system that gave us two such deplorable candidates.
For most of my lifetime, the Republican party has gotten by in elections by selecting “moderate” candidates who don’t really represent the views of people like me, and scaring us into voting for them by holding up the other party’s candidate as the bogeyman (bogeywoman?). This year, that system has backfired by producing an extreme candidate that only a minority section of Republicans actually want, and whom many people like me will actually refuse to vote for under any circumstances. I believe that we need a reform in the way we narrow down the field of candidates, or we will continue to get results like this as the decent candidates cancel each other out. One great reform would be to have a point system where voters rank candidates from best to worst, and the candidate with the most points wins. Trump could never have won under a system like that. It would instead produce a consensus candidate that the largest number of people in the party could agree on. I also believe that we need viable third and fourth parties to break up the Republican – Democrat monopoly, keeping them accountable through competition and forcing them to build consensus through coalitions.
And I believe that the most likely way to produce these kinds of reforms is for a disgusted electorate to vote for third-party candidates in noticeable numbers. The parties need to not take their “base” voters for granted, and losing them for an election cycle would force them to make changes that ensure they are building real consensus. In the broadest terms, people need to stop firing quippy soundbites past each other and need to start engaging in the kind of thoughtful, reasoned political discourse that actually shapes the way they think and act. Slogans, signs, and t-shirts do not govern a nation. A system that forces us to listen to each other, speak substantively, and work things through will produce immeasurably better results than one based on strategic maneuvering and demagoguery.
So with Trump and Clinton as the nominees, I want to vote for a third-party candidate. (Some people I know have decided to leave the Presidential race blank on their ballot, but that option is unattractive to me. Maybe it’s just my personality not to leave blanks on forms, but I don’t want my reasoned and principled abstention to be mistaken for apathy.)
The question remains, which candidate? Jill Stein is too far left to even be a consideration for me. The Libertarian Party would seem to be my natural second home, but the more I read about Gary Johnson, the less I like him. Apart from the abortion issue (more on that below), he holds a number of positions that are not consistent with classic libertarianism as I understand it. I also looked into Darrell Castle but wasn’t enthusiastic about some of his positions.
In August, I first heard that Evan McMullin had launched an independent candidacy for President. Intrigued, I began to look into his website and interviews. Listening to him is like a breath of fresh air…. like the feeling you got as a small child when a grown-up walked in the room and stopped the bigger kids from ugly squabbling with a few well-reasoned words. He gives the impression that he knows what he’s talking about, and that he has the calm temperament and strength of character to carry him through a crisis. The political platform posted on his website is a little thin, skips some things that are important to me, and is not 100% what I would write myself…. but it’s pretty good as far as it goes, better than anything I’ve seen from any other candidate.
I’ve been “burned” enough in recent months to be slow to commit to any candidate, especially on such brief acquaintance. But as things now stand, I’m likely to write in Evan McMullin’s name on my ballot in November. He did succeed in registering as a write-in candidate in Texas, and I understand he is available in 33 other states as well. He’s not going to win the election, apart from some bizarre twist involving throwing it into the House of Representatives and brokering a compromise (which I concede is nearly impossible). But as I said, if enough people vote for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Darrell Castle, Evan McMullin, and whatever other options are out there, I believe the major parties will be forced to institute some much-needed reforms to give us better choices in the future.
You asked what issues are most important to me. I know I talked a lot previously about the immigration issue, and that is important to me, but actually abortion is still the top issue as far as I’m concerned. If you believe (as I do) that human life begins at conception and that a human embryo from its earliest days is deserving of the same respect, rights, and protections as a human infant or adult, then I don’t know how you could put the abortion issue anywhere but on top. It would be like living in Hitler’s Germany and considering the concentration camps to be a secondary issue. We as a nation are guilty on a daily basis of genocide that far surpasses anything committed by the most atrocious war criminals history can produce, and this slaughter is openly celebrated and embraced by a large portion of the population. The only difference is that the victims have no names, no one to mourn them, no opportunity to have built a life that would miss them; they are put to death out of sight, out of mind, amid the trappings of the sort of care that is supposed to improve and extend human life. Anything I can do to stem the slaughter, in the political arena or any other arena, is a righteous deed.
That said, Trump’s supposed “pro-life” position does not in any way incline me to vote for him. He has mouthed words he does not understand or believe in the interest of political expediency, as his past record and current incoherent ramblings clearly demonstrate. If anything could persuade me to hold my nose, close my eyes, plug my ears, and vote for him, it would be the slender hope that he would accidentally nominate Supreme Court justices who might be effective in rolling back the legal precedents that protect the ongoing slaughter. However, given Trump’s political opportunism and deep-seated lack of integrity, I consider that hope so slim as to be unworthy of influencing my vote. I believe the pro-life movement has done itself great harm by uncritically embracing politicians who pay it lip service while doing little to advance its cause; we need to reserve our support for those who are passionate and dedicated to making real progress in ending abortion.
Next on my list of critical issues is protection of personal liberty – freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. “Freedom of conscience” is so much broader and deeper than merely “freedom of worship” (which is sometimes wrongly used as if it were an equivalent expression). Our consciences dictate action in every aspect of our lives, not merely rituals and ceremonies of worship. Historically, we have gone to great lengths to protect minorities from being forced to commit actions that violate their consciences (or forced to abstain from actions that their consciences require) – even granting exemptions from laws that apply to the rest of the population. The standard used to be that individuals could live out their beliefs, however far out of the mainstream, as long as they did not deprive others of life, liberty, or property. Now the standard seems to be that individuals can live out their beliefs as long as they do not cause emotional distress or inconvenience to others whose values are closer to the mainstream. The culture that brought us “safe spaces” is now redefining and re-prioritizing human rights in such a way that I fear for the safety and livelihood of those who suddenly find themselves in disagreement with the latest whims of popular culture. I would look to our political leaders to stop the madness and re-establish the protection of the Constitution for everyone, however unpopular.
Domestically, I believe we need to get government spending under control, pay down the staggering national debt, and change the public mindset regarding the appropriate source of the “safety net” for vulnerable populations. Having worked for the past 15 years in the nonprofit sector, I believe that it is infinitely better equipped than the government to take care of people and elevate them to self-sufficiency. My work has included writing and administering government grants for nonprofits, and I see how well-meaning legislative limitations on funding end up doing much more harm than good. I want a government that will shift both responsibility and empowerment into the nonprofit sector to address most of our major domestic issues. I have some specific ideas about this that I wrote out here: https://yourtaxdollars.wordpress.com/a-better-way-to-go/
In foreign policy… the world is a mess. We’ve helped make it a mess with our well-meaning but inept attempts at making things better. We have earned a lot of hatred by naively supporting what we think are “the lesser of two evils” and by creating power vacuums that are filled by demagogues with horrendous human rights records. (Hm, this is starting to sound familiar.) I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a number of immigrants and refugees who provide insights you rarely hear in American media. We must do better. I don’t believe withdrawing from world affairs is the answer; we can’t just take our marbles and go home. But we also can’t look for quick, painless solutions that let us proclaim “Mission Accomplished!” after a few weeks while the real problems are only beginning. I wish I had the wisdom to fix the messes south of our border and in the Middle East and Europe and Africa. I don’t have an answer to tell the next President what to do. But he or she needs to listen to people who know – people from other countries who live in and understand the cultures and peoples involved.
In the meeting place between foreign and domestic policy, I also know that we cannot legislate our own prosperity by artificially separating ourselves from the rest of the world. Protective tariffs, minimum wage laws, draconian immigration policies, criminalizing poverty, ever-more-detailed building codes and labor laws… they are all part of an effort to create the “perfect American life” where no one within our shores is ever hungry or cold or injured or unemployed or sad, even if this is attained at the expense of other nations and our own most vulnerable citizens. Real life doesn’t work that way. You can’t make it so any more than you can give everyone good health care by passing a law that it must be so. We still live on the same planet as the people in the slums of Havana and Shanghai and Mexico City and Johannesburg. When we pass laws that “protect” and increase our standard of living at their expense, we create a day of reckoning for ourselves as surely as the nobility of pre-Revolution France who used supposed divine right to lord it over their peasants.
If you compare all of the above to Evan McMullin’s positions page (https://www.evanmcmullin.com/issues), perhaps you can begin to see why he intrigues me. I’m not expecting him to miraculously sweep into the Presidency and save us from all our ills, but perhaps my one small vote can combine with others to help him add a modicum of reason to the bedlam.