Vote Your Conscience

Before Donald Trump became the “presumptive” Republican nominee, I was quite vocal about my opposition to his candidacy and his unfitness to be President. Once he was named as the presumptive nominee, I decided to tone it down and wait to see if there was going to be a miracle in Cleveland.

There wasn’t, despite the efforts of good people to get a rules change to allow delegates to vote their consciences. I applaud our Colorado delegation – many of whom I know personally – for sticking to their promises and voting for Senator Ted Cruz as they had committed to doing.

I’ve been against the candidacy of Donald Trump since he first announced. I don’t like the man, I don’t trust him, and I don’t think that he cares about the things I do: government limited to its proper role, the Constitution and the unalienable rights defined in the Declaration of Independence.

I wrote a blog post four months ago in which I said I would vote for the Libertarian candidate instead of him. It should go without saying that I would NEVER vote for Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein, and in fact vigorously oppose their candidacies as well.

In recent months, I’ve watched as those of us on the libertarian/conservative Right have been bitterly fighting among ourselves over the candidacy of Donald Trump and whether or not we should vote for him. Many people I like and respect say that they are going to stand on their principles and cannot vote for Trump. Other people I like and respect say that we MUST vote for Trump because not voting for Trump is the same as voting for Hillary. Among my circle of friends and acquaintances, only a very small number have actually been for Trump since the beginning. Most were supporters of Cruz, Rubio or Kasich. Now, some of them are coming around to supporting Trump out of party loyalty or opposition to Hillary Clinton.

He Makes It Difficult

Between boneheaded statements and ill-advised publicity stunts Donald Trump seems to be going out of his way to lose. His ham-handed speech at the Western Conservative Summit – whining about the Colorado caucus to an audience who largely supports it – was an example of this. His selection of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as a running mate lends itself to the idea that he might actually be serious about winning, but unpredictability is his hallmark.

Many people I know have said they plan to vote Libertarian instead of voting for Trump. Philosophically I have one foot in the Libertarian party anyway, since the Republicans seem to keep ignoring the proper role of government and clinging to the losing social issues (abortion and same-sex marriage) that are driving minorities and millennials away from the party in droves.

Sadly, when you tell a Trump supporter this, you get a lecture about how not voting for Trump is the same as a vote for Hillary (it’s not, but whatever) or how you’re throwing your vote away.

I will confess that as I contemplate a Hillary Clinton presidency, I find many aspects truly appalling. From the in-your-face gloating of her supporters to the loss of the Supreme Court, further corruption and crony statism; disrespect for the rule of law and a continuation of the disastrous Obama years, a Hillary Clinton administration is truly nightmarish.

However, as I contemplate a Trump presidency, I find many aspects equally appalling. While some of his supporters claim that he will “hire good people” who will somehow magically “do the right things”, I am skeptical. There is nothing in Donald Trump’s record to support the notion that he would be willing to listen to others, take their advice or even allow them to tell him what to do. Oh no. I suspect that in any board or Cabinet meeting, there is one top dog, and his name is Donald.

Another fantasy of the Trump supporters is that he would somehow “change” to be more mature, more presidential, more this or more that. I am skeptical of this as well. The man is 70 years old. People don’t change in substantial, meaningful ways that late in life, especially if they think that what they are doing is working for them. If Donald Trump is elected, it will be a vindication and a validation of everything he’s done and said since he first announced his candidacy. He won’t change. To think otherwise is to be dangerously naïve.

Trump is an authoritarian bully, and the more rabid of his supporters, especially those who supported him from the beginning, are bullies as well. The first death threat I received in over three years of political activism came from a Trump supporter after the April State Assembly. Even some of the more educated and principled people tend to become a little angry when they talk about how “I must vote for Trump”. I suspect the anger stems from the fact they don’t like Trump either, and are resentful of feeling they have to support him.

The Third Party Alternative

This week while the Democrats are having their orgy of extremism in Philadelphia, it’s been interesting to watch the reactions of the Bernie Sanders supporters to his abdication of the “revolution” and the leaked emails showing Democrat party corruption at its most obvious. Many Bernie supporters walked out of the convention, and I am hearing a lot of them saying that they can’t vote for Hillary. It’s richly ironic to watch the same argument playing out on the Left: “A vote for Jill (Stein) is a vote for Trump”.

Sanders Meme

The truth is, there have always been other parties at play in presidential elections, but with few exceptions they don’t make a difference.

The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971 here in Colorado. A look back at the history of Libertarian candidates in presidential elections shows that the LP doesn’t make much of a difference at the presidential level.

Conscience Image 001


In forty years of voting, the LP just reached the 1 million vote/1% threshold in the 2012 election with current nominee Gary Johnson also being the 2012 nominee. Before then, the number of LP votes amounted to little more than a rounding error.

“But”, people say, “voting for Libertarians takes away votes from Republicans, thereby enabling the Democrats to win”. While this may be true in other national, state and local races, on the presidential level it is not. The table below shows what happens when the entire Libertarian vote is added to the Republican vote. (Of course, there are some left-leaning Libertarians who would have voted for Democrat or other left-leaning candidates instead).

Conscience Image 002

As the table shows, in no case where the Democrat won the election did the Libertarian vote make any difference. The Libertarian vote does not even come close to the losing spread in the elections where the Republican lost. One final point: the numbers for the other parties are so small that the electoral votes do not change at all. The Libertarian Party has earned only one electoral vote since 1972, and that one was from a “faithless elector”.

The Green party, which has been on the presidential ballot since 1996 actually had their biggest vote count in 2000, the year that Ralph Nader ran as a Green and most likely threw the election to George W. Bush. In that year, a third party run did make a difference, to the chagrin of the Democrats who almost had a President Gore.

If enough disaffected Sanders supporters and other far-left individuals vote for Jill Stein (who is polling at 3% to 5% as of July 25, 2016) it would probably pull up to a couple million votes away from Hillary Clinton, but is that enough to make a difference?

The biggest impact of a third party in presidential elections in the last 50 years was in 1992, when Ross Perot ran as an Independent and won 18.9% of the popular vote (but no electoral votes). Is Johnson or Stein capable of pulling that many votes away from the major parties?

The bottom line is: America has a two-party system. It’s going to take well over 65 million votes to win. It’s highly unlikely that any third party candidate can garner enough votes to win outright; but it is certainly possible in this crazy year that a third party candidate can get enough votes to throw the election into the House of Representatives. That outcome would be tumultuous, but not without precedent in our history. In fact, it may be the only way to avoid one of two disastrous outcomes.


Conclusion – Vote Your Conscience

At the Republican National Convention, candidate and Senator Ted Cruz told the audience to “Vote Your Conscience”. I loved that moment, because I’ve been saying it for weeks. (And it was ironic it made the Trump supporters mad. If voting for Donald Trump is the right thing to do, why wouldn’t it be “voting your conscience?)

This election year anything can happen. In 1856, the two-party system of the Whigs and the Democrats collapsed. The Whigs split with northern Whigs largely joining the new Republican party and southern Whigs joining the “Know Nothing” movement. Will 2016 see a similar breakup of the Republican and/or Democratic parties?

I doubt it. The Democrats, ever the collectivists, are already rallying around the corrupt 1%er they’ve nominated for President. They are much better at burying their differences and “unity”, coalescing around their candidates and getting them elected. The enthusiasm I’ve seen in the Democratic convention far exceeds any that I saw at the Republican convention.

The GOP won’t break up either, I don’t think, even though the fault lines between the libertarian-minded Republicans (like me) and the social conservatives are becoming more pronounced. The evangelical conservatives are more at odds with the pragmatic conservatives, and the alt-right elements that are Trump’s most scary supporters have no place in a national party that wants to win.

In any event, I think everybody should vote their conscience. If that means a vote for Trump because Hillary is just that bad, great. If it means a vote for a third party because the two major party nominees are horrendous, that’s fine too. For the Bernie supporters who so ardently embrace the failed philosophy of socialism, a vote for Jill Stein would be in line with your values and so you should vote for her. And yes, if you believe that Hillary Clinton would make a good president despite her many failures and flaws, you should vote accordingly.

Or, maybe don’t vote at all.

But what MUST happen, especially for those of us on the Right, is we must RESPECTFULLY agree to disagree on who we are going to vote for, mend fences, and get busy working together to elect good Republican candidates on the down-ballot races. Conservatism has already lost this election. The more we fight among ourselves about the top of the ticket, the more we endanger the down-ballot races and the more we empower the Left, who are uniting behind their ticket and the most progressive party platform in history.

We need to do a better job of promoting the concepts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that we hold so dear to a country that is increasingly going astray with its embrace of socialism and collectivism; anarchy and moral relativity.

Whatever you do, get out and vote in November. And please, vote your conscience.

By Richard D. Turnquist

July 28, 2016


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