America is Voting Away the Democratic Republic
|No jokes this time; I'm in an "America is distressed" kind of mood|
In every presidential election since I've been old enough to vote, I've voted for the Republican candidate, even when I've found him severely lacking. I consider myself a conservative, though I've never registered as anything but a Libertarian. I believe the best paths to prosperity lie in limited government, decentralized power, and a capitalistic free market that is almost wholly divorced from bureaucratic meddling. Despite my beliefs that the government should also stay out of our bedrooms and should never try to dictate our personal moral choices, I've never been able to vote for a Democrat for president (though I've voted for a few down the ballot), mostly because I can't stomach the idea of carving us all into disparate groups, weighing the disadvantages of our races, classes, and genders, and then claiming that we're doing it to prove how equal we all are, not to mention how misguided I find liberal economic policies to be. I mention this because it's looking more and more like both the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate this year are going to be people I could never vote for.
Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee, and even among Democrats, she's pretty unpopular. Not many people were willing to battle her in the primaries, and a large part of that was the assumption that, after nearly eight years of Democratic control of the White House, the Republicans were poised to take advantage of a swing to the right. Clinton is a legacy candidate, someone who's been in politics her whole life and whose turn has come. Barack Obama upset her hopes in 2008, but now she goes largely unopposed, her only possible contender an avowed socialist. I can't vote for Clinton for the usual litany of complaints I have about Democrats, but also because she is such a political animal, morphing to suit the desires of whomever she's seeking campaign funds from, shrugging off contradictory statements she's made, demagoguing her political opposition, and refusing to be even remotely transparent while swearing up and down she'll be clear as a window in a glass house. Oh, and she's under an active criminal investigation by the FBI for her unsanctioned use of a private e-mail server while Secretary of State, her deletion of tens of thousands of official e-mails, her obstruction of justice, and her neglect when it comes to protecting our national security. If she weren't a Clinton, she'd have already been indicted by now, and would likely be in prison.
The Republicans could have pit almost anybody against Hillary Clinton and secured the general election for their party. There was so much enthusiasm for Republican ascendancy in the White House that there were at one point seventeen candidates vying for attention. Now, though, they've chosen the worst possible candidate from that enormous pool of options, an egomaniacal strongman who isn't afraid to be crass, offensive, racist, sexist, or unpresidential. He is, basically, the Democrat straw man made flesh. More than that, though, I find little about Donald Trump that could be classified as "conservative." He's an authoritarian who has no interest in shrinking government or finding common ground in a deeply divided political landscape. He simply wants to dictate how he wants things to go, and an enormous swath of the Republican base are cheering him on like the second coming. These are largely the same people who bolstered the Tea Party movement on things like opposition to Obamacare, opposition to executive overreach, a desire for fiscal discipline, and social conservatism, all things that Donald Trump does not stand for. In other words, the Trump movement has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a plurality of the Republican electorate isn't interested in having consistent principles or values; they just want to be ruled by a dictator who happens to say what they want to hear at any given moment. In many ways, he is far worse than Clinton, especially when it comes to his penchant for demagoguery and weakness on actual policy specifics. Say what you want about Clinton, but she actually does her homework and knows what she's talking about; Trump just gets on the stage and vomits forth whatever nonsense pops into his head.
If I pulled the metaphorical lever for either of these two candidates, I would be giving my approval to a person I honestly believe would do irreperable harm to my country. Since I have a conscience, that's not an option for me. I can not and will not vote for an authoritarian, regardless of their party affiliation. I will also not vote for one just to protest the other, because I'd rather lose an election than lose my principles. Unfortunately, with how much executive power has grown over the last few administrations (under the stewardship of both parties, mind you), I can no longer take solace in the checks and balances that are supposed to be in place to prevent the rise of a tyrant.
Even worse, there's a Supreme Court vacancy that our next president will fill. With justices becoming more and more partisan and polarized over the decades--and with the process of selecting them becoming more and more of a political farce--it's more important than ever to find a justice who can be impartial and principled. We won't be getting that from Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Instead, the Supreme Court will only get more fractured and divisive, in a time where that's the last thing we need, as a country.
And then there's the third branch of our federal government: the legislative one, Congress. They've completely abdicated their powers under the Constitution, after years and years of deferring to executive agencies and wasting their political capital on ridiculous impeachment hearings about sex scandals and shutdown blame games over a tiny fraction of a percent of future budget increases. Congress is all but useless now, and the last two presidents have railroaded over them with increasingly far-reaching executive orders, actions, and memoranda that have the full force of the law. Clinton and Trump have both promised to take us even further down that road if they become the next president, and I don't see Congress having the will to stop either of them.
What I'm getting at here is that this election season is not just a choice between two terrible candidates: it's the inevitable harbinger of American decline. Our constitutional system has been slowly bending for a century, and this is what it looks like when it finally breaks. I honestly and truly believe--with no hyperbole or unreasoned panic--that the American experiment is over. It lasted much longer than our founders predicted, but it has finally failed nonetheless. Representative democracy was a beautiful dream and an ideal I had utmost faith in as little as a year ago, but now the dream is over, the ideal is shattered by reality, and the people have risen up in one voice and declared that they no longer wish to have good, reasonable leaders or a system of checks and balances in place. They no longer wish to have the democratic republic.
It's not our leaders that have failed us. We can try to find other boogiemen to blame--special interests, the media, corporate America, atheism, religious fundamentalism, public education, the lizard people of the Illuminati, whatever floats your boat--but at the end of the day, the truth is we failed ourselves. I used to believe that the system is self-correcting, that given enough time and experience, our country would learn from its mistakes and try to do better. Needless to day, I don't believe that anymore. All I've seen, throughout my lifetime, is the system getting progressively worse, and at every step of the way when we've had a chance to fix the underlying problems, we decided the best course of action was to make those problems even more pervasive. The Supreme Court has continued to become less and less impartial; Congress has continued to become less and less powerful; our politics have become more and more polarized; our freedoms have gotten more and more abridged by exceptions, regulations, and secret intelligence programs; and the president has started to look more and more like a tyrannical despot.
I want to write that I don't know what has happened to my country, but I see it all too clearly. I still have hope it's not as bad as it almost certainly is, that there is still some semblance of a way we can right this sinking ship, but this election cycle has taken the one thing I had that gave me solace on the darkest days: faith. I no longer have any faith in this system. If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the best options it can give us in our time of real constitutional crisis, then this system is broken, probably beyond repair.
That's why I'm voting for the Libertarian candidate this year, assuming I bother to vote at all. I've always let my concerns about foreign policy keep me from voting for the Libertarian in past election cycles, but this year, I truly believe that the greatest existential threat we face comes not from any foreign country or violent ideology, but from our own leaders. I urge all of my readers, in the strongest possible terms, to vote Libertarian with me, because this country is on life support, and without a viable third option, it's only a matter of time before somebody pulls the plug.
-e. magill 5/4/2016