A vote of conscience…

There was a minor outcry here in Maryland last week when our moderately Republican governor of this deeply blue state cast his vote for the corpse of Ronald Reagan. It took about 30 seconds for social media to start glowing with dozens of “Hogan threw away his vote” posts.

I’ve been hearing the outcry that voting for anyone except a Republican or a Democrat is throwing away your vote since before I was even registered. Here’s the thing, the idea that someone is throwing away their vote is utter bullshit. Let me tell you why.

You see, despite what people seem to want to tell me, my vote belongs to me. It’s not bought and owned property of whatever candidate has my usually preferred letter after their name… and it’s certainly not automatically destined for the other just because he seems less bad than the other major party option. We’ve puttered along far too long with parties that assume “well, they have to vote for one of us.” 


I went along with their line of reasoning for a long time myself, but this year is the end of that. I’ve absolutely finished casting my last vote for the “lesser.”  

I’ve voted this year for Jo Jorgensen because she’s the better option and speaks more to the issues I care about than either the Republican incumbent or the Democratic challenger. We don’t agree on every position… and I’m ok with that, because if your default setting is maximizing personal liberty, I don’t think you can go too far wrong in most cases.

There are plenty of people who will tell me I tossed my vote just like my governor did, but it’s the first vote for president I’ve cased in 12 years that I’m not almost embarrassed by. I like Jo and thing she’d be an admirable president… but in all honesty, the corpse of Ronald Reagan would still be a better president than either major party candidate, so even that’s a vote of conscience. 

Friendly reminder…

I don’t get too wrapped up in it, but I do keep a partial ear towards the ongoing coverage of this year’s election. I feel like I’m going to repeatedly deliver a reminder to everyone that despite what they may think they learned in their freshman civics class, we don’t have a national election for president in this country.

We have fifty state elections for president – or more technically we have 50 state elections to select the electors who will, in turn, vote for president. 

This is why I grit my teeth every time I see some news prognosticator talking about who’s up or down in national polls. How a candidate is playing across the vast sweep of the American continent is interesting to know, but mostly irrelevant to telling us who’s most likely to win election as president. 

The fact that election to the highest office in the land currently requires winning the majority of electors and not the majority of votes on election day is the crux of the argument for those who want to abolish the Electoral College in favor of a direct national vote for president. Those have been the “rules of the game” the dawn of the republic. While the average citizen may not be clear on that point, no one who seriously follows politics has any confusion about how the system works.

The Democratic Party managed to dominate elections through large swaths of the 20th century – while playing by those long-established rules of the game. In the 21st century their party platform has been structured in such a way as to consolidate strong support in costal and urban areas – while largely doing nothing to speak to their historic rural and rust belt bases of support. That runs the total number of votes up in these stronghold areas without broadening the base of support in any meaningful way. The Republican machine, not being operated by political idiots, crafted their message to pick up as many of those formerly Democratically leaning voters as possible. Republicans have had a decade or more of running the table in areas that would have been a no contest win for the average Democratic candidate of yore. 

So, here’s the thing. Instead of pitching a hissy fit that the same rules everyone has played under for more than 200 years are suddenly no longer fair, maybe take a look at the party platform and figure out why you’re mostly attracting voters along the coasts and in the big cities while finding little support in the other parts of the country. The problem isn’t the rules – it’s a failure to connect with voters “out there” in flyover country and to gather up some of the electors that go with them.

If the goal isn’t to win elections by appealing to a broad subset of voters then the crusade to abolish the Electoral College is far more about gaining power than it is about the sanctity of the electoral process. At least have the stones to admit it.

Election month…

I’m old enough to remember a time when we had an election day in America. On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November everyone showed up at their designated poling place and voted. By 11:00 that night the results were reported on the three major networks and everyone went to bed more or less satisfied that the results were the results.

What we seem to have now is an election month instead of just a day. We have early voting for a few weeks, then we have actual election day, then the batch of ballots that someone finds unsecured somewhere, then there’s the inevitable batch of recounts and legal challenges that stretch out for God knows how long. It doesn’t feel like we’re making progress on this front. In fact I tend to think we’re making the opposite of progress.

I don’t foresee a circumstance that will take is back to a place where we all agree to just show up on one day to register our vote in the local elementary school, or fire hall, or church basement… but I think we should. We’ve overcomplicated the plumbing on what should be a very simple exercise of the franchise. We’ve over complicated it and everyone is busy looking for the perfect way to stop up the drain.

Sometimes the old ways aren’t better because they’re the old ways – they’re better because they’re just better.

Election eve…

It’s election eve in America… and for most people who go through their day happily oblivious to the machinations of electoral politics, that largely means that the wall to wall TV and radio ads are about to give it a rest. At least for a little while. With partisanship cranked up to 11, whatever the outcome is will be sure to be met with a new wave of blistering commentary sweeping across social media. That’ll be fun to watch for a day or two, but it’s not the big story.

What I’m most focused on is seeing if our friendly neighborhood pollsters have managed to work the kinks out after being so patently bad at their jobs in 2016. The vote will be what the vote is, of course, but I remain enough of a student of political science to be academically curious about how we’ve gotten so awful at prognosticating those results in advance. I’m even more curious to see if someone has cracked the code on a way to make polling data worth a damn again or if the whole concept is one that’s been hopelessly upended by changes in technology, society, and demographics.

I won’t bother you tonight with anything trite like “it doesn’t matter who you vote for, just go vote,” because I obviously think it’s incredibly important who gets your vote. Instead, I’ll encourage you to educate yourself on the issues important to you. In my mind the only thing worse for democracy than an apathetic electorate is one that goes along with whatever their friends, family, or favorite celebrity say or what the ads tell them to do because they’re too lazy to do their own homework. Elections aren’t a time for blindly following the herd, they’re one of the few moments when standing on your own convictions actually matters.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Just one thing really. That one thing, the United States Senate. Those useless douchecanoes shut the government down for three days, accomplished nothing, and seem to be doing everything in their power to find themselves right back in the same position in a few short weeks. Funding the government is pretty much one of the only things the founders specifically called out the Congress to do. Everything else – including dreaming up their favorite political causes of the day are basically side business – and ways to raise money for the next campaign. For the entire length of my career – fifteen years and counting – they have proven to be incredibly (and reliably) inept at getting the job done.

In retrospect, I suppose I should have just gone ahead and pursued a career as a Senator… because apparently it means all you have to do is dick around on someone else’s dime and occasionally go on television and confirm to the public that you’re a blowhard piece of shit.

I’m beginning to think it’s not term limits we need, but a page borrowed from out parliamentary cousins. The ability to launch a vote of no confidence against the ruling coalition when they can’t get a basic vote passed feels like something we really should have in our collective quiver. Forcing the whole membership of the Congress to stand for a snap election after all sides have proven themselves incapable of governing would be even better. Sure, they still probably couldn’t get a damned thing done, but that would save us from having to wait for a scheduled election to experience the joy of voting them out.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Week in and week out this space is reserved with near epic exclusivity for What Annoys Jeff this Week? As the only recurring feature of this blog and almost always the most read thing that ends up here every week, you can understand that I’m hard pressed to move it for any reason. I write that intro purely to highlight how strongly I have to feel about something to deviate from years long precedent. Fortunately, I also find this week’s issue an annoyance, but one deserving a post all its own rather than as part of a set.

In the wake of the election the memes have flowed hot and heavy from both sides of the political spectrum. The one that’s sat worst with me, though, is one that extorts Trump supporters to explain their vote to their gay, foreign, black, or otherwise non-white friends and then proclaims them to be bigots, xenophobes, and racists. The internet hasn’t done much for the fine art of subtlety.

Let me be clear on this: I cast my vote in the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump. He was not my first choice. In fact he was not even my second choice. On the morning of election day, however, he was the only one of the field of candidates with a chance to win that even remotely represented a slate of issues that I find non-negotiable. He also opens his mouth and often spews a whole laundry list of ideas that I find morally abhorrent.

I like to think that my gay, foreign, black, and otherwise non-white friends are bright enough to understand that I don’t cast my vote on any single issue. I hope they understand that the world is a complex place, far too complex to be governed by just one or two issues. I hope they If they don’t, my words here are wasted. If their minds are closed to any ideas beyond their own, likewise, these words are wasted.

I’ve spent the last eight years alternately condemning and supporting policy ideas put forward by President Obama. I spent the eight years before that condemning and supporting policies put forward by President Bush. I have every intention of continuing that trend beginning on January 20th when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United State. If my thoughtful and objective analysis of policy issues isn’t sufficient to pass whatever stringent standards someone establishes for themselves and their circle, well then, I suppose I’ll be able to live with that too. I don’t now nor do I intend to expect my friends to think as one hive mind. If you’re my friend and that’s what you expect of me, I’m afraid you’re going to find me a terrible disappointment. Even so, I won’t apologize for that.

Election night prognostication…

So if you will all indulge at least one more post about the election of 2016, with polls a few hours from closing here on the East Coast it’s time for a little prognostication from your kindly local proprietor. It was a busy day today and I didn’t have time to do much reading or casting entrails or reviewing exit polling data, but that’s not the kind of thing that would ever stop me from giving you my two cents about what I think is going to happen tonight. To put it another way, my opinion on this is going to be educated rather than purely informed.

With all that said, you’re probably wondering what the election results are going to look like. Here’s my best guess of where things will stand once the dust settles and the last votes are tabulated: Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States. The Republicans will maintain a razor slim majority in the US Senate (51-49) and the House of Representatives will continue to be Republican controlled by a small, but comfortable margin.

In the end I think what we’ll find is that we’ve spent billions of dollars on this election season and absolutely nothing of significance will change. Washington will still be gridlocked. There will be even fewer moderate voices on both sides and the interminable bickering will continue for 25 months until the first voices start “exploring” opportunities to run in the presidential election of 2020.

That’s my best guess on where we end up when this long election cycle reaches it’s agonizing end. We’ll all have a few less friends, we’ll be a little more jaded, and politics will continue as usual. Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Election Eve in America, or I’ll never see the day…

Well, it’s once again election eve in America. The importance of election day as a single day of civic duty has been mitigated somewhat by new laws that allow early voting. In many places, the election has been on us for weeks now already. I’ve voted absentee from time to time, but whenever it has been in any way feasible, I make an effort to vote on the day itself. It’s just one of those quirky ways that the traditionalist in me makes itself known, I suppose.

I overhead someone today commenting that they were glad that it was about to be over. “Not even close,” I thought to myself. Even if there aren’t month long recounts, challenges in the courts, and general electoral dysfunction, we’re simply setting stage for four years of of political infighting as vicious as any we’ve seen in living memory. The extreme left won’t be happy until we’ve dug ourselves into a Socialist Worker’s Paradise. The extreme right, in the same vein, hasn’t shown any indication of giving up the fight to reset our clocks to 1856. There are a litany of means and methods determined minority on either side can forestall any movement within the creaking machinery of government. Now if that determined minority exists on both flanks, well, the stage is set for things to get awfully interesting… or awfully frustrating depending on how objective you’re willing to be as an outside observer.

Throw away the polls. Ignore the prognosticators. The only thing that anyone knows for sure is that when the last of tomorrow’s presidential votes is tabulated the party that’s left on the outside looking in while resist mightily at every step. That’s the nature of the beast we’ve created – and as long as we as an electorate steadfastly refuse to accept any more than two major political parties it’s the beast we’re stuck with.

The good news is that there aren’t likely to be tanks in the streets tomorrow night. Cities probably aren’t going to burn. The bad news is that we’re going to finish the night even more divided than ever. The pol who figures out a way to crack the code on that is going to roll into office with a mandate like no other… but I’m not holding my breath on seeing that day.

Shit sandwich, or The election of 2016…

By this time next week the presidential election of 2016 will theoretically be over. The polls will be closed, anyway. Getting to the final results of the election may well drag out for weeks after that. But at least the coverage will shift from the electoral horserace to an dirty hot mess in the judicial system. Then we can crank the nastiness on both sides all the way up to eleven. Sigh.

Until today I was all set to cast my vote for the Libertarian candidate. I say was because this morning I saw that the Libertarian vice presidential candidate offered up an interview that turned into more than a passing attempt at defending the actions of the Democratic candidate for president for failing to protect sensitive and classified electronic information, going so far as calling her a “person of good moral character.” That leaves me with a very large question mark when it comes to Bill Weld’s judgment and suitability to serve as Vice President. If he really does think mishandling this type of information is no big deal, I can’t in good conscience give him my vote any more than I could give it to Hillary Clinton herself.

My philosophies generally tend to run libertarian. If a man wants to get his jollies with another man, it doesn’t hurt me. If a person wants to snort cocaine on their bathroom floor until their nose falls off, again, it’s no harm to me. This country use to be about maximizing the liberty of the individual and should be again, since we have seen time after time that the solution of adding more government so regularly causes more harm than good.

Although I strongly supported John McCain’s candidacy, his selection of Sarah Palin as his running made cost him my vote in 2008. I simply couldn’t abide her religio-right wing views. If I’m to maintain my intellectual consistency, how can I not then deny Gary Johnson my vote when his running mate proves similarly unsuited to the office in my estimation?

The Johnson-Weld ticket was my refuge of last resort in an election season of discontent. I will not cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. Weld’s commentary has made my assumed vote for Gary Johnson nearly untenable. So I’m left with the Republican candidate who I find profoundly objectionable for any number of other reasons.

So does anyone want to remind me how you go about eating a shit sandwich?

Too close for comfort…

As the shitshow that is the 2016 presidential election swings through Indiana, I’m very aware that the major party choices are in all likelihood coming down to either someone I will always think of as an unindicted felon who I could never trust or a professional flimflam artist who I could never respect. I’ve followed politics for my entire adult life and I honestly have no idea what to make of or do with these options. The idea that either of them is a fit successor to the seat vacated by His Excellency George Washington is nothing short of incomprehensible.

I usually try reminding myself that the nature of the body politic is elastic and ever changing, that through it all the Republic endures. Given the increasing rate at which the two parties and wide cross-sections of the populace are polarizing and the ever widening chasm between them, even the idea of endurance begins to feel like it might be too much of a stretch.

As I’ve noted on more than one occasion, being in reliable blue Maryland, my vote for the top of the ballot carries very little meaning in the shifting fortunes of presidential politics. Mercifully there are still down ballot races where it will have a prayer of moving the bubble ever so slightly. Even knowing that I keep coming back to the idea that in November we’re going to elect one of these creatures as the next Commander-in-Chief. Seeing either one of the douchcanoes at the top of my rating chain, even if it is eleven layers removed, places them far too close for comfort.