Now What? (Electoral Afterthoughts)

I can’t say it was my favorite birthday ever, or even a particularly good one, but it was an interesting evening. And long.

If you prefer to skip my due diligence — my recap of the races on my ballot and my predictions for them — and scroll down to the heading “Now What?” below, I won’t be hurt. Actually, I won’t even know.

Presidential Race

As I write this, it’s unclear what the final electoral vote totals will be in the presidential race. They say a few races are still too close to call: New Hampshire (probably Clinton), Michigan (probably Trump), Minnesota (probably Clinton), and Arizona (probably Trump). The present totals without these states are 279 for Mr. Trump and 218 for Mrs. Clinton. A win is 270 or better, a majority. If the four states I named go as I indicated, he’ll finish with 306, and she with 232. It’s a resounding victory for Mr. Trump, even though the popular vote totals at the moment seem to have him up by only one-fifth of a percentage point. (See my notes on the Electoral College.)

The Raw, Verbose Appendix to My Notes on the Presidential Election

If the title wasn’t enough of a warning, here’s one more: These notes are fairly raw, in places less than fully formed, haphazardly organized, and generally undocumented by links to data or other materials. They’re part of my thought process as a voter in the 2016 presidential election. Make of them what you will.

If you’re looking for my traditional voter’s guide, follow that link. All of this material was drafted for it but cut, so it wouldn’t be completely out of control.

Fragmentary General Thoughts

The anti-McMullin crowd, which keeps saying we don’t know enough about him and he’s not qualified, is glossing over the fact that we know a great deal about Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, including that they are profoundly unqualified.

I believe in a God of miracles. One way or another, we’re going to need a few. I think that, through Tuesday, we should pray for the voters. After that, we should pray for the winner. The less we want to do that, the more we need to.

David’s Handy Little Election Guide

Here’s my arguably handy, definitely idiosyncratic election guide for the 2016 general election. I considered posting it earlier for once, for the benefit (or at least bemusement) of early voters like myself, but Life Beyond the Blog (LBB) got in the way. Again.

I’ll tell you how I voted (or didn’t) in each race on my ballot, and I’ll tell you more or less briefly why. In some local or state matters, I’ll offer some detailed information along with my opinions. To the extent that the names and races on our respective ballots overlap, I hope my thoughts will at least be interesting. Or slightly and intermittently amusing. Or vexing. Or whatever works for you.

Notes and Thoughts on the Third Presidential Debate

It’s been nearly two weeks since I watched the third presidential debate live, and I’m only now finding time to clean up my notes and post them here. I apologize for the delay, but there’s something you should know.

A lot of fetid water has passed under the bridge since then, but the third debate is not old news. In terms of substance it’s probably the high point of the campaign. As we end the month of Icktober on the calendar but not in spirit, this is the debate you should watch — if you think our politics ought to be about policy; if you long for a bygone day when a presidential campaign wasn’t mostly about sleaze, thuggery, boorishness, and corruption; or if you want to compare the actions of the eventual winner to his or her declarations during the campaign.

I won’t offer a comprehensive summary of the debate; it’s simple enough to watch the whole thing on YouTube or at least read a complete transcript. (I recommend watching it, if you have 90 minutes.) I will try to give you the flavor of it, and I have a few thoughts on what was said.

Testing Evan McMullin

I did something for the first time last week: I went to hear an independent presidential candidate speak. The venue was the ballroom at the historic Provo Library. The candidate was Evan McMullin.

evan mcmullin
Evan McMullin

The crowd ranged in age from infants to senior citizens, but it was dominated by people who looked like college students, including lots of couples. Many of them looked quite married, which accounts for the infants. We were mere blocks from BYU, after all.

I’ve heard actual US presidents speak, at the White House and elsewhere, and I’ve always been closer to them than I was to the podium tonight, even though it’s not a large ballroom. And there was a pillar blocking my view. But that was okay.

Before I arrived, and while I waited for the event to begin, I fashioned a series of tests for the candidate. I’ll tell you what they were and how he did. But first . . .

Notes on the Second Presidential Debate

[Here are my notes on the first presidential debate and the vice presidential debate.]

My friends, welcome to The Freedom Habit, where we gaze into the abyss and report back, so you won’t have to.

You’re welcome. I’ll tell you how to thank me later.

The second presidential debate was Sunday evening. It was calculated by some to be the end of Donald Trump’s campaign, in the wake of some lecherous old audio someone released last week. It wasn’t that. Whether he won or not, I don’t know, but he survived for the moment.

I won’t say it was pretty.

I’ll tell you what I thought, and some of what was said, but if you want to be comprehensive, you’ll have to contemplate the abyss yourself. Video and a transcript are easy to find on the web.

It’s up to you to decide which of my thoughts are subjective and which are objective. I simply represent them as what I thought, either during or after the spectacle.

second presidential debate

Notes on the First Presidential Debate

I did it. Heaven help me, I did it. I watched the entire first presidential debate, from beginning to end.

I took only a few notes as I watched. But you can watch it yourself here or read a transcript here, and of course there will be multitudes offering to tell you what the candidates said and what it means and what you should think. There are already lots of fact-checkers too, and if I ever see one who appears nonpartisan, I’ll let you know.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t have time for the pregame chatter over the past few days, and I wasn’t interested in all the immediate postmortems, where everyone tries to spin the thing as if it were exactly what they wanted it to be.

Within minutes of the end, people were asking me who won the debate. I’ll answer that in a moment, but it’s not that simple.

Four Candidate Views of What Should Be Free

Why These Speeches?

National convention acceptance speeches are not perfect windows into candidates’ minds. But they pull in larger audiences than most other political speeches, so they’re crafted with unusual care. They’re a combination of what the candidate wants to say, what key advisors and benefactors want to hear, and what they all — candidate, advisors, donors, party officials, and pollsters alike — think the American people want to hear.

Precisely because they are a careful blend of so many things, they are interesting summaries of a party’s politics in a presidential election year. So this year’s speeches are not just old, pre-Olympic news. They’re useful portraits of our time.

trump and clinton speeched

Convention Hopes and Fears

Convention season is upon us. I have hopes and fears — or at least some fervent wishes and grave concerns.

(I regret that my describing them will seem negative to some readers, and that I will be criticizing candidates some of you may support — and refusing to embrace your reasons for supporting them. If it’s of any comfort, I don’t insist that you agree with me, and I admit the possibility that I may be wrong. But I cannot tell you what I think without telling you what I think.)

My first hope: May God have mercy on our nation — even if we ourselves collectively may not. I don’t expect either convention to do us proud.

My second hope is that the people who sit back and think, “It’s working,” when they hear news of police officers being shot in our cities, won’t have any new cause for celebration in the next two weeks.

My third hope is that the only violence at either convention will be the violence of words. That will be toxic enough.

What I expect, when the conventions are finished, is a November choice among two tyrants-in-waiting and a libertarian. I wouldn’t mind seeing Libertarian Gary Johnson poll well enough to get into the presidential debates, but I won’t vote for him either.

Toward a Diagnosis of Our Politics

Trump Sanders Clinton

I’ve said for years that President Obama — the quasi-monarchical head of a selectively but systematically lawless regime — is more of a symptom than the disease. I think the same of Donald Trump. I don’t mean Donald Trump the person; I mean Donald Trump the Republican front runner. Donald Trump of reality television (pardon the oxymoron). Donald Trump the foul-mouthed verbal bully. Donald Trump, the least convincing conservative impersonator we’ve seen at the head of the pack in a long time. (Rabid right-wingers will insert their own snide Mitt Romney joke here, I suspect. But he would have been a great president, even if he’s not conservative enough for you and you and you and you and maybe me.)

Meanwhile, with a less partisan Department of Justice the Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton, would probably be facing — and in fact may yet face — federal indictment on many counts of knowingly treating classified and secret materials with all the seriousness due to recipes published in the food section of last week’s Sunday Times. And she’s losing states to Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist whose appeal crosses demographic lines, but is particularly strong among young adults who have not yet been required by curriculum or circumstances to learn how the world works.

The symmetry here is that millions of voters are so hostile to establishment candidates on both sides of the aisle that they are voting for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. It is a remarkable time in our politics, though not a particularly encouraging time.

There are some very smart people (among many others) thinking and writing about this. Here I’ll offer some highlights from the best recent explanations I’ve seen. Peggy Noonan looms large here; she’s a perennial favorite of mine. I’ll also throw in some George Will, some Charles Krauthammer, some (American-turned-Brit) Janey Daley, a bit of Mark Steyn (an Aussie), and even some David Brooks (who sometimes plays a conservative on television but must, in general, be embraced with particular caution).

In each case I am excerpting longer essays or columns which you should read in their entirety. I offer the excerpts as much to persuade you of that as to offer an explanation of the Trump/Sanders phenomenon here. (Note: The fact that I have called the phenomenon after its most prominent current symptoms does not mean they are the only symptoms, or that the disease is not rampant at other levels of government. We’ve been fighting it locally in my city, American Fork, Utah, for some time in our own quirky way.)