I have a Democratic primary ballot in front of me. I’m not a Democrat, and I’ve never voted in a Democratic primary before. But the Democrats want me to vote in their presidential primary, so I will. Utah is a Super Tuesday state this year, and that’s tomorrow.
As I post this, one President of the United States is in the last minutes of his second term. (Much of the chattering class said this as New Year’s Day approached, but now it’s literally true.) Another President will call this the first day of his first term. Yet I will finish the day much as I begin it: a citizen of a country whose chief executive’s political aspirations and principles, or personal qualities, or both, I expect to be more harmful than beneficial to the freedom and welfare of my nation and the world.
Ten and a half weeks have passed since Election Day; one day less has passed since I last blogged here. True, I’ve been caught up in personal, professional, and church obligations; I spent more than half that span at least slightly ill (due to nonpolitical causes); and there was a holiday season stuck in there somewhere. So I have plenty of excuses for not blogging here. But they are only excuses. Obviously, I had some time to write, as you can see at my non-political blog, Bendable Light. I just didn’t want to write about politics enough to finish anything I started. I’m not sure what that means.
But here we are. I propose to do four things during our time together here today. First, I’ll briefly mention most of the political topics on which I’ve considered writing in recent weeks. I don’t know what that will do for you – paint a picture of my current political thoughts, perhaps, without belaboring any of them – but it will probably make me feel better and help me move on. Second and third, I’ll try to lift my eyes and words above grim politics, mostly, to some hopes and some points of pride and gratitude we’re more likely to share. Fourth, I have three small gifts for you.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
Prior to the vice presidential debate on Tuesday evening, I could not have picked Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) or Governor Mike Pence (R-Indiana) out of a lineup. Nor would I have recognized their voices. I had heard of both, but knew only generally where they land on the political spectrum and how they carry themselves.
This is in sharp contrast to the candidates at the top of their tickets. I’ve been watching Hillary Clinton for 26 years or so, and trying not to watch Donald Trump for about that long.
Speaking of the presidential nominees . . .
If Sen. Kaine had not had to defend Mrs. Clinton’s indefensible character and record, and if Gov. Pence had not had to defend Mr. Trump’s countless indefensible words and dubious acts, the debate might have been more substantive, in terms of policy. Even so, it was better than the first presidential debate. And since I’m polishing this post after the second presidential debate (notes on that are next), I’ll say, this vice presidential debate is still the debate I recommend that you watch — if you think you should see a debate but your tolerance for the despicable is nearly spent, and if you want some coherent talk about policy from both sides.
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.