I've been through, let's see, thirteen Presidential campaigns since I became eligible to vote in January 1972, and this one has been by far the most traumatizing on the country and on most of us. At times, it has seemed that we might be going through a national nervous breakdown.
In this extended blog post, I want to explain my vote tomorrow, partly for the record (kind of like an internet diary), partly for my family and friends, and partly for anyone else who cares to know. (If I don't write it down now, I'll probably have forgotten it all in the not-too-distance future!) I have no intention or desire of changing anyone else's mind in terms of their vote, only to explain my own.
Having grown up in a rather staunchly Republican family back in the 50s and 60s, I started out voting as a Democrat in the 70s for about 10 years, then became a Republican for most of the 80s and 90s , then switched (again) to the Democratic side around 2000, having voted most recently for Barack Obama (twice).
I'm not exactly proud of that record of political flip-flopping, but then again I guess it does show a certain flexibility (or just confusion perhaps)! I like to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson on this, who once said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
So the primary process in 2015-16 ended up giving us Hillary Clinton (HRC) as the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump (DJT) as the Republican nominee. In both cases, the primaries were hard-fought contests and there were hard feelings on both sides, with many voters seriously upset and bitter. Add to that the fact that you had two nominees who had quite high 'unfavorability' ratings and some quite undesirable traits, and you had the makings of an excruciating general election campaign!
Honestly, I have, almost instinctively, disliked the Clintons for many years (not in a personal way because I don't know them personally, but in a political way). It was at times hard to put your finger on why that was so, but it was. I was one of those Democrats who more recently gladly voted for Obama rather than HRC in the primaries in 2008. And then back in the 90s, I always had the feeling that you couldn't really trust either Bill or Hillary. (Given that this was my Republican period, I didn't vote for Bill either time.)
Then when the Monica Lewinsky scandal came along, and the Big Dog ended up lying about his sexual liaison in the Oval Office with a young White House Intern, leading to his impeachment by the House and trial by the Senate, that was more than I could take. From the pulpit in my Highlands (NC) church, in what was literally the only 'political' sermon I have ever preached, I called for Clinton to resign the Presidency and spare the country any more agony. Needless to say, that didn't happen, because one thing we've learned about the Clintons: they never voluntarily give up their grip on power. It has to be pried from their cold hands, like that musket from the hands of Charlton Heston.
So needless to say, I probably don't need much of a reason to not to have to vote for Hillary Clinton. All the recent scandals coming out about her emails and Foundation have only added to that desire. I ended up voting for socialist Bernie Sanders in the primary election, since I'm still registered as a Democrat and Bernie appeared to me to be honest in his basic statements and political positions. He was a breath of fresh air compared to HRC.
On the other hand, the Republicans ended up nominating Donald Trump, clearly one of the most unusual, even bizarre, political candidates in a long, long time. There were times during the numerous Republican debates when you just wanted to scream because of what was being said. I'm sure I wasn't the only observer who pleaded with God to allow anyone but Trump to win the Republican nomination! How about John Kasich, we wanted to know? He's experienced, articulate, smart, moderate, moral, etc., etc. But NOOOOOO! Kasich barely won his own state and nowhere else. Same with all the other candidates except for Ted Cruz, who was almost as weird and creepy as DJT, who won a serious number of states.
As the race came into focus last May and June, I decided that the only way I was going to be able to emotionally handle this election year was to limit my intake of politics, especially on TV. And that's what I did all summer long. I barely watched any political shows, which as anyone who really knows me will tell you, is quite unusual! (It helped in that regard that we were traveling in our trailer without cable for most of the summer!)
While all of this was going on, three other things were happening inside me, which I would like to explain at some length, because they have changed my thinking about politics in ways that will most likely continue long after this election is over.
The first shock to my political sensibility came during the summer of 2015, when Bruce Jenner announced, to great media fanfare, that he had decided to become a woman. Let me state very succinctly my view of this, as unpopular as it seems to be. It is not possible, in my opinion, to do what Jenner tried to do, because you cannot change the sex with which you were born. Every cell in your body identifies you as either male or female by whether you have an X or a Y chromosome. Getting some fake breasts implanted or your penis cut off doesn't change that genetic reality that you are still a man trying to look like a woman. I feel sorry for Jenner's confusion but lots of people are confused about lots of things, so join the club!
The whole transgender issue took me completely by surprise, as did the complete surrender of the MSM to any honest discussion of it. I suddenly understood at a deeper level what 'political correctness' meant: one is not allowed to say certain things in public, or you risk being censored, fired, pilloried, or stigmatized.
This new insight was reinforced when the so-called 'H2 Bathroom' issue broke out in North Carolina last spring, also having to do with transgenderism, suddenly a very hot political topic. The hysteria that it seemed to engender on the political left and the invective and abuse that started to overwhelm North Carolina, mostly from outside the state--from the media, LGBT lobbying groups, corporations, and the Obama administration--made me realize that I was missing something here. So I started to dig into the transgender issue in a much more thorough way. That in turn led into the larger LGBT agenda and, frankly, into a review of the entire sexual revolution that our society has been transiting through for many decades.
What I began to understand is how thorough has been the radical deconstruction of our traditional sexuality morality going on in our country, going all the way back to the sex research of Alfred Kinsey in the 30s and 40s of the 20th Century. Slowly but surely, through such things as no-fault divorce, rampant sexual promiscuity, pornography, abortion, illegitimacy, gay liberation, transgenderism, child sexual abuse, and on and on, our society is becoming a brave new world of sexual anarchy and decadence. As a result, traditional marriage has been in rapid decline and the stable nuclear family, the bedrock of a healthy society, with father, mother, and kids living long-term in one household, is endangered across the land.
What all this did to me politically was to move me in a more conservative, traditional direction. Especially it made me increasingly suspicious of today's Democratic Party, which seems to me to be in lock-step not only with the increasingly radical LGBT agenda, but also with the sexual revolution in general.
The second thing that happened to me was that, due to extensive reading I was doing on the Islamic faith for a Sunday School class I was teaching at our local Methodist church, I came to the realization that what I thought I knew about Islam was simply wrong.
I had always thought that Islam was, as President Obama has put it, a "religion that preaches peace". To the extent I had ever studied the Muslim faith in school, that was my impression as well: that Islam was one of the great Western religions and that it ultimately taught 'peace on earth' as the goal and end of ethics and religious faith.
But a year ago, I realized that as much as I know about Christianity and Judaism (and I know a lot, having done 9 years of higher education in religion and pastored for another 35 years), I actually knew very little about Islam. I knew in detail the life of Jesus and the history of Christianity (along with the basic history of the Jewish faith found in the Old Testament), but I knew literally nothing about Muhammad (though I thought Muhammad perhaps was like Jesus) or the history of Islam. So I decided to go deeper.
And what I found out blew my mind, I think more than anything else has ever done. I realized that Muhammad, the founder of and exemplar for Islam, the giver of the Koran, was nothing at all like Jesus. Far from being a lot like 'the prince of peace', a healer and teacher of love, the prophet of Allah was essentially an Arab warlord, who commanded his Muslim warriors to engage in raids and pillaging, forcing his 'infidel' victims to convert to Islam or die (with a third possible option--surrender and 'dhimmitude'--for Christians and Jews). Anyone who attempted to stand up to Muhammad was either killed in battle or assassinated, their wives and children sold in slavery (including sex slavery), and their possessions taken as booty.
What Muhammad established in Medina in 622 AD (or Year One in the Islamic calender) was the first Islamic State, not all that unlike the most recent Islamic State founded in Raqqa, Syria by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A totalitarian theocracy, run by God's chosen messenger through the use of coercion and violence, desiring to dominate the world and establish a world-wide caliphate, where God's law--Sharia--would reign supreme. Everything that Islam became flows from that initial event, including the violent conquest of half the known world (mostly Christian) by Islamic forces within the first hundred years after Muhammad's death in 632 AD.
What I realized was that virtually everything I had been taught about Islam, everything that I had been hearing about Islam from the MSM and from other politically liberal sources was essentially wrong, and that the conservative sources were right. At first, I was so disoriented by this new understanding that I didn't know what to believe, but after months of continued reading and reflecting, it sunk in that the Western Liberal/Left--both in Europe and America--was either intentionally or ignorantly in denial about the truth of Islam, its origins, its nature, and its intentions.
These two issues--the ongoing sexual revolution (as seen in the transgender controversies) and the true reality of Islam--have pushed my thinking in an overall conservative direction, to put it mildly, over the last year and a half. I now have much less confidence in Liberal/Left political thought in general, as well as the liberal mainstream media, on a whole variety of issues. I am more inclined now to support more conservative policies and more conservative politicians. So that when you mix in my long-standing mistrust of HRC along with these new perspectives, "Houston, we have a problem!"
Which brings me to Donald Trump.
When DJT first entered the race, most of us thought that he would be a flash in the pan because of his weirdness. Having said that, there was, besides his being boorishly outrageous as times, also something quite interesting and entertaining about him. He said things that none of the others were saying, and he said them, yes, in sometimes wild, even vulgar, ways. But let me focus more on WHAT he said, rather than HOW he said them.
The first thing that caught my attention was his emphasis on the issue of deindustrialization in America and the foreign outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, along with the resulting negative impacts on the American working class. You didn't really hear that from the other candidates, and DJT said it in a way that made you feel like he meant what he said, and that he wasn't just saying it for political reasons. One isn't sure, of course, that he has a real solution that will work to reverse what has happened, but at least he seemed to think that there is a problem here.
The second thing that caught my attention were his statements on Russia. DJT was the only candidate of all seventeen Republicans who didn't try to demonize Russia or paint them as our primary enemy in the world. Instead, he talked respectfully about Russia and their current leader, Vladimir Putin, and emphasized the importance and possibility of working with them as two great world powers, instead of going back to old, now antiquated Cold War stereotypes.
I have in recent years felt like a real outlier in my views on Russia. While the MSM and the political establishment have basically taken to viewing Russia as if nothing has changed from the old days of the Communist-era Soviet Union, and in the process painting Putin as essentially an expansionist tyrant, I see Putin as a talented Russian leader who has brought his great country back from the brink of social, political, and economic anarchy and chaos. And he has done it while rejecting Communism, encouraging the growth of Christianity in Russia after decades of persecution, establishing the basic rule of law, and reaching out to the countries of the world to establish a variety of normal international relationships.
My research on Russia go back to around the 2012 Sochi Olympics. It was clear that the US was going to effectively boycott those Olympics for all intents and purposes, which led me to do a lot of reading about the issues related to Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union and the evolving relationship between the US and Russia. I found myself taking the contrarian view expressed in the preceding paragraph and opposed to this ongoing effort by many in the US Establishment to isolate and demonize both Russia and Putin.
So how is it that Trump shares this contrarian position on Russia? No one seems to be able to explain it, yet I think it tracks better with the reality in Russia and around the world than other views. We don't need to return to a Cold War-style relationship with Russia, and in the process risk a nuclear confrontation. That is truly foolhardy and dangerous.
The third thing that caught my attention about Trump was his attention to the issue of illegal immigration. Again, here was an issue toward which few in either Republican or Democratic establishments were paying attention. And DJT made it crystal clear that illegal immigration needed to be brought under control, and that those in who had entered and/or remained in the country illegally had no right to stay. That is just common sense to me, as it is to many millions of Americans. A country like ours has to have controlled borders, or as DJT is wont to say, you don't really have a country. No one should be able to enter and stay in the United States except those who are invited to do so. And that should be true for every self-respecting nation in the world.
And the fourth thing that I liked about Trump's approach, given my changing views on Islam, was his willingness to question the conventional wisdom about immigration from Muslim-majority countries. This suggests that, given the the rise of jihadi terrorism around the world and what Samuel Huntington called 'The Islamic Resurgence' in his book 'The Clash of Civiliations', perhaps he is correct about this.
Clearly, Donald Trump's rise in the Republican Party has created intraparty tensions that haven't been seen since Barry Goldwater came on the scene half a century ago, partly because of WHAT he was saying and partly because of the WAY he said it. A number of his Republican opponents have basically written him off, refusing to endorse him in any way. Leading the way in that have been the most 'moderate' of the Republican candidates, Jeb Bush and John Kasich. Joining them have been a quite a large number of conservative pundits and intellectuals, such as George Will, Bill Kristol, and Rich Lowry.
This has created quite a drag on Trump's ability to unite the Republican Party for the purpose of winning this election. Yet Trump had from the beginning a number of key Republican politicians who were strongly supportive: Newt Gingrich, Rudy Guiliani, and Chris Christie, to name three. The result has been a campaign that has been gaining some momentum over the months, but still trailing the Clinton campaign even coming into the final week of the 2016 campaign.
So what do I see as the possible benefits of a Trump Presidency?
First, simply denying the election to Hillary Clinton. With Clinton as President, the liberal/left agenda in all of its economic, political, and cultural aspects will be laid upon our country in a semi-permanent way, especially given the predicted changes in the Supreme Court and in the political changes brought about by massive illegal (and legal) immigration.
Second, tamping down the growing tensions with a nuclear-armed Russia and pulling back in general on our hawkish interventionism around the world, in a realistic appreciation that we cannot 'run' the world and turn it into our image. Hillary Clinton is one of the most hawkish politicians in the Democratic Party and there is a lot at risk, in my opinion, in turning her loose in the Presidency. Think of her statement about Libya's Gaddafi--'We came, we saw, he died'--and multiply that by all the powers of the Oval Office. That's a very scary thought to me.
Third, having a unified conservative government--legislative and executive--to try and move ahead on a wide range of policy items, in a more conservative way.
Fourth, controlling our borders and making sure that non-citizens who enter and remain in the US do so legally.
Fifth, stop trying to solve everything nationally, as the liberal/left is wont to do, and as much as possible, return to the 50 states the authority to make decisions in areas like education, marriage, abortion, crime, etc that were traditionally within the state's purview. There is nothing wrong with the diversity provided by 50 states innovating and experimenting in public policy on many issues, within the basic framework of the US Constitution. It's no accident that our national motto is E Pluribus Unum, 'out of many, one'.
Sixth, obviously there are things that can only be done at the national level, but even here, it is better for the legislative branch--the most democratic and representative of all the branches--to have a more significant role whenever possible in making fundamental decisions that affect our lives.
Seventh, encourage judicial restraint by the Supreme Court by appointing conservative justices who approach our fundamental constitutional law in that way. In all but the most extraordinary cases, five judges should not be making radical new national policy (e.g. same-sex marriage) via judicial activism. THAT seems to me to be is a form of anti-democratic authoritarianism.
What are the risks of a Trump Presidency? There clearly are some, without a doubt, given what we've seen in this campaign. He can be boorish, too quick to speak, too defensive of his personal vanity and businesses, and so on. His 'temperament' has been questionable, without a doubt, making it difficult for many people to support him, even when they agree with many of his policy positions, such as they are. He will have to have strong 'handlers', if he is to be a successful President.
I think it is accurate to say that Trump's campaigning has definitely improved as time has passed, with fewer and fewer mistakes being made. What has particularly haunted him most are some ill-considered statements that he made early on. The Clinton campaign has put a number of those statements into an ad which they play over and over again (as I thought they would at the time), and I'm sure it's hurting Trump vote-wise.
Presumably if Trump were somehow to win, he would be surrounded by experienced political advisors, like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Guliani, and Mike Pence, as well as majorities in both the House and Senate, the leaders of which he would have to work. And if he turned out to be a huge mistake, then the House and Senate could impeach him and still have the more reliable Mike Pence as their President (I would think that a Speaker Paul Ryan would be itching to do such a thing, actually, as would the Democrats!) I know that sounds weird, and perhaps it is, but that's the kind of strange election year we are in!
But, as I said elsewhere, it is true--though not commented on enough--that Trump has been around the block in life. He's worked with businessmen and politicians at all levels in the US and around the world, negotiating and making deals. He's actually built things, high-quality things. He knows how it's done. And I believe, despite the denigration he's received, that he respects the American system of government, and is actually trying to preserve those things which have made our country great over the centuries, including the Constitution. I know the Liberal/Left disputes such a notion, seeing Trump as they do as a fanatic and right-wing radical of some kind. But many others see him as a no-nonsense reformer and pragmatist, who often hugs the political center.
Given our situation this year, there is no good choice, just a choice of lesser evils. Yet we shouldn't sit on the sidelines and hurl sarcasm at those slogging it out on the playing field. Everyone has to simply hold their nose and pick one of these choices.
As for me, for the above reasons and others, I'll be voting tomorrow a straight Republican ticket, including the Donald. It will be the first time in 20 years that I've voted such a ticket, and I'm sure it's bound to feel weird.
And then I'll say a prayer for America, because no matters who wins tomorrow, we're definitely going to need divine grace and blessing, for sure!
Actually, I fully expect Hillary Clinton to win tomorrow, partly because she has an awe-inspiring political machine built up over decades (that's really not a compliment), and partly because Barack "The Uniter" Obama and his wife Michelle will have done their best to politically drag her over the finish line.
Let me conclude with a just few more observations relevant to this election season.
I think it is tragic and dangerous how the mainstream media went this year from being journalists to being advocates for Hillary Clinton. I'm not talking here about columnists, who are supposed to have an opinion, but entire newspapers and networks, like CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, The New York Times, and the Washington Post, even in their news coverage. Oddly enough, the FOX network was divided between Trump supporters and Trump haters, giving them a strange 'balanced' perspective which is normally missing.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of the American population has lost all trust in the MSM, and that is not a good thing. Of course there is an alternative media, mostly on the internet and/or talk radio, to help provide a modicum of balance, but those sources also has their obvious problems. I read both the MSM--how can you avoid it?--and alternative media and have for many years now, but I doubt many people do that.
And one word about a really nasty habit of the Left these days. The Liberal/Left tends to want to label their opponents, who disagree with them on their assessments of the latest radical sexual policy, or Islam, or welfare, with some really vicious slurs. I'm talking about words like 'racist', 'bigot', 'misogynist', 'homophobe', 'Islamophobe', 'xenophobe', 'Nazi', 'fascist', and so on.They throw these insults around these days like beads during Marti Gras in New Orleans, and then turn around and claim that it's their opponents who are judgmental and intolerant. This practice is ridiculous, and frankly, I'm sick of it. Just stop it.
Well, there's a lot more that could be said, but I'll leave it at that, at least for today. I'm sure I've said things that have surprised or disturbed you. But I'm here speaking from my heart and mind, telling you honestly how I've seen things this election year. I freely acknowledge that I could be wrong in some or all these judgments. And I'm sure my views will continue to evolve as the months and years go by.
But over the years, I have found that when I refuse to allow myself to be tied to the conventional wisdom or some kind of ideological straight jacket or a previously held position, I end up in a better place. Besides, being a political contrarian seems to be in my DNA (though it didn't show up in my Ancestry.com test)! Lol
So, for better or worse, this is where I stand, the day before Election Day 2016.