When it comes to voting, I sometimes feel like an explorer, hacking my way through a Central American jungle in hopes of finding the ruin of a Mayan temple.
Please understand, this feeling isn’t because I’m lost. I know exactly where I am and where I’m going. What I don’t know, however, is which gap between the trees ahead of me offers the easiest path forward and which one harbors the snakes, spiders and other wildlife that I want to avoid.
OK, I guess deciding how to cast my vote isn’t really analogous to trekking through a jungle. For one thing, I won’t sweat as much. Even so, deciding how to vote isn’t something to be taken lightly.
In my last column, I produced a sort of sermon about what to consider when choosing a candidate. If you wondered how anybody could ever make up his mind if he followed all that advice, you’re probably right. Most of us probably take a shortcut, and traditionally, the most common shortcut is to choose based on the candidates’ party affiliation, or at least it was the last time I read anything on the subject. That’s to be expected, since party affiliation says a lot about what a candidate stands for.
I’m like most Americans, then, because my primary reference in voting is which party a candidate represents. I started favoring the Republican party, but once I started voting, I found myself questioning my loyalty to the Grand Old Party. That was the era of angry protests, and it led to changes in both parties. The Civil Rights movement made the biggest difference, because it led conservative Democrats in the South to switch to the Republican Party.
The Civil Rights issue was also changing my viewpoint. I sympathized with the Civil Rights movement, and in the early years, watching all those Southern Democratic politicians defending segregation and taking often violent measures to stop marches pushed me toward the Republican Party. When Sen. Strom Thurmond switched parties, though, my thinking reversed, and I began to drift away from the Republicans
Well, that all happened half a century ago, and it won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me that I will most likely vote for Democrats, regardless of my official party status. But I can only drift so far. I would not have voted for Bernie Sanders two years ago, and I wouldn’t vote for him now. I’m not a Socialist, and I’m definitely not part of the hard-right conservative gang.
This year, as is usually the case during the so-called mid-term election, halfway through the president’s term, the president himself is an issue. It certainly is influencing my vote, making it much less likely to be in the Republican column, at least when it comes to the people we send to Congress.
I did not vote for President Trump. His campaign was based on lies and misrepresentations designed to feed on people’s fears. One such lie was his promise to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it. That was a lie, because his promise that we wouldn’t have to pay for it could not be kept. He might have sent Mexico a bill, but they’d simply tear it up, and we will pay billions if it is built at all.
Similarly, he promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, but promised that everyone will have, in his words, “beautiful health care.” Well, that hasn’t happened, and it won’t, because replacing Obamacare would require a program something like Obamacare to be even close to affordable, let alone beautiful.
Once in office, the president seems to have gone out of his way to antagonize our biggest trading partners and many of the allies we have worked with for years. He has demanded that NATO nations contribute more money to the alliance, ignoring the fact that maintaining their own military forces is part of their contribution. He recently tore up the NAFTA trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, then negotiated essentially the same treaties with them and bragged about doing it.
His biggest win, a big tax cut, is also problematic. Supposedly, this cut will generate enough economic growth to make up for the loss of tax revenue, balance the budget and reduce the national debt. Unfortunately, tax cuts historically have not fulfilled that promise, so the result will likely be more budget deficits and a bigger debt.
Finally, I am troubled by the affinity the president has displayed for the far right. My particular complaint is that the far right includes white nationalists, white separatists, anti-immigrant groups and other movements based on bigotry and racism. These groups do not represent the nation I pledge allegiance to, “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I can’t vote against the president in this election, but since our senator and representative, who want us to re-elect them, have been silent about these issues, I can only conclude that they accept the way the president is using his office.
That’s why I’ll vote against them.