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Voting my conscience

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This morning while I was working out I had a bit of a revelation about the looming Presidential election. I can’t claim to have ever heard the “voice of God” but sometimes I get a prompting in my brain that seems to come out of nowhere. When I test that prompting against what I understand about God and what I believe to be true, I try and pay attention.

I’m a conservative guy, but I have grown to greatly mistrust (and frankly, despise) the Republican party. Many of my friends will be stunned to know that I voted Democratic – much to my own disappointment – in the past two Presidential elections. I admit to being  enchanted in 2008 by the “social justice” promises of then-Senator Obama, and was disgusted by the running mate of the Republican nominee. Sarah Palin is an insult to intelligence, and she represents the worst elements of conservatism.

Fast-forward to 2012. In hindsight I really don’t know what I was thinking to vote for another term for President Obama. I think that as much as anything, it was an attempt to keep tension between Congress and the White House; I think it’s generally a bad idea to have one party in control of the whole mess. I believe that the more tension there is between the President and the legislative branch, the less likely there will be sweeping legislation that will interfere with freedom.

Of course as I learned over the past four years, that doesn’t stop an activist President from using the Executive Order pen, or an activist Supreme Court from legislating from the bench.

And so I now sit in the tension of another Presidential election wishing with all that is within me that I had better choices. On the Democratic side we have a former First Lady and former Secretary of State who appears to flaunt her position, violate federal law, lie about it, and get away with it because the extremely liberal nature of popular culture that both deifies the Clintons and vilifies conservative thought.

On the Republican side, we have the emergence of the worst option from a field of terrible choices. I can’t help but think that of all the election years the non-incumbent party had an easy shot at the White House it would have been this year. But instead of finding 2-3 solid options for a true intellect- and conservative value-oriented debate cycle, we found ourselves with more than a dozen pathetic losers who fought their way to the bottom, only to be swallowed up by the most hideous of all the bottom feeders.

(To be clear, when I talk of “conservative values” I don’t mean values around morality. I refer only to values concerning personal liberty, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and government within Constitutional bounds.)

During the Republican debate cycle when I’d had more than a belly full of comparisons about the size of each other’s “hands” and the dehumanizing statements about illegal immigrants (yes, they’re still immigrating illegally so just call it what it is!), I had to burn my Republican voter ID card – this time for good. I re-registered as “unaffiliated” because my home state doesn’t recognize “Independent.”

I have many friends in different areas of my life who have told me that I can’t NOT vote; I HAVE to participate in the election. While I still may do that, I will not be voting for either the Democratic candidate or the Republican. If I choose to vote, I will vote for a fringe candidate that I believe in, or I might just write someone in. If I choose not to vote, I will do so with a clear conscience in protest for what I believe is a terribly corrupt and broken system.

If you’re one of those friends who insists that I vote, please know that I love and deeply respect your opinion, but that I will not be swayed against the weight of my conscience.

All this background gets me to the revelation I had this morning in the gym: I cannot vote for either of the main party candidates and keep a clear conscience. I despise the privilege and contempt with which I believe the Clintons operate. I think Hillary Clinton is dirty, and I don’t trust her. I think she is too deeply entrenched and indebted to Washington power brokers and that a vote for her is a vote to further curtail the freedoms I most deeply believe in.

On the other hand, I find Donald Trump personally and morally reprehensible. I think he is small-minded, bigoted, a hate monger, and the worst kind of entertainer-turned-politician. I don’t believe he has a single serious policy position and there’s enough of a conspiracy theorist in me to think that the Donald Trump thing is just some self-aggrandizing publicity stunt.

I believe that under either candidate as President the U.S. will be a worse place to be. We will be more divided than ever, we will face increasing domestic terror threats, our economy will continue to falter, and we will inevitably face new impediments to the freedoms of law abiding Americans as lawmakers overreach in their futile attempts to rein in “bad guys.”

To vote for a candidate is to attach my own integrity with theirs. To endorse them for the most powerful elected office in the free world is to say that I believe wholeheartedly that they are who they say they are, will act how they say they will act, and that I believe they are the fittest choice to govern us.

My friend, if you can in good conscience vote for one of these candidates, then certainly do so. But before you do, I encourage you to dig deep into your own personal integrity and make sure that you truly, genuinely believe that your candidate will move the country forward. We cannot simply be willing to settle for the “lesser of two evils.” More than ever I feel that my own personal integrity is at risk by supporting either Clinton or Trump. I have wrestled with whether I could support either one and I have lost. I can support neither.

I will not sacrifice my conscience at the altar of pragmatism. I won’t vote for any candidate whom I believe to be morally and ideologically bankrupt. I don’t know where that puts me in November, but it will not put me with either one of them.

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