Thursday, October 20, 2016

Voting with my conscience

"The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood-sucking parasites'."    – Larry Hardiman (attrib.)
So unless you've managed to keep yourself disconnected from the whole world for the last year or so - in which case I somewhat envy you - many of the headlines these days are dealing with the upcoming US presidential election in just a few weeks. And the two main candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, seem to be creating more tension than any previous election ever has (at least from what I've noticed in my lifetime). That, to me, doesn't seem to be what election campaigns are supposed to do; obviously you want to make yourself look better and more desirable than your opponent(s), but this year there's been so much mudslinging and badmouthing that it's hard for me to take either of these two candidates seriously. Even in their final debate last night, while it looked like they might actually keep their cool during the first twenty minutes or so, it eventually ended in arguments and generally making the both of them look very unappealing. Let's take a look as to why:

Republican Party
I first came to know who Donald J. Trump was because of the reality TV show The Apprentice. Obviously he didn't just show up as this TV star out of the blue, he's been in business for pretty much all of his life, but again that's where I really first had a chance to pay any attention to him. And that's part of the issue I have with him: he's a businessman, not a politician. And with his business tactics and business morals, he managed to quite literally bully his way to become the Republican party's choice for president. Which is just ridiculous! Half of the things that come out of his mouth are to demean and belittle other people, and the other half is just lies or ridiculous claims of what he'll do once elected. Building a wall and having Mexico pay for it. Creating a better health care program while completely scrapping the existing one and having no experience in doing so. Vetting more than is necessary, extreme levels of stop and frisk, etc. Banning Muslims from entering our country. Radical claims that have little to no support behind them, because he just doesn't have the experience as a politician.
Lately a lot of the focus on him has been about recent negative comments he's made about how he treats women. He gave an apology for it, but just from watching it when it was first given and when he talked about it at the second debate, it looked and sounded like one of the most canned, insincere apologies ever. And even after that apology, more people are coming up to accuse him of past transgressions that he's just denying left and right. Are any of them true? I don't know, but it's far from a good sign that there are people making these accusations in the first place. All of his supporters accept that he's changed, dismissing it as "locker room talk", and while most of what he's said seems to have been just that - talk, and nothing more - I don't want to give a person like that the opportunity to act on that kind of talk as a president of our country. Aside from the allegations of women over the years that are now coming forward - even if none of them end up being true, I still don't trust this... man. He's not a politician, he's a celebrity that's trying to gain even more fame and recognition to help dig himself out of failing ventures.

Democratic Party
Hillary Clinton obviously has the experience of being in politics for longer than I've even been alive. She's served as a First Lady, a Senator, and up until this election she's served as Secretary of State. So as far as experience goes, at least versus Trump, she's got him beat. But a lot of the things that she and her party stand for are very contrary to what I believe in. She's got some scandals of her own, which of course keep getting brought up by her opponents (her private email server, Benghazi, and her husband's own lasciviousness that she defended [though to be fair, she's the one running, not Bill]). With her being able to get off clean for some of these things, it's hard to imagine a presidency where even more scandals and controversies can just get swept under the rug. For her, the recent announcement of emails being brought forth by Wikileaks is being said by certain news outlets that "you're only able to learn about it from us", that it's different for the media than for the general public, obviously giving way for bias to come through. That's a scary thought on its own as well: I can only learn about something so seemingly significant from one source? That just doesn't feel right at all to me. And yes, I understand that there are even people who have been staunch Republicans – even high profile ones – for the majority of their lives that are now voting for Clinton, but I can't in good conscience do the same. I don't want to vote for the "lesser of two evils", which I've seen and heard many people talk about over the last few months.
Kinda how it feels. Also, one of my favorite animated movies, and a particularly brilliant scene at that.
Conscience. That's a word that I've heard thrown around a bit lately as well. It's that little voice in our heads that's supposed to tell us what's right. It's that Jiminy Cricket or Shoulder Angel guiding us to do what we know we should, and letting us know when we don't. It's hard to know for sure if everyone involved in this presidential race is listening to their own conscience based on what they talk about; even Ben Carson said during an interview with MSNBC "I love the fact that all of a sudden you wanna talk about morality in our country. I would love us to bring back our Judaeo-Christian values and begin to teach those things and to emphasize them at a time other than a political election. Let's do that, but right now the train is going off the cliff." (Emphasis added) This is Dr. Ben Carson saying this, who, when he was still running for the Republican nomination himself, seemed to be one of the most looked-to candidates for traditional Christian values and morality. But now he, and pretty much all the other candidates who were running for the Republican nomination, are backing the same man who insulted just about all of them and fails to represent those values because the focus of the party is to beat "crooked Hillary". Where did their conscience go?! Again, I'm far from supporting Hillary at all, but at least she's able to somewhat answer questions in a debate without always deflecting or placing blame on her opponent!

It's so disheartening for me, and a lot of people from my "millennial" generation, to be faced with such abysmal choices. Bernie Sanders seemed to attract a lot of attention for people my age when still in the running for the Democratic nomination, though I personally never had any interest in him. Four years ago, Mitt Romney was my candidate of choice, but obviously he didn't win the election at the time and even now people who bashed on him are wistfully hoping that that outcome could have been different. So now a lot of people are looking toward third party candidates with the hope that, instead of getting the lesser of two evils, we actually get a somewhat good choice. John Oliver from Last Week Tonight discusses two of them here. (And by the way, he also goes into some detail about the scandals of the two main candidates here – keep in mind though, there is some language as he's a on an HBO show, and able to get away with a bit more than standard cable standards. But he brings up some very good points in each one.)
"To be fair, Johnson's anger [at being called a spoiler for the two main party candidates] is understandable. Just dismissing third-party candidates as spoilers shuts down debate. And while the argument that the only thing that stops Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton is a powerful one, so is the argument that people should vote for the candidate who most closely shares their values."
That last phrase actually echoes counsel that's been repeatedly given by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who encourages members to not only vote but also "spend the time needed to become informed about the issues and candidates you will be considering... Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties, and members should seek candidates who best embody those principles." (Emphasis added.)
There's a website I've been seeing posted a lot on social media lately, It's a site run by two friends, who say in their About section that while they each have very different views of politics they both want to just increase voter awareness by compiling information and data, and together they made the site to make it easier for people to figure out exactly who best represents them based on their values and cared-about issues. I did their quiz, and ended up siding 91% with a third-party candidate named Evan McMullin. He's already made a name for himself here in Utah, but he's incredibly late to the party (forgive the slight pun), and seems to be hinging on the fact that enough third-party votes can prevent either of those two big candidates from winning the main election and having the vote go to the House instead of through the electoral colleges. However... Even with that against him, I feel like voting for him would put my mind more at ease than voting for Trump or Clinton. I can't 100% say he's going to be the candidate I vote for this year, but I can assure you that before election day I'll be doing my research and will know for sure by the time I'm casting my vote.
Google image search never fails me.
Just a last note, I know I've seen some criticism (not to me, but in general) of following the more comedic talk show hosts like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers, and the like for getting news coverage, since there's a good chance again for it to be biased. My argument against that is just this: in a world where we've got clowns running amok, scaring people across the country, and some clowns running for president, on TOP of all the other awful news over the last couple years, it only makes sense that we get a good laugh once in a while. We can't even have a somewhat entertaining election awareness video made by some very recognizable actors without it getting parodied and criticized. Sure, the original may be bashing on Trump and leaning more towards Hillary, but to be fair the need for this kind of call to action is almost necessary with how low the actual voting population has been in the last couple decades, and how significant of an impact this election really will have for citizens of the United States and our relationships with countries around the world. (Oh, and don't read the comments for the majority of the videos I've linked to in this. It just gets toxic down there in that part of YouTube.)

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