From openDemocracy’s Editor in Chief: I first met Craig in South Carolina in 2006. He was the anonymous ‘John’ in a story I wrote about discrimination against LGBT people in the US army and wider American society that year. In 2016, he explained to me why he'd decided vote for Donald Trump; last month, he told me he was voting for him again.
Since this article was posted, however, Craig has changed his mind. His reason are laid out at the end of this piece.
Original article: 1.10.2020
The 2020 election is a bit of a joke. Four years ago, I voted for Donald Trump because I thought he was the least bad option. This time round, I feel differently.
At first, I felt pretty good about Joe Biden. I voted for Barack Obama twice and thought his former vice president was one of the stronger Democrat contenders. But as time has worn on, I’ve lost faith in him.
When we got the news of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I seriously considered changing my vote to the Democrats, or not voting at all. In the days after the news, I really questioned how I could sit right with my actions. But as things stand now, Donald Trump will be getting my vote.
As an out gay man and officer with 15 years of service in the US army, I find the identity politics the Democrats are pushing to be offensive. This time round, the biggest issue on the ballot for me is race – and a distant second is Joe Biden’s mental capacity.
President Trump’s first term in office has clearly had its ups and downs. I really wish someone would take away his Twitter account. And I don’t even know what to say about the first presidential debate. It was an absolute disaster on both sides. If this is how they are going to be this year, there’s no point in having the other two as scheduled.
That said, I feel Trump’s actions as president are net-positive. Prior to the pandemic, the economy was doing great, and there haven’t been any surprises regarding the big issues to me in 2016. The right to self-defense is intact, we have a stronger middle class, we have made some (albeit minor) progress with the immigration issues, and the boogeyman hasn’t nullified my same-sex marriage.
Black Lives Matter (to everyone except Black Lives Matter)
As a white male in the age of identity politics, I am not allowed to say anything on the subject of race, but I’m going to say it anyway. There are several prominent Black conservatives who cite some of the same things I have to say here, and the point is no less valid because of the colour of my skin.
To start with, my parents did not pay for my first car, college, or give me any money to get started in life. When I was floundering just after high school and didn’t have anywhere to live, my parents told me to figure it out because my decisions had led me to where I was and they were not responsible for my actions. My “white privilege” didn’t knock on the door and hand me a pile of cash, a degree, a car, and solve all of my problems. I was on my own, and I joined the army to make something of myself instead of blaming the world for my problems.
When the Black Lives Matter movement first gained national attention during the Obama administration, my initial thoughts were of support for the movement, though I questioned their name. Of course, Black lives matter! Why wouldn’t they? Are they implying other lives don’t matter, or that their lives matter more, or that they don’t think their lives currently matter? Upon further research I learned the movement was about equality for all, and about making sure Black lives have the same value as anyone else. This is a message I can absolutely stand behind. There is just one problem.
The Black Lives Matter movement decided to focus solely on Black men killed by police, later expanding to include the anecdotal example of a Black man killed by white men (who were appropriately charged with murder). Whether or not the shots officers fired were justified did not matter. Whether or not the deceased was a career criminal actively threatening the police with a deadly weapon at the time of the shooting did not matter. The only logical conclusion would be that the police are killing so many Black men that this should be the top priority. The problem is the statistics don’t support this narrative.
There are so many other things killing African Americans – many of which are linked to poverty. According to the Center for Disease Control, over 500,000 Black people per year die from heart disease. Obesity further compounds the problem for 56% of Black women and 37% of Black men. This equates to over 20 million Black people who are clinically obese. Diabetes is another leading cause of death among the Black population with almost 15,000 deaths annually. Suicide claims almost 3,000 Black lives and homicide claims just shy of 10,000. Why are the only Black lives that matter to Black Lives Matter the hundreds killed by police each year? I am especially confused because the vast majority seem to have been actively belligerent, resisting arrest, and/or outright attacking the officers at the time of their death.
I don’t believe in ‘systemic racism’ as a concept. But I do believe we urgently need to end the war on drugs. It’s one of the greatest failures of our country, taking too many fathers away from their kids. And we really need criminal justice reform. The stigma of going to jail – no jobs or prospects when you get out – destroys millions of lives.
If we fixed these issues, we could help millions of families struggling. In the US, researchers have found that there is a strong correlation between single-parent households and downward income mobility. It’s a vicious cycle: dad in jail, mom trying to raise kids on their own, unable to put enough food on the table, the kids get in trouble with police, and so it goes. We see the same problems in white communities in poor, rural areas like West Virginia. They are not unique to the Black community. But they are disproportionately affecting the Black community.
These are real problems. But the Democrats are all about ‘systemic racism’ and the ‘ghost in the machine’ which is keeping Black people down. They’ve run Black communities into the ground over time with the mass incarceration of Black men under the guise of the war on drugs, glorified the skyrocketing Black single-motherhood rate, pushed abortions as a contraceptive, and replaced personal responsibility with welfare programs. As long as the Black community is poor and dependent on the system for financial support, the Democrats know they can buy the Black vote with more social programs. There are no easy solutions to the problems facing the Black community today, but allowing Democrats to continue destroying their community while blaming President Trump for problems that existed long before he was president, and issues that President Obama did very little to address, is insanity.
The insanity and hypocrisy have reached the point where Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris publicly told an alleged rapist she is proud of him. What did he do to earn her pride and respect? Simply be Black and be shot by the police. Never mind the fact that he is currently facing charges of sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend. He has been accused by a police union of violently resisting arrest and ignoring orders to drop a knife – I would expect the officers to shoot me too. I believe that race has very little to do with why police shoot someone.
The insanity goes further because the majority of the shootings Black Lives Matter are protesting occur in Democrat-run cities, in Democrat-run states, with Black governors, mayors and police chiefs – and the Democrats have held control of these places for more than 40 years. Explain to me how President Trump or the Republican party is responsible for these problems?
We must get through COVID-19 without further economic damage
The United States’ COVID-19 response has been far more political than substantive. I was in South Korea when the pandemic started, and I was impressed with the swift action the South Korean government took to get things under control. The United States on the other hand, has been nothing but a partisan battle between Democrats and Republicans over who takes the threat more seriously, while in reality, very few take it seriously. We started with President Trump halting traffic from China, to which Democrats called him racist and said he was overreacting. Democrats criticised him for taking too much action, only to turn around and claim he wasn’t taking enough action.
The pandemic is unprecedented for the United States in modern times. Other countries have dealt with SARS, the Avian Flu, Swine Flu and others, and so it was much easier for the general public in their countries to respond appropriately. The citizens of the United States responded like spoiled children. It still amazes me that people refuse to take simple precautions like wear a mask and wash their hands. Not to mention mass protests where thousands of people are standing immediately next to each other in large groups with few people wearing masks. They don’t even realise their hypocrisy is staring them in the face.
I don’t know what the Trump Administration could have done differently. Many people believe the constitution prevents a mask mandate. Former Vice President Biden has even admitted this recently. I believe the administration did their best to maintain some semblance of order, minimize the economic impact, and take the legal actions they could in order to keep the population safe.
No dog in the fight on healthcare
Healthcare was a big issue for me in the last election, and this time it really isn’t on my radar. I know President Trump still wants to change Obamacare, which I agree was a disaster, though I am not sure how much he will really be able to change at this point. Getting any changes through Congress will be a challenge. While I don’t support Obamacare, I also don’t support Trumpcare. Both are band-aids on a horribly broken healthcare system.
The solution to skyrocketing prices isn’t to change who foots the bill, it is to reduce the prices through transparent pricing and open-market competition. If consumers are able to ask how much a procedure costs, they can shop around for the best price, thereby driving down prices – as we have seen for example with laser eye surgery.
In the end, no one on either side of the aisle has put forth a plan that I can stand behind, so I really don’t have a dog in the fight this time around.
A conservative Supreme Court does worry me
I am voting absentee in this election due to my military service outside of my state of residence. The election commission emailed my ballot to me a few days before Justice Ginsburg passed away. I’d printed it and started filling it out, but it was still laying on the kitchen table when I received an alert on my phone with the news that she had passed. I was watching TV with my husband and paused the show. My immediate thought was this is not good, and I might need to reprint my ballot.
I love the United States because we do have a peaceful transfer of power between two different ideological points every four to eight years. A conservative Supreme Court threatens that balance. It means they could just overturn or overrule every idea coming out of the left, and I don’t think their ideas are all bad. Throughout history, when one political party or person gets too much power, they don’t make good decisions. To have a conservative majority on the court for the rest of my life could affect something that I care about deeply in the future. I don’t even know what that is yet.
That said, there is definitely precedent for a sitting president to make a nomination in an election year, and even stronger precedent for a confirmation to take place when the president’s party also controls the Senate. I would have loved to see a more moderate nominee, but President Trump is going to nominate someone who will satisfy his base. Unfortunately, this has left us with Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Amy Coney Barrett has many people scared, but I don’t count myself among them. The media is attempting to paint her as a diehard conservative who wants to rip up the Constitution, but I believe that couldn’t be further from the truth. Judge Barrett clearly has conservative morals, but based on the things her colleagues and students at the University of Notre Dame said about her, she keeps them out of her legal analysis.
Some of her philosophies as a constitutional originalist align with my belief in a smaller federal government. I feel the federal government is far too quick to pass sweeping legislation and create monstrosities of federal agencies dedicated to taking care of things we should leave to the states. From healthcare and student loans, to the Veterans Administration and the Transportation Security Administration, there are so many dollars wasted with completely ineffectual programs and unnecessary bureaucracy.
Many people are vocal opponents of changing Roe v. Wade, and are scared this may be a possibility with a conservative majority on the court. While I personally believe we should limit abortions to cases of rape, incest, or medical necessity, I do not support changing Roe v. Wade. I believe the constitution protects women’s right to make that decision for themselves. But I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood should get federal funding. I don’t think this is a good use of taxpayer dollars and would much rather see an increase in education and personal responsibility, alongside reduced-cost or free contraceptives for lower-income households.
I do believe the Senate will confirm Judge Barret before November, so in a way it will be a moot point. However, I am concerned for the consequences should Democrats win the election and take back the Senate. I do not support packing the court, though I would entertain the idea of balancing the court. I think a much better solution would be term limits. I fully support the Democrats’ plan to introduce legislation enacting 18-year term limits for Supreme Court justices, even if it takes an amendment to the Constitution. I hope while they are at it, they introduce term limits for congressmen and senators as well.
President Trump’s taxes
President Trump’s taxes are a complete non-issue for me. We don’t know the validity of the claim from the New York Times, and I have no faith in the media in the United States. They have time and again proven they do not care about honest reporting and I don’t pay much attention to anything they “report”. To my knowledge, the accusation is not that he did anything illegal or unjustified, but rather an emotional smear campaign designed to make him look unrelatable and elitist.
I care far more about the politicians who became multi-millionaires as a result of their public “service” than I do about someone who made a bunch of money and then took political office. When I wrote four years ago, Hillary Clinton’s pay-for-play and complete disregard for securing classified material were key issues to me. It seems the pay-for-play scheme must simply be part of the Democrats’ playbook now, as Joe Biden clearly has some explaining to do with regards to his son’s dealings in the Ukraine, not to mention his financial ties to Russia and China. The Democrats are very quick to scream ‘Russian collusion’ when it has to do with President Trump, but they turn a completely blind eye to Joe Biden. Those in glass houses…
The Harris Administration
It seems Former Vice President Biden can’t remember what his goal is for this election. For example, referring to his administration as the Harris-Biden administration, as if he were running for Vice President again. His inability to maintain coherent thought is scary. His team have been hiding him from the public as much as possible, and when he takes questions from the crowd, they are preselected questions and the Biden team direct the citizens asking them to only ask what is on the card. There are days when he gets up and speaks and it's the old Joe Biden, and other days where he's completely incoherent. Quite possibly, I would have voted for the old Joe Biden, but I believe he is legitimately experiencing health issues in a way Trump is not.
Yes, Trump definitely does not think before he speaks – that was blatantly apparent well before the election. He blindly shares things on Twitter without thinking about them. But, looking at his policy action, I don't think he's done a terrible job. We've definitely had better presidents, for sure, but for me it’s hard to tell what a Biden Administration would look like. The only messaging the campaign is releasing is either criticisms of President Trump’s COVID response, support for BLM, or blaming Republicans for the sins of the Democratic Party.
As a person, Trump is disgusting
I’m exhausted when it comes to sexual assault in politics. It’s become so weaponised, you don’t know who to believe. Because it now affects nearly everyone at the top, it’s almost become a non-issue – which is unbelievably sad and disgusting. I feel bad for the women and potentially men who are truly victims. I don’t think we’ll ever hear them or that they’ll ever get justice, because it’s impossible to tell what’s real and what isn’t.
As a person, Trump is disgusting. There are enough accusations out there that there has to be some level of truth to some of them. These women are going out on the line to make these allegations, it can’t just be the Democrats rounding people up to say things. But I believe there’s a problem with Biden too in this regard, so we actually don’t have an option to vote for someone who isn’t tainted by this. It’s so sad.
I think Trump will respect the result
I don’t think there is any risk of Trump trying to retain power illegitimately. My father disagrees with me, but I don’t see a scenario where that plays out that way. So many people would rise up. That would be a complete burning of the constitution.
I do think the result is likely to be close, and could come down to the Supreme Court. I wouldn’t look on that as an illegitimate win; that’s how the constitution says it should work.
I do have concerns about the integrity of the vote itself, though. I’m pro-absentee ballots, but clearly the US postal service isn’t equipped for a mass mail-in system. It’s 2020, how do we not have a better online system in place? I do think it’s possible to make the vote workable, if we prioritise letting high-risk groups and those in COVID-19 hotspots vote by mail. But I don’t have any confidence that this will be done in a sensible way.
No one in Washington is sensible
I may be voting Republican this time, but I don’t mind if Trump wins and Republicans lose control of the Senate. I despise Mitch McConnell (the Republican Senate majority leader). He’s been in politics so long he’s completely blind and insulated from reality. So is Nancy Pelosi (Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives). They are both career politicians whose only thought in any situation is “what’s best for my party right now” – the normal rules of law and morality are out the window.
If Trump loses and the Supreme Court post hasn’t been confirmed, McConnell would absolutely install a judge in the ‘lame duck’ session before the new President is installed. It would be disgusting, but I wouldn’t put anything past him.
In that scenario, I would definitely support balancing the court – creating one extra space – but not packing it with lots of new posts. That would be sensible, but I don’t think anyone in Washington is sensible.
Once again, there were no excellent choices. I’d have liked to see General Wesley Clark run, perhaps. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were too far left for me to get behind. Bernie’s policies may work in his home state, but I don’t see them working across the US. California has tried some of his policies and it’s bankrupt. Free healthcare for all and universal basic income are just not affordable on a large scale. And even though I’m more conservative, I would have never supported Michael Bloomberg. For me, he’s up there with George Soros. I want nothing to do with those men. They have thrived off the backs of the poor.
Last time, I wrote about the decision between two bad candidates. This time around, I don’t think there are two bad candidates. President Trump is an average candidate for re-election, and could easily lose the election to a realistic challenger. I don’t believe Former Vice President Biden is a realistic challenger because he can’t remember what office he wants, where he is, or his goals.
I also cannot get behind any candidate who would allow the racist vitriol of Black Lives Matter to continue. Freedom of speech doesn’t grant anyone the right to block roads, burn businesses, tear down monuments, and attack people who support a different political candidate.
I would have loved to have a realistic candidate from the Democratic Party, but once again they put forth someone who is simply too extreme for me to get behind. The Democrats’ desire to win votes outweighs any sense of decency or justice. My sincere hope for 2024 is that the Democrats stop focusing on vilifying conservatives, and instead look for a better candidate with a platform of progress, rather than a platform of hate.
Update from Editor in Chief: 20.10.2020:
Yesterday Craig wrote to me:
"This election cycle, much like the last, has been emotionally draining. The political climate in the US is just getting worse. This has led me to a really tough decision, but one that I am completely at peace with: I am not voting this year."
"Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Mike Pence, and Kamala Harris, are all either intentionally lying to the American people, or they are so disconnected from reality that they actually believe the lies they tell on a daily basis."
"I've already explained my reasons for not voting Democrat. As to the Trump campaign, the two biggest things that pushed me away were the Vice President's comments on climate change and fossil fuels at the Vice-Presidential debate, and my sincere desire to not have to deal with President Trump's war with the media. It's exhausting and we've been doing this for four years. Enough is enough. He isn't a politician, and it shows, and I am ready to see some semblance of civility return to the White House."
"I don't know who will win on 3 November, but I do know it won't be the American people."