Tactical voting in a year of questionable Presidential candidates

Copyright © 2016 — Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Barring a miracle, the US will soon elect either the candidate of the political ruling class, or the candidate of the economic ruling class, as its President.

Each candidate was chosen based on their ability to manipulate the machinery of their political party. They were assisted by news media that sell politics as entertainment. And they were abetted by millions of Americans who, out of fear, or outrage, or exhaustion, have forgotten the concept of liberty, and why it's important.

Okay, this is going to be a bad election. What, if anything, can we do to make it less bad?

I think this is a tactical issue. I recommend the following:

  • If you're in a swing state, vote for Clinton.
  • Otherwise, vote for Johnson (preferably) or Stein (if you must).

Why? Because our tactics as voters should be aimed at both a short-term and a long-term goal:

  • Short-term: Trump is contrary to what America stands for. He is a strongman ruler with a weak brain and no ethics. He must be kept out of the White House, even if it means suffering under Clinton's presidency.
  • Long-term: The two major parties need to be terrified over what they have done. One of them will win this election, but it must not be with a "mandate". Third-party candidates need to receive a very high percentage of the popular vote, so that both the Republicans and Democrats will recognize they are not invulnerable.


For those of you who are still reading, let me try to justify my recommendations:


He's bad. I don't need to go into detail -- you can find plenty on the Internet if you want. But briefly:

  • Trump intends to be boss of the US, not President. Yes, his actions are limited by the Constitution and by the other branches of government. But we know (from our experience with recent Presidents) that it's much too easy to issue illegal or unconstitutional orders, which then take years and years to work their way to the Supreme Court and be invalidated.
  • Trump loves Putin because he adores the idea of having that much power, and Putin loves Trump because Trump will be so easy to manipulate in the interests of Russia.
  • Trump is a big fan of using the government's powers of eminent domain for the benefit of big business, most famously in his battle with Atlantic City homeowner Vera Coking in 1993, and in his recent statements with regard to the Keystone pipeline.
  • He's happy to mistreat entire ethnic or religious groups, based on the criminality of a small percentage. The concept of punishing the innocent along with the guilty is repugnant, cowardly, and contrary to what this country stands for.
  • He's willing to treat Constitutionally-guaranteed rights as mere privileges to be granted or withheld at the whim of government officials -- in particular, the 2nd amendment (no guns for you, if some bureaucrat or computer software puts you on the no-fly list) and the 4th amendment (warrantless search and seizure is just fine, if a cop wants to stop and frisk you).
  • Need more? Here you go: The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet


Yeah, she's not so great either. But I expect a Clinton presidency to be essentially Obama 2: The Sequel. We survived 8 years of Obama, we can probably survive 4 or 8 of Hillary Clinton.

But if you really think she's the best choice, take a look here: From Whitewater to Benghazi: A Clinton-Scandal Primer

If you are in a state where the race between Trump and Clinton is close, please vote for Clinton. Remember, your state's Electoral College votes are winner-take-all (except in Nebraska and Maine). Don't let Trump grab the whole basketful.

But if you're in a "safe" state, where the winner is inevitable, I urge you to vote for your favorite third-party candidate. The Republicans and Democrats will probably remain in power for many years to come, but especially in this election, a vote for the Libertarian or Green candidate is not wasted. You want change in the major parties? How do you think they'll react if they lose 20% of the popular vote to third parties? This isn't an unrealistic goal.


The news media have settled on the amusing narrative of Gary Johnson as the stoner who can't remember "What's Aleppo?" Fine, maybe he's not the most articulate spokesperson the Libertarian Party has ever had. And if you're a dedicated libertarian anarchist, he won't pass your purity test.

But Johnson gets the concept of liberty, to a much greater degree than any other candidate. Check out his issues page. And he has relevant experience as former Governor of New Mexico (1995-2003). I'd rather see Johnson as President than any of the other candidates. For one thing, he'd be a lot more mellow.


The Green Party and Jill Stein have good intentions, I think. They recognize that there is an economic ruling class that has acquired a lot of its wealth and power by unethical means (something that the Libertarian Party really ought to say more about).

However, they want to fix this problem by handing yet more power to the political ruling class. Yes, they call it a Power to the People Plan, but socialism never works out that way in practice.

I disagree with quite a lot of what Stein proposes, but if you were a Bernie Sanders supporter, you might like her.


Many of you will object to my recommendations, so I'll try to respond in advance. But first, I'd like to say a few words in praise of gridlock.

Gridlock saves us from the most extreme and partisan plans of both major parties. No legislation can get signed without compromise. This is a good thing. A tied-up government is a safer government.

There is virtually no chance of a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives after this election. The Senate is more iffy, but there's a fair likelihood it will also remain in Republican control. This means we will be much safer with a Democrat in the White House.

"I can't vote for Clinton because she's a criminal."

She probably is. Trump probably is, too. But what I'm discussing here is tactical voting -- trying to get the least-bad result from this mess. And even if she's elected, she can still be impeached. Republicans will be working 24/7 to find clear and convincing evidence for impeachment proceedings. I'll actually be surprised if the House doesn't vote to impeach her at some point.

But if you really can't vote for Clinton, I think your vote will have more long-term impact if you give it to Johnson or Stein.

"I can't vote for Clinton because she will appoint a flaming liberal to the Supreme Court."

No she won't. There's no way for a nominee to get through the Senate confirmation process without bipartisan support. It only takes 41 out of the 100 senators to prolong a filibuster indefinitely.

"I actually like Trump's proposals."

Well, I can't argue with that, but I do encourage you to look again. Trump supporters seem to be inspired by a vision of America as it was 60 years ago -- and that vision is a fairy tale. But even if the fairy tale could come true, Trump's plans for getting from here to there are wrongheaded. Patriotic Americans of 60 years ago would, I believe, reject Trump. The same should be true for patriotic Americans today.

"A vote for a third-party candidate is wasted."

No, but one of the third-party candidates is wasted.

No, it's really not, and especially not in this election. For the first time in many years, third-party candidates are likely to get a noticeable percentage of the vote. Think of this as a referendum on which direction you want the major parties to move -- because they will notice that percentage, and try to attract those voters in the future.

"Government is inherently immoral, and it isn't made moral by majority vote. I won't participate in this. I don't need a President."

You're gonna get a President anyway.

Look, I sympathize with this, strongly. For many years I followed this philosophy, and refused to vote for the lesser of two (or three or more) evils. I still do this in elections where all the candidates seem equally bad.

That's not the situation in this Presidential election. One outcome is way worse than all the others. And that's why I'm writing about tactical voting.

"Elections are a joke. The voters have no real control."

A bully, armed with a baseball bat, gives you a twig to defend yourself. Do you throw the twig on the ground, or do you try to poke him in the eye with it?

"I can't vote for Johnson. I agree with most of what he stands for, but he supports X, and that's a deal-breaker."

And Trump is better how exactly? We don't even know what Trump supports from one month to the next. He will support or oppose anything if he thinks it's in his political or financial interest. (Yes, ditto for Clinton.)

"What's the big deal with 'liberty'?"

Such an antique word, isn't it? Is it obsolete? Is it just the name of a statue?

Let me quote a few more antique words:

Under the law of nature, all men are born free, every one comes into the world with a right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving and using it at his own will. This is what is called personal liberty, and is given him by the author of nature, because necessary for his own sustenance.

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

The ground of liberty is to be gained by inches, that we must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time, and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.

It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back.

Thomas Jefferson was an imperfect human being, with an incomplete view of some important liberties for which, in his time, few were pressing forward. Yet he and the other founders set personal liberty as the foundation of our country and its government. We have built on this foundation by inches over the last 240 years. And the results have been pretty good. But we still have a long way to go, and we're continuously at risk of falling back.

You really want to make America great again? Look past the slogans, the scandals, the lies, and the outrage, and focus on liberty.