Why I’m Voting NOTA

I’ve voted for a candidate in every presidential election since 1976.  In that 40 years I’ve voted for candidates from both parties and even an independent, John Anderson, in 1980.  This year I’ll break that streak.  I’ll go to the polls this morning and will gladly make my views known on down-ballot races and state and local issues — but when I’m asked about voting for President, I’m choosing None Of The Above.

noneoftheaboveVoting for Donald Trump was never a possibility.  I’ve got old-fashioned views when it comes to the President:  I think character counts.  Trump’s character is about as ill-suited to the presidency as I can possibly imagine — and it’s not just his appalling comments about women or the ugly mean-spiritedness you see lurking below the surface, either.  People elected to serve as President should approach that enormous job with a measure of humility; Trump offers nothing but overwhelming arrogance and bombast.  Presidents are asked to make decisions with far-reaching consequences and should do so based on careful study and reasoned reflection; Trump is the king of the knee-jerk reactions.  These aren’t small failings.  In an increasingly dangerous world, these are character flaws that go to the essential core of the job.  I envision the bumptious Trump in a meeting with world leaders, and I cringe at the message it would send about America.

I tried to get behind Hillary Clinton, which is where other members of my family and many of my friends have landed.  I really did.  But I couldn’t get there, either.  I find the Clintons’ seemingly endless rapacious appetites totally off-putting, and the whiff of corruption in the high-dollar speeches, the Clinton Foundation donations, and other activities also seem ill-suited to the presidency, where the individual’s integrity should be beyond reproach.  I was amazed at the recklessness of Hillary Clinton’s email practices, but even more disturbed by the reaction to it by the candidate and her followers — first by steadfast denials, then by attacking the accusers, and finally by grudging, forced, clearly insincere apologies.  Presidents are going to make mistakes, and when they do they need to accept responsibility for them and demonstrate accountability.  I don’t see that quality in Hillary Clinton, and I think it is a very important one.

I looked at the third party candidates, but they are minor figures who lack the experience or the training for the most important job in the world.  It didn’t take long to exclude them from the mix.

So, no candidate is getting my vote this year.  No one is going to notice that there is one fewer vote being cast, among in the millions that will be counted this year — but it’s the only way I’ve got to send a message that the choice this year is utterly unacceptable, and that it should never happen again.

None Of The Above

What are we to make of the recent Democratic primary results, in which unknown candidates — including a current prison inmate — have managed to secure 40 percent or more of the vote in races against President Obama?

In the West Virginia Democratic primary, a Texas convict named Keith Judd won 41 percent of the vote.  In the Arkansas primary, a lawyer named John Wolfe won 40 percent of the vote.  In Oklahoma, a variety of candidates received 43 percent of the vote.  And in yesterday’s Democratic primary in Kentucky, “uncommitted” got 42 percent of the vote. The Democratic primaries in other states have seen similarly significant votes for options other than President Obama.

Pundits have offered a variety of explanations for these curious results.  They speculate that the results might be racism, or strong opposition to gay marriage in states that tend to be culturally conservative.  Others reason that, because President Obama is running unopposed and therefore has long had the nomination sewn up, he isn’t trying to win crushing victories and the only people motivated to vote are those that want to send a message.

Alternatively, we might employ Occam’s Razor and conclude that a number of Democrats are voting against the President simply because they are unhappy with his performance and have decided to show that in a tangible way.  Over history, in many elections for many offices, voters have chosen “none of the above” to tell the powers that be that people who are perfectly willing to fulfill their civic duty by voting are dissatisfied with the crummy choices being presented.

The states that have seen these interesting Democratic primary results are states that have been hard hit by the economy.  It’s not implausible that voters would be fed up — so fed up that they are willing to take time from their normal daily activities, go to the polls, and cast a pure protest vote.  That’s a powerful message, and one that President Obama and his campaign staffers may not be glad to hear.