Tuesday Links

Are you ready for more email scandals? No? Good, you’re in luck because emails are only scandalous when Hillary Clinton or one of her aides sends and receives them. By Loteriademedellin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Hard to believe the election was already a week ago. Life goes on, but it has been disorienting. A loved one turned off Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” in favor of Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” the other day. I don’t know anything anymore.

  1. Steve Bannon becoming chief strategist for President-elect Donald Trump’s White House should be the story of the week, the month, the transition period – really, for whatever amount of time he holds power. Ignoring Bannon’s run as head of Breitbart and the white nationalists, racists, misogynists, and anti-Semites who correctly note that Bannon’s elevation also empowers them is whistling past the graveyard.
  2. Paul Ryan wants to destroy Medicare. Many Trump and third party voters don’t understand that’s what they just voted for, because Trump ran on preserving Medicare (as well as Social Security and Medicaid, also likely to be on the chopping block in Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s congress.) Josh Marshall, whose Talking Points Memo helped illuminate George W. Bush’s efforts to destroy Social Security back in 2005, is on the case again. Call your representative, your senators, and even Ryan’s offices in order to find out where they stand and start putting pressure on them to defend Medicare. I would not bet on Trump vetoing legislation. This fight is going to have to be won in the House and/or the Senate.
  3. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is involved in his own email scandal (warning: auto-play video at link). Pence’s situation, unlike the pseudo-scandal of Hillary Clinton’s email, actually has a clear motive. Pence wants to hide communications he’s had around using public money to fight President Obama’s actions on immigration. I look forward to the nation’s new and sincere email management and transparency voters taking Pence to task for his efforts to shield his emails from the public.
  4. Protests against Trump’s election are potentially useful for a few reasons: they can remind the country that neither a plurality nor a majority of the 2016 electorate voted for Trump, they can encourage passion and help build community among protesters, and they demonstrate strength to resist some of the malignant forces Trump’s presidency threatens to unleash. However… violence and/or destruction of property should be condemned. They are not necessary and will only distract from the genuine issues at stake. Also, reports like this one out of Portland, Oregon that find many non-voters among the protesters probably get Trump voters and Clinton voters to agree on one thing, at least: grow up and get your ass to the polls next time. To be clear, I’m not saying you don’t have a right to peaceful protest if you didn’t vote. I’m saying nobody is going to listen to you because in a democracy, you don’t matter unless you vote.
  5. Not sure what to make of the turmoil in the Trump transition team. While bad news for Chris Christie warms the hearts of humans everywhere, the lack of experienced, competent and decent people willing to work for Trump’s government is concerning.

Whomever you voted for, stay informed and hold Trump and his unified Republican government accountable. I plan to provide a links roundup once or twice a week, in addition to writing one or two of my own essays a week. Feel free to share other articles and essays we should read in comments or in an email. Have a great day!


Donald Trump Defies Expectations Yet Again

Congratulations to Donald Trump, Republican candidates and their supporters for their many victories last night. Obviously, they weren’t the results I was hoping for or expecting. That Trump could and would win the Republican nomination for president has been a major theme of my blogging. And I always thought he had a chance to win the presidency, saying yesterday morning that he still had a 2 to 1 shot at victory. Trump’s win is not shocking, though concerns over the consequences of this election involve their own feelings of shock.

For example, I am one of the people who pays entirely out of pocket for a health insurance plan made available by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With this law almost certain to be repealed under unified Republican government, how am I going to afford health insurance? I’m paying just under $4000 in annual premium for my serviceable policy this year. If Republicans dismantle the ACA system overnight, as they promised to do, my premium payments may double or triple. And I’ll still be lucky compared to people who needed subsidies or were newly qualified for Medicaid. I’ll scrape the money together somehow. Unless the market for these kinds of plans collapses, in which case it’s back to no insurance.

The ACA is just one item in a long list of President Obama’s accomplishments that will be on the chopping block. There are also climate change regulations, labor regulations, finance industry regulations, and international agreements that Trump and Republicans have promised to undo. In addition, don’t be surprised when Paul Ryan takes an ax to entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and slashes welfare spending.

However, what concern me most are some of the forces that drove Trump to victory. Trump’s campaign became a hotbed of anti-Semitism, a surprising and unfortunate addition to other well-known conservative heartland prejudices against women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBT citizens, Muslims, and immigrants. Even if Trump was sincere in his gracious gestures towards all Americans during his victory speech, can we really keep these dark forces under control? What do they want to do with their newfound power? What do they expect from the president they were instrumental in electing? Trump owes these mongers of hate and bigotry much more than he owes the old school Republicans who just want to cut taxes and deregulate industry. Indeed, many of the old schoolers actively opposed him.

Trump painted a picture of a dystopian America during his campaign. No jobs, no education, constant threats of random violence, government deliberately making citizens’ lives worse, and the only way to get ahead is if it’s at the expense of someone else. If that actually syncs with his supporters’ realities, then I’m sorry for them and I guess they really have been failed by their leadership. Now, the rest of us are left hoping that Trump’s presidency doesn’t turn our own communities into dystopias.

Election Links Roundup

This copse of trees in Gettysburg, PA represents the high water mark of the Confederacy. By coincidence, I took a weekend camping trip there with my wife and some friends the same time Trump was there for a recent rally.

I gotta say, not a whole lot has changed in this election since I was routinely blogging here twice or three times a week. Since my thinking has not really changed much throughout this campaign, I’m happy to let the following pieces stand in for my laziness these past couple months.

  1. As some in the country are still trying to decide whether their concerns (long-held and genuine, I’m sure) over email and server management practices are worse than their fears of a know-nothing, racist fascist with impulse control issues gaining control over the country’s nuclear arsenal, “Presidential Elections are Not National Psychodramas” is a good place to start. Generally speaking, we’re voting to empower the leader of a particular political party to lead the country. We’re not choosing a best friend.
  2. In a similar vein, “Voting is About Empowering the Political Movement with Which You Agree Most” argues that any given candidate is going to have moral flaws. While I maintain that Donald Trump is an exception to the norm that most candidates who receive a major party’s presidential nomination are fit to serve as president, I won’t argue too much with voters who insist they want Trump to win because they agree with his policies.
  3. In my most widely read piece ever – “An Open Letter to Sanders Supporters” – I make the case that Bernie Sanders and Clinton are part of the same political movement and with Sanders’ defeat looming, his supporters would do well to make their peace with Clinton’s nomination and work to influence her policies. In the end, Sanders acquitted himself very well in defeat, as did most of his supporters.
  4. “Your Vote is Not a Special Snowflake, Except When It Is” is about how voting for a non-major party’s candidate is at best a waste of one’s vote, and at worst it can throw the election to the candidate a voter least prefers. That’s what happened when enough voters in Florida voted for Ralph Nader and swung the presidency to George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000. I voted for Nader that year and regret that vote to this day. I should add that in this year’s election, third party voters still make up around 6 to 8% of the population. In the infamous 2000 election, it only took 3.75% of all voters to choose third party and produce a worst case result. There’s a little too much volatility out there in the polling, and I agree more with Nate Silver’s relatively pessimistic assessment here that Trump’s odds are more like 2 to 1. I still think he’ll lose, but unfortunately, a Trump victory wouldn’t shock me at all.
  5. My first piece, here, shows that the Democratic and Republican parties have very different agendas. They are in consistently stark ideological opposition to each other. Also, modern elected Republican officials behave in manners that are way out of line with previous norms, and they bear much more of the responsibility for Washington gridlock and dysfunction. There is no significant Democratic behavior that is equivalent. Both sides do not do it.
  6. On Trump, I wrote “Surprise! Donald Trump Appeals to White Nationalists” over a year ago and it holds up well. In “How I Got Trump Right” – well, that one is self-explanatory.

I’ll be going out to vote for Clinton as soon as I finish my coffee. Exercise your right to vote if you haven’t done so already. I urge you to also cast your vote for Clinton. That would be a vote cast for a solid and competent center-left Democratic candidate, and it’s no small thing that she’d be our first female president. On top of those, it’s very important to keep Trump – a know-nothing, racist fascist with impulse control issues – out of the White House. Finally, I urge you to vote a straight Democratic ticket. Especially if you live in a state where there’s a competitive Senate race, vote for the Democrat. It’s important that Clinton have at least one chamber of Congress on her side. Also, it’s becoming clear that Republicans will refuse to let Clinton fill Supreme Court vacancies should they retain control of the Senate. Republicans’ continued obstructionist behavior cannot be rewarded.




Weekend Links

Is Donald Trump softening? By Daniel Oines from USA (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Is Trump fuzzy like this American fuzzy lop rabbit? By Lithonius [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a tough week for those who would prefer that Donald Trump not become the next president of the United States. Sure, Hillary Clinton is still the clear favorite to win the election, but the anti-Clinton tenor of recent news coverage threatens to make it closer than it might otherwise be. It’d be one thing if there was a good reason for tearing Clinton down. It’s another that many in the media air and publish unjustified insinuations about Clinton while ignoring actual violations of both laws and norms by Trump. He can still win this election, and the media will deserve much of the blame if he does. Follow the links for context and examples:

  • Paul Krugman reminds readers how reporters grading an unqualified candidate on a curve, mostly ignoring that candidate’s falsehoods and ignorance, and dwelling on the opponent’s made up “character issues” helped George W. Bush win the presidency in 2000 over Al Gore.
  • TPM has a reader-compiled list of instances of the NY Times inserting inappropriate opinion into its reporting, suggesting Clinton has done something wrong. Here’s Crooks & Liars on a particularly egregious example from yesterday’s NY Times.
  • Jonathan Chait finds Frank Bruni, one of the NY Times columnists who was guilty of fluffing Bush back in 2000, now blaming liberals for Trump. Chait eviscerates his claim. In fact, liberals were right all along about how dangerously racist and ignorant a bloc of Republican voters was becoming. Trump is certainly not the first leader to come along and give voice to that bloc.
  • Throughout her career, Clinton has had to endure a lot of non-scandals getting inappropriate and/or excessive attention. It’s hard to say whether it’s “the foundation” or “the emails” that qualifies as the most damaging non-scandal this election.
    • “The Foundation” “scandal” is nuts because no accusations based on the actual facts of the case have been made. Indeed, though it is a classic non-scandal of the “no there there” variety, “the foundation” has somehow become shorthand for “those Clintons are just so corrupt” for many people remarkably fast.
    • That’s bad, but what makes “the emails” worse is the fact that Clinton did misbehave. That complicates things. She has apologized and admitted she should have done things differently. Reasonable people can disagree about the severity of Clinton’s misbehavior. What makes “the emails” a non-scandal is that we have yet to hear anyone explain what nefarious intentions Clinton had in the email practices she chose. In fact, Clinton chose to ensure her work emails were retained as required by law, unlike the sainted Colin Powell. Also, the idea that she and her staff were willy-nilly sending classified emails is ignorant of or held with blatant disregard of the facts. At it’s worst, “the emails” is a work process story about Clinton following custom and practice rather than going by the books. It’s no scandal because nobody intended any harm, no harm occurred, and nobody even knows what harm was supposed to ever have been intended anyway. Plus, Clinton agrees she should have behaved differently!
  • Meanwhile, there is a candidate who personally and through his organizations has actually broken the law and misbehaved in ways morally wrong and injurious to others. Just recently we learned of this instance: Donald Trump’s Trump Foundation gave an illegal political contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi after she declined to investigate Trump University for fraud. Not only did Trump’s organization break the law, the facts suggest the people involved went to great lengths to hide what they were doing and are now lying about it. Now that’s a scandal! And nobody disputes that Trump’s foundation violated the law! Yet our mainstream political shows are dominated by parades of doofuses talking about how they feel “the foundation” and “the emails” “raise questions” that contribute to voters’ feelings that Clinton is dishonest.

Of course we should hold those up for election to rigorous vetting and high standards. There’s nothing wrong with investigating Clinton’s past and present in order to understand her record and character. If it turns out that she committed a crime, willfully harmed others, or otherwise behaved in a reprehensible way, then that should be judged accordingly. There’s just no evidence she did any such thing. Making a weekly story about wondering if one of her non-scandals should be a story does Clinton and the country a disservice. It intensifies feelings that she’s dishonest when a fair reading of the facts suggests the opposite.

If new facts come to light, then naturally we’d have to reconsider. Recent facts have shown no wrongdoing on Clinton’s part. Repeated suggestions otherwise are inappropriate editorializations.

I didn’t even get to these issues, so quickly: no, Trump is not softening, and no, Trump is not fuzzy like the American fuzzy lop rabbit.

Trump Finally Jumps the Shark

The Republican Convention was a tour de farce of plagiarism, F-list celebrities, lies, and stupidity, capped off by Trump’s “This country is a hellhole, and you’re all going to stay unemployed, lose your jobs and/or die if you don’t elect me” speech. The Democratic Convention was a well-run affair, featuring speeches by actual celebrities and accomplished elected officials, none of whom seemed to be raving lunatics. There was some bad behavior from sour Sanders dead-enders, but they’re now gone and irrelevant.

Hillary Clinton gave an okay speech that accomplished one big thing: it put the Democratic Party on the offensive, seizing the mantle of what it means to be an American in 2016. This is remarkable to me, as the Democratic Party has been on the defensive my entire life when it comes to questions of which party better represents American ideals.

The conventions mark the point in an election cycle when the general American electorate begins to think seriously about the choices for president. For those of us who follow politics on a daily basis, it seems unbelievable that many Americans don’t know anything about the candidates or the parties’ platforms before the conventions, but that is actually the case. The conventions help voters focus by formally deciding on their candidates and providing them and their parties with four days of prime time opportunities to introduce themselves and their policies.

In the wake of last month’s conventions, Clinton quickly took a commanding lead in the polls and has yet to relinquish much if any of it. It turns out that Trump’s candidacy, catering to the grievances and resentments of a faction within one of the major parties, cannot gain much traction with the general electorate in 2016. I always thought/hoped that the election would look like this after the conventions. Trump may have won the votes of 50% or so of the Republican Party’s base by letting the racist freak flag fly, but it didn’t survive first contact with the general electorate. This is why polling trackers give Trump almost no chance of winning the election. FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton an 83.6% chance of winning, likely in an Electoral College landslide. Meanwhile, RealClearPolitics finds that Clinton pretty much has a lock on 272 Electoral College votes (270 are needed to win the presidency). That’s even without quadrennial swing states like Florida and Ohio that have leaned Democratic the last few presidential elections.

Trump is now desperate. He can’t abide losing. He’s an idiot. So what’s a desperate idiot who’s losing supposed to do?

It turns out that he’s reneging on his promise to deport all undocumented immigrants, flirting with the dread “amnesty” on Fox News Channel with Sean Hannity last night. This must be an effort to stop looking like a racist gleefully intent on mobilizing the forces of the federal government to hunt down 11 million people, deport them, and break up their families. Trump’s too dumb to realize that that horse has left the barn, got hit by a freight train, and then had its hooves salvaged for glue.

The Trump campaign is out of ideas and tricks. It doesn’t know what the point of itself is anymore. Like Fonzie and Happy Days in its fifth season premiere, it has jumped the shark.

When you find yourself flip flopping on the one issue that got you the nomination, it’s time to pack up and go home. Imagine Hillary Clinton securing the nomination, and then saying maybe it’s okay if we don’t have universal pre-K or paid family and medical leave after all. Or Sanders securing the nomination, and then saying big financial banks should remain large and unregulated and hey maybe the rich pay enough in taxes after all. They’d be skewered and rightfully so.

Where does Trump go from here? The election is still two and a half months away and there’s just no point to him anymore. Trump was useful in the sense that it was useful to learn for a certainty that 30 to 40% of the country’s voters are ignorant rubes, just waiting for a Trump to come along and take their dignity and/or their money. But if Trump can’t even keep the one position he’s held clearly and consistently, which enabled him to beat all the other Republican candidates – including John Kasich and Marco Rubio both of whom I think could’ve won the general election – what exactly is he doing?

Before trying to answer that question, I’d like to introduce readers to “Trump’s Razor.” This is a principle coined by John Scalzi to capture what Josh Marshall was getting at in this piece about how Trump immediately regretted and tried to reverse his decision to have Mike Pence run as his candidate for Vice President (remember that happened!?!?). As Marshall wrote in a follow up piece:

According to Trump’s Razor: “ascertain the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts” and that answer is likely correct.

Let’s take a look at some of the available facts from recent weeks:

  • Trump’s campaign chair Paul Manafort resigned amidst reports that he lobbied for pro-Russian interests, possibly committing a crime.
  • Manafort was replaced by two new people: Steve Bannon, the guy who’s been running Breitbart and turned it into a haven for white nationalists and misogynists; and Kellyanne Conway, presumably hired to help Trump gain ground with women. (Women, it should be noted, generally don’t care for misogynists.)
  • Trump began addressing African Americans directly but speaking in front of mostly white audiences. Is he winning them over with statements like these:
  • “Our government has totally failed our African American friends, our Hispanic friends and the people of our country. Period,” Trump said in Akron, Ohio, straying from the prepared remarks the campaign provided to reporters. “The Democrats have failed completely in the inner cities. For those hurting the most who have been failed and failed by their politician — year after year, failure after failure, worse numbers after worse numbers. Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats. And I ask you this, I ask you this — crime, all of the problems — to the African Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people: What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I’ll straighten it out. I’ll straighten it out. What do you have to lose?”

  • Trump opined that women who face sexual harassment at work should find new careers.
  • As mentioned previously, Trump tried to get a do-over on Pence as V.P.
  • Trump spent days defending his statement that, literally, Obama founded ISIS. Then he backtracked, accusing people of not understanding sarcasm. It wasn’t sarcasm, literally or figuratively.

We could go on. So, what’s the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts? I’m open to other suggestions, but I’d say the stupidest possible scenario is that nobody in the Trump campaign nor Trump himself has any idea what they’re doing. They make it up on a daily basis, constantly changing to meet the demands of Trump’s feel for the audience he’s talking to at that particular moment. Or, as with Trump’s flirting with doing a 180 on his immigration policy after meeting with some Hispanic leaders, constantly changing to meet the demands of whichever person he spoke to last.

I’m on the record as stating that it’s good for a politician to shift their stances on issues in response to the preferences of his or her electorate, but this is ridiculous. What use is a political campaign in a democracy if it’s not pushing anything resembling a consistent agenda? We still have 74 days of this left. How many more people have to realize they’ve been had and are holding a worthless piece of paper from Trump University before this collapses under the weight of its own asininity?

The Trump campaign, like a perpetually drunken cat, just isn’t interesting or helpful anymore.


There’s a Candidate for President Who May Be Bought, and It’s Not Hillary Clinton

Smoochie smoochie! By Rasagri (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s no right way to get back into blogging after a month-long hiatus, so I’ll just dive right in again. There’s a lot coming out at the moment about Donald Trump and some of his advisers’ connections to Russia and Vladimir Putin’s cronies. A taste, from the first article I read about what should become a major issue, if we still have a functioning media:

3. One example of this is the Trump Soho development in Manhattan, one of Trump’s largest recent endeavors. The project was the hit with a series of lawsuits in response to some typically Trumpian efforts to defraud investors by making fraudulent claims about the financial health of the project. Emerging out of that litigation however was news about secret financing for the project from Russia and Kazakhstan. Most attention about the project has focused on the presence of a twice imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to the Russian criminal underworld. But that’s not the most salient part of the story. As the Times put it,

“Mr. Lauria brokered a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects by an Icelandic firm preferred by wealthy Russians “in favor with” President Vladimir V. Putin, according to a lawsuit against Bayrock by one of its former executives. The Icelandic company, FL Group, was identified in a Bayrock investor presentation as a “strategic partner,” along with Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan; that case was settled with no admission of guilt.”

Another suit alleged the project “occasionally received unexplained infusions of cash from accounts in Kazakhstan and Russia.”

Sounds completely legit.

Read both articles: After his bankruptcy and business failures roughly a decade ago Trump has had an increasingly difficult time finding sources of capital for new investments. As I noted above, Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks with the exception of Deutschebank, which is of course a foreign bank with a major US presence. He has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. At a minimum the Trump organization is receiving lots of investment capital from people close to Vladimir Putin.

Altogether, Josh Marshall gathers seven pieces of information that suggest the following: at best, Trump’s business interests have received huge amounts of money from people in Putin’s circle, he’s got several advisers who have made lots of money from and have been very close to Putin’s circle, and Trump has basically promised to give Putin everything he would want from an American president.

Marshall responds to some reasonable skepticism about the whole thing here. Kevin Drum clarifies some of what we now know here, and Daniel Drezner has a good piece here. We’ll see if these unquestioned-so-far connections between Trump and his world and Putin and his world get nearly as much attention as Benghazi-gate and email-gate. They should.


Voting is About Empowering the Political Movement With Which You Agree Most, Not About Feeling All Warm and Fuzzy (Though It’s Great If Your Party’s Candidate Makes You Feel That Way!)

Hmm, I don’t know, Trump’s kind of a bully and Clinton is such a nerd. How will I ever decide whom to go to prom with? By Mjt16 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Since Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party’s nominee and the choices are clear before the American people, it’s important to sharpen our thinking around voting. I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth revisiting now that there are three candidates and it’s just so hard to choose!

The third candidate I’m referring to is Gary Johnson. There has already been some “Johnson is the only true progressive!” nonsense published out there after Bernie Sanders’s hopes were crushed in New Jersey and California last Tuesday. Johnson is many things but he’s no progressive. To begin with, he doesn’t believe in any of the basic pillars of the New Deal that Sanders and Clinton both are trying to preserve and strengthen. Johnson is as close to being Sanders on the issues as I am to starting at center for the L.A. Lakers next season (I’m 5’4″ and haven’t played competitive basketball in about seven years).

But Clinton and her emails! Her Wall Street speeches! Trump says she had someone murdered! We just can’t trust her!

It should go without saying that if one is going to make a moral case against Clinton, then one cannot vote for Donald Trump, either. That leaves Johnson, but I’m going to reveal something here on this blog right now that may shock and permanently damage virgin eyes, so if you believe that politicians – or hell, people in general – are morally pure, please stop reading now.

Did you stop?

Okay, you must really want to know…

No politician or human being is without moral shortcomings. Clinton, Trump, and Johnson didn’t get to their positions in life without making some mistakes or engaging in outright reprehensible behavior on occasion. There’s even a moral case against Saint Sanders and his oversight as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and of course, Sanders’s wife, Jane Sanders, stands accused of destroying a small Vermont liberal arts college due to an irresponsible and possibly fraudulent real estate deal she rammed through during her tenure as president. Now, these might be cases made by people with an ax to grind against Sanders, but that brings us back to the larger, more important point.

Everyone at the level these people reach has skeletons in their closets. Johnson is no different. Aside from being a hypocrite like we all are sometimes, he has some truly ugly behavior for which he’d probably rather not have to account. As governor of New Mexico, he loved privatized prisons, and he loved awarding the contracts for their construction to the friends he had made when he was CEO of his own construction firm. When state officials became alarmed by the number of murders and riots happening at these prisons, Johnson refused to allow his own state to study what was going on inside them.

The fact is that all these candidates have their flaws and we can minimize them or blow them out of proportion according to our own biases, so as always, people should figure out which party they’d rather have in power and vote for its candidates. If someone finds Clinton’s emails disqualifying, well, I guess that’s principled. If someone finds the fact that Johnson refused to allow his own state to investigate a dramatic increase in murders and riots in his pet private prisons disqualifying, well, I guess that would be principled, too. See, everyone can play the “my candidate’s purer than your candidate” game. It’s the wrong game to play, especially with the stakes as high as they are in a presidential election.

It’s not terribly inspiring to make the dread relativist argument about why any given candidate, as a moral person, is generally no worse than any other candidate. Personal qualities and behavior matter for sure, and I’d argue that Trump’s disqualify him while Clinton’s and Johnson’s don’t disqualify them. Actually, Trump is that extremely rare candidate for president that is obviously morally unfit for office and is kind of the exception that proves the rule. Although, a good moral argument could’ve been made against George W. Bush in 2004 after we had already learned about his administration’s torture policies. (On a side note, it was Bush’s torture regime that motivated my first foray into political blogging, published by Andrew Sullivan back in 2006.)

It’s very easy for a motivated person to make a moral case against any specific candidate. Do I really think that Clinton’s moral failure with her emails isn’t as bad as Johnson’s moral failure with the private prison industry he was in bed with? Who cares?

My role as a voter is to figure out which party I want to control the government. The parties have very clear and very different platforms. If people want to vote for Trump or Johnson then vote for Trump or Johnson, but they should save us the bullshit about how they would’ve voted for Sanders if he were the Democratic Party’s nominee but they just can’t vote for Clinton. That’s confused about what they’re doing with their vote at best and disingenuous at worst.