Election Day

I haven’t posted on this blog in six months; today seems a good time to start again.

In my defense, I’d say I have been busy: traveling to Colombia and Colorado, teaching Sunday School, cleaning out the garage and basement, serving as team parent for my son’s high school baseball team, leading the John Street Insurance Association through the year. But these haven’t prevented my posting. I have not been sufficiently inspired, nor am I sufficiently disciplined to stick to a schedule. But today is Election Day, surely inspiration enough!  And by tomorrow when the results are in I’ll be too depressed, I’m sure.

One wonders whether to start with the larger problem or the smaller — my petty personal difficulties, or the fate of the nation. Best to start small, I think, and work up.

I went to vote at my local polling place, the Murray Avenue School here in Larchmont, with the simple intent of casting, for the first time in my life, a write-in vote for president. I’d tried to do my homework first online, with limited success: the instructions for New York write-in votes (on the new horrible computerized ballots ) dated from 2009.  Those instructions said to fill in the oval next to ‘write in’ and then write the name. The filled oval would alert the computer scanner that a write-in vote had been cast and in turn call for a human being later to read the name, since handwriting is beyond the machine’s ken. The instructions made sense to me.

But the actual ballot did not match the description — no oval to fill in next to the write-in space. I asked poll helpers about this, but they had never dealt with a write-in vote before. They referred me to the supervisor. He said just write in the name in the space – but also said, “New York doesn’t count write-in votes.” I informed him that was untrue. In fact, New York publishes a list of those candidates who have been certified by the state as write-ins (there are about 30 this year), and their vote totals are tabulated.

So concerned was I about having my vote count that I did not vote for any other offices — I wanted to be sure that when the machine said ‘vote successfully cast’ it must be reflecting my write-in, as there were no other marks on the ballot. So I cast a single vote for a single candidate, and let the others go: no vote for Chuck Schumer for senate (I’d never heard of  his opponent), no vote for Elliot Engel for congress (running virtually unopposed), and no votes for judges; thankfully there were no ballot measures or referenda.

What do the other races matter anyway? For all the public-spirited hoopla about voting, there are mighty few places these days where the result is not preordained.

Improved redistricting skill by state parties means that fewer and fewer congressional districts are up for grabs. This produces office holders who, responding to their constituents, are less centrist. These office holders in turn drive their parties further to the left or right, respectively, and there is less room in each party for those who are more moderate.

Ideally that should not affect the parties’ presidential candidates: the parties realize that for the top job, victory still requires 51% of the whole country’s electoral votes.  But this year, circumstances bedeviled the GOP.  Various factors led to an overpopulated Republican field:  there was no incumbent, no heir apparent, and no incumbent opponent; indeed, the presumed opponent looked very beatable.  I spent a week in New Hampshire immediately prior to their primary.  It is long ago now; at the time it was exciting and seemed tremendously promising.  But in a large field, the most newsworthy, loudest, most distinctive voice has the edge; he — that would be Mr. Trump — attracted his natural supporters and let the others split the rest.  He won with 35% of the vote.  The media, eager for viewers and listeners, happily fed the fire.  By the time the others were winnowed to one or two, it was too late.

Thus today in Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton I faced an awful choice.  Both candidates are unworthy in personal character, and both are prone to lie almost reflexively, one to exaggerate his deeds, the other to conceal hers.  One a thorough buffoon, the other deeply corrupt.  In terms of competence to govern, there is no contest, but as her dreams for this country are not mine, Ms. Clinton’s competence is to me a negative.   The few positions she held that attracted me – voting for the Iraq war, supporting the trans-Pacific trade pact – she’s backed away from.   Oddly for two so opposite creatures, neither appears to favor increasing America’s projection of strength in the world.  She is a liberal, but Mr. Trump is no conservative; he has managed to split Hillary-loathing conservatives down the middle.

I tried hard to vote for one or the other, as I felt (still feel) that a vote for a third-party candidate is largely a wasted vote.  I finally decided I could not live with myself if I voted for either.   A quick review of the better-known third parties, the Greens and the Libertarians, confirmed my expectations that I couldn’t support either of those.  And I did not want to write in someone who is not running (e.g. John Kasich) as New York doesn’t even count votes for people it has not pre-certified as write-in candidates.  So I voted instead for someone whose chance of winning is at best minuscule.

I don’t usually publicize my vote, although I don’t keep it a secret among friends either.  But desperate times…   and if you’ve read this far, you’re entitled to know!   I voted for Evan McMullin.  Who??  Well, as Casey Stengel would say, you could look it up.

I feel good about it; glad I voted.  But Ms. Clinton will win this election.  I am very afraid of the next administration.

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