The first caucuses and primaries are fasting approaching and
that means it is almost decision time. The “decision” aspect of the upcoming
primary season is especially difficult if you are conservative who doesn’t support
President Trump. Maybe you opposed Trump in 2016. Maybe you are a past Trump
supporter who now finds that yourself unable to vote for a second term for the
president due to any of a number of reasons. Regardless, the question for many
conservatives is how to vote if you don’t want to cast a vote for Donald Trump
and aren’t crazy about any of the Democrats either.
The question is really two-fold. The first part of the
decision is how to use your primary vote and the second part is the ultimate decision
on how to handle the general election next November. Where you live may
influence your choice in both cases.
Before I go any further, let me state plainly that the
opinions in this article are my own. Most of my colleagues here at Resurgent
have indicated that they plan to support the president’s re-election, some wholeheartedly
and some with reservations. In my case, I opposed Trump in 2016 and then tried
to give him the benefit of the doubt after he took office, hoping, as many
others did, that he would rise to the occasion. In the end, however, the only significant
way that Trump has changed since 2016 is to become a worse candidate. Needless
to say, I won’t be voting Trump and had hoped to vote for a Republican
I live in Georgia, however, where the state Republican Party,
in its infinite wisdom, decided not to allow challengers to Trump on the primary
ballot. Even if you have other Republicans on your presidential primary ballot,
however, you may not be happy with the alternatives or you might simply see it
as a futile exercise to vote for a different Republican when Donald Trump has
80-90 percent support in the GOP.
In my case, there is little reason for me not to cross over
and vote Democrat in Georgia’s open primary. Rather than submit a write-in vote
against Trump, I can influence the Democratic primary by taking William F.
Buckley’s advice and voting for the most conservative candidate who can win. In
the Democratic primary, there won’t be any real conservatives (a statement that
also applies to the Republican presidential primary in many states this year),
but they are not all equally liberal. Joe Biden is not Bernie Sanders and Amy
Klobuchar is not Elizabeth Warren. There are several quizzes on the internet, such
as this one from the Washington
Post, that match your beliefs with candidates. A conservative won’t find a
perfect match among Democrats but you can see which candidates are closest to
Voters in states where Republican challengers are on the
ballot face a more difficult choice. They must decide whether to vote in their
Republican primary and register opposition to Trump or cross the aisle and vote
for a moderate Democrat.
If you are considering changing parties in the primary, you
should check with your local election officials. Not all states have open
primaries that allow you to decide at the last minute. Some states require you
to register as a party member to vote in the primary or caucus. Those deadlines
for registering are rapidly approaching and may have already passed in some cases.
You can find an online roundup of voter
registration data here but check with your state and local officials to be
After the primaries are decided, it will be time for the big
decision. Who will I vote for in the general election? At this point, I don’t
Barring a miracle, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate
but, we don’t yet know who the Democratic candidate will be. The obvious choice
will be between Trump and the Democrat. Some have decided that any Democrat
will be preferable to Donald Trump, but I am not there yet. There are Democrats
that I would consider holding my nose and voting for and there are Democrats
that I would not cast a ballot for any more than I will vote for Trump.
As a constitutional conservative/libertarian, it is
painfully obvious that I’m not going to agree with either party nominee on
policy. With Trump and the Republicans, I may like about half the policy but I’m
not going to like the corruption and abuses of power. With Democrats, I’m not
going to like much, if any, policy but I can hold out hope that they will at
least be honest and law-abiding. I could see myself supporting such a unifying,
caretaker Democrat but not a radical revolutionary Democrat.
The matter may become more complicated. Rep. Justin Amash, who I also agree with about half the time, is considering a third-party run as a Libertarian. I could also see myself supporting Amash, particularly if a Democrat from the progressive wing of the party is nominated.
If no candidate emerges that I can vote for without feeling
the need to shower afterward, I reserve the right to use a write-in or a third
party to cast a protest vote. For the first time in my life, I may also just
sit out the election and let the chips fall where they may.
An additional consideration is whether to vote for
down-ticket Republicans. Few, if any, Republicans have fulfilled their 2016 promises
to hold Trump accountable. Are they deserving of re-election? If you base the
answer to that question on how well they held Trump’s feet to the fire then the
answer is almost invariably negative.
One strategy that I’m considering is to delay a decision on
whether to support my local Republican congressman and senator until just
before the election. If Trump looks likely to win re-election, I would be
likely to support the Democrats, who have been willing to hold the president
accountable where Republicans have not. If the Democrats are favored to win the
White House, I would lean Republican. As an independent voter with a healthy
distaste for both parties, my interests may be best fulfilled by preserving the
stalemate between the executive and legislative branches.
Before you obsess too much over how to vote in the
presidential election, keep in mind that your vote will almost certainly not
make a difference. Given the numbers of voters in your state and the structure
of the race with 50 states and the Electoral College to consider, your vote for
president really doesn’t mean much. The 2016 election hinged on less than
100,000 votes confined to a handful of swing states.
In my home state of Georgia, the state is almost certain to
vote for Trump no matter what I do, even though the president’s approval here
is at -2 in the latest Morning
Consult poll. If the election is ugly enough for Trump that the outcome in
Georgia is in doubt, the outcome will have already been decided in the swing
states. As a result, I feel no pressure to pull the lever either way. If you’re
an independent voter in a swing state, the choice will be tougher.
For most of us, however, our biggest impact will be in
congressional and local elections. In the presidential election, we are one
vote out of 128 million before being diluted by the Electoral College. However,
I am one out of 3.9 million voters in my state and one out of 292,000 in my
congressional district who actually cast ballots in 2018. It doesn’t take a genius
to see in which elections your vote carries more weight.
Do your research on the candidates and then, as Ted Cruz said
several years ago, “Vote your conscience.”