It’s Nov. 8, you walk into a voting booth, you look at the names of the presidential candidates and one makes you shudder, another makes you nauseated, there’s a third you’ve maybe never heard of and you wonder whether he is OK. Will there be a fourth? That could be the answer, but, well, we don’t know yet.
The conundrum is no small thing. I have conservative friends who tell me that if I don’t vote for the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, I will help elect the likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. She happens to hug ruinous policy ideas as she races from scandals, I am told, and I know that.
But I reply that Trump’s foremost characteristic is showbiz sensationalism tracing back to freak shows and bear-baiting, and I’ve long believed a president should be something short of a clown. The issue is not just whether America can be great, but whether it will survive as something more than a continental version of Greece.
There just could be another option. You see, there’s this guy named Gary Johnson. He’s likely to get the nomination of the Libertarian Party, which is already on the ballot in all 50 states. He would bring with him two successful terms as the governor of New Mexico, a rambunctious business background and a platform cheering limited government and more freedom.
I like many of his ideas but hesitate when I read he plans a 43 percent reduction in federal spending. That’s as likely to happen as the disappearance of every special interest in the country and millions of Americans who get some benefit. His isolationism strikes me as asking world chaos to envelop us, he seems to think the military needs little more than slingshots and I think his bit about legalizing all drugs is akin to legalizing the distribution of arsenic to the suicidal.
There’s more, and my guess is that Johnson will get about as many votes as he did the last time he ran — a little more than a million — and meanwhile, astutely analytical Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, wants to create another party, the Latter-Day Republicans, and find a candidate who could win.
He has knocked on some doors that have stayed closed and is still after some top political players as other conservatives repeat the warning about assuring a Clinton victory. Maybe not. The right candidate could maybe defeat both her and Trump. Both have record-setting disapproval ratings, there’s a fair chance a hope-shredding indictment could come her way and this is a year in which precedent is gone with the wind. I have a suggestion for where to look.
This country is full of very smart, knowledgeable people who have never run for office but have deep character plus the gifts that could get them elected even if they have never employed them that way. One general has already turned Kristol down, but there are others with a mix of scholarly achievement and practical experience who project well, are accomplished in practical affairs, know Washington and are well-versed on issues. Put the right one in a debate with Hillary and Trump and watch the mowing machine cut the weeds.
I am a believer in deep political experience — I have watched elected officials up close and know that amateurs struggle — but the right person would surround him or herself with capable advisors, and this is a time when the public is big on outsiders. What’s vital, of course, is that the person has real solutions for invigorating economic growth and maintaining American leadership in the world along with a vision of where exactly we ought to be going.
Given all of this, I think other needs could fall in place, and, at the very least, many of us could cast a presidential vote in good conscience.
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Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at [email protected]