I’m in Texas. It’s a Super Tuesday state, and it has an open primary system. If I wish, I can vote in either the Republican or Democrat primary, and either way I can influence the election. I’m choosing Weld, on the Republican side. There are a few reasons for this.
First is my personal affiliation. Despite the recent actions of the Republicans, I still have one. Because of their recent actions, it’s not with them. The current Republican party stands against equal protection under the law, it stands for wanton fiscal irresponsibility, it stands for protectionist and damaging trade policy, it stands for promoting our enemies and backstabbing our allies, and it stands against basic human rights the moment the humans involved cross a border. This is the Republican party under Trump, but they are not exclusively Trump’s views; as nearly every politician in the Republican party lined up behind that ideology, it became their defining viewpoint.
My personal affiliation is with the Republicans of the early 1990s and before. I would happily demonstrate that with a vote for Justin Amash, but he seems to have agreed with my analysis of the current party and has walked away from it rather than tilted at a windmill by primarying Trump.
This leaves Bill Weld – a former very popular governor of a “blue” state, with whom I have some significant policy disagreement. Most notably, I’m not on board with his views on climate change. Even on that issue, though, he’s tailoring his approach in a way that appeals to me: promoting change in a market-driven way that relies on appeals to the populace to shift their views rather than dictates from on high. He understands that the power in government comes from “We the people”, and his time as Governor demonstrated that; his openness to incorporating statewide-popular Democrat ideas with a Republican approach was a key factor in his success in Massachusetts. His tenure in office was so well received that a Weld candidacy would even put that very Democratic state into play in the general election.
There’s only one problem: he has no real chance. I am voting for him while recognizing that his best path forward involves Trump keeling over during one of his vitriol-filled adulation rallies and Pence being rejected from taking over the nomination because he hasn’t campaigned.
I’m in a swing state. Not for Democrat and Republican; when the general election comes around, Texas is expected to be solidly red, even with the antipathy toward Trump which has grown in many areas. Trump’s continued support from both Texas Senators, almost all of the House members, and the Governor’s office will almost certainly keep the state in the Republican column for at least one more cycle, even though toxic nationalism is eating into the Republican stronghold. Texas is a swing state only for this Democrat primary, where polling indicates it could go to Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden.
Of the pair, Joe Biden is the tolerable choice. While I have an issue with Weld’s policy, I have dozens with Biden’s. Under normal circumstances he would not even be a consideration for me. These are not normal circumstances.
Trump has been a corrosive agent not merely on the Republican party he has perverted but on the fundamental roots of Americanism. An amazing number of self-defined patriots now reject the notion of three co-equal branches of government and portions of the Constitution itself because they make ruling difficult for Trump. They are happy to reject free markets and fight against the “melting pot” concept by demonizing immigrants. There are always excuses. They’d be happy with equal branches, but the Democrats are being devious and can’t be allowed to win. The portions of the Constitution that are being violated aren’t the important parts (a prioritization which displays an appalling lack of political comprehension and historical knowledge.) Free markets are only being rejected until truly free markets can be installed at some undetermined time in a theoretical future. And, of course, they’re not personally against immigrants, only illegal immigrants, and they don’t care that the administration has worked to make all immigrants illegal.
And that’s not all. It’s never all, there’s more every day.
Sanders promises much of the same. As far as policy goes, he’s remarkably similar to Trump, although the supporters of each would recoil from such an idea. It’s not difficult to understand why the tariff-loving, isolationist, dictator-adoring Sanders and Trump alike would have similar policies. It’s also not difficult to understand that Sanders should be stopped.
Biden, on the other hand, suggests a return to Obama-era policies, though likely without some of Obama’s authoritarian bent and default trust of accused criminals over police. It suggests a weak, but not destructive, foreign policy and excessive, but not extravagant, spending and restrictive, but not dictatorial, governmental red tape. All bad, but considerably less so than Bernie or Trump.
That brings me back to the open primary and Texas’ swing state status.
I can go to the polls today and try to help Biden beat Sanders. By doing so, I will make my vote count strategically, knowing that Biden is far more likely to beat Trump. This is a noble and wise act, an effort to rid the country of the rot that is attacking at the roots.
But I’m not a Democrat. I’ve never been a Democrat, and I dislike the notion of influencing their election from outside. The open primary system has always been for people who affiliate with a party’s principles but don’t officially sign up for that party. That does not describe my relationship with the Democratic party. I feel no shame in urging every Democrat to go to the polls to vote for Biden, and I will do so. I was very pleased to see other Democrats rally around Biden against Sanders last night. I might even donate to a Biden campaign, the way I’ve donated to Weld and Amash, although in his case only to get Trump and Bernie out of the way.
I’m not going to vote for him in the primary, though. It runs counter to what I believe is proper political behavior, and if the nationalist poison of the Republican party has demonstrated one thing clearly, it’s the value of sticking to your core views.
Note: this is coming from someone who did, in fact, engage in the ridiculously named “operation chaos” activity voting for Hillary in the 2008 election. The difference was simple. At the time, there was no effort to steal the nomination from Obama… it was accepted by all save Hillary that she had already lost. It was an effort purely to keep Obama from being able to beat up on McCain prematurely, while McCain was still working to conclusively secure the nomination. Had I any belief that my vote might have actually swung a win to Hillary, I’d not have cast it.
This is not to attack those who vote for Biden today; not in the least. I absolutely understand the merit of strategic voting, and for anyone who doesn’t share my view that the primaries should be treated as exclusionary even if they’re technically not, or who envisions themselves as voting for Biden in the general election… Please, please, PLEASE go to vote for Biden today. I don’t have to mirror your views to understand and respect them.
This leaves me with Weld… and I’m happy about that. Because a vote for Weld might not lead to him winning, but it’s a thumb in the eye of every Trump voter, a reminder that they could have continued to be patriots but instead chose to bend a knee to a tyrant. They who correctly identified dictators through history who claimed to be for their country while actually promoting themselves are willfully blind to a man who theatrically hugs a flag while being unwilling to do so much as read, just once, the Constitution.
Undermining the Trumpian narrative of “everyone who’s ever been a Republican loves me” is only the shallow reward, however. The greater benefit is to demonstrate with my vote that there are still people in this country who care for the principles that Weld espouses. A vote for Biden, however strategic, does not do that. It will be interpreted as a growth in support for, not the crazy hard-left Democrat principles of AOC or Sanders or Warren, but the center-left policies of Biden, Obama and Clinton.
I recognize that there will be many strategic voters, and as I said above I welcome them. In this case, I want a balance with those who are visibly rejecting not just nationalism and Democratic Socialism but even the traditional big-government center-left.
And there’s a final reason. I’m giving a gift to myself in the fact that I get to vote for someone I would honestly enjoy having as a leader. I made the mistake of not doing that once before. Now, I’m voting for someone I like. These days, that’s a rare prize.