I’m an older white male, a Christian, and a molecular biologist who works in nuclear chemistry. I am married with seven kids. I’m a writer and still – it’s an old-fashioned thing now – agree with Dr. Martin Luther King that the measure of a man or woman is not their color or their culture or their career or their wealth, but the content of their character.
A presidential philosophy
I require a few things in a public servant.
First, they must embrace empathy and a basic, shared worth of all human beings. That is the lowest bar.
Second, they tell the truth and, if they don’t know the truth, they defer to experts for insight.
Third, in most things, and in the broadest sense, they want what I want. It’s the glory of the American system to have a say.
Are these ideas so radical?
I have a philosophy, too, about presidents in particular: they are figureheads who do little of any real importance, and they serve best as chapter titles for historians. Obviously, presidents do things: Truman approved dropping the bomb and Obama tried to insure all Americans, but mostly, they stand between the parties as the legislature and courts work out laws and decrees and budgets.
I’ll parse my views one at a time for each candidate.
One choice is the sitting president, and I can’t vote for him.
Choice One: Trump
He came into politics shadow boxing, taking on anyone in office, but lost me in that released conversation with him bragging that ‘when you are a star and you see a woman you want to bed,’ well, we all know what comes next: ‘you just grab ‘em by the pussy.’ Trump, and then supporters everywhere, defended the remark as locker-room talk, sweaty guys walking around in towels, puffed up and acting like they’re somebody. I forgave him at the time, deciding to watch to see if the blow-up was all dust. It wasn’t, and using people as tools appears, for him, to be a core value. I can’t sit for this and am flabbergasted that 81% of ‘white, born-again, evangelical voters’ ticked the box for Trump. If you are a woman, or know one, or have a mother or a daughter, I can’t fathom how you hurdle this moral mess with a clear conscience.
Secondly, I want a truth-teller who calls on experts when needed. I admit here that I’m conflicted: it is my unshakeable opinion that whatever a politician of any creed or color says during their campaign, on day one of the job, their focus contorts immediately to reelection. This self-centeredness is more pronounced in some than others – at least some hide it better – but Trump makes it a boisterous art.
I doubt that Trump has ever met an expert he likes. If they agree with him, it’s because they studied for years to learn what comes easy for him. If they disagree, it’s only because they are jealous losers. So we have a president who invents his own science, medicine, and economics for his own purpose. Need I say more than COVID?
In a broad sense, I’m sure we want many of the same things, but, even when we use the same words, we talk about different people and groups. I want what most Americans want: an America where work and education are rewarded, where expertise is held in high regard, where the marginalized and poor are afforded more opportunity, and where all people are worthy.
Donald Trump doesn’t exhibit the values or core morals I want from a public servant, and, in fact, holds himself as the measure of all things. He relentlessly ridicules anyone who disagrees with him and says he wants the same things as I do, but I can hardly think of a thing he’s done other than argue and pound the podium. In other words, as said by many before me, he’s a blowhard bully, a pompous do-nothing, who gets his way because he can.
Choice Two: Uncle Joe
I’ve always liked Biden. He appears to be a genuine and standup guy who is as entertaining as any politician I know of. Known for his gaffes, I tell anyone who asks that I’ll take a Biden gaffe over a Trump truth any day. I can’t speak to Biden’s argued mental slogging, but he appears at times to struggle. I leave that assessment to his doctor. With Trump ranting almost hourly about Biden’s mental health, it’s hard to see beyond it. Which is the goal.
There’s no question to me that Biden fills the description as an empathetic public servant. He includes all people in his goals for general betterment, spreading the widest net over the country. To be fair, his plans will cost money and the wealthy will be expected to cough up more in taxes than they already do.
What to do?
What to do when the candidates leave you questioning? Vote for the party. But I can’t. President Trump appears in every way to bring out the worst in the GOP. Almost to a one, senators, representatives, and governors appear to drink the same water as their party leader. GOP politics are no longer a country for the genteel, caring, and learned.
I can’t sign on to the democratic party, either, and it’s not because of the creeping socialism. Both parties promote that for their voting clientele: they might fight against each other for a hundred dollar COVID payout, but we all know that they can pull a couple billion out of the hat in an hour if Goldman Sachs makes a bad decision.
And in the largest philosophical sense, I’m not strictly opposed to a kind of American socialism. A few years ago, I read Elana Gorokhova’s A Mountain of Crumbs about her leaving the then Soviet Union to move to America. When she told her mother, a firm believer in The State, her mother wondered aloud why “anyone would ever want to move to a place that lets their comrades die under bridges without healthcare?” It’s a sentiment that haunted me then and still does. A kind of socialism is at the core of early Christian history, too. Not textbook socialism operated by the state: heck, the state was too busy sawing Christians in half for entertainment. But it’s described in the New Testament that, for these first believers, they made sure that there were no needy among them, but pooled resources to care for each other.
This soft socialism aside, I still can’t vote for Biden because a vote for Biden is likely a vote for the most heinous abortion laws. Let me reiterate what I said earlier: I am a molecular biologist and a chemist. I did neurobiology research at the University of Washington Medical School and I work now in chemistry. And abortion chills me.
I understand the horrible position some girls and women find themselves in, many times not of their own doing. I can only shudder and admit that if one of my girls came home to me, admitting that she just took a pregnancy test, and she’s three weeks pregnant, that I’d be loading up the car for the root doctor.
What bothers me isn’t so much early pregnancy and abortion, though maybe it should. What bothers me first, and, then, what really chills me is second and third-trimester abortion. As a scientist, it’s all semantics. Pure and simple. I see no other way for us to affirm the humanhood of a fetus on the day of delivery when just the day before, just an hour before, it was a hunk of squishy cells and proteins. We define it so and thus it is. I am loathe to vote for a party that wants to move further in this direction.
Why I’m not voting
At work, if the subject arises, and, hey, I live in the Deep South, so it’s lunchtime fodder on most days, most agree, laughing, that both candidates and both parties are flawed, so you have to pick the lesser of two evils. But here’s the thing: I’m not a fan of evil. It’s harder to cultivate, but I want the hard work of picking between two goods. Choosing between two evils means I still get evil, but I want a light on a hill, a beacon of mercy and truth. I know I’m naïve and I’m fine with that. At work, as a supervisor, I earned the moniker “West Coast Denn” and it was never meant to be complimentary. It means I chose not to be an ass and force people to walk a line, and I’m fine with that. I like West Coast Denn. I want the same in my political leaders.
So, it’s Trump vs. the Democratic party and I can’t vote for either. I can’t vote for Trump because of his arrogance and his relentless bullying. I can’t vote for the dems because of where they want to move the party regarding abortion. So for me, my conscience is most clear when I pull the eject button in the voting booth. I’ll be looking for a “Are you kidding? No, I didn’t vote” sticker come November.
What about you? People have visceral emotions about this one. Do you?