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 alternative.
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 your views.
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 sure.
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 know.
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.
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.”
Originally published on The Resurgent