Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Despite potential SCOTUS nominees, my conscience says I can't vote for Donald Trump

When people find out that I intend to vote for a 3rd Party presidential candidate in November, the most common question I hear from other Republicans is, "The next president will select Supreme Court justices, do you really want that on your conscience if it's Hillary?" Last night, I gave shape to my thoughts on the subject and wanted to share them. I apologize for the length, but I think it's necessary to sufficiently explain things I've been considering as a matter of my conscience.
During the last two months, I've had some variation of this question posed to me by GOP strategists and campaign managers, Congressional staffers, Nebraska state legislators, a statewide pro-life nonprofit Director, two Evangelical pastors, and several other friends and family members.
It's a question that I've constantly debated with myself, spent hundreds of hours thinking through, and prayed over for months. I feel that I owe many of you an explanation because of the effort, money, and time you have put into the Republican Party and Conservatism. I respect your contributions and feel a deep sense of agony at not having a candidate that I feel capable of voting for in good conscience. I have never voted for a candidate without an "R" next to their name, and it's hard to believe I will be doing so.
Most of the people that mention the potential Supreme Court nomination to me do so as if they view me as having never considered the Supreme Court nominations or as if I misunderstand the value of such nominations. I can assure you that neither is true. I have diligently considered the seats alongside many other factors. As an attorney and student of the law, I likely even place a weightier value on the SCOTUS seats than most. I have read 20-30 of their decisions every year since 2013 in addition to thousands of cases decided by the panel throughout US history. For the many reasons that follow, what happens with the Supreme Court will not weigh on my conscience in November.

1. Many of Trump's policies/stances are both unethical and proximate. A direct vote in his favor would weigh on my conscience when these things occurred:

A. Trump has, on multiple occasions, threatened to commit war crimes if he is elected. When probed on the issue, he doubles down. I cannot, in good conscience, commit to the intentional murder and torture of innocent civilians--yes, even the wives and children of known terrorists.

B. Trump has made it clear that he will unilaterally exit free trade agreements and will erect isolationist and protectionist policies that are equally likely to spawn countervailing policies from around the world. Both the poor and the wealthy in the United States will suffer--as will the rest of the world.

Leadership in both parties have abandoned what is traditionally considered "unskilled labor" in this country. Former factory workers, coal miners, etc. often have nowhere to turn but fast food/service jobs--and what kind of ceiling does that present? One that looks a lot like the floor.

The rise of Trump makes it clear that we have a major problem that needs to be solved, but the answer isn't to return to the past (Trump's answer)--it's to figure out how the future includes blue collar workers in America.

C. Trump has no commitment to religious liberty or freedom within this country. He's gone so far as to push the banning of certain religious groups from entering the country. I think radical Islam is a problem, but the solution isn't banning a religion. For context, he's a guy that stated he would have probably supported the internment of Japanese citizens during WWII.

D. Trump has insisted that the United States torture its prisoners. When it's suggested that soldiers wouldn't obey, Trump responded, "They’re not going to refuse me. If I say do it, they’re going to do it.“
When asked, "what if it doesn't work?" Trump replied, "they probably deserve it anyway."
He is clearly not a man that believes humans have dignity and their rights exist before the government rather than because of it.
E. Trump won't rule out the American use of nuclear weapons--even in Europe!
F. He's suggested the solution to potential gas shortages is to get rough and tough--perhaps even invade--Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Iraq in order to take the oil. He then ran TV ads stating he would actually do it.
G. Trump suggests that we need to find more painful ways to carry out the death penalty because it should hurt the person dying.
H. Trump has constantly kicked black people out of conferences, rallies, and rooms that he is in without explanation or warning--on one occasion, it was even a GOP official from Atlanta.
I. I'm really not sure how to classify all the disgusting things Trump says about women, African Americans, Muslims, Mexicans, Native Americans, mothers, etc. It's clearly not policy, but it smacks of immorality and decency.
2. Most of Trump's positions are authoritarian and abandon the principle of limited government focused on ordered liberty. They are not necessarily immoral, but they are unwise. They also aren't Conservative.
A. Trump has declared we ought to shut down the Internet, or parts of it in order to fight and control terrorism.
B. Trump has expressed intent to go to war with Apple, Amazon, and other similar companies (America's companies of the future) in order to return to the way things were before.
C. Trump desires to open up libel laws in order to go after the media and reduce American freedom of the Press. Combine this policy with 3(A), and you've got an even more substantial problem.
D. Trump has regularly demonstrated his admiration and respect for authoritarian leaders. He loves Putin and has praised the strength of Communist China for running over a man with a tank on Tienanmen Square--his example of a government that knows how to step up to the plate!
E. Trump supporters have demonstrated a propensity for facism that is almost unbelievable. Senior Trump campaigners have: called for the lynching of our black AG, and suggested GOP members that don't support Trump should be tried with treason. Supporters have: sent death threats to CO GOP delegates, GOP officials, and the party leader in CO.
F. A continuation of E, but significant enough that it needs its own letter. In March of this year, Trump repeatedly suggested that his supporters ought to use violence against protesters and went so far as to suggest he'd pay their legal bills (although later backed away from the pledge...likely when the check arrived...jk...kind of.) On another occasion, Trump called two of his supporters that beat up and urinated on a Hispanic homeless person "just passionate". On yet another occasion, he suggested that a black protester at his rally was "obnoxious and should have been roughed up."
G. Trump intends to limit immigration to this country--both skilled and unskilled. He's opposed to the H-1B visa, which provides many of our major corporations with necessary talent.
It's as if to say, "We don't care if you have anything to offer, you're not one of us. Get out." So much for our great American Melting Pot.
What would he actually be like WITH the power of the presidency?
3. Most of the leaders in the world that run countries opposed to US interests are cheering for Trump. Many groups that I'm opposed to have also endorsed him. It's often said that you're known by the company you keep and by the people that are opposed to you. When I look around the world, I see most of the countries that are allies with us fearful of a Trump presidency.
A. I have spoken with people from 9 other countries. Often, many people from the same country (a half dozen from Estonia, a dozen from Ireland, and more than a dozen from Greece and Italy). They are all fearful of what a Trump presidency means to order in the world...and so am I.
B. North Korea endorsed Trump.
C. Vladamir Putin endorsed Trump.
D. Chinese Communist Party endorsed Trump.
E. Name your KKK leader and/or sympathizer (there are a handful of prominent ones) and you're going to find a Trump supporter. Trump's nomination actually inspired David Duke to run for U.S. Senate because he believes the people have finally adopted his views.
I don't recall the last time Republican or Democratic presidential candidates were being endorsed by authoritarian dictatorships and the KKK...
4. Trump has no concern for the social conservative.
A. See points about religious liberty above. The only time he addressed the subject in his speech was a pledge to remove a religious institution's prohibition from political speech in order to claim tax-free status. On the campaign trail, it was to promise corporations would force their employees to say "Merry Christmas."
B. Trump is not pro-life. His views on the issue, are, at best, confusing. Roughly a year ago, he took five official positions in less than three days. We do know that Trump is not committed to defunding PP and he's not willing to enact laws or policies restricting abortion. His fist pounding solution is the "Supreme Court." I'll address this in point 5, but it's not comforting.
C. Trump stated that he would repeal Obergefell, but due to Federalism--not due to his naturalistic understanding of marriage or its precedent to legal recognition/promotion. His statement about the British civil union of Elton John and longtime boyfriend David Furnish is telling, "If two people dig each other, they dig each other...This is a marriage that is going to work."
Furthermore, I personally think that he's adopted the federalism-based argument in order to appease social conservatives but has no loyalty to it. As Trump has stated, "anything is negotiable" when it comes to policy, and this will be one of the first things on the chopping block.
D. Trump has already come down left on the gender identification issue.
E. Trump's a Christian that can't tell you his favorite Biblical who has never asked God for forgiveness. These two facts are not direct objections, but are a couple of reasons I think Trump is a wolf in sheep's clothing. I could pile on more than 100 examples exhibiting the same reality, but will refrain for the sake of brevity.
5. The Supreme Court nominations, in #, quality, and results are uncertain.
A. There is currently one opening. There's no guarantee that any more openings will occur during the next four years.
"What about Ginsburg? She's been falling asleep at the State of the Union for 4 years and she's 83!" It's been suggested she retire multiple times during Obama's presidency so that he could appoint her replacement, and she's responded that she will retire when good and ready. It does seem likely to me that she'll retire in the next four years, but I said that four years ago. Oliver Wendell Holmes retired from the court when he was 90. If she does retire, it's hard to imagine a more liberal justice entering the court. I'm tempted to say that it will get more conservative by default.
"What about Kennedy, age 80?" Unless he dies, I expect that he'll be there in four years. Kennedy has told close friends that he would not retire until Obama was no longer president due to his pro-abortion positions. He has also voted against partial birth abortions (Carhart) and in favor of other restrictions on abortion at the state level. Still, he most recently voted against Texas's safety requirements (Hellerstedt). All of that said, he's not been a "reliable conservative" justice, and is often the person we are already hanging our hat on and left disappointed.
"What about Breyer, almost age 78?" He's refused to step down during Obama's tenure for the same reason as Ginsburg. He's even stated, "Your job is to treat administrations not as political entities, that you favor some politician or you disfavor another politician. You try that for 21 years. And then you see that whatever instincts you might have had coming to the bench for one political or the other political side diminish” when asked if he would step down because a politician was president. When directly asked one year ago if he would retire, his answer was, "eventually." Again, he was appointed by Bill Clinton, so the court dynamic doesn't change much. (Albeit, he's the least liberal of the 4 liberals on the court, but barely).
The rest are under the age of 68, and I don't see them retiring in the next 8 years, even if Hillary wins.
B. The quality of the justice is uncertain. Trump has presented a list that he vetted, but we have little reason to believe that he will stick to it. He's a negotiator, but there's no punishment post-election for him nominating somebody else. If his rapidly changing views on most topics and lack of devotion to social issues is any clue, social conservatives will be the most disappointed in his nominee.
C. The results of such nomination and appointment are uncertain. I felt certain the ACA would be struck down. Instead, the conservative court, in an opinion written by Roberts (appointed by W) upheld the Act. The Texas admitting requirements were struck down, with Justice Kennedy as the swing vote (nominated by a conservative, Reagan). I've read dozens of SCOTUS cases, perhaps more than 100, where I desired a more conservative outcome but was disappointed by a Court with a conservative majority.
D. The future of Supreme Court nominations will be ugly, and consideration by the Senate will be uncertain. The Republican Party has set a dangerous precedent by delaying the consideration of Garland. If it's 2019 and Anthony Kennedy dies, will a conservative majority senate even confirm a Clinton appointee? It seems doubtful to me. If Ginsburg or Breyer die, they might.
In conclusion, I have considered the Supreme Court and its impact on the United States--both our democracy and society--and have determined that if the vote were to happen today, I would not have a guilty conscience for voting third party. There are too many negative consequences that are both unconscionable and proximate for a vote in favor of Trump. There are several other key policy agenda items and tactics that cause me to question his commitment to limited government and ordered liberty. Trump has no devotion or care for social conservatives, and if he wins the presidency, justice seats will be on the table as a tool for negotiation with the highest bidder--and social conservatives will lose without any ability to hold him accountable. The Supreme Court seats are themselves uncertain in #, quality, or results, and I'm unwilling to cast my vote in affirmation of all the other evils Trump supports for so little. In conclusion, my conscience has identified him as a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Trump is more likely to commit many other grave evils than he is to nominate a conservative justice. I won't feel guilty voting for a third party because I won't be supporting the grave evils that either Trump or Hillary support.