Seal of the President
Seal of the President

In the race for President of the United States, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) faces former Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM) (now a Libertarian) and real-estate mogul Donald Trump (R). Also on the Virginia ballot will be two minor candidates, Evan McMullin (I) and Doctor Jill Stein (G). Incumbent President Barack Obama (D) has reached his constitutional term limit and is not permitted to seek reelection.

The United States has a unique system for electing presidents, where the citizens of each of the fifty states (and the District of Columbia) vote for a slate of electors who are ‘pledged’ to a particular presidential candidate. Each state has a number of electors equal to the size of its total congressional delegation, counting both representatives and senators. The District of Columbia has three electors as well, which brings the total number of electors to 538.

Maine and Nebraska allot their electors based on the majority vote in each congressional district, with the remaining two electors chosen at-large based on the statewide vote. All other states and the District of Columbia allot their electors under a ‘winner take all’ system, where the winner of the statewide vote receives all of that state’s electors. The candidate who receives a majority vote of at least 270 electors wins the election.

If no candidate receives a majority vote, the House of Representatives is then called upon to choose a president by a ‘majority of the states’ vote. Presidents are elected to four-year terms, and may serve up-to two terms.

Major Candidates

Major candidates are defined by Off on a Tangent as those likely to receive at least five percent of the popular vote for an office.

Hillary Clinton (D)

Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0])
Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0])
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) stands as the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States.

Clinton served as a law professor in Fayetteville, Arkansas, before her husband, former President Bill Clinton (D), was elected Arkansas Attorney General in 1976. The couple then moved to Little Rock, where Hillary took a position at the Rose Law Firm and later became a partner. She also served on a number of boards, including six years on the Board of Directors of the Arkansas-based retail giant WalMart.

Bill Clinton served as Governor of Arkansas in two stints between 1978 and 1992. He was elected President of the United States in 1992 and served two terms. Hillary, in her role as First Lady of Arkansas and then First Lady of the United States, became increasingly involved in politics during this period. Most notably, she led an ill-fated health care reform effort during Bill’s first term as president.

As Bill Clinton prepared to leave the White House, Hillary campaigned for an open United States Senate seat in New York. She was elected in 2000, and then reelected to a second term in 2006. She unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2008, losing to now-President Barack Obama (D). After Obama was elected, he nominated his erstwhile opponent to serve as Secretary of State. Clinton served in that role until her resignation in 2013.

If elected in November, Hillary Clinton would be the first woman, and the first spouse of a former president, to serve as President of the United States. She is joined on the Democratic ticket by her vice presidential running mate, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Clinton has been in the public eye for much of her life, and we know (or ought to know) what to expect from her if we put her in the White House. She operates under a strange, unique merger of shrewd, centrist opportunism (much like her husband’s) and a radical, leftist statism that is all her own. As such, she can be difficult to pin down.

For example, although she is running today as an anti-war, anti-interventionist candidate, she was—once upon a time—one of the Senate’s most fervent cheerleaders for the war in Iraq. And while she agitates for anti-business regulation and federal obstruction of the free market, she also kowtows to Wall Street fat-cats, much to the chagrin of her own party’s left wing.

As a general rule, it seems that Clinton will follow her ideology when it comes to issues that advance the cause of statism—growing the scope and breadth of the federal government. But when it comes to issues that have little direct connection to that cause, she will simply blow with the wind in a cynical effort to gain votes. This is evident in her support for, then opposition to, the war in Iraq . . . and perhaps less gallingly, her opposition to, then support for, gay marriage. In both cases, she blew right along with changing public opinion.

It is difficult to tell what convictions, if any, she has on these and countless other issues. But we do know that she is an unceasing advocate for the power of the state . . . and herself.

Consistent with her view of an all-encompassing government, Clinton opposes any human rights and civil liberties that would shift the balance in favor of the individual. She denies the right to life, the fundamental human right upon which all others are predicated. She supports only a very limited view of the freedoms of speech and press, and has even proposed a constitutional amendment to deny those rights to groups. She opposes religious free exercise, and supports a borderline establishment of irreligion (discriminating against religious groups in favor of secular ones). She opposes all but the narrowest interpretation of the right to keep and bear arms. She supports eminent domain abuse, and has been generally (though inconsistently) supportive of the NSA’s illegal domestic surveillance programs.

These views disqualify Clinton from elective office. Presidents must swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution; Clinton seems unaware that it even exists, or is totally uninterested in obeying it.

We have had many presidents who play fast-and-loose with the U.S. Constitution. This includes some, like Abraham Lincoln (R) and Franklin Roosevelt (D), who we now consider among the greatest to have held the office. So we have survived it before, and we will survive it again. But the prospect of Clinton as President is especially troubling as she will have the opportunity to shape the United States Supreme Court in her statist image.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, was one of the most reliable constitutionalists on the nearly evenly-split court. With him on the bench, proper interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and the law was likely to win at least some of the time, albeit by a depressingly narrow margin. If Clinton is able to choose Scalia’s replacement, the court shifts from being a hit-and-miss crap-shoot into a firm and reliable anti-liberty majority.

The rapid erosion of human rights and civil liberties in the United States over the last decade has been frightening. Our republic, and the rights we hold dear, are now held in the balance by a tied court. A Clinton presidency, and the statist Supreme Court majority that will result, will likely mean the end of them. This is not hyperbole.

When Franklin Roosevelt used the court to authorize broad statist policies, he encountered little opposition. The people of the time wanted the government to step in and seize control of an economy that seemed to be misfiring badly. It took decades to crawl out of the induced malaise that followed. We, the people, have begun to reassert our sovereignty, but our gains have been tenuous and they can easily be reversed. If you think people are fired-up and angry now, and if you fear that the country is already on the verge of descending into political discord and violence, just wait until a Clinton nominee on the Supreme Court votes with a 5-4 majority to repeal religious free exercise or the right to keep and bear arms.

Add to this Clinton’s unwillingness to rein in the federal government, balance the federal budget, or restore the federalist separation of powers between the federal and state governments, and we have a campaign that is a complete non-starter . . . and this even before we begin looking at her actual promises and proposals, which are a mix of fluff and nonsense with bits of raw malice and ideology mixed in.

As if that was not enough, Clinton has also shown perennially bad judgment. She narrowly escaped prosecution for violating laws relating to classified material and public records, and famously spearheaded a misinformation campaign relating to the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. If Clinton was anybody other than Clinton, she probably would not be able to pass a basic federal background check. In fact, she would almost certainly be in federal prison. And yet she believes herself qualified for the highest and most security-intensive office in America.

The one point of light in Clinton’s platform is that she does generally support free trade and the global economy, which has been relentlessly beneficial for all, including the American people. In the face of a populist revolt in her own party led by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Clinton has attempted to adopt a more protectionist position, but this is obvious political posturing. Clinton is a free-trade Democrat, and should be applauded for it.

Gary Johnson (L)

Gov. Gary Johnson (R-NM)
Gov. Gary Johnson (R-NM)

Former Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM) stands as the Libertarian Party nominee for President of the United States.

Johnson started a small construction company, Big J Enterprises, in 1976, less than a year after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico. He grew the business into a multi-million-dollar corporation with over a thousand employees. When he sold it in 1999, it was one of the largest construction firms in New Mexico.

With the slogan, “People before politics,” Johnson ran a partially self-funded campaign to narrowly win the Republican nomination in the 1994 New Mexico governor’s race. In the general election, he defeated incumbent Governor Bruce King (D-NM) by a ten-point margin. Johnson won reelection in 1998 by a similar margin.

As governor, Johnson vetoed nearly half of the bills that came across his desk, and quickly became known nationwide as a leading ‘small-l’ libertarian. Since leaving office in 2002, Johnson left the Republican Party and became a member of the Libertarian Party. He stood as the Libertarian presidential nominee in 2012 and earned about 1% of the popular vote. This was slightly less than Ed Clark’s (L) 1.1% showing in 1980, but represented the highest raw vote total in Libertarian Party history—over 1.27 million.

Johnson is joined on the Libertarian ticket by his vice presidential running mate, former Governor William Weld (R-MA). Weld is another former Republican who was elected—and then reelected—in a state that normally leans strongly Democratic.

Libertarians sometimes have a reputation (not entirely undeserved) as radicals. Indeed, although I sympathize with many Libertarian causes, the party and its members often tend too far toward anarchy for my tastes. Johnson, however, might be labeled as a moderate Libertarian. He is not an anarchist. He does not believe in minimizing the role of government until it is practically nonexistent, but rather limiting its role to areas where it is clearly necessary. He is, in my view, a good example of what Libertarians ought to be.

On human rights and civil liberties, Johnson is nearly the ideal candidate. He supports the freedoms of speech and the press, the right to keep and bear arms, the full breadth of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure and self-incrimination, and the restriction of federal authority to its enumerated and defined areas.

He falls short in his tepid-at-best acknowledgement of the right to life, which is the most fundamental right of all. Johnson would permit abortion up to the point of ‘viability,’ a standard that is morally, scientifically, and legally indefensible. He has also been somewhat inconsistent in his recognition of conscience rights under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.

Johnson is the strongest candidate in the race with regard to reining in the scope and breadth of the federal government. His record as governor of New Mexico illustrates this nicely. In vetoing half of the bills that came across his desk, he limited the state government’s role as narrowly as he possibly could. He is likely to do the same in the federal sphere if elected president.

He is also the strongest candidate with regard to balancing the federal budget. In fact, he is the only candidate in the race making a plausible proposal to do it . . . and not at some nebulous future date, but immediately. He has pledged that his first major act as president would be to submit a balanced budget to Congress.

Johnson is the only major candidate who seems to acknowledge the proper separation of powers between the federal and state governments, and would seek to reassert the authority of the states in the federal system. And he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would obey the constitution and defend human rights.

Like many other Libertarians, Johnson is weakest when it comes to border security and foreign policy. Johnson supports immigration reform, and his proposals merit consideration, but he opposes a border wall and opposes any punitive action against those who have invaded our country illegally. In other words, he supports lawlessness.

With regard to foreign policy, Johnson takes the typical Libertarian Pollyanna position that we should abdicate the ‘police role’ that we have taken on in the world. I am sympathetic to this position in principle; the United Nations (U.N.) is supposed to be the world’s policeman, not us. But the U.N. does not do its job. Somebody must act on the world stage in opposition to tyranny and in favor of security and freedom. Though I would much rather it be the U.N. than us, I would rather it be us than nobody.

Johnson is, however, the most consistent supporter of free trade among the major candidates. Free trade and the global economy is good for everybody, including American workers and consumers. Johnson recognizes this, and would work to reduce policies that restrict or discourage international trade.

All-in-all, Johnson is a strong candidate, despite his shortcomings with regard to border security, the rule of law, and foreign policy. As I have remarked in previous elections, I would happily accept four (or eight) years of poor foreign policy in return for a balanced budget and a reassertion of federalism.

This year, Johnson is the only major candidate on the ballot who is seriously proposing a balanced budget and shows a degree of familiarity with the word ‘federalism.’ He also appears to be the only major candidate who has some principles, and won’t change positions in the name of political expediency.

Donald Trump (R)

Donald Trump (by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0])
Donald Trump (by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0])
Real-estate mogul Donald Trump (R) stands as the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States.

Trump is the chairman and president of The Trump Organization, a ninety-three-year-old conglomerate with interests in—among other things—real estate, investing, and property management. It is composed of more than five hundred subsidiaries, the majority of which include Trump’s name or initials in their names.

The Trump Organization is based in New York, New York, and employs about twenty-two thousand people. It is owned entirely by the Trump family. Forbes Magazine estimates that Trump’s net worth is about $4.5 billion. The Trump Organization also owns a television production company that produces The Apprentice for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). That program starred Trump from 2004 to 2015.

The meteoric rise of Trump during the primaries—despite his being a brash, center-left outsider who has never held elective office and has virtually no connection the Republican Party machine—has baffled political observers in the United States and abroad. His campaign successfully tapped into widespread popular frustration both within and outside of the Republican Party, particularly about illegal immigration and the economy.

If elected, Trump would be only the sixth president to rise to that office without having previously held elective office. He would be the first to do so since President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) was elected in 1952. Trump is joined on the Republican ticket by Governor Mike Pence (R-IN).

Although it is unfortunate that I need to do so, I must first dispense with some nonsense. There is no evidence—personally or professionally—that Trump is a racist, sexist, bigot, or hater. The only evidence supporting these accusations can be found in decades-old lawsuits and hearsay, and even if those were accepted at face value they would carry little weight, especially given the wealth of newer contrary evidence.

More recent evidence that supposedly supports these claims does not stand up to even a cursory examination. For example, Trump’s early campaign statement implying that illegal immigrants from Mexico are rapists is exaggerated-at-best, but his statement could only be considered ‘racist’ if you believe that all Mexicans (or all Hispanics) in the United States are illegal immigrants. That belief, in and of itself, is absurd and racist. The fact that the accusers can’t distinguish between “illegal immigrant” and “immigrant” or “Hispanic” reveals more about them than it does about Trump.

But the fact that Trump is not a racist, sexist, bigot, or hater, does not mean that he is a fine, upstanding citizen who is above reproach. Not even close. Trump is a self-aggrandizing blowhard, a narcissist, and an opportunist. And this is me being as charitable as I can.

He does deserve credit for his successes. The Trump Organization was successful—and Trump himself was rich—before he took control of the firm in 1971, but its gains since then can be credited to his shrewd leadership. He knows what he is doing. He has taken risks, and some of his side-businesses have failed famously and spectacularly. But The Trump Organization itself—the core of his business world—endures and grows, and is likely to continue doing so.

It is difficult to judge Trump politically because he is not a politician. He has never held elective office. We have no voting record on which to base our judgment, and so we can only refer to what we know about the man’s character, and what he has promised in his campaign.

We do know that, while he is now the darling of the grassroots right, Trump is not a conservative. He is a center-left, big-government Republican. In all but temperament, he is largely in-line with the previous center-to-center-left campaigns of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) . . . though both McCain and Romney steadfastly refuse to admit it.

In the past, Trump has expressed opposition to the right to life and to the right to keep and bear arms, but he has cynically moved in-line with conservative Republicans in these two areas. He continues to support torture (in line with many Republicans, but breaking with McCain and others). He continues to call for severe restrictions on free speech and the free press, and he continues to support illegal domestic surveillance. Trump also supports undermining encryption and compelling self-incrimination. All-in-all, Trump cannot be trusted on human rights and civil liberties.

When it comes to reining in the scope and breadth of the federal government, Trump also falls woefully short. Though he claims to support efforts to reduce harmful federal regulations, he seems to have no interest in restricting federal activity to the enumerated powers or reducing government’s day-to-day negative impacts on our lives. He has proposed balancing the budget, but has not actually described how (or how quickly) he might do so. And he seems to support a borderline-imperial executive branch in the vein of presidents George W. Bush (R) and Barack Obama (D).

One redeeming fact is that Trump promises to appoint strict-constitutionalist justices to the United States Supreme Court. As I pointed out when discussing Clinton, we can withstand a president who plays fast-and-loose with the constitution . . . but we would be hard-pressed to survive a decisively anti-liberty court. Though there is little reason to trust Trump as president, there may be some reason to trust him as the appointer of Supreme Court justices. He has already released a list of possible appointees, and those on the list are good, serious, constitutional jurists. Any lover of liberty must consider this seriously, even while recognizing that Trump is, at best, a deeply flawed candidate.

On immigration, Trump rightfully wants to secure our borders and reassert national sovereignty and the rule of law. He is the strongest candidate on immigration that we have had in decades, and he is the only major candidate who sees it as the serious law enforcement issue that it is. Yes, we should reform our immigration laws and make it easier for people to come to the United States. But we should also enforce the laws that are in effect at a given time, and carefully screen prospective immigrants.

But Trump is also a rabid protectionist who opposes free trade and the global economy, despite its countless benefits for the American people. This position plays well with low-information voters, especially those who blame foreigners for the largely self-imposed failures of the American manufacturing industry. But if Trump crafts our trade policy the way he promises that he will, it would lead to economic disaster.

Trump’s political success is largely the result of a deep popular frustration with politics-as-usual. The American people voted for Bush, who promised ‘compassionate conservatism.’ They voted for Obama, who promised a ‘new day in Washington.’ Both failed to deliver. So now, many are attracted to Trump, the consummate non-politician. And because he’s so different, a lot of people think he might actually be able to do what he promises.

Bush and Obama both promised to reform immigration, and Trump promises to just build a damned wall. Bush and Obama both promised a strong-but-prudent foreign policy, and Trump promises to get the hell of out everybody’s business and focus on our own narrow interests. Bush and Obama both promised that government would fix healthcare, and Trump promises to repeal their nonsensical, malfunctioning crap that only made it worse. It is easy to understand why lots of people like him; Trump promises to use a flamethrower to burn away the deep layers of cruft and nonsense that have accumulated around Washington.

Could he deliver? My gut tells me he won’t. My heart wants to believe he can.

Minor Candidates

Minor candidates are defined by Off on a Tangent as those likely to receive less than five percent of the popular vote for an office.

Evan McMullin (I)

Evan McMullin (I) stands as an independent candidate for President of the United States. He is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent who served in the middle east, north Africa, and south Asia. After leaving CIA service, McMullin became an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, and then later worked for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Republican Conference. He is joined on his independent ticket by Nathan Johnson, who McMullin refers to as a ‘placeholder’ who will be replaced by some other candidate if he is elected.

McMullin was a relatively late addition to the presidential field, and promises to be an alternative to the major party candidates. “America deserves much better,” he says, “than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can offer us.” He promises to defend human rights, including the right to life, free speech, the freedom of the press, religious liberty, and the right to keep and bear arms. He supports restoring the federalist separation of powers between the federal and state governments.

Additionally, McMullin proposes reasonable foreign policies, robust international trade, securing our borders, and reforming our bloated and confusing tax code so it is flatter, fairer, and simpler. All-in-all, McMullin seems to be a exile from the Republican Party that was once, but is no longer, the standard-bearer of conservatism. Indeed, he is the only actual conservative on the Virginia presidential ballot.

Jill Stein (G)

Doctor Jill Stein (G) stands as the Green Party nominee for President of the United States. Stein is a practicing physician and environmental activist who previously made unsuccessful runs for Governor of Massachusetts (2002), Massachusetts House of Representatives (2004), and Massachusetts Secretary of State (2006). She stood as the Green Party nominee for President in 2012, earning 0.36% of the popular vote. She is joined on the Green ticket by Ajamu Baraka (G).

Stein would increase government economic interventionism, move toward a socialized workplace, make our tax code more ‘progressive’ (i.e., unequal) than it already is, make unreasonable hikes to the minimum wage, nationalize much of the banking system, offer ‘free’ college to everybody and forgive all student debt, eliminate teacher merit pay, outlaw foreclosures and evictions, eliminate incorporation as we know it, establish a ‘free-for-all’ immigration policy, and enact a suite of absurd and irrational environmental policies.

She denies the right to life, opposes free speech for groups, opposes religious free exercise, supports disadvantaging religious groups, and opposes the right to keep and bear arms. She is, however, strong on the Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure and self-incrimination. She has no apparent interest in balancing the budget, and would expand rather than shrink our bloated federal government.

Stein is a principled candidate, which is more than I can say for two of the three major candidates this year, but her principles seem to have little (if any) basis in reality.

Conclusion

This is a thoroughly unpleasant election.

The Democratic Party has put forth an incompetent ideologue who stands diametrically opposed to human rights and limited government. She does not deserve my—or anybody else’s—vote. Heck, she ought to be doing time in federal prison, not running a presidential campaign.

The Libertarian Party has put forth a compelling but imperfect candidate who promises to restore human rights and balance the budget, but denies the right to life and subscribes to the standard Libertarian Pollyanna positions on immigration and foreign policy.

The Republican Party has put forth an opportunistic blowhard who promises to shake things up, but is difficult—at best—to trust on any of the key issues of the day. He is a center-left liberal who is now professing to be a conservative, and people, inexplicably, seem to be falling for it.

Meanwhile, we have two minor candidates on our ballots in Virginia. One is an independent conservative who is running as the representative of those who have been abandoned by Republican Party. The other is . . . a member of the Green Party. I guess every presidential race needs some comic relief.

The most important issues facing the president in the coming years are: 1. Reversing the rapid erosion of our human rights and civil liberties; 2. Reducing the scope and breadth of federal authority; and 3. Balancing the federal budget. Additionally, the next president will have the opportunity to shape the United States Supreme Court, which will have a lasting impact on at least the first two of those three areas.

We can obviously dismiss former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) and Doctor Jill Stein (G) outright. Casting a vote for either of them would be casting a vote against everything this nation ought to stand for. They would both work tirelessly to undermine our human rights and civil liberties, and nominate justices to the United States Supreme Court who would do the same. The right to life, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, religious free exercise, and the right to keep and bear arms—already held in perilous balance—would be eliminated or dangerously restricted. And on top of that, their disastrous economic proposals and deficit spending would be likely to send us even further into debt and dependence.

And that leaves us with three candidates, and a familiar and difficult dilemma. Should we vote for one of the two candidates who are, objectively, the best available, even knowing that they will not win, or should we vote for the ‘lesser of two evils’ from the dominant parties in hopes of denying a win to the worst possible candidate?

My preference, all else being equal, is to vote for the best candidate on the ballot. I hate ‘lesser of two evils’ voting, and I have little reason to support the well-entrenched two-party system or afford it any more weight than it already has. I have cast a number of ballots for third-party and independent candidates over the years (though I have not yet done so in a presidential race).

The best candidate on the Virginia ballot is the independent candidate, Evan McMullin (I). He is consistently conservative, and right on nearly all of the key issues, especially including human rights and his desire to reassert federalist principles. But McMullin, sadly, only qualifies as a minor candidate. He has made it onto the ballot in ten states, and even if he somehow swept them all, he would still earn only seventy-six electoral votes. This is far short of the 270 majority. It is not even theoretically possible for him to win.

Coming in as a close second is a major candidate, former Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM) on the Libertarian Party ticket. He isn’t perfect, particularly in his failure to acknowledge the right to life, his lawless position on illegal immigration, and his idealistic and impractical foreign policy stances. But he proposes a consistent and principled defense of human rights (the right to life, sadly, excluded), a reduction in the scope and breadth of the federal government, and a rapid balancing the federal budget. He is on all states’ ballots, and could at least theoretically win (though it is extremely unlikely).

And then there is real-estate mogul Donald Trump (R). He is an objectively terrible candidate. He is not a conservative, shows little-if-any support for human rights and civil liberties, and doesn’t seem to care at all about the burgeoning federal government or balancing the budget. But he is representing one of the dominant parties, and he stands the most realistic chance of defeating Clinton.

Conservatives like myself criticized the Republican Party machine for its nominations of tepid presidential candidates like Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), and they were indeed poor vessels for the principles of limited government. But the intra-party revolt that should have moved conservatism back to the fore did just the opposite, elevating an even less conservative standard-bearer than the centrist ‘Republicans in name only’ of the last two cycles.

How could I—or any conservative—consider voting for Trump, especially when there are two better options on the ballot?

The answer is obvious, but unsatisfying. Conservatives like myself must give Trump serious consideration because, like McCain and Romney before him, he could actually win, and thereby deny the presidency to a much worse candidate.

We can survive bad presidents. We survived James Buchanan (D), Richard Nixon (R), Jimmy Carter (D), and Warren Harding (R). And if either Clinton or Trump is elected—both likely to be bad presidents—we will survive them too. Neither can destroy America in four or eight years. So if this election was only about who lives in the White House for the next four or eight years, I would advise voting for McMullin or Johnson and letting the chips fall where they may between the undesirable front-runners.

Unfortunately, this election is not just about the White House. The next president will likely be called upon to appoint the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, and then very likely one or more other justices in the coming years. This will shape the court for decades to come. Four or eight years of President Clinton won’t destroy America . . . but ten, twenty, or thirty years of her nominees serving on the Supreme Court very well might.

The court has been inconsistent-at-best on the important human rights and civil liberty issues that have come before it in recent years. But if Scalia is replaced with a Clinton-style statist, or even a center-left moderate, the court will become dangerously and consistently hostile to the right to life, free speech, free press, religious free exercise, the right to keep and bear arms, protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, and more. We cannot allow that to happen. We can’t afford it.

Trump has promised to appoint pro-liberty justices in the vein of Scalia and Justice Samuel Alito, as he should, and he has released a list of the types of jurists that he would consider. They are generally of the kind we should want. There is little reason to trust Trump, but even if he ignores his own list, it is still practically assured that his nominees will be better than those that Clinton would put forth, especially since Trump will need confirmation votes from reliable conservatives in the Senate.

And so I am forced to a troubling, frustrating, and depressing conclusion. The only possible way to prevent Clinton from entering the White House—and from shaping the Supreme Court so as to undermine liberty for decades to come—is to vote for Trump.

I don’t like Trump and I don’t trust him. I appreciate his brashness, but I condemn his meanness. And while I like some of his proposals, I hate his transparent posturing, and his penchant for speaking before thinking. Trump represents much of what is wrong with politics in modern America. He is the personification of persuasion-by-soundbite, and the king of the lowest common denominator. He is much more likely to be a bad president than a great one (though I concede that he might surprise me). If this election was only about the relative merits of the candidates, I could never endorse—or vote for—Trump.

But this election is about more than how much we like, or don’t like, the individual candidates. This election is about whether human rights still matter, and whether the American people will be free in the years and decades to come. With the United States Supreme Court in the balance, we must deny Clinton the presidency. For that reason, and that reason alone, I endorse the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.