Real-estate tycoon Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for president. He is facing former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. This fall, Americans should vote for neither. In protest against both candidates and both parties, they should vote for someone more qualified than either of the two party nominees: themselves.
I mean that seriously. In 2016 Americans will face the two worst major-party candidates in American history. A random citizen picked from the phonebook would make a better president than either of them. To prove my case, I volunteer as tribute. Here is my case for why I—like most Americans—would make a better president than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
I Served in the Military
Like 21.8 million of my fellow Americans—but unlike Clinton or Trump—I served in the U.S. military. Veterans have served their country in a very practical, down-to-earth, irrefutable way. They have literally put their lives on the line for the country, which neither Clinton nor Trump have.
Three-quarters of U.S. presidents have had some degree of military experience, ranging from the full careers of generals Dwight Eisenhower and George Washington to First Lieutenant George W. Bush’s stateside reserve duty with the Texas Air National Guard. Since the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, service in the armed forces is part of a good president’s resume.
Furthermore, like most Americans, I do not have a track record of either exaggerating my exploits or dishonoring veterans with insulting comparisons. Despite Trump’s insistence that sleeping with supermodels counts as his “personal Vietnam,” he did not actually serve in Vietnam, and his education at an expensive private “military” school does not count as actual military service.
Unlike Trump, I recognize that former prisoners of war, like John McCain, are worthy of special recognition and respect. Similarly, Clinton was known in her student days for her antiwar and anti-military stance and, later, did not actually come under attack from sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996, as she claimed at the time.
I Am Not a Criminal
Unlike Hilary Clinton, I am not under federal investigation. I am not awaiting the possibility of indictment for mishandling classified information, the same charge to which former CIA Director David Petraeus and former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger pled guilty in recent years. For the record, this isn’t a false comparison. I’ve had a top-secret security clearance for 16 years and managed to avoid sending such information over my personal email for all 16 years.
Unlike Trump, I have never been sued for fraud. I have never declared bankruptcy. I have never publicly bragged about participating in corruption by abusing the nation’s campaign finance laws. To my knowledge, no one has ever accused me of ties to the Mob.
The president is the chief enforcer of the nation’s laws. He or she oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and a range of other federal law enforcement agencies. The principle of the rule of law is at stake. Do you want the chief executive officer of the government to be above the law, or the law to be above them?
This is a low bar, people. Two-thirds of Americans have never had a brush with the law. I wager nearly everyone reading this article clears it easily. Trump and Clinton do not.
I Don’t Hate You
Unlike Clinton and Trump, my political philosophy is not founded on intolerance of others. Trump and Clinton both play identity politics, which is inherently exclusivist: Trump plays on the grievances of white men; Clinton, of everyone else. Trump draws admiration from white nationalists and the Ku Klux Klan. Clinton draws support from the fundamentalist secularists and progressives who insist on reengineering American culture on their politically correct blueprint.
Trump’s intolerance is easier to see. He infamously accused Mexican immigrants of being rapists and murderers, called for a halt to all Muslim immigration, flirted with the idea of a national registry of all Muslims, and has a decades-long record of misogyny and sexism.
Clinton, as leader of the American political left, is the figurehead for the “progressive” cultural movement—which is as intolerant Trump’s movement. The progressive agenda, as normal Americans perceive it, has grown far beyond its origins in the civil rights movement to the point that it has come to betray the very civil rights it supposedly champions. Progressivism has become a hectoring, quasi-authoritarian movement to impose an alien cultural blueprint on America through bureaucratic and judicial force.
Consider the culture of political correctness. It started as a laudable attempt to shame those who used insulting racial epithets. But it has morphed into an illiberal movement to impose campus speech codes, blacklist celebrities with the wrong opinions, and force corporate executives to resign for their political beliefs.
Consider the gay rights movement since Obergefell. Most Americans were gradually coming to the same position as Obergefell—although many were uncomfortable that same-sex marriage was legalized by judicial fiat rather than legislation by elected representatives. But the gay rights movement is still dissatisfied and now insists that photographers, florists, and other businesses may not choose to withhold their business services from same-sex weddings out of religious conviction.
In these and other cases, progressives invoke the absolutist legal language of rights, label their opponents bigots, demand unconditional surrender, and resort to the courts. Progressives’ increasing reliance on these tools have left me, and millions of citizens like me, genuinely concerned that they no longer believe in basic norms of self-government and civil liberties. Clinton’s insistence last year that prolife Americans’ “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” does not allay my fears.
In contrast to Trump and Clinton, I believe in liberal democracy, the Bill of Rights, and the American Constitution. I believe you have a right to be different from me, to believe different things, and to lead a different life. I also believe government should have very limited powers to do anything about it, even if I’m in charge of the government and dislike you. That is another way of saying that I believe in federalism. Most Americans do.
I Will Not Cause International Chaos
The president is the leader of the free world, the occupant of the most powerful office on the planet, the commander-in-chief of the world’s greatest military, and the chief diplomat of the sole superpower. Trump and Clinton would, in different ways, use and abuse this power to cause international chaos, war, and needless bloodshed.
Clinton can at least boast of having served as secretary of State, the pre-eminent cabinet post in the American government, and on the Senate Armed Services Committee. But what she did with that experience is not reassuring. During her tenure in the Obama administration, the United States precipitously withdrew from Iraq, leaving a power vacuum that allowed al-Qaeda in Iraq to regroup, rebrand itself as the Islamic State, and grow into the most powerful terrorist army in world history. The administration also bungled the longest, largest, and costliest foreign policy initiative of Obama’s presidency: the war in Afghanistan.
Clinton can escape blame for Obama’s mishandling of Syria, which mostly unfolded in his second term after Clinton left office. But Clinton was an essential part of the first-term bungle, in Libya. She pushed to overthrow the government of Libya, after which the United States promptly walked away, allowing the state to descend into anarchy and state failure. It is today a terrorist playground, one on which a U.S. ambassador was murdered.
If the specter of Clinton helming world order is frightening enough, President Trump is downright terrifying. Trump has called into question NATO’s usefulness; promised to start trade wars with China, Mexico, and Japan; and openly admired the autocratic ruler of Russia while disparaging the leaders of the US’s democratic allies. He embraced waterboarding and threatened to kill terrorists’ families while simultaneously promising to keep America out of foreign entanglements and let Russia sort out the Middle East.
Trump combines his call for restraint with a populist and nationalist doctrine of swift and brutal force against America’s enemies, like the Islamic State, in a fashion that shows no concern for international norms. As outlined in his recent foreign policy speech, Trump’s foreign policy vision amounts to a repudiation of the liberal international order—an order of which the United States has been a chief architect, beneficiary, and guarantor since World War II.
Clinton is a liberal internationalist who aspires, like Woodrow Wilson, to noble ends with no understanding of the means required to achieve them. The naiveté inherent in Clinton’s foreign policy will create more failed states like Libya and more insoluble conflicts like Syria. It will continue to treat terrorism like crime and refuse to call jihadism for what it is. It will pursue more fruitless and dangerous international agreements like the nuclear deal with Iran.
Trump is an aggressive nationalist arguing for an era of retrenchment. Trump’s foreign policy will hand over U.S. prestige and influence to the Russians and Chinese and, through appeasement, invite more aggression like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s land-grab in the South China Sea.
On terrorism, Trump will probably both kill and create more terrorists than Clinton. His vow to stay out of conflicts will, like Obama, let these conflicts continue to fester and grow until they threaten world order—after which the impulsive President Trump will reverse course and overreact, probably getting the United States into another war like Iraq.
Remarkably, this year Americans do not have the option of voting for a conservative internationalist in the vein of Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan—someone who recognizes that the United States is and should always be on the side of freedom, but who also recognizes that the road to freedom is not straight and the United States must use different tools at different times, including the tool of armed diplomacy. That’s why Reagan presided over the greatest peacetime military buildup in American history and never had to use it.
In contrast to Clinton and Trump, I literally wrote the book on American grand strategy. Well, a book. That’s still more than Trump or Clinton.
Seriously, We’re All More Qualified
The unprecedented weaknesses of both parties’ candidates are so glaring that this year begs for a third-party or an independent candidate. Gary Johnson, the libertarian, is polling at 11 percent against them—more than tenfold better than he did in 2012. There is a semi-serious movement to draft retired General James Mattis to run as an Independent. David Ignatius has a list of four other military officials who could mount a credible run. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg flirted with the idea of an independent candidacy earlier this year. Some Republicans fantasize about House Speaker Paul Ryan swooping in to save the party at the last moment.
So far no one except Johnson has had the guts to actually declare. Shame on them. The country needs more options. It is a disgrace and an embarrassment that the people of the world’s greatest democracy cannot or will not field better candidates for the highest office in the land. That the country will have to choose between Trump or Clinton should be a rebuke to every politician, every candidate, every man and woman of stature and means and education and talent who has the capacity to serve as president.
My conscience will not allow me to vote for either Trump or Clinton. But apparently no one else has the courage to run and give America the opportunity to vote for a statesman of integrity and competence. Since they won’t run, you should. Every single American should vote for themselves as president in 2016. Vote for yourself in protest: a protest against the two parties and their endemic corruption; against Trump and his neo-fascist white grievance identity politics; against Clinton and the cultural left’s progressive fundamentalism; and against those who could step up and save their country, but won’t.