This is a bizarre time in U.S. presidential politics. American voters are faced with an unsavory choice between two presidential candidates, neither of whom would be viable if the other party offered a credible alternative. It is the deep repugnance many Republican and independent voters feel for the lie-fabricating Hillary Clinton (Queen Jezebel?) that keep them backing the egomaniacal, bomb-throwing Donald Trump (Dr. Strangelove?), even though they see Trump's talk and actions as anything but presidential. Likewise, it is the discomfort that many Bernie Sanders supporters feel for Trump's policy extremism, chauvinism, and boorishness that leave them uncomfortably allied with the Clinton camp. This alliance exists in spite of the fact that a vote for Hillary Clinton by those who see good things in the Bernie Sanders movement will likely delay a needed revolution in Democratic Party politics.
After witnessing the inadvertent assistance that Ralph Nader voters in Florida and New Hampshire gave to George W. Bush in the year 2000 presidential race, people in swing states are reluctant to vote for a third party candidate. A protest vote seems too expensive in this contest. Not that anyone believes a single vote will decide the presidency. Still, voting is not irrational when voters believe that if others in comparable positions use a similar logic, the nation will be better for it. While this is small consolation during a Hobson's Choice election that forces the selection of a lesser evil, it is better than staying home or casting an empty protest vote that will do little to build a third party's momentum for the next election.
Granted, voting for a lesser evil is not motivational. Yet, if voters perceive that the dangers in a presidential election are high enough, voting for a slightly lesser evil is part of risk management. It is in this vein that "never Trump" voters come to mind, especially persons connected with or leaning toward the Republican Party. Some of these people are committed to the Republican platform while others hope to vote for a principled candidate with high scruples. Many of these people are deeply troubled by recent revelations about Donald Trump's attitudes and actions. As much as they decry Hillary Clinton's demagogy and Machiavellianism, they can no longer support Trump. What are these voters to do?
Recently, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte rescinded her support for Donald Trump, saying she will provide a write-in vote for Mike Pence instead. John McCain offered a related statement, suggesting that he will vote for someone other than Trump or Clinton. Trump supporters have criticized these defections as undermining the Republican hope of selecting the next U.S. Supreme Court justices as well as populating federal government appointments broadly. Trump loyalists, even those frustrated with Trump, see defection as capitulation to open border policies, bad trade deals, nefarious Wall Street schemes, and a bonfire of hypocrisies.
A Computer Scientist's Voting Calculus
What is a thinking person to do? Surprisingly, there is a reasonable way for voters who can tolerate the evolving Republican populism more easily than they can trust Hillary Clinton not to sell out America to her globalist sponsors. One must gird up one's mind for this strategy, for it is not appealing except under profoundly dysfunctional circumstances. That said, the strategy is ruggedly pragmatic and recommended by a Yale University computer scientist in an exceptionally insightful Wall Street Journal article.
The strategy is this: Vote for Mike Pence for president by voting for Donald Trump, but with the understanding that if Donald Trump acts dishonorably he will be impeached under the U.S. Constitution. Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution says this: "The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors." Political scientists have often debated why the subjective term "misdemeanors" was put into the Constitution. The answer is that it was inserted for times like these. Indeed, America's founders would likely approve the use of impeachment in cases of late discovery that a president hid criminal conduct engaged in before election.
A sitting U.S. president has no remedy if a simple majority of the U.S. House votes to impeach, and the U.S. Senate votes to ratify the impeachment by a two-thirds majority. The president cannot block the action: he or she is terminated without political recourse. The interpretation of what constitutes a presidential misdemeanor lies fully within the purview of the U.S. Congress, not the U.S. Supreme Court. It is doubtful that the U.S. Supreme Court would review such a matter. What America would be left with is the presidency of Senator Mike Pence. This is a reasonable pathway to the presidency for a public official with a record of integrity and competency that his mud-slinging opponents cannot undo. Indeed, Pence's presidential prospect in this scenario calls to mind the 1993 Hollywood movie, "Dave." By contrast, ten million write-in votes naming Mike Pence for president will go nowhere. No write-in candidate can conceivably win the presidency in our times.
An important question must be answered: If this is a good rationale in voting for Trump, why isn't it a good rationale in voting for Hillary Clinton in order to gain Tim Kaine, her running mate, if Hillary Clinton gets impeached? The answer is that a sufficient number of U.S. Senate Democrats would fail to join a Republican effort to ratify a Hillary impeachment. In the 1998-1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, Democratic Senators refused to join Republicans in voting for Bill Clinton's guilt on the obstruction of justice charge. But if Trump were president, many Democrats as well Republicans in the Senate would eagerly support impeachment. He is, as some have noted, impeachment bait.
Some people will object, claiming it is unethical to vote for a presidential candidate with the expectation that he will be impeached and replaced by a better man. But this objection ignores the current perilous dilemma. As millions of voters are now convinced, Donald Trump tried to mislead the American public during the first two presidential debates. Furthermore, the end of the race is revealing a scurrilous behavior that is inexcusable even in the context of Hillary Clinton's feckless lies.
Voting with a Clear Conscience
Political objectivity argues that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton merit elevation to the Oval Office. Equally problematic, neither mainstream party has a platform that will adequately address the nation's problems. With violence unthinkable only two tolerable outcomes remain for those who cannot accept Clinton. Donald Trump could withdraw in favor of Mike Pence, although this seems unlikely. Alternatively, Trump could be voted into the presidency with the understanding that he will be impeached upon any provocation that can be construed congressionally as a misdemeanor. If raised to office, Trump's future would be his own burden. He would remain in office only by serving his country honorably and competently. The political gallows would remain in sight.
Using the impeachment calculus of the Yale computer scientist, the vote choice is recast between a credible politician, Senator Mike Pence, or a Machiavellian politician named Hillary Clinton who, if elected, will be the country's "Dissembler-in-Chief." One need not support most of Mike Pence's policy positions or believe in their efficacy (this writer does not) to find Pence presidentially respectable and demonstrably superior to Trump and Clinton.
Knowing how chess is played and thinking several moves in advance, rational voters can hold their noses and vote for Donald Trump as a temporary surrogate for Mike Pence. While this is a principled decision under existing constraints, it does not solve the problem of a political system that no longer secures the nation's highest good. One must look ahead to 2020. Bring on the courageous Bernie Sanders movement: a political cause that values a hybrid capitalistic version of the Nordic model of social democracy, upholds FDR's New Deal pricing of productive contributions, and opposes democratically veiled plutocracy. The sooner Hillary Clinton is out of the way, the sooner constructive reform begins.