Today is primary day in Ohio, and on the GOP side of things this election is a “winner take all” sort of affair — whoever gets the most votes in the GOP primary gets to take all 66 of Ohio’s GOP delegates to the Republican National Convention, which this year, as it happens, will be in Cleveland.
As a voter, I’m registered as an independent, i.e., not of either party, so on most primary election days when I go to pick up my ballot, I usually get to vote only on some local non-partisan stuff. However, if one so chooses, Ohio allows one to ask for a party ballot. Eight years ago, if memory serves, I asked for one for the Democrats. This year, I’ll be asking for the Republican ballot, because this year I want to vote for Ohio Governor John Kasich in the GOP primary.
More specifically, not only do I wish to vote for Kasich in the GOP primary, I also specifically wish to vote against Donald Trump. My vote will be only one of hundreds of thousands (or perhaps millions, depending on the turnout), but this year, I think voting for Kasich, and against Trump, is the very best use of my vote today.
Why? Well, you know. Because Trump is an active danger to the body politic, a fatuous demagogue who is far better at inciting racist anger for laughs than articulating any policy position beyond a two-sentence bluster at the stump. There’s no doubt that the Republican Party went out of its way in the last several election cycles to bring about someone like Trump as a successful candidate, and because of it there’s no doubt that it deserves Trump and everything he brings with him. But the rest of us don’t, and Trump is already doing damage outside of the party.
To put it another way: The GOP has been a sloppy drunk for years, and this year it’s sprawled on the couch, shitting its own pants and moaning horribly. And whether or not everyone else thinks that this is what the GOP deserves, from a moral point of view you have to take its keys and keep it from getting on the road and possibly killing others as it swerves through traffic.
John Kasich, as I’ve noted before, is not a person with whom I have much in common, in terms of positions. He’s much more conservative than I like, is terrible for the rights of women and workers, and would generally exasperate me as president. I don’t want him in the job. But for all of that, Kasich is not a horrible person, inciting other people to be as awful as they can possibly be. He has respect for the idea of constitutional government and its checks and balances, and genuinely seems to believe — within the limited scope of conservatism these days — that government can do some good. No one is punching anyone at a Kasich rally, nor is he offering to pay the legal fees of the assaulter. No one is throwing out Nazi salutes. No one is spewing racial epithets.
If Trump were not the GOP front runner at the moment, this would be another year where I would take the non-partisan ballot. I’m sanguine about the Democratic side of the race; I’d be fine with either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in the general so I don’t feel the need to weigh in on that. Let the Democrats sort that out. Generally speaking in most years I feel the same about the GOP side: Not my circus, not my monkeys. If this were just Kasich and Cruz and Rubio at this point, I’d make popcorn and enjoy the show.
It’s not. Trump is, I feel, a legitimate danger, both in who he is as a presidential candidate — an inchoate, grasping, insecure, angry and ignorant blowhard — and in his encouragement of the worst aspects of America that have dredged themselves out of the muck and attached themselves to his mess of a campaign. Not everyone who supports Trump is a horribly racist piece of shit, to be sure. Trump himself didn’t make the conditions of legitimate economic anxiety that he’s tapped into for his campaign. But people who are horribly racist pieces of shit have found support and encouragement from Trump, and revel in the legitimacy he’s offering.
So here’s the question: When you have the opportunity to vote against someone who you see as both the worst major party candidate in your lifetime and an actual danger to your country, on many levels, do you take it? My answer: You’re goddamned right you do. It’s more than just an electoral choice. It’s a moral imperative. And as a bonus, I’ll vote for a person whose presence in the general election will not fill me with disgust. I’ll take that.
Will this stop Trump? Certainly my single vote won’t, although if Kasich wins Ohio, it becomes that much harder for Trump to win an outright majority of GOP delegates, and if he doesn’t do that, then the GOP national convention is likely to be interesting as hell. Nor am I under the illusion that, save some truly fantastic legerdemain at the convention, Kasich will be the eventual GOP nominee. I do suspect when all is said and done, Trump will either be the GOP nominee, or the electoral calisthenics required to deny him the slot will tear the GOP right in half.
But if he is the GOP nominee, it won’t be because I slept on my chance to say “Hell, no” to him. The best case scenario is the that I only have to vote against him once. But if necessary I’ll be delighted to vote against him twice (the worst case scenario would be voting against him three times). I’m hoping for just once, suspect twice. But either way, voting against him is a thing I’ll be doing.
Does this mean I think everyone in Ohio should be voting in the GOP primary, against Trump (and for Kasich)? No, I think people anywhere, not just in Ohio, should vote their conscience. My moral calculus isn’t the same as everyone else’s, or possibly anyone else’s. I would be happy if at the end of the evening Trump was fourth in Ohio, and pretty much everywhere else; it would mean a great number of voters agreed with me that the man was an electoral nightmare and should be stopped. I’m not exactly holding my breath.
But again, this isn’t about what others do. It’s about what I do, with my vote. And my vote today is for Kasich, against Trump.