I changed my vote
I voted on October 19th. It’s a done deal.
For most of my adult life, I was a single issue voter. I enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1981 and served until my retirement in 2005. I had very little interest in politics for most of my military career. There was one issue that enticed military, particularly the enlisted, to vote. It was pay raises. Since the mid-1960s, one party opposed larger military budgets, while the other more often favored them. That was all I needed to know about politics and I voted accordingly.
Looking back, that was a terribly flawed thought process. The military pay scale in 1981 came out of Jimmy Carter’s last military budget and included an 11.7% pay raise. Of the 25 annual pay raises over the course of my career, the largest was 14.3% and the smallest was 2.0%; both came during the Reagan presidency. Republican pay raises averaged 4.6% (16 pay raises) and Democratic pay raises averaged 4.3% (9 pay raises). My career pay raise average was 4.5% per year (25 pay raises). It was basically a wash. I can, at least, feel good that I exercised my right to vote.
In 2002 I was assigned to the Pentagon for what would be my last military tour. That’s when I began to learn that there were many more issues to consider when voting for a president. I learned that there is an ugly side to many politicians. I had the opportunity to accompany the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force as they testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. I witnessed a Senator — who would later run for president and lose — talk to us as if we were his best friends before the cameras came on and then talk to us as if we were incompetent after the cameras came on. On another occasion, before the same committee, I witnessed another Senator — who would later run for president twice and lose — show up late to the hearing acting as if she had better things to do.
After retiring from the Air Force, I hired on as a civil servant in the Pentagon. After 2 years, I took a job with U.S. Citizenship & Immigrations Services. Then, in 2013 I moved to Headquarters, Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While at DHS, I often accompanied my bosses to testify before various committees on a range of subjects. Again, I witnessed elected officials who wanted to be your friend until CSPAN showed up.
My first hand exposure to the country’s elected officials changed the way I voted in presidential elections. Instead of voting for the candidate that would provide the best military pay raise, I began voting against the candidate I despised the most, and in one case didn’t vote at all because I couldn’t decide which one was the worst. I was headed down that same path for the 2020 election. After retiring a year ago, I started reading. I read books by Bob Woodward, Jim Mattis, Michael Wolfe, Dan Crenshaw, Anonymous, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Joe Biden, Mary Trump, Michael Cohen, and others. These books intensified my resolve to vote against a particular candidate. I searched for books written from another point of view … they were hard too find.
Then someone asked if I could describe the reasons why I was voting for one candidate over the other that do not include my hate for the one I’m voting against? Of course … well, because … wait, I need to think about that a minute. I suddenly realized I was only considering what I didn’t want in a president, which is a much more faulty selection process than always voting for a single party because I believed I would get larger pay raises. After much thought, I realized that determining what my personal concerns are, and evaluating each candidate’s position on those issues was much less stressful than making a list of all the things I hate about one or both candidates. Here’s what I want in a president:
The number one thing on the ballot for me is leadership. The entire country — every human being that calls America home — needs a leader. The world needs a strong American leader. The qualities of a good leader, as defined in most leadership classes I have attended, include integrity, accountability, empathy, humility, resilience, vision, influence, and positivity. I’m looking for these qualities in a president.
I could have lumped humbleness in with leadership qualities, but it stands alone as a single characteristic in this election for me. The next president must be a humble person who understands that the presidency is about leading the country and not about him. His goal as president must be to be the president that the country needs right now, rather than wanting to be and believing that he is the best president in history … history will make that determination. He must have an accurate view of himself and be aware of his limitations. He must have a low self-focus and keep his accomplishments and abilities in perspective. His decision process must be fact-based. He must not be a braggart who thinks he is smarter than everyone else.
He must surround himself with people who are experts in their fields. His cabinet selections should be individuals who will receive bipartisan support based on their expertise and track records such as the support that Jim Mattis, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, and Jeff Sessions received in 2017. Once these individuals are confirmed and in office, he must be willing to consult with these individuals and seek their advice and consent on issues within their purview. He does not always have to follow the science and/or advice of his cabinet. However, in situations where he believes a different direction is in the best interest of the country, he must be able to explain why he is deviating rather than calling the intelligence of his experts into question. He must be prepared to take responsibility for those decisions, regardless of the outcome.
Commander in Chief
Prior military experience is not required to secure my vote. Military service does not prepare a person to be president beyond a personal awareness of what military life is like. The president is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces and he must consider input from all sources — as discussed above — before making decisions to put our service men and women in harms way. It’s his job to gather the facts, make decisions, and set policy. He must not make decisions to send troops into harms way over dinner at a social gathering. He must understand that military operations are inherently dangerous and things often go wrong, and be prepared to take responsibility for those failures.
He must not accept the word of leaders of foreign countries — particularly our enemies — over our intelligence agencies. They are headed by an appointee he nominated, after all. When there is evidence that a foreign power is offering bounties for killing American service men and women — this is a biggie — he will condemn it and be prepared to take appropriate action to defend the men and women he commands.
A year ago, no one was predicting that a pandemic would be the biggest issue during the 2020 presidential election. But it is. However, the pandemic is not a key election issue for me. A president who embodies the qualities of a good leader, as discussed above, will address the crisis head on.
The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care)
I was not a big fan of Obama Care when it was first implemented and feel it needs a few changes. But the coverage it provides to those with preexisting conditions is something our country needs. Many believe that Obama Care will likely be struck down by the Supreme Court just days after the election; maybe, maybe not. A plan to continue the care for those with preexisting conditions is essential. I reviewed one candidate’s plan, which isn’t perfect. I waited 2 weeks — for almost 4 years — for a plan to review from the other candidate and he missed my voting deadline on this issue.
Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed as the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court. The fuss over her nomination is much ado about nothing, in my opinion, and it isn’t a big concern for me when voting for president. It is a given that a president will appoint judges with a similar political ideology to their own. There is no law that prohibits nomination and confirmation this close to an election. I believe the Democrats would be doing the same thing. While all Republican judges are not equal, Republican appointed justices have held the majority on the court since 1972. From 1976 until 2012 Republican appointed justices out numbered Democratic appointees by a margin of 7 to 2, except for a brief period in 1992 when the majority increased to 8 to 1. The world didn’t come to an end. If I were selecting a candidate based solely on this issue, the candidate that I felt would select nominees based on their sound track record and demonstrated ability to follow the law, rather than based on whether or not they will support the president’s position on pending Supreme Court cases would get my vote.
Abortion, and the 2nd Amendment
A candidate’s views on abortion has little bearing on my choice of presidential candidates. In 1973, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision in favor of Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) that held that women had a right to choose whether or not to have an abortion and conservatives have wanted Roe v. Wade to be overturned for decades. As mentioned above, the Supreme Court has had a Republican appointed majority since 1972, yet Roe v. Wade still stands 47 years later. Confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court does not guarantee it will be overturned. A case has to be referred to the court, and the court has to agree to hear it. And just because they hear it doesn’t mean the court will rule to overturn it. She only gets one vote.
I am certainly pro-2nd Amendment, but similar to the abortion issue, a candidate’s views on the 2nd Amendment has little bearing on my presidential voting choices. Surveys show that only 21% of Americans favor repeal of the amendment with 60% opposing repeal. Only 39 percent of Democrats favor repeal. Any attempt to repeal it would certainly land in the court system, and ultimately the Supreme Court. A conservative court would be unlikely to support repeal, in my opinion. It is possible for a president to pass gun control laws, but few presidents have really tried; probably because they knew it would ultimately be challenged in court. (Reread the section on the SCOTUS above.) Democrats held the majority in the House and Senate during a portion of the Obama administration. It was a perfect time to implement gun control. They didn’t do it. If I were voting for a candidate based on this one issue, I would vote for the conservative candidate, but it’s just not a decision issue for me this time around.
Taxes and the economy
I am not concerned about taxes during this election. Presidents come and go. Tax promises are made by every candidate. They often don’t make good on those promises. Remember George H.W. Bush’s “Read my lips. No new taxes”? He raised taxes anyway and lost his bid for reelection to Bill Clinton. I believe there will be a tax increase during the next term, regardless of who wins. One candidate has shown his tax plan — it isn’t that great — and the other hasn’t show his plan, which is worrisome. If I were voting for president based on this single issue, I’d flip a coin. One is as likely to break their promise on taxes as the other.
The president can certainly influence the economy, but there are things beyond his control that can affect it as well. In my lifetime, the economy has fluctuated and it hasn’t always been attributable to a specific President. I believe the economy won’t likely return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon — regardless of who wins the election — so it isn’t in my decision matrix. I feel strongly that other issues are more important in 2020.
There are certainly many. But these are the ones that are important to me. Your mileage may differ.
I voted for the candidate that I believe is the most closely aligned with what I want in a president. It is what it is.
Originally published at https://chrisanthony.substack.com.