As the days until the election decrease at glacial pace, some new wrinkles develop among those upon whom citizenship lays the burden of finding the diamonds in this dross. Even if we are almost certain to learn it was cubic zirconia all along.
In the presidential race, many conservative folks who wouldn't give Donald Trump the time of day -- any day -- have made a calculated choice to vote for him based on his one indisputable positive trait: He is not Hillary Clinton. I've seen more than one conservative blogger or writer say that keeping Ms. Clinton out of the White House is the kind of thing where you just have to fall on your ballot for the good of the country. Would he be an awful president if elected? Almost certainly, most of them agree. He has little understanding of the office, of policy, of the role of the separated powers, of foreign affairs, of economics and so on. At least the current holder of the office -- and all of those same deficiencies -- is still married to the mother of all of his children.
But while there is almost every reason to expect a President Trump to be just as bad as the second version of a President Clinton, these people point out that Mr. Trump would have folks in the media and government law enforcement agencies working pretty much around the clock to expose his errors. Especially if they transgressed the law or accepted procedures. And, they say, the spinelessness of the Federal Bureau of Investigation exhibited in investigating Mrs. Clinton when she was merely a candidate will seem like Winston Churchill claiming England would fight on the beaches, landing grounds and etc., when compared to media and investigative agency behavior if she actually occupies the Oval Office. She would, they say, do literally untold damage because no one who ever found out about it would ever tell anyone. The carpet under the Resolute Desk is very probably the only thing she would actually want to clean up.
This is a logical argument and if the Republican candidate were almost anyone but Donald Trump, and if I lived almost anywhere else in the country, it might sway me. But I still believe Mr. Trump is unfit for the office by reason of his character, and I don't think that Ms. Clinton is the Democrat who will succeed Lyndon Johnson as the next Democrat my state supports for the presidency.
My own calculus goes like this: Neither candidate will be able to "fix" our nation's problems. They bring even less to the table than most other mere mortals who have been president. Either of them might get within a stone's throw of competence if we were living in easy eras like the 1990s, the stone was very small and they were given a catapult. But in a world with ISIS, expansionist Russia and China, economic stagnation and the messes from the last two administrations still dotting the landscape, either of them will quickly demonstrate the meaning of the word "overmatched."
As often happens when a president fouls up, the voters are likely to take it out on his or her party in 2018. President Obama learned this in 2010 and 2014, and either a President Trump or President Clinton will learn it in 2018. The incredibly strong dislike that opponents have for both people will only strengthen the case that candidates will make in House and Senate races. Neither party, in fact, may hire people to write campaign commercials. They could just show news clips.
So as a conservative person, I want that wave to break my way. A President Trump could mean a return of Nancy Pelosi to Speaker of the House (thankfully the dingy gray smear from Nevada that has been Senate majority leader is retiring). Not to mention even bigger problems like people voting for Alan Grayson again. But a President Clinton is just about guaranteed to cement a GOP majority in the legislature and while that party has shown some inexplicably bad judgment of late, they can at least be counted on to oppose her.
This means I will hold to my plan of voting for the Libertarian candidate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. In an earlier note, I thought he might manage "average "in the office in the unlikely event he won it. I was optimistic, it seems. But as bad as he would probably be in the office, he has not, as far as I can tell, demonstrated that he is unfit for it. And any damage he would manage is a probably a lot more reparable than what either Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton will do.
The only other option is that we all agree not to show up that day, but that probably wouldn't work because each candidate has enough family, friends, lackeys and paid-for favor providers that we wouldn't get the actual zero-percent turnout that they both deserve.