By Luz Gonzalez
As a student having studied under the Jesuits at Loyola Marymount University, I was always under the responsibility to reflect on points of disagreement or contention. It annoyed me no end when a member of the faculty, upon hearing my objection or argument, would say “let us reflect on it”. I wanted discussion, argument, and most especially, conclusion right the heck now! However, much as I hate to admit it, such a college-learned habit and suggestion has done me well in the week since the presidential election of 2016. Next time I am in Los Angeles, I will have to swing by my alma mater and thank them once again for an excellent education, both of the mind and of the spirit.
To say I was unimpressed, as well as ideologically and ethically opposed, to both Clinton and Trump would be an understatement. I wanted the people and members of both parties, along with their elected officials, to rise above the “all in for the party, the ends justify all means” mentality and call a different gameplay. Missing that hope, the only possible solution was obviously a 3rd party vote. Long shot? Of course. Best shot to maintain individual integrity? Absolutely. Do I regret voting my conscience? Never.
The word “never” seems to have irked the Republican political complex. Gingrich, Hannity, Clarke, Huckabee, Trump, Manafort, Priebus, Ingraham, Limbaugh — all went on insulting name-calling rants against members of their own party. Truth be told, far worse than the deplorable comment of Hillary Clinton. You would have thought they had never heard or used the word never before in their vocabulary. I also think they misread and miscategorized the “NeverTrump” movement. It wasn’t so much against a candidate as it was for standing resolute [in the midst of threats, coercion, chaos, and almost certain defeat] for ideals that the country has always stood for as a national identity, and for which Trump never represented in his candidacy, and very doubtful will represent in his Republican administration — always seeking unity, always being respectful regardless of differences, always admitting the Constitution governs as the supreme law of the land, always showcasing America as the land of liberty and opportunity irrespective of race, religion, or ethnicity, always supporting the individual rights of people to think and vote their conscience, always demonstrating a profound understanding of national security and our international alliances as well as obligations consistent with our place as the recognized world leader and human rights advocate, always presenting as a role model the best of America’s past and future to our new generation of leaders. If those Republicans that refused to vote for Trump are to be forever labeled #NeverTrumpers than by the same analysis Trump could be forever labeled #NeverAmerican.
Frankly, for the past 28 years, I have always voted my conscience. Ted Cruz certainly did not invent it. In Vatican II, the council meeting held by the Catholic Church circa 1965 to discuss its relationship with the modern world, the church issued these words regarding conscience, to explain how we are not called to wallow “in the luxury of a merely individualistic morality”:
“Conscience is the inner core of human beings whereby, compelled to seek the truth, they recognize the objective standards of moral conduct, indeed the dictates of God’s law, and make a practical judgment of what is to be done here and now in applying those standards.”
Vatican II goes on to further state:
“Deep within their conscience human persons discover a law which they have not laid upon themselves but which they must obey. Its voice, ever calling them to love and to do what is good and avoid evil, tells them inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For human persons have in their hearts a law inscribed by God . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in these depths.“
Is there a scandal of conscience amongst the evangelicals and Catholics? Have they consistently, more than three times, rejected God? Are they contributing to the destruction of belief? It must considered. Are we existing in a materialistic and reality TV celebrity world where conscience is considered a hallucination along with God and the sacrifice of Christ? I suggest you cannot believe in the latter without the former. It may be that we need to go outside the borders of the United States to find our collective conscience. Wouldn’t that be ironic but apropos in an election where nationalism seemed to reign supreme?
Perhaps I am being unkind. Or perhaps I should reflect on those that told me to get off my high horse, to which I replied, “I am not on a high horse whatsoever, you are just on an incredibly low low horse.” Perhaps there are vast examples of leading with conscience by Americans. Arguably not by the majority in this election, but by a growing minority, motivated by leaders of years gone by. After all, it was Martin Luther King Jr. who said: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” Or Mahatma Gandhi who stated “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within me. And even though I have to face the prospect of being a minority of one, I humbly believe I have the courage to be in such a hopeless minority.”
The non-popular “other”. The minority “other”. “Other” with enough time, energy, and belief can and will move elections. We have four years. But, now, continuing in reflection we know the following.
As we review the results of the presidential election, it is encouraging to see so many votes across the country, state-by-state, for “other”. When comparing 2012 to the 2016 election, an analysis shows many state residents in this election voted for neither candidate of the two major parties. Utah 25.6% “other”, Idaho 13.2% “other”, New Mexico 11.7% “other”. Colorado 8.4% “other”, North Dakota 8.1% “other”, South Dakota 7.8% “other”, Montana 7.5% “other”, Wyoming 7.4% “other”, Maine 6.9% “other”, and Washington 6.8% “other” all states which stand as examples. As recorded, both candidates Clinton and Trump had historical unfavorable ratings of over 50%. Could one say that the “other” vote in 2016 was the conscience vote?
One cannot compare the “other” vote in the 1992 election, where Ross Perot received 18.9% of the general population vote, with the election of 2016. First, in 1992 Bush, Clinton, and Perot each spent over $50 Million dollars to win the presidency. Second, all candidates in 1992 had over a year of campaigning to garner name recognition and to convince the American public. Third, Ross Perot was on the debate stage with Bush and Clinton. And, finally, I highly suspect many of the Perot voters are deliriously in the Trump camp.
In 2016, Clinton spent approximately $498 Million, Trump $248 Million, Johnson $11 Million, and Stein and McMullin $1 Million apiece. What the “other” candidates were able to achieve in 2016 was nothing short of a major statement against the political machines of both parties.
Americans were faced with two of the most ideologically and ethically repugnant candidates in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That story is old, but considering we must now look to the future, each party needs to salvage its reputation. Consequently, Republicans and Democrats would probably like to lay claim to having the majority of “conscience” voters in 2016, but data shows it to mixed. At first glance, one is inclined to conclude that Team Democrat obviously had the most conscience voters, because of the lower numbers of Democrats at the polls, but should that have been the case, Democrat voters would have left the top of the ticket blank and voted the rest of the down ballot. And, for the Republican argument of most conscience voters? The top two “other” vote getting states, Utah and Idaho, are historically Republican strongholds, this is true, but are their significantly lower numbers for Trump good enough to suggest a theory that Republicans did vote their conscience as compared to their Democrat counterparts in 2016? The story might be told in the Senate races where out of the 34 contests, 19 of the Republican Senate candidates scored better than Trump, while only 13 of the Democrats scored better than Clinton.
But. But. But. What about the claim of Trump exploiting racism for votes, thus negating any suggestion that Republicans won the conscience vote in 2016. The states with the most white supremacist groups — Louisiana, Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, New Jersey, Idaho, Arkansas, and Mississippi all voted Trump in greater numbers than they did for Romney, except for Arkansas and Idaho. (And kudos to Idaho for having a high “other” vote, demonstrating they severely rejected the choice of Donald Trump.) Added with the data that shows that Alabama, Arkansas, and Kentucky had a greater turnout than the national average, I am not sure a conclusive argument can be made for a greater number of Republicans with a “conscience” vote.
The fact that Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton is a disgrace. The fact that Republicans nominated Donald Trump is a disgrace. This was true four months ago. It was also true last Tuesday, November 8. It remains true today and will be written as true in the history books.
Where do we go from here? From one activist to another, from one conscience voter to another, I suggest we continue to grow the 3rd Party “other” vote. It is time to return truth to the public square and integrity to public office. Neither major party overwhelmingly demonstrated their commitment to either principle in this election. Let us work in unity to restore in the United States of America the collective will to adhere to the foundational principles on which she was built. As such, I am going to heed the words of George Washington who said: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
Thank you to “other”. May “other” prosper and grow. Long live “other”!
Luz de Los Angeles González
Former member of the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee
Former two-term President Miami-Dade Old Cutler Republican Women’s Club
Former S. Florida Lead Activist FreedomWorks