I have two degrees in Political Science. I'm not an idiot. I know that with the type of voting system we have, a high number of parties just isn't going to happen. However, there is absolutely no data to back up the notion that we're stuck with only two parties either. If there's a bedrock principle of my political belief system, it's this. We need a credible, viable alternative. It doesn't have to be large party, it just has to be medium sized and real enough that voters have a place to go when the other two parties are pissing them off.
So, yes, I look at all the candidates. If you're on the ballot in all 50 states or at least on the ballot in enough states to get to 270 electoral votes, you pass my viability test. After the dust settled and I perused all the websites I was left with three candidates: Johnson, Stein and Clinton. Johnson, despite his need for an atlas and a subscription to The Economist presents a skeptical approach to foreign policy that is desperately needed. He's also got the right idea on civil liberties and the War on Drugs. Stein and the Green Party have the most comprehensive platform for democratic and political reform out there- they're the only people talking about it (and it's a large part of the reason why I voted for Stein in 2012.) Both Stein and Johnson are talking about ideas that should be part of our political debate and discourse and both have important things to say and stand for issues that I support.
However, I can't exactly dismiss Secretary Clinton out of hand either. Of all the candidates I looked at, her website was the most comprehensive in terms of issues. It took forever to get through everything. You may not like her, but you can't tell me she doesn't have an idea of where she wants to take the county. You can't say that she doesn't have plans and details of those plans right out where people can see them. She's the only candidate talking about relief for folks struggling with student debt (like myself) and paid family leave (another issue that I support.)
But I'm less than impressed with her foreign policy credentials. She voted for the War in Iraq and was one of the prime movers behind our intervention into Libya, which is looking increasingly ill-judged given the chaos that's erupted in the wake of the overthrow of Gaddafi. Her foreign policy would represent a continuation of the interventionism of the past decade and a half, not an end. That fact alone is enough to give me pause.
The Email Mess rankles. But it's a fact of life that the rich and powerful get to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us and it's not like me not voting is going to send a message that the rich and powerful are going to give a shit about it. If the Republican Party had, say, nominated literally anyone else with a pulse, there might be room to take a principled stand on the issue. But Mr. Trump's recent comments and history prove that he too suffers from the same problem and you'll have to forgive me: I doubt he'll level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us either.
Look, there's about a 80-95% chance I'm going to hold my nose and vote for Secretary Clinton. Donald Trump's refusal to commit to accepting the results of the elections has probably pushed me over the top and if his well-deserved and karmic collapse in support is as wide and as deep as I hope it is, then (hopefully) I won't have to vote for Secretary Clinton unless I want too.
For US Senate:
The whole Supreme Court mess doesn't really bother me all that much. Flip the political affiliations of all the people/branches of government involved and you'd probably have the same exact talking points being flung back and forth at each other- so it's kind of a moot point. No matter who's in charge of what branch, the confirmation system is kind of a mess and something of a political football, especially in election years. The old saw about not wanting to see how the sausage is made applies to this perfectly.
What does bother me, however, is Iowa and their lamentable tendency to appoint Senators, Governors and assorted Congresspeople for decades at a time. While in the case of Senator Grassley, it has landed him chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which means more access to more bacon to bring home for the state, it also means that he's been in Washington for decades and this year, I just think it's time for him to hang up the kleets and sail off into the sunset.
Senator Grassley is also on the record as being against reclassification of 911 Dispatchers from Administrative to Protective Services- which is disappointing as it's not like APCO is asking for the moon on a string or something that will cost a lot of money. They're asking for a change in how a job is classified that's not only more accurate but reflective of the changing nature of Emergency Dispatching.
While I didn't hear back from the Judge Campaign on this issue (Jim Hennager of the New Independent Party Iowa and Michael Luick-Thrams were also in favor of reclassification), I decided I was going to vote Democrat for this race- not just because I like the idea of having one Republican and one Democratic Senator (who would both be women) but because I'm becoming increasingly convinced the Republican Party needs some time in the wilderness to get it's collective shit together. Throw that together with my desire to see more turnover in Iowa's politicians (i.e. more than once a quarter-century) and an endorsement and a vote for Patty Judge seem like a good idea.
For US Congress:
Dr. Christopher Peters
I don't really have anything against Congressman Loebsack, but Dr. Peters impressed me on several fronts. First, I emailed him a couple of questions and he got back to me in about three hours flat. (Loebsack, Judge and Grassley didn't reply at all- the other party candidates came in well after the three hour mark.) He was remarkably open to the idea of reclassification of 911 Dispatchers from Administrative to Protective Services and gave me a good pitch on why I should vote for him.
So, I checked his website. For a Republican, he seems sane, sensible (there was a lack of social issues on his website that was extremely refreshing) and even thinks we should explore alternative voting mechanisms along with reforms to our Criminal Justice system. I haven't seen any polling on the 2nd District, so I don't know how tight of a race this is going to be- to be honest, I'm expecting Congressman Loebsack to win, but I was impressed with Dr. Peters. He gets my vote.
For State Legislature:
Running unopposed? You don't get my endorsement. We're in a new District for this election, District 86 and while I have no problem with Mary Mascher and will probably vote for her, the fact that the local Republican Party can't even scare up a sacrificial lamb to at least give voters an option annoys me.
For County Offices:
See above. Three Candidates for three seats on the County Board of Supervisors- gee, where is the suspense in this race? Ditto for Auditor and Sheriff. Will probably end up voting for all of them, but still. We can't find a single alternative here? There's not some lonely soul in a tinfoil hat that's going to step up and swat at the might Democratic Party machine?
But hey! I did my research and I now know what the heck the Agricultural Extension Council and the Soil and Water Conversation Commission actual do. So, if I endorse anyone, it's me for informing myself on what all these obscure commissions on the back of the ballot actually do. (Side Note: This is why you should always flip your ballot! There's important stuff back here as well.)
Yes To Retain On All
I changed my tune on this after the whole same sex marriage fiasco. The flood of outside money that came into the state to oust justices for doing their job was obscene. I don't agree with every decision that gets handed down by various courts on all levels in this country, but I don't pitch a nutty about it and try and burn the whole system down either. You have to trust the people who get appointed to these positions to do their jobs, even if you don't like what they come up with and I do. So, new rule: unless I see a specific reason (say, corruption, etc) to oust a judge, I'm voting to retain on all.
Iowa City Ballot Issue: Public Measure C:
I'm voting Yes, because it brings the charter in line with Iowa Code, which seems like something we should be doing anyway, but also, the arguments against this are unconvincing at best and irritating at worse. This doesn't apply to Charter Amendments (several of which, like say, a Directly Elected Mayor and Council Election Districts I think we need and would happily support) as the process for amending the Charter already follows Iowa Code. This would cover citizen led initiatives- like the drive to ban traffic cameras, prevent the 1st Avenue extension and, of course, the Bar Age Referendums. Our Charter does not allow initiatives to extend into already specified areas. (Taxes, city budget, zoning and the like) and the Charter Amendment Process already follows Iowa Code and charter revisions aren't covered by this Measure. If it helps increase participation in local democracy, I'm in favor.