Dear candidate: You can’t just be the opposite of what I don’t want

Dear candidate,

I understand you are interested in my vote for both the 2016 presidential primary and — assuming you get past that first hurdle — the general election.

Thank you for your interest. We have received a number of other applications and will review them all with great interest. Please be aware that while you may consider yourself the best at any number of items you deem important, I will make my determination based on a few very specific criteria.

I know running for president can be confusing and frustrating, so let me articulate for you what will go into my decision.

Let’s dispense with something first: Hillary Clinton is never going to earn my vote. Ever.

I’ve seen enough of her in the last 20 years to have already made up my mind. She is a cold, robotic, paranoid, politically toxic, amoral, liberal progressive kleptocrat, whom I believe should be indicted for her dangerously irresponsible violations of national security during her time as Secretary of State.

However, simply not being Clinton does not mean I have any interest in voting for you.

For instance, in some alternative universe where a general election would be Barack Obama running for a third term against Clinton, I would view both choices as destructive to the future of the country and would refuse to contribute to that destruction by registering a vote for either candidate.

Granted, the fact that you are running for the nomination of a party that says it supports limited government, the rule of law, and a strong national defense is a good start and puts you in a better position than my (terrifying) hypothetical example above

But it isn’t enough. You need to earn my vote, and if I think you are as destructive (or more) than Clinton, I’m prepared to vote for neither of you and write in the reanimated ghost of Ronald Reagan.

So, dear candidate, to earn my vote, I have a few requirements.

You must be authentically conservative on most issues.

I have played the “lesser of two evils” game more than I would care to admit. I am a rather hard-right, ideologically motivated, libertarian-leaning conservative. But I also believe in pragmatic lawmaking and incrementalism, assuming a more aggressive and bold candidate is not available.

But only if I believe that, while you are disappointing, there is some kind of conservative or libertarian instinct behind the curtain. If I believe you have a mostly conservative worldview, I can swallow some things I don’t like in the interest of the “greater good.”

You must believe in decentralized executive power, not authoritarianism.

One of the most dangerous and troubling trends in the last 50 years is the growth of the imperial presidency and the growth of the executive branch.

Power has increasingly accumulated in the hands of the president and has empowered a number of statist politicians of both parties, allowing them to bypass Congress and govern by executive fiat.

Each president in the modern era has accumulated more power, culminating in the presidency of Obama, who attempts to go around the legislative process on everything from immigration to guns, because, in his words, “if they won’t do it, I will.”

This is among the most threatening things to the future existence of our republic, and I will never support anyone who reeks of authoritarianism.

You must have a firm grasp of both foreign and domestic policy.

I wish I didn’t have to make this clear, because it should be the most basic bar that a candidate has to meet, but apparently I do.

I understand that career politicians who have spent their lives in government have failed us, and their knowledge of people and programs does not qualify them to lead. But neither does not knowing.

I do not need to see you know everything, or indeed be an expert on all things foreign and domestic. However, if ignorance is something you have and are indeed proud of, I will have a hard time supporting you.

Some concluding thoughts.

Ultimately, Mr. or Mrs. Candidate, you need to understand something basic.

This is not a binary world. Simply being the opposite of what I view as a problem does not mean you are the answer. If the problem is the establishment, for example (which I would agree with), simply being anti-establishment doesn’t mean you are the solution.

I want to like you, I really do. But that is up to you.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.