Morris: The Holcomb, Myers Malaise
I’m thinking of doing something different in the gubernatorial election. Some will say I would be wasting my vote.
The same temptation teased me in the 2016 presidential election. Disgusted that our political process delivered the two worst candidates imaginable in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I flirted with the idea of going third party or simply staying home and not voting at all.
In the end, I resisted the urge.
It was going to be a close enough election that relatively few votes could make a difference. If I abandoned my usual practice – voting for the candidate, however flawed, who most matched my world view – it would not be just a wasted vote. It would have the effect of voting for the other candidate. It made no sense to make a point by voting against my own interests.
But the situation is different in the governor’s race this year, so I’m giving serious thought to ignoring Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and Democratic challenger Woody Myers and casting my vote for Libertarian Donald Rainwater.
For one thing, this doesn’t seem to be a close election. Holcomb is likely to win by such a wide margin that an individual ballot will hardly matter. I can use my vote to make a point without worrying about the outcome.
And for another, it’s hard to imagine how I can vote against my interests with Holcomb or Myers when I have such trouble meshing my world view with either one of them.
I struggled toward this conclusion after seeing news reports that the Indiana Debate Commission is asking Hoosiers to send in questions for possible use in the Oct. 20 and 27 debates between the three candidates.
Since everyone else would likely be developing the usual sort of questions that could be answered in 30-second, stump-speech sound bites, I reasoned that I could make a contribution with questions forcing Holcomb to defend his record and the other candidates to offer substantively different approaches. Try as I might, I could not find a major issue I cared about in which Holcomb and Myers could offer me a clear choice.
The governor’s enthusiastic COVID-justified use of the sweeping powers ceded to him by the General Assembly in clear violation of the Indiana Constitution? Myers’ chief complaint against Holcomb is that he did not issue the mask mandate soon enough.
How about the almost complete state takeover of public education, first by the Legislature, then by the governor’s office, despite the fact that none of the politicians know what in the world to do with it? Anyone who thinks Myers would be different should consider that the Republican secretary of education has endorsed him.
Speaking of which, the Indianapolis Star reports that Gov. Holcomb, with his wily, moderate ways, has scored numerous key endorsements from organizations that backed the Democratic nominee four years ago, including major donors such as the state teacher’s union, fraternal order of police and trade groups.
I think of the state’s $2 billion surplus when I make my final effort at candidate differentiation. Holcomb would continue to sit on it forever. Myers would spend it just as quickly as he could. Rainwater is the one who might say, “Wait a minute here, isn’t all that loose cash really taxpayer money?”
If I thought it mattered that much, I’m sure I could look harder and find enough reasons to hold my nose and vote for Holcomb, in the faint hope that I would get at least some of the prudence I want in state government. But I don’t think it matters that much.
If I end up voting for Rainwater, and enough other disaffected conservatives (we’re sneeringly called the “far right” in the mainstream press) do likewise, something interesting might happen.
In the last five gubernatorial elections, the Libertarian share of the vote ranged from a low of 1.29 percent in 2004 to a high of 3.95 percent in 2012. What would happen if, in 2020, the Libertarian broke into double digits or came very close to it?
The potential upside is that the idea of a deliberative, fiscally responsible state that gives up more home rule to cities and counties might take hold again, at least enough for more Hoosiers to consider it a valuable option. The bigger the Libertarian vote, the more credibility that idea will have.
The potential downside, of course, is that the election is closer than I think and an even modest increase of Libertarian votes will swing the election to Myers.
A possibility I confess to not losing much sleep over.
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.