Don't Shame Independent Voters

(AP Photo/Tom Copeland, File)
AP featured image
 (AP Photo/Tom Copeland, File)


Remember Ken Bone? He was that undecided voter who stood up and asked a question during a 2016 presidential debate while wearing a striking, red sweater.

Well, he’s back and in the news, after sitting down with Newsweek on what he thinks of the 2020 presidential cycle.

NY Post:

The Illinois man with an aw-shucks demeanor turned into a social media sensation after asking Hillary Clinton and then-candidate Donald Trump a question about their energy policies during a town hall-style presidential debate.


During the [2020] Democratic primaries, Bone said he was endorsing Andrew Yang.

And despite the NY Post’s snarky headline, Ken shares that he ended up voting for Hillary Clinton last time, and he’s no longer undecided in 2020 after all — but that doesn’t mean he’s voting for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump:

Jo Jorgensen is the Libertarian Party’s nominee.

In this case and that of many of our fellow Americans, they’ve taken a look at the Democrat (or Republican) party and don’t see their values and policy desires reflected. In Bone’s case, he’s starting to see one other marked difference between the parties.

(Warning: coarse language)

His comment bears out something that many Conservatives already know: Democrats push people out of the tribe who do wrongthink. It just isn’t tolerated to have any opinion other than the status quo.

Do I wish Bone were voting for President Trump? Of course. But, I’ve found myself in the same position as Bone, not once but twice.

The second time I voted for president, when Bill Clinton was reelected, I had a crisis of conscience right there in the voting booth. I still remember the moment, my pen poised over the ballot. I couldn’t bear to vote for a man I knew had been unfaithful to his own wife and abused his power over a work subordinate. But as a then-Democrat, I’d been brainwashed into thinking all Bushes were evil. So I voted for an independent candidate, Texas businessman Ross Perot.

Then in 2016, I didn’t “get” the Trump thing at all. I didn’t take him seriously during the primaries. So, when it came time to get advice on who to vote for, I looked to who I saw as long-time, trusted pundits like Bill Kristol and David French, and voted for their favored, independent candidate Evan McMullin. (FYI: I voted for Ted Cruz in the primary. And, as you know, I’ve come around on Pres. Trump.)

Bone isn’t the only one out there casting about for a political home. Hollywood actress Kirstie Alley is, too, whom I’ve written about before having problems with the hypocrisy of Democrats like vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris supporting efforts to thwart a 20-week abortion ban.

Alley makes no secret of the fact that she’s pro-choice, against fracking, and a believer in global warming, among other things that would normally signal that one is a Democrat voter.

Yet, she explains that she cannot pull the lever for Biden and the Democrat party — because “the conservative part of [her] respects the constitution [sic], God, and freedom” too much:

It’s interesting the difference four years make. There’s one, other person I want to highlight whose thoughts on where they belong on the political spectrum changed radically in that time: Austin Petersen.

Petersen, the man who got nearly 22 percent of the Libertarian Party’s vote for the nominee to run against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016 (the mantle went to Gary Johnson, as you might recall) started telling social media followers at the end of August that he was seriously considering a vote for Trump in 2020.

This could be important for several reasons, and not just because a certain number of people listen to and trust Petersen. I think it signals movement among independents and others who didn’t pull the lever for the New York real estate industry businessman last time … because of some things happening in the news.

Back on August 31, Petersen recorded a Twitter video. The title of the video: “Am I voting for Donald Trump?” In it, he explained that he doesn’t consider himself a Libertarian at all anymore. He’s a Republican. And while he’s since taken down the tweet, here are the main reasons he gave for changing his mind about the president.

The first thing he mentioned was Trump’s “First Step Act,” the actions he’s already taken on criminal justice reform. He also pointed to the U.S. exiting the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran nuclear deal. He was also shocked by the third, physical attack against Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, on the final night of the Republican convention, as he and his wife departed the White House. And the fact that local and statewide Wisconsin leaders were unwilling to accept federal help against rioters and looters.

Petersen said the Kyle Rittenhouse situation in Kenosha opened his eyes, too. He said, “Libertarians have a disconnect between average Americans and their base on basic rights like gun.”

He also said that he’s been “documenting what Marxists have been doing.” One quote in particular struck me, when Petersen told viewers: “The only thing standing between rioters and us is Trump.” He added that he likes Trump’s stance: “He doesn’t apologize for what he says and does to the mob.”

Petersen wrote several social media posts and threads over the following days, seeking to further that conversation with his fellow liberty-minded conservatives.

On September 1, he wrote a Twitter thread that started:

2 weeks ago I was not even considering voting for @realDonaldTrump. In 2016 I tried to run against him. Now I am thinking about it. And the outpouring of hatred and condemnation, and derision is pulling me more in that direction. The left and all their movements must be stopped.

He continued:

We have to fight back.

Since that time, he’s kept talking to others in his timeline. Now, a comment he made on an October 5, Glenn Beck announcement that he’s for Trump confirms his decision.

When Beck asked who will vote for Trump that didn’t in 2016, Petersen chimed in:

“Hey, Glenn. I will. I ran against him but things are different now. He will get my vote barring any unforeseen circumstances.”

My larger point is this: as Republicans and Conservatives, let’s not shame independent voters. There’s every possibility that they’ll change their minds in a future election. Because, except for those two times, that’s exactly what I did.


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