Luke Phillips’s Presidential Endorsement 2016: General David Petraeus


October 28, 2016

I hereby retract my formal endorsements of Hillary Clinton and Colin Powell, stand by my renunciation of Donald Trump, and finally endorse General David Petraeus for President of the United States in 2016. I will be writing General Petraeus in on my ballot when I vote.

This is, as many call it, a protest vote. I am fully aware of the implications of protest voting. I am surrendering my influence over the 2016 election- and the right to say I fought against its ultimate result- to spare my conscience and future record from a Hillary Clinton/neoliberal globalist establishment association. Some would argue that I love my conscience and future record more than I love my country, since I am not doing everything I can to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

This is not the case. First off, I love my country far more than I love my conscience, and will always subvert my conscience when the two clash. Wherever possible I will seek to align my conscience with the imperatives of service to my country. It is possible here.

As a Republican living in California, my individual vote will have little to no influence over which way this state goes- the gods of the polls have long since decided that. Were I living in a swing state that could potentially go to Donald Trump, such as my home state of Virginia, I would most certainly bite the bullet and vote for Hillary Clinton, simply to preclude a temperamental numbskull like Trump from soiling the office of the Presidency. But since my protest vote stands no chance of delivering the Golden State to the Destroyer of Worlds, nor having any other influence over the destiny of our Republic, I vote against both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with a clean conscience as regards the ultimate result.

I am fully prepared to accept a Hillary Clinton Presidency, given that a Donald Trump Presidency’s reckless mismanagement, divisive social policy, and unpresidential demeanor is the only other option. I am not particularly supportive of the impending President Clinton’s neoliberal globalism, her progressive social agenda, her imprudent human-rights hawkishness, her subservience to the billionaire class or her freewheeling support of the regulatory bureaucracy. I especially despise her condescension towards everyday Americans, her constituents, those whom she will be pledged to serve.

But I trust that she will be a competent manager of American internal decline, and a prudent enough captain of the ship of state in these turbulent international waters we enter. She will not make fundamental reforms to the American system of governance and political economy, the kinds of reforms that we need; but she will shepherd elegantly the furtherance of negative trends in such a way as to preclude any of them from erupting into out-and-out crisis. She will be as a James Buchanan or Herbert Hoover- the last steward of the old regime, whose failures will be overshadowed by the victories of some new Lincoln or Roosevelt, I would hope, by the 2020s.

I cannot and will not vote for such a regurgitation of the past three decades and a slow lurch into a future I do not want. I will honor President Clinton as my President, in line with my duty as a citizen, while withholding my electoral support.

After coming to these conclusions, I determined to cast my vote for an independent Republican- not a #NeverTrump conservative looking for a new Reagan, but a pragmatic centrist Republican reformer who’d been alienated from the increasingly conservative GOP for years before Trump scared the daylights out of the Bill Kristols of the world. That led me to General Colin Powell, a great American. I defended and promoted General Powell in a debate at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library; as soon as the debate finished, I discovered that Powell had endorsed Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

My withdrawal of write-in support for Powell is not out of disagreement with his endorsement. I respect his endorsement and understand why he did it- as a respected public figure, he does not have the latitude that I have in picking other options. He would be complicit in the election of Donald Trump if he, as a national figure, did not oppose Trump at a national level with all his force, by encouraging his fans to vote directly against Trump.

However, were I to maintain my write-in endorsement of Powell, it would be an indirect endorsement of Hillary Clinton, given that his energy is henceforth being funneled to Clinton. This, I could not accept- my vote would be for Powell, and to have it merely funneled towards Clinton would subvert the point. So I withdrew and began considering other endorsements.

At the top of the list were the non-endorsing Republican Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz. After all, they declined to endorse Hillary Clinton, choosing instead to not take sides and work for bipartisan collaboration. I respect and admire both Secretaries; however, in their old age, I would be voting for a return to an older America than a push forward to something new. Fully respecting the Secretaries nonetheless, I chose to consider other options.

I considered the gag move of writing in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. I even wrote him a letter encouraging him to get back into public life at a subpresidential-level. But ultimately, though Schwarzenegger would be a fine write-in, the unconstitutional nature of him as a presidential candidate would relegate my conscience vote to a joke.

A few days ago, I went to an event where General David Petraeus was speaking, and a few days later I spoke with my friend and mentor Dan Schnur about the event. Upon further reflection, I decided that due to General Petraeus’s country-first mentality, pure patriotism, and cultivated competence in the arts of statecraft, I would write him as a candidate for President of the United States.

Some have argued that General Petraeus’s career in public life is over. I am not sure that this is true, given the utter implosion of Republican leadership forthcoming (General Petraeus has described himself as a Rockefeller Republican rather than a conservative,) given his depth of skill, knowledge, and wisdom in the conduct of foreign affairs, given his relative youth, and given his cultivated and natural respectability among serious public servants. His recent departure from public service seems to have sprouted more from the Obama Administration’s tendency to stab its own folk in the back (a tendency that also took out Gates and Huntsman) than from his own personal indiscretions, which he has since apologized for. I don’t know or expect that the General will ever run for President of the United States. I would not be surprised if, like Nixon, he rises again from the depths of scandal and wilderness, through his own contritions and services to the country, to again be an actor on the world stage and a force in the destiny of the American Republic.

Character, duty, service, and temperament all matter. And in my particular situation, I am free to vote my conscience in this most interesting of elections. I therefore vote for the non-candidate who nonetheless would do a better job as President, and guide the country towards a better future, than the clear winner. I cast my vote for General David Petraeus in the sincere hope that he enters public life again, in whatever capacity, and serves his country well.

I hereby renounce any influence over the present election, and commit myself to working for a better tomorrow for America.

Luke Phillips

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