If I Could Rate Presidential Candidates the Way I Rate Novels

What if I told you there are two presidential candidates that I really like?

Nope, this isn’t a joke. Unfortunately, neither of the two are front-runners, but that won’t keep me from voting for one of them when my ballot arrives in the mailbox.

political loyalty

As I’ve thought about who to vote for, I’ve taken into consideration what I’m most concerned about for the United States. These are my top three concerns:

  • The national deficit. As of September 6, each citizen’s share of the national debt is over $60,000. That’s $300,000+ for my family of five, and the burden keeps climbing. It is a disaster waiting to happen, and I’m sick of politicians not dealing with it because they think they can postpone the disaster until after their political career.
  • Preservation of religious liberty. I want a candidate who will uphold the US Constitution, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  • A strong national defense. Because ISIS makes me nervous, and so does Vladimir Putin.

I’ve decided to give the various candidates star ratings, not unlike what you might see for a book on Amazon or Goodreads.

1-Star Candidates

220px-JStalin_Secretary_general_CCCP_1942_flipped170px-Adolf_Hitler-1933History is full of evil, horrible leaders, but fortunately, I haven’t run into any 1-star candidates running for US president this time around. In this category I’d put people like Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. They are evil and the disasters they bring affect entire continents. 1-star candidates would make writing a blog post like this an invitation for execution or for long stays at gulags and concentration camps.

2-Star Candidates


Donald_Trump_August_19,_2015_(cropped)2-star candidates are sleazeballs. I don’t agree with the direction they want to take the country, and I find them personally repulsive due to dishonesty, corruption, and inflated egos. They’re bad for the country, but as long as we don’t have too many in a row, we can probably recover.

In this category go Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

3-Star Candidates

220px-Bernie_SandersIn this category I place good people that I strongly disagree with.

Bernie Sanders is a good example of what I’d call a 3-star candidate. His vision of what the country should be is very different from my own, but I think Sanders is sincere in his beliefs. He seems to be a decent human being. He is someone I can respect, but I would be very reluctant to give him my vote.

4-Star Candidates

Gary_Johnson_by_Gage_Skidmore_7_(cropped)4-star candidates are good people that I mostly agree with. If I give a book 4 stars, it means it was worth reading and overall enjoyable or educational. A 4-star candidate is someone I can support, and someone who I think will leave the country better than they found it. I may not agree with them on everything, but we agree on enough that I would be comfortable supporting them.

In this category I place Gary Johnson, Libertarian presidential candidate. If you haven’t heard of him, do yourself a favor and watch some of his ads. They’re brilliant.

But a brilliant ad campaign isn’t what I like most about the Johnson/Weld ticket. Both Gary Johnson and Bill Weld (the vice presidential candidate) were Republican governors. Both served in blue states (New Mexico and Massachusetts), both were reelected, and both took a state in dire financial circumstances and completely turned it around. They turned deficits into surpluses, improved roads, schools, and hospitals, and did it all while cutting taxes.

I don’t agree with them on everything. I am pro-life. They are pro-choice (although Johnson supported bans on late-term abortions, so he isn’t rabidly pro-abortion). I’m also not particularly in favor of legalizing marijuana, but they’ve made a good case that it’s not any more dangerous than alcohol or many prescription drugs.

Some of their changes, like eliminating the IRS, might cause some adjustment pains, but I’ll take adjustment pains if it will give the country a balanced budget. The alternative is a disaster.

But wait, could they really win?

If every Democratic-leaning voter who doesn’t like Hillary Clinton and every Republican-leaning voter who doesn’t like Donald Trump voted for Johnson/Weld instead, then yes, I think they could win. They’re already polling ahead of both Trump and Clinton among young voters and military voters. I think almost every American can find something in the libertarian platform that they agree with.

Plus, even if Johnson and Weld don’t win outright, if they pick up a few key states and no single candidate wins a majority in the electoral college, then the top three candidates would go to the House of Representatives, where Johnson and Weld might be a perfect compromise.

The key for Johnson and Weld is getting in the presidential debates. Support for them will increase as more people become familiar with their policies, their records, and their ability to unify the country instead of dividing it. For that to happen, they need to reach 15% in the national polls. They aren’t there yet, but they’re getting closer.

I was planning to vote for them, and I still might because when it comes to my biggest concern (the national debt), I believe they are the best people to fix it. But I’m wavering, because another candidate decided to run . . .

5-Star Candidates

Evan_McMullin 5-star candidates are good human beings who have a vision for the country very similar to mine. They would leave the country better than they found it. I think Evan McMullin is that type of candidate.

It’s probably not too surprising that he and I have a similar view of what’s best for the country. We share a religion, an alma matter, both grew up in similar socioeconomic circumstances, and both graduated from Washington state high schools.

McMullin is a former CIA operative. Of all the current candidates, I find him the most qualified when it comes to national security. (If he doesn’t win, I hope whoever does win will pick him for National Security Advisor.) McMullin has also worked in the banking sector and in congress as a senior advisor to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and as chief policy director for the House Republican Committee.

I won’t explain his entire platform, but I like what he has to say about less power in Washington, DC and an overall smaller federal government. I like his views on defense and education, and I share his desire to see Roe vs. Wade overturned.

But wait, does this guy have any chance of winning?

A lot can happen in two months.

McMullin’s biggest hurdle to victory is that he’s unknown. He started without an established political party to help him and didn’t declare his candidacy until August 8. According to Politics1.com, he’s currently on the ballot in less than twenty states. And yet, in spite of that, more people are searching google for Evan McMullin than for Donald Trump.

So why am I writing a blog post about politics?

Politics are divisive and people tend to quit reading long blog posts, so this post breaks multiple rules for a blogger who usually just posts about her novels.

But the future of the United States is important to me. And I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t like Clinton or Trump. I want to let people know that there are more than two choices.

As a country, we have a mental block against third-party candidates. I think it’s time to get over that hurdle. Now that practically every voter has access to the internet, there is no reason why a third (or fourth) choice can’t win if that candidate is better for the country.

I’ve been taught that voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. I won’t vote for a 2-star candidate who will lead America to a darker future. If I and everyone like me keeps voting for candidates just because of their major party affiliation, what motivation do the major political parties have to offer better choices next time?

My hope is that the country will choose someone better than the two front runners. I realize it’s a long shot. But if it comes close to happening this year, maybe we’ll have better options in 2020. Until then, I’m going to cast my ballot for someone who will make the country better, not worse.

wasted votes

On a lighter note, how would you rate the presidential candidates? Which historical leaders would you give a 1-star rating?

Feel free to comment. You don’t have to agree with me, but please keep it clean and polite. My website, like my books, should stay appropriate for young teenagers.

Update added September 17, 2016

I’m on the email list for both Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin. And since writing this post, a few things have happened that make me want to post an update.

I think I’m downgrading Evan McMullin to a 4-star candidate. I still agree with him on most things and I still think he would lead the country in a good direction. But I’ve been less impressed with him the last ten days or so.

It started with an op-ed to the Deseret News, which included this paragraph: “After years of running for president, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson still has little chance of winning the Electoral College votes needed to stop them. His promotion of a drug culture in America, opposition to religious liberty, and reckless national security ideas have made him an unacceptable choice for most voters. His support has been capped in the single digits, and he appears to be pulling votes somewhat equally from Clinton and Trump.”

And now I’m going to add my thoughts in italics:

After years of running for president (most presidential candidates run more than once before they get the nomination—Clinton sought the nomination in 2008, Trump sought it in 2012, Romney tried in 2008 before he got it in 2012), Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson still has little chance of winning the Electoral College votes needed to stop them. (If I shouldn’t vote for Gary because he has only a little chance, why vote for someone with an even smaller chance—like McMullin?) His promotion of a drug culture in America (I’ve read Gary’s policy on legalizing marijuana. Not, I’m not a fan, but it doesn’t scare me either. The reasoning behind it is largely financial. Spend less on enforcing drug laws and earn more government revenue through taxation), opposition to religious liberty (I’ve read Gary’s position on religious liberty, and though I think McMullin has an edge in this area, I believe Gary’s promises to support all the individual liberties listed in the Constitution. That’s the core of being libertarian—having liberty, letting people choose, getting the government out of decisions), and reckless national security ideas (Gary wants to cut defense spending back to 2003 levels. Yes, that is a cut, but it’s not like we’re going back to 1915 levels) have made him an unacceptable choice for most voters. His support has been capped in the single digits (The day the op-ed was printed, I saw a poll in the Washington Times showing Gary at 19% in Alaska and Idaho, 25% in New Mexico, 23% in Utah, and in the double digits in all states except Alabama, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York. That’s double-digits in 42 states), and he appears to be pulling votes somewhat equally from Clinton and Trump (pulling from both sides is the only way a third-party candidate could win).

That letter and constant invitations to attend special fundraising dinners with suggested minimum donations of $100 or $1000 have soured my initial enthusiasm for McMullin. He’s a good candidate. But he’s still a politician, and does all the normal political things like playing on voter fears and spinning things to make a point, even at the cost of accuracy.

Based on the number of ballots McMullin won’t appear on, it is mathematically impossible for him to win the electoral college. In a perfect storm of conditions, McMullin could possibly win enough electoral votes to prevent any one candidate from getting a majority. Then the election would go to the House of Representatives. That is McMullin’s Plan A. But I’m uncomfortable with someone’s Plan A circumventing democracy.

On the other hand, I like the Johnson and Weld ticket more. I still don’t agree with them on everything. But their ability to balance a budget is really appealing to me. I like their approach to problem-solving. Rather than creating winners and looser, I think they’d bring both sides of an issue to the table and create something that gives both sides something to be happy about. (See Gary’s Deseret News op-ed here, for example.) I also like their approach to looking to the states to see how they’ve handled a problem. We’ve got fifty states. Why not see what’s working well there and applying it at a federal level, if needed, instead of reinventing the wheel?

Johnson and Weld are likeable people. I’m sure they have egos, but I get the feeling that they genuinely want to make the country better. (I get the impression from both Trump and Clinton that it’s more about power for them.) Likability probably isn’t the most important qualification for good governance, but after years of divisive Red vs Blue politics, a little bit of likability could go a long way.

Update added November 1, 2016

The election is in one week. I find myself liking Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were polling numbers like the major-party candidates were? Then I could be comfortable with whatever the outcome.

Of course, they aren’t polling numbers like Trump or Clinton. And they probably won’t win the election. I hear so many people say that voting 3rd party is a wasted vote because they can’t win. But if that’s the case, just about every vote for Clinton in the heartland is a wasted vote, because she’s not going to win Kansas or Missouri. And in most states along the coast, a vote for Trump is wasted because he’s not going to win California or Massachusetts. So why is it fine to vote for a major party candidate in a state they have no hope of winning, but not okay to vote for a third-party candidate?

I don’t have much to lose by voting 3rd party. If Trump or Clinton wins, then we’re going to have an unethical, egotistical president who will move more power to Washington, D.C., and run up our federal deficit. A lot of people argue that Trump might appoint better Supreme Court judges. Maybe he would, but even if he did, who’s to guarantee those justices would vote the way they’d be expected to vote? Justices are unpredictable. President Eisenhower is widely believed to have said the following regarding his time as president: “I made two mistakes and both of them are sitting on the Supreme Court.”

So why am I voting for a candidate who won’t win? Because the two-party system needs to change. And neither major party will change unless they start losing significant support. Change has to smart small. Why not start in 2016, with McMullin winning Utah’s electoral votes? Why not start in 2016, with the Libertarian party breaking the 5% threshold and achieving minor party status so that during the next election, they’ll automatically be on the ballot and won’t have to spend huge amounts of resources jumping through hoops to get on the ballot in all fifty states? If enough people vote third party, then in 2020, either the major parties will give us better candidates (win for the country), or the momentum started in 2016 will snowball into something bigger (also a win for the country).

I’m voting 3rd party, and I’m voting for a better future.





  1. You voiced my thoughts almost spot on. I totally agree that we shouldn’t vote for someone we just hate less than the other guy. I’m sick to death of a two-party system. Vote your conscience people. The parties have become too power-hungry and don’t care about America anymore. Let’s get someone in who does care. The parties need a makeover before I side with them again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Cozybooks and commented:
    I try to keep this blog pretty free of politics (because it is the internet and it’s easier to be uncivil here) but I thought this post was well written, and I want to take an interest in my country’s political process. Thanks, A.L Sowards!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you won’t be back. The newsletter subscription is optional; there is a close button in the upper right corner. You’re the first person to complain about it, but maybe it’s time for me to reevaluate having a pop-up. Thank you for your feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Some don’t mind the interruption. I consider it a form of visual pollution. You’ll note that even WP, the host service, only runs ads after a post, at the end of them, never covering the content.


  3. I’ve been studying who to vote for, and it’s a big task! I appreciate your insights as I’m studying the candidates. You are always so informed and wise in your opinions! I read this post a few weeks ago and came back tonight. Thanks for the updates! I’m leaning Johnson/Weld, even though I don’t agree with a couple of their issues. I cannot bring myself to vote Trump or Clinton!


    1. It is a big task! Good for you for taking the time to study up. One positive thing about a vote for Johnson/Weld is that if they get just 5% of the national vote, they’ll get official minor party status, which means they’ll have automatic ballot access and $10 million for their 2020 campaign. Trying to get on the ballot in all 50 states without minor party status takes a ton of resources for small parties. Even if you don’t love everything about the Libertarian ticket, I think it’s useful to always have someone on the ballot pushing for smaller government and more individual liberties. And if their pro-choice stance is one of the things you disagree with, be aware that some Libertarians are pro-life. At its heart, Libertarianism is about a government with limited functions, like protecting life, liberty, and enforcing contracts. Johnson and Weld have come down in favor of Roe vs Wade, saying it is about protecting liberty. Other Libertarians (like me–although I’m not sure I’m completely Libertarian), come down in favor of outlawing abortion, because one of government’s functions should be protecting life, including the lives of unborn babies. Also, since you’re in a pretty solid blue state, you should feel completely free to vote your conscience. (I say vote your conscience no matter what state you’re in, but when you’re not in a swing state, there’s not a question of “strategic voting” to keep the worse of the two evils out of office.)


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