Yet I want to record my views on why there are insufficient reasons to feel good about voting for any one of the two major or two minor presidential candidates.
In alphabetical order by last name:
Hillary Clinton has both symbolic and real problems that outweigh any benefits she might bring. She represents, as her opponent all too often reminds us, thirty years (or more) of attempts to mold the American people into a shape she finds more rational, just, fair, and pleasing. To her, the idea that others might disagree with her is not a sign of a healthy debate, but of a selfish conspiracy of idiots. Meanwhile, she's broken the hypocrisy meter by earning tens of millions of dollars along with her husband since his term expired in 2001. They did so not by making anyone's life better in starting a company or inventing a product or process that helps people, but by giving speeches. Sure, they also started a foundation whose putative purpose is to do good, but we find out more every day about how its bank accounts were swollen by those seeking Clinton's favor while she was Secretary of State and hoping for continued favor when she one day became president. The same can be said for the speeches: the speaking fees were a stealth form of bribery, to be cashed in via access later should she become president.
The related email scandal illustrates her most Nixonian character flaw: she has perhaps committed political suicide in an effort to conduct the people's business in a secret and unaccountable fashion, even to historians who should have had access to all her official communications years down the road. As someone who's used State Department records to write history, I find this particularly offensive. I strongly suspect the FBI probe was halted in July solely due to the FBI director's desire not to influence the outcome of the election, yet re-opened in October because that same director realized he'd been lied to and duped by Clinton and others during the original investigation. Had the probe not been stopped in the summer, had traditional investigative means such as grand juries, warrants, subpoenas, and properly designed immunity deals been employed, Clinton likely would have been charged with crimes associated with mishandling of classified material and would have been replaced as the Democratic Party's candidate. I won't go so far as to wish her in prison, but she is appallingly unqualified in a moral sense for any position of leadership where the primary task is to faithfully execute the laws.
Gary Johnson has two terms of executive experience as governor of a small state. He's the most physically fit of the candidates, apparently, despite smoking things from time to time. He's likely correct that most Americans are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, as he says he and his Libertarian Party are. But he's as goofy as Clinton is hypocritical. And goofiness is not a desirable leadership attribute. He doesn't seem to be able to adjust his persona to a changing environment, i.e., to display appropriate affect. For instance, he babbled incoherently to a reporter in a flaky attempt to demonstrate that he could literally hold his tongue while talking. He is allergic to donning regular trousers, tucking in his shirt, or wearing a tie. I'm far less bothered by the alleged "Aleppo gaffe," because that city's name does, in fact, sound like an acronym to me, as Johnson also maintained. But his inability to get his running mate on board with him in a disciplined campaign is deeply troubling -- just today Johnson said Clinton is unqualified due to the email scandal and investigation, while his running mate, William Weld, said he'd vouch for Clinton and didn't care if he disagreed with Johnson. Voting for these two men would be a sheer act of protest only slightly different from not voting at all.
Jill Stein has nothing whatever to recommend her, other than some random agreement with many voters on a few issues. She has no practical experience leading large bodies. She has flaky and impractical positions. Her VP candidate is an utter unknown, as she was before she gained the Green Party nomination. In interviews she's seemed undereducated about important matters. Voting for her would also be a mere protest vote, no better than skipping the election altogether.
Donald Trump might also belong in jail with Hillary Clinton -- his "Trump University" is a fine example of how his whole life has been about branding rather than reality, and about keeping his eternal Ponzi scheme going through one more reckless new enterprise after another with his name emblazoned in gold across the top. He convinced millions of disaffected people to vote for him in the Republican primary and to support him now. As an expert in media manipulation, he did show some skill in outmaneuvering all his Republican opponents while spending far less per vote. Yet this is not a skill we need in a president, since the press is always willing to cover anything a president says or does, even if it's only mildly controversial. He has flushed out the very worst elements in our society, and they're scurrying like roaches across the cracked green linoleum of a kitchen floor after the pantry light's been turned on. They will vote for Trump in huge numbers, in the process shredding the polling methodologies used to determine who's a likely voter.
No one knows what Trump would do as president, because he has demonstrated neither loyalty to past pledges nor a core philosophy other than eternal self-aggrandizement. He might not be as risky as we fear or as his opponents claim; but he might also be more risky than even they dared to paint him. He seems desperate for affection, which would always make him manipulable by the results of the latest presidential job approval polls. This might be bad, or it might be good, depending on the issues currently under consideration. A vote for this man is a vote for radical change not only from Obama, but from the entirety of American political history. We would have to rely on the Congress, the civil service, the military, and the courts to safeguard our traditional system and our civil rights. It would be the bumpiest of rides for a nation that needs a rest, not more turmoil. How I wish Obama had never taunted him at the 2012 White House Correspondents' Dinner and led him to heal his bruised ego by means of a romp through the Republican Party nominating process and a campaign that has brought him to the cusp of being the one to escort Obama out of the White House next January.
As it looks today, six days out, momentum is shifting strongly to Trump. He has resisted saying anything outrageous that might distract us from considering Clinton's likely criminality. The prospect of a Trump presidency is the most appalling thing I've ever had to contemplate in my lifetime of observing American politics. But if you were to ask me whom to vote for instead, I couldn't tell you. That is the greatest tragedy of all, and the real source of our impending nightmare.