One week ago, James Holmes, an economics professor, was “Never Trump.”
Holmes planned to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton despite his status as a registered Republican.
“Trump is obnoxious; he’s a clown, he’s offensive, he lacks character, he lacks self-control, I don’t like any of that,” Holmes said. “There’s nothing you can say about Trump that I find particularly desirable, not one thing.”
Now, just days before the election, Holmes plans to vote for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The professor had an epiphany about Clinton after reading an article in The Wall Street Journal.
This isn’t the first time Holmes has changed his mind in a radical way. When Holmes was an undergraduate at University of Chicago, he was a self-professed communist. His greatest concerns were income inequality and civil rights.
But many of Holmes’ friends and mentors challenged his beliefs.
“I would have been exactly in the most liberal and progressive position that you can be, but for one of my very best friends at college, Julius Price, he was a black man and he was probably one of the most intelligent, honorable men I have ever met, there’s no one I would put above him,” Holmes said.
Holmes used to argue with Price about the government and civil rights. Holmes was for anti-discrimination laws to combat Jim Crow laws while Price, an African-American, argued that individuals deserve the right to discriminate.
“He thought that if you [don’t want to] bake a cake for white Anglo Saxons, you should have the right to do that,” Holmes said. “If you want to bake cakes just for gay lesbian queer blacks who are crippled, you should have the right to do that; and we would argue and argue and argue until he finally convinced me that that was what a really free and liberal society should have.”
Now Holmes is 78 years old and while he’s changed his views over time, he has never been so undecided in an election.
Holmes won’t come to a decision by arguing with Price or his other mentors – those men are gone now. But the critical thinking abilities he acquired through those long arguments with his friends and professors stayed with him.
Holmes said Americans must decide between a little and a lot of corruption.
“I think the choices in this presidential election become very clear cut,” Holmes said. “You can’t possibly vote for Hillary because you’re voting for the institutionalized, concentrated political power and corruption...what a horrible, horrible situation.”
Trump has said "awful" things about minorities and women, but Clinton hasn’t done “anything” to help them either, according to Holmes.
“I don’t think electing Hillary Clinton would do a damn thing for women’s rights,” Holmes said. “It would further the rights for those people who are willing to pay for it – she’s strictly motivated by money and power I don’t think she gives a damn about women or blacks,” Holmes said. “Those are all talking points to sell to the public, I don’t think she has any values at all, except her own amalgamation of power and wealth.”
The turning point for Holmes was when he read the Wall Street Journal article, which led him to believe Clinton and her political allies were abusing their power in an unprecedented way.
In July 2016, FBI Director James Comey concluded the highly controversial investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server while Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.
Some of the emails found were from Obama under a pseudonym sent to Clinton. Obama said in an interview he did not think Clinton should be criminally charged. The article speculates that if Clinton was indicted, Obama could be too.
Holmes said all this amounts to institutionalized corruption. Clinton could have been found guilty for use of private non-secure server, which is a misdemeanor under one statute and the destruction of emails, which is a felony under two statutes, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but this is coordinated corruption,” Holmes said. “You have politicized the bureaucracies, the IRS, a large part of the FBI, the Justice Department, you just go down the line and that shouldn’t be.”
Holmes said Trump has said and done unethical things, but he doesn’t have the consolidated political power Clinton has.
“Here you have a clown and a criminal,” Holmes said. “The criminal is maybe smarter than the clown, certainly better organized, certainly with more connections, certainly with more power, which do you want – someone who is weak or someone who is powerful in a position where they can add more to their power.”
Holmes said Trump will not cause as much impact on domestic policy because of the other branches of government. Holmes said Trump would not put an end to all political corruption, but he would break up a large organization of people, which to him is better than nothing.
The professor compares the situation to cheating at a university.
“Do I expect cheating to go away at the university, never,” Holmes said. “Do I think that it’s our obligation as members of the university community to catch, prevent, penalize whenever we observe it?”
Holmes said he should have the choice of the best candidate for president, but this year he doesn’t have that option.
“I think it’s the most important election in my lifetime,” Holmes said. “The potential for evil is higher than it’s ever been – institutionalized evil, that’s what bothers me.”
Holmes said he sees his vote for Trump as purely “against Hillary.” He is taking the path many others will this election: the “lesser of two evils.”
“I think it’s the honest thing to do as an intellectual to look at both sides,” Holmes said. “I think I have with Hillary and Trump, like I said, there’s nothing you can say about Trump that I find particularly desirable, not one thing.”
For Holmes, the election is between a clown and a criminal. He said he’ll take the clown.
Sarah Crowley is the assistant news editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @crowleyspectrum.