For most of my career in politics, I was the ultimate Republican team player, always falling in line to support the team's candidate. In 2012, I was the most prominent openly gay advocate for Mitt Romney. Then in 2014, I left the Republican Party and declared my political independence. Like most Americans these days, I don't feel that either party represents me, but that doesn't mean that I'm not engaged or that I don't care about our country.
This is my first presidential election as an independent voter. As a non-partisan, politically independent "normal person," I have the freedom to objectively consider all candidates regardless of party. I don't have the bias of political affiliation to tilt my point of view anymore. That freedom is something that I regret not embracing sooner. Now, I've taken a look at the candidates in both major parties, the minor parties, and even some possible independent candidates.
For me and other fiscally conservative, culturally modern voters who care about America's place in the world, Hillary Clinton is the obvious choice for president in 2016.
To be sure, I disagree with Clinton on a number of specific policies, but no free-thinking American agrees with their candidate on every issue. That was obviously true in 2012 when I was the gay for Mitt, remember. It is important to judge the candidates on more than just their positions on specific issues. It's their experience, depth of knowledge, and their vision of America that really matters. That's because the vote for president is different and more important than any other vote we cast.Our vote for president is our vote for who we trust to be in charge to deal with all of the issues that we don't know about yet. It's the vote for who we trust to be the ultimate decision maker for all of us. That's why it's so important for the president to see things from the perspective of all Americans, no matter who we are. The ability to empathize with people who aren't like they are is the most important trait a president can have in a country as diverse as ours. Clinton is the only major contender who has demonstrated that ability.
Any candidate who advocates treating some Americans differently under the law than others is unacceptable to me and most other voters. I don't support denying rights or granting special rights to anyone, for any reason, whether it's based on their religion, race, sexual orientation, cultural background, or any other characteristic. Freedom means freedom for everyone, no matter who you are. Hillary Clinton knows that and her policies reflect her understanding of that ultimate definition of America.
Clinton is a serious, thoughtful candidate with a solid grasp on the issues facing our country. Too many of the other candidates simply don't appear to be living in reality in 2015. Bernie Sanders, for example, proposes free college for everyone, with no realistic way to pay for it without adding to our already crushing national debt. While he's out of touch fiscally, some of the Republican candidates simply aren't living in reality in 2015, culturally. They reject our modern multicultural society and play on unfounded fears that some Americans have of others who aren't like them culturally. That "us against them" point of view of candidates such as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and others in the GOP, renders them unacceptable to me and most other culturally modern Americans.
The only candidate to have demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the current state of the world and the scope of our national security threats is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In her recent speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, she presented a well thought out plan for dealing with radical jihadists who wage war on the west and seek to destroy our country. Her level of competency is unmatched by any other candidate in the race. Leading Republican candidate Donald Trump's plan to deal with the terrorists consists of "bomb the hell out of them." The stakes are just too high to risk on a candidate who isn't prepared to lead the war on terror. Clinton is.
The two major parties have rigged the rules in most states to keep the growing numbers of independent voters from participating in the political process. Fortunately for independents in New Hampshire, they have the ability to vote in the first in the nation primary on February 9th. I hope all free-thinking independents there will do what I have done, and thoughtfully consider all the candidates. Then cast their ballots for the obvious choice, Hillary Clinton.
Editor's note: This article originally published on the Huffington Post on December 2, 2015, and may have been modified slightly for publication on IVN. To read more about Jimmy LaSalvia, his political journey, and his thoughts on the current political landscape, his political memoir, "NO HOPE: Why I Left the GOP (and You Should Too)," is now available for purchase.