Betrayal is unavoidable in this pick-your-poison election

It's time for an intervention. Make that a pair of interventions. Friends don't let friends vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

As someone who supports neither of the above, I spend every day on the defensive.

I'm told that I'm being foolish and irresponsible, and that by not voting for the better candidate, I'm helping elect someone who will be a disaster in domestic and foreign policy, lacks the integrity and temperament to lead and can't be trusted to keep the country on track and Americans safe from harm.

And that's just what I hear from Trump supporters. Come to think of it, Clinton supporters tell me the same thing.

The pro-Trump and pro-Clinton forces make it seem as if there is something wrong with that wide swath of America that doesn't want to vote for either of the party nominees. It was really striking that, at both of the national conventions, you heard partisans - the kind of people who put party before country - talk about how voters had to "get over it" and accept the reality that they're faced with a "binary" choice between a Democrat and a Republican.

Although, let's be honest. In this election, there have been days when you can't tell which is which. There are things Trump has said that are right out of the liberal playbook, such as protectionist policies and opposition to free trade. Likewise, since Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy, she has appeared at various times more conservative than liberal firebrands Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

After Donald Trump appeared to allude to the assassination of a President Hillary Clinton, with an off-the-cuff remark about the Second Amendment, former CIA Director Michael Hayden made reference to the seriousness of the matter.

"If someone else had said that outside the hall, he'd be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him," Hayden told CNN.

Clinton supporters cheered those remarks, outraged that those in serious contention for the Oval Office are often held to different standards than the rest of us.

This argument sounds familiar. Where were these folks, just a few weeks ago, when Clinton beat the rap with regard to the handling of sensitive and classified information on a private email server? Republicans complained at the time that Clinton got preferential treatment because of her White House bid.

Something is broken here. A reader who says he is a lifelong Republican and who is prepared to vote for Clinton to stop Trump asks what many of us are wondering: "How did we get to the point of having to make this choice?"

Some people claim that the "Never Trump, Never Hillary" people are making a mistake, and that we're going to sway the election to the wrong candidate.

That assumes there is a right candidate. Besides, Trump and Clinton both seem capable of losing this race without help from anyone.

And here's another thought: What if it's the partisans who are making the big mistake? What if they are being fooled by their candidate?

Trump's brand - as created by Team Clinton - is all about being unstable, unhinged, and unreliable. Clinton's brand - as generated by Team Trump - is that the former secretary of state is untruthful, untrustworthy, and undependable.

During the primary campaign, when he was hammered by Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for flip-flopping on difficult issues such as trade and abortion, Trump made the argument several times that - in politics, as in business - flexibility is a good thing and a refusal to compromise can be a liability.

And this is the person who many conservatives claim to support because, among other things, he promises to appoint a strict constructionist to the Supreme Court? His promises are worthless.

As for Clinton, it's a good thing that lying isn't an Olympic sport. She's been caught in lies frequently and rarely admits failure, mistakes, error, or gaffes. This is one big reason that many everyday Americans can't relate to her.

And this is the person who immigration reform advocates support because she promises to stop President Obama's policy of endless deportations and legalize the undocumented? I wager this isn't the truth, either. She'll take care of the unions, who support a hard line on immigration.

In the battle of the brands, it'll come down to "unstable" versus "untruthful." But no matter which one of these two candidates ends up in the White House, betrayal is unavoidable.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is

© 2016, The Washington Post Writers Group

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