A disillusioned Republican turns to a third party
By Cassandra Yanez-Leyton
Nov. 3, 2020
Ben Clark holding his nine-year-old Dachshund, Chewie. Photo taken via Discord by Cassandra Yanez-Leyton.
There are several rules in the popular fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons, but there is one in particular that the dungeon master must enforce at Ben Clark’s game table: don’t talk about politics.
It’s a rule that allows players to fully immerse themselves in the game, Minnesota voter Clark said.
“He goes all in,” said Duccio Mondanelli, a friend of Clark’s who would go over to the 32-year-old’s apartment every Sunday to play before the pandemic forced them onto the virtual forum.
Clark gives his Dungeons and Dragons characters back-stories and, sometimes, accents. He also cooks elaborate meals for the group.
“At one point he made us beef Wellington,” said Mondanelli.
For Clark, the no-politics rule is an easy one to follow. With the ongoing pandemic, the protests that shook up nearby Minneapolis following George Floyd’s murder in May, and a federal election that “seems like it’s been going on since 2016,” Clark said he feels inundated by politics and appreciates the break the game gives him.
“It’s either hearing Trump talk or hearing everyone talk about Trump,” he said. “It’s exhausting.”
The main source of his fatigue: the president himself.
Clark, who served in the U.S. Air Force for four years, now works as an auto mechanic in Brooklyn Park, a suburb of Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolitan area.
The veteran said he knew Donald Trump was a bit of a wild card when he voted for him in 2016. But over the last four years Clark has become increasingly disillusioned with Trump’s personality and conduct in the White House.
“I’m not angry, I’m disappointed,” he explained in a video interview from his condo in Brooklyn Park, which he shares with his 40-year-old brother, Jeff, and his nine-year-old Dachshund, Chewie.
Clark said jobs and the economy are among his principal concerns going into this election.
A particular turn-off was the trade war the president started with China in 2018 – a conflict Clark described as “petulant” and “unnecessary.” The trade war took a toll on Minnesota, which exports soybeans and animal feed to China. “It really rubbed me the wrong way,” Clark said.
On Nov. 3, for the first time in his life, the registered Republican will not be voting for the Republican candidate.
Instead, Clark said he plans to vote for Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen.
Born and raised in a state that has consistently voted Democrat since 1972, and that is still strongly trending blue today, according to the American Public Media Research Lab Clark knows his vote won’t flip his beloved Minnesota.
“I think it’s important that people vote for what they actually believe in, instead of the letter next to their name,” Clark said, adding Jorgensen’s nearly impossible odds of becoming president help justify his decision.
He’s proud of voting and even insisted on casting his ballot in person on Tuesday. He wanted to be there to “see it go through the machine and get counted,” he said.
Clark describes himself as “socially libertarian and fiscally conservative.” He is unimpressed by Trump’s attempts to curb spending and has a general distrust towards Biden who he describes as a “career politician” who “will say anything to get elected.”
Voting Libertarian allowed Clark to stay true to his values. This is something that his brother, Jeff Clark, finds important as well. In the last election, he casted a vote of no-consent because he didn’t want to pick what he described as the lesser of two evils, and this year he’s feeling the “exact same way.”
In this election, Clark’s third-party vote speaks less to what he believes in and more to what he doesn’t: national politics as a whole.
“The national scale, it’s honestly just the big song and dance. Government is so large that it’ll bomb no matter who’s running it,” said Clark. No stranger to city council meetings himself, he always tries to tell people to pay more attention to local politics.
“What [city council] ends up doing has the most direct impact on my life,” he explained. That’s why he regularly checks in on their meeting schedule. Three years ago, he spoke at council to express his frustrations about a road from his daily commute that was rife with potholes. The road in question was repaved this year.
“You get a lot of a bigger individual difference being enacted on the local type stuff,” he said. This optimistic view contrasts sharply with how he perceives his role and the weight of his vote in the federal election.
Whatever the Nov. 3 results bring, Clark said, you won’t hear about it at his next virtual Dungeons and Dragons game.