If you follow me on Facebook, you know I’ve been thinking (and writing) a lot about this upcoming election. Now that Election Day is here, I thought I’d share a few final thoughts as I head into the voting booth.
My Faith Informs My Vote
First, a few thoughts about being a Christian and a citizen. Some non-Christian friends argue that faith should be kept out of the public sphere, but it’s a key part of who I am, and it informs all areas of my life and actions, so it inevitably affects how I vote. Asking me to set my faith aside when voting is like asking a human being to set their humanity aside when voting.
So when I think about my role as a Christian and as a citizen, I think about what the Bible has to say about those things. There are a number of verses that address the role of government and our responsibilities.
Romans 13 tells us that God ultimately appoints those who reign and that His intention for rulers is to punish evil and reward good. It mentions with little fanfare that we ought to be subject to them. Jesus made a similar statement, “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” Of course, that leaves some room for disagreement (e.g. “Caesar doesn’t have the right to estate taxes” or “Caesar shouldn’t be using public funds to pay for abortions.”) When you consider that all of these verses were written to people under an oppressive, dictatorial, and often murderous Roman regime, it’s hard not to get the message: be subject to those in authority over you, even in oppressive situations, as long as you aren’t required to disobey God in the process.
1 Timothy 2 infuses some spiritual responsibility here as well: we are to pray for those in authority. Justyn Martyr once argued that, “no one can feel hatred toward those for whom they pray,” though I’ve spoken with Christians who argued that Timothy passage can also include imprecatory prayers (i.e. asking God to crush a clear enemy). There are some additional principles we can take away from the old testament, but we have to be careful not to confuse Israel’s theocracy (rule by divine direction) with America’s democratic republic (rule by the people through elected officials).
That’s an important point, and one worth addressing, because I’ve heard a lot of people this election cycle make statements comparing candidates to Israel’s kings or judges, as if our standard for electing American officials to represent us in the 21st century is somehow comparable to prophets anointing people to reign without any democratic input. To put a finer point on this, let me say it this way: if King David were running for office, I probably wouldn’t vote for him. He was a bloody man. He put his troops in harm’s way, even intentionally had one killed just so he could take that soldier’s wife. But here’s the important point: he wasn’t elected by constituents. God chose him. If you think God should be choosing our candidates today, you’re entitled to that opinion; but that’s not currently how it works. We live in a representative government. As such, it’s my responsibility to elect people into office who will best represent me, who I trust enough to not only make decisions that reflect my interests but also balance the competing interests of our nation fairly. Unfortunately, the two leading candidates for the office of President don’t represent me—at all.
Here are some of the things that matter to me:
This is a big, important issue for me. I am extremely pro-life. The idea of killing a baby in the womb sickens me and gets me so upset that I sometimes can’t speak about the topic for fear of losing my temper.
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of friends I love giving in to the inevitability of Donald Trump. “He’s done some pretty terrible things and is largely unfit for office; but he’s pro-life and that’s all that matters.”
In some ways, I can sympathize. If a Trump presidency means fewer abortions, isn’t it worth the downsides of bringing someone like him into office? The trouble with that thinking is that is assumes that a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for fewer abortions, and a vote for Hillary Clinton or a non-vote or a third-party vote is a vote for more abortions. I’m not convinced that’s the case.
First, Trump is a recent “convert” to his pro-life position, and even then it took him a few days before being able to articulate just exactly what that position was. It seems naive to think that he will be a champion for the pro-life cause, especially since he will be expending significant political capital for his bigger projects like building a wall and establishing big import tariffs.
Second, I’m not entirely convinced that a President’s stance on abortion has a huge impact on the actual abortion rate (which is what matters most to me). Abortions have been on the decline since George H.W. Bush took office, even during Clinton’s and Obama’s time in office. (See chart below.)
Third, Republican-appointed justices have had the majority in the Supreme Court for almost 40 years and haven’t been able to touch Roe v. Wade.
I put together this graph that shows the decline in the overall abortion rate in this country along with the President and the Supreme Court Justices in office since Roe v. Wade.
I still want to bring that abortion rate WAY down, but I’m not convinced that voting for Trump (or Hillary, for that matter) is the way to do it.
I love this country, and I’ve been blessed by the freedoms afforded me in this country. I’ve participated in the “American Dream,” and I think it’s a real testament to the power of freedom. It’s important that a legal means of entering this country exist, and that process be followed; but let’s not pretend that there’s an easy solution for a complex human problem. These are real people whose lives matter just as much as yours and mine. The isolationism and the “fear of the other” that some conservatives feed into is incredibly unhealthy. It divides us, makes us suspicious and fearful, prevents us from being empathetic and hospitable. It pits us against each other, so instead of looking for ways to profit together, we look for ways to “protect what’s ours.” Above all, I think it signals that we think liberty is frail, that the incredible power of freedom can’t drive people to rise above our differences and become better people.
Hillary’s position on this tends to be more in line with my own, though I do think we need to have rigorous checks to ensure that people with clear intents to hurt the country are not allowed in. Trump’s plan to use a religious test to keep people out of this country, though, isn’t just discriminatory, it’s not even in keeping with many of our Founders like Jefferson who welcomed Muslim immigrants. And the wall… it’s just a dumb marketing ploy that even many of his supporters admit is unrealistic.
I believe in a strong military. I’ve got several family members who serve or have served in the military. However, I get concerned about the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about. I get concerned about a military that needs to prove its worth to stay funded and how that plays out in terms of how we view the world stage. I worry about the ratio of soldiers to civilians, specifically about the large % of contractors acting with little oversight. More focus needs to be placed on effective use of technology (and cyber defense) instead of just showing force. I’m of the opinion that we should meddle less in foreign affairs, that stuff like training rebels to topple governments usually ends up causing more headache in the long run.
Trump seems to be in favor of a large military since it polls well, though I imagine Clinton’s foreign policy experience and support of the Iraq war would also probably mean a substantial military. McMillan’s experience in the CIA makes me more likely to trust his perspective.
I’m not an economist, but I tend to favor globalism. I think technology has flattened the world. As much as we want to favor protectionism, even staunch advocates for supporting local businesses still use Amazon.
Trump’s promise that “every product that comes across the border to be sold to the United States… will have a 35% tax on it” is not only unrealistic, I think it would have disastrous consequences for our economy. I think protectionism only helps us in the short term. As much as we want the government to step in and ensure our jobs stay the same they always have, it will ultimately result in stagnation. Technology is forcing business—and the people they employ—to reckon with this change. Putting artificial limits on how industries change is ultimately a disservice to our children. We should instead be recognizing and embracing the new global economy and taking steps to remain competitive in it.
I’m not a huge advocate for gun rights. That’s not to say I don’t believe in the right to bear arms. I absolutely do believe that the 2nd amendment affords us that right, and that the original intention for that amendment wasn’t hunting or sport but to protect citizens from a tyrannical government. I have a gun and know how to use it. That said, I’m getting very tired of so much gun violence and welcome constructive ideas to address it that may challenge my long-held positions on the topic.
Hillary Clinton has bungled a lot. She clearly mis-handled Benghazi, and the backflips that she and the Obama administration did in the aftermath to avoid blame were almost worse than the initial attack. It sickens me that earlier this year she dropped “rare” from her “safe, legal, and rare” position on abortion.
The Clinton Foundation stuff is what scares me the most with Hillary. It’s pretty clear that the Clinton’s took money in exchange for policy, which doesn’t surprise me, though it does frighten me. The structures she has in place to pull of shady deals like this should give us great pause.
Related, I’m equally concerned how she worked with the DNC to skewer Bernie, who clearly had a huge surge of “outsider” support. He eventually fell in line behind her because he wanted a seat at the table to represent his values, but the clear “you can’t beat the system” message this sent is troubling, at best.
The email server controversy wasn’t as big an issue for me as it was for some. Sure, she should have gotten in trouble for it (and probably would have if she wasn’t so well connected), but it was more a really decision more than anything. Certainly not as big a deal as Benghazi or the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play stuff, and certainly not as concerning as how easily she lies to cover all of it up.
My biggest concern with Hillary is that she clearly knows how to play politics, and can get pretty much anything she wants because of the massive political infrastructure she’s got in place. To vote for someone like that, especially after all of her bad behavior has come to light, sends a message, “We know you lied to us, we know you did things that were illegal, but we’re still handing you the keys to the country.” I can’t bring myself to do that.
Trump is no better, and frankly I think he’s more of a threat to this country than Hillary is.
Some of my friends have accused me of attacking Trump more than Hillary, but I’ve been especially hard on Trump this year primarily because he claims to represent me. It’s kind of like if you came into my house and one of my family members insulted you: I’d feel way more compelled to step up or distance myself from their remarks because there’s a tacit understanding that, since it happened in my house and by one of my family members, I have some association with it. So it is with Trump: he’s running in the party that represents me (or used to), he’s claiming to be a conservative champion, he’s got people saying he’s a baby Christian in need of forgiveness. And I’m a Christian who leans politically conservative who has voted Republican in all previous elections. I’ve got more skin in the game here.
Trump opposes free trade and once called for a wealth tax and single-payer health care system. He flip-flopped over abortion, supporting partial-birth abortion and stating he felt like “choice was important”, but later deciding that women who get abortions should be punished. He mocked the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War, something most Republicans supported at the time (and still do). He publicly called for actions that would violate the Geneva convention. He called for physical violence at his rallies. He’s promised to do things that the Constitution doesn’t give him the power to do. He said he’d deliver on them anyway, even if they’re disruptive or explosive.
How anyhow can consider him a true ambassador of conservative principles is beyond me, let alone someone you trust to run the country. That’s why I’m distancing myself so much from him.
He is the complete embodiment of everything he pretends to hate, yet he’s managed to convince many people that he’ll fix things. I mean, he even came right out in one of the debates and basically said, “I bought and sold politicians, so I know how it works… which is why I can fix it!” He might as well have said, “I’ve killed plenty of people and hidden their bodies, so I know all the secrets of a killer… and that’s why I’d make the best sheriff!”
I’ve spoken to a lot of Trump supporters who say they just want Trump to “burn it to the ground” and “drain the swamp” and “raze congress,” and while I understand the frustrations, I can’t imagine why anyone would think Trump is the right person to build something greater in its place. His casinos were some of the least profitable, he’s fighting fraud cases against his fake university, he has a hard time articulating much of anything… The unifying message for most Trump supporters has been “Hillary will destroy the country,” which is just the same old message we keep getting fed, “it’s the end of the world as we know it if candidate X gets in office.” National crisis has almost always been an excuse for poor national choices.
I feel like in this upside-down world, the more level-headed and sensible a candidate is, the less likely you are to appeal to the “fed up with the establishment” crowd because you seem too much like a politician. Which is strange, because Trump obviously cranked the political gears hard behind closed doors (after, he got a Carson endorsement after comparing him to a child molester), yet he’s able to convince his supporters that he’s a “man of the people”.
Quite a few Christians I’ve spoken to say, “well, I don’t like Trump, but he’s the lesser of two evils.” That would make some sense if it weren’t for the fact that 73% of Evangelicals voted for Trump in the election. He had clear support from a majority of Christians, even when there were many other options. So the whole “we’re settling for him” argument just doesn’t hold water. He resonated with American evangelicals, and that should tell us something about the state of the church.
Perhaps most concerning to me, though, has been the recent assertion by many Christians—and many so-called Christian leaders—that what a person believes about God, themselves, and their fellow man is of little consequence to how they’d govern. I’m not a perfectionist and I realize that every candidate has flaws; but we’re not just talking cracks in the pavement here, we’re talking about gaping holes down into the bowels of the earth.
After a lot of thought and consideration, I’ve decided to vote for Evan McMullin. He’s a write-in here in New York State.
He’s a pro-life third-party candidate that much more accurately reflects my values and what I want in leadership. I’m informed enough to know that a third-party win is unlikely, but a vote for Evan means a few things:
- If the race is close and no one candidate receives the 270 electoral votes required, the choice goes to the House of Representatives, and he would be one of the choices.
- It sends a message that neither candidate reflects my values (after all, we live in a representative government, right?), and that I’m sick of having no one in this two-party system that represents me.
- It can help eliminate any kind of “mandate from the people” that either of the favored candidates might bring to office with a blowout win to use for political leverage. (e.g. I got a huge % of the vote, you’d better work with me to accomplish my agenda.)
Those are my thoughts on today’s vote. I specifically wanted to record them so if this does turn out to be a watershed moment for the country (good? bad?), I could dig them up to show to my children in the hope that they help them through whatever national crisis they’re facing.