28 October 2016

On Not Voting for Trump

I was recently asked how I, as a Christian, could condone not voting for Donald Trump this election cycle. After all, no third party candidate has won a state in an election since George Wallace in 1968. Surely, as terrible as Hillary is, it is my duty as a Christian to do anything in my power to keep her from being elected and ruining the country. And even if Trump is not a good guy, he’s surely better than Hillary. This is an issue that many people are wrestling with this year. For my part, I would reject this entire line of reasoning, and I think that this way of thinking can lead people in some dangerous directions. As a Christian, I feel completely comfortable voting third party in this election, and I propose to show five reasons why this is the case.

1. To begin with the main question: Why vote third party, since no third party candidate has ever won? The answer to this is that I don't think anyone voting for a third party candidate has any hope at all that their candidate will win. I know that either Trump or Hillary will win, and, the way the polls are looking now, I'm pretty confident that it will be Hillary. So if I vote third party it will be simply as a protest vote. It will not be a vote made in hopes that my candidate, whoever that might be, will win. Ideally if there is a much lower Republican turn out this year than in previous years it will send a message to other Republicans that a candidate like Trump will not be supported. People won't tow the party line for a Trump. And in my case, I haven’t voted for a Republican candidate for sixteen years. If I didn't find Bush, or McCain, or Romney good candidates, I certainly won't find Trump a good candidate. Maybe someday the Republicans will run someone who truly believes in conservative principles, and I'll happily vote for them. Until then, there is nothing particularly tying me to the Republican Party or to the idea of a Republican win.


2. Secondly, I don't buy into the doom and gloom that surrounds the idea of a Hillary presidency. Every election cycle we are told that this is the most important election in the history of ever and that if the other candidate wins, it will mean the end of America and possibly of civilization as we know it. For the most part, this just isn't true. Obama's presidency hasn't destroyed America; Obama isn't a good president, but he’s not the worst president we've ever had by a long shot. A Hillary presidency won't destroy America either. The bottom line is that presidents don't have the power people seem to think they have. They can't make laws. They can't start wars without the approval of Congress. They can't raise or lower taxes. The only thing that might really make me consider Trump in this election is the fact that this president will make at least one Supreme Court appointment. I can see that might be something that people would be concerned about, and I don't hold it against anyone if they vote for Trump for this reason. However, this leads me to my next point.

3. I don't buy the idea that Hillary will be significantly worse than Trump. Bottom line, I don't trust Trump. I think he's a power hungry man who will say whatever it takes to energize his fan base. Based on what I've seen from him, I don't think he's guided by principles, and, once in office, I think he would probably be a very different man than the one we see campaigning. His history shows that he is very unstable in his viewpoints. I don't think that he would appoint a strong conservative to the Supreme Court. Like many of his Republican predecessors, he would probably promote someone who is conservative in name but lacks the backbone to stand up to other members of the Supreme Court on important issues. Even aside from that issue, there are many things about which I strongly disagree with Trump. I don't like his immigration policy; I think immigration is good for our country and that immigration to America needs to be much easier than it currently is, not harder. I don't agree with his foreign policy or his trade policy either. I think we need free trade with all nations and no protectionist tariffs, and I think we need less military involvement overseas, not more. Trump is just a big government kind of guy, and I don't support most of his ideas.

4. Following along from that idea, I don’t like the fact that Trump seems to believe that interventionism is our duty as a nation. We don’t need a president who will lead us in righting wrongs all around the globe. Most of the problems we have in the Middle East today can be traced to our previous interventions into the area, beginning with Wilson in WWI all the way through the time the CIA gave weapons to Osama bin Ladin and the Mujahideen in the 1980s. I think the best thing that we can do is to bring home all our troops stationed in foreign countries and cease our involvement in foreign conflicts except in those areas in which a foreign country specifically asks for our help. Even in those situations I think there would have to be good, compelling reasons for thinking it was our moral duty to get involved. (For the record, as a matter of history I don't believe America should have been involved in WWI, the Korean War, the Vietnam War or the more recent war in Iraq. I definitely don't think we should involve ourselves in the current conflict with Syria in any way.)

5. Finally, and here is the thing I most object to, the line of reasoning that says Christians should vote for Trump simply because Hillary is worse encourages consequentialist thinking, the idea that the ends justify the means. When making a decision, the only question we should have in our minds is "Is it the right thing to do in and of itself?" I don't believe in the argument that we should do something that may be wrong in hopes that good will come of it. To use another related example, while William Wilberforce ending slavery through legislation in England was a good thing, Lincoln ending slavery in America by going to war with the Southern states was morally reprehensible. The end was good in both cases (slavery ended), but the means used were not uniformly good. Wilberforce was right; Lincoln was wrong. We should never buy the argument that we should choke back our conscience and do something we think we shouldn't because some good will come of it. Also, the argument that those who don't vote are responsible if Hillary wins only assumes that those people think Trump would have been any better.

I’ll make one more point by way of conclusion. My theology probably has something to do with my political stance as well. First of all, I believe that God, not the President of the United States, is in control of the movement of the world throughout history. God uses means to accomplish His goals, and the actions of the characters in God's story do have real consequences. However, those actions themselves are part of the story. God wanted Joseph's brother's to sell him into slavery, God wanted Babylon to conquer Judah and carry the people away, and God wanted Jesus to be crucified. None of these things seemed good at the time, but in retrospect we can see how each fits perfectly into God's plan for the world. If Hillary gets elected, it will not be the end of the world. It will be part of God's plan. It might not mean pleasant things for us right now, but it also won’t mean that God’s plan for the world has gone awry. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t vote or make decisions. It does mean that whatever ends up happening will be nothing other than what God has planned to happen. In addition, of course, I should also point out that I believe God is currently in the process of converting the world to Himself. I don't believe in the idea that the world is just going to get worse and worse until Jesus comes back, and that Christians are like numerous little Dutch boys sticking their fingers into the dike. I think that Jesus is winning and that events that look like setbacks to us do not hinder God's overall plan to save the world. Granted, the world in the end might not look just like it does now. The United States of America may at some point cease to exist as a political nation and something else may replace it. However, the kingdom of God in the world will not be conquered. It will continue to grow until it fills the earth. So in conclusion, voting is a privilege that Americans have in our system of government, but I don't think it can be called a duty. I don't see any commands in the Bible about voting. No Christian has a duty to vote for Donald Trump or any other political candidate. This is especially true if that political candidate seems morally compromised in some big ways. Ultimately Christians make the decision of whether to vote and which way to vote with the underlying knowledge that God is in control and that we can rest in the wisdom of His plan.


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