I am writing this post, not in my role as a pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, but as a private citizen who thinks a lot about politics and its intersection with the Christian faith. What I offer here is advice on how I have thought through a particular dilemma, with the recognition that other faithful Christians may reason differently and come to a different conclusion.
As we face the upcoming 2016 Presidential election, it looks like the two major candidates will be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This is how I have assessed the situation so far:
(1) I can never vote for Hillary Clinton. For starters, her position on abortion makes her unfit for the office. The legal slaughter of well over 50 million unborn children is the greatest moral blight on our society, and I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton would use the power of the office of President to help ensure that abortion remains legal and that access to abortion services is expanded through federal funding. There is no way she would ever nominate a justice to the Supreme Court who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that has set abortion policy in this country since 1973. I will never vote for Clinton, or any Democrat for that matter, as long as the Democratic Party platform maintains a staunch commitment to maintaining legal abortion and expanding access to it through taxpayer funding. The assault on the unborn that we have permitted in this country is an assault on the image of God, a demonic defiance of his holiness and lordship over us.
Of course, Hillary Clinton brings a lot more baggage to this race than that one disqualifying stance. To mention just one more thing: she is a person with no ethical core, with more scandals in her past and present than I can even count. The Benghazi debacle, followed by her willingness to blame an internet video and even to support the imprisoning of the man who produced it (!), all the while knowing it had nothing to do with the attack, speaks volumes about what she is willing to do to protect herself. Her email scandal, which has placed our national security at risk, is simply further evidence of how deep her corruption runs. And yet it seems unlikely that she will face justice for her crimes, because she has managed to secure a position that makes her one of the operators of the system, not one who is subject to it. I find it deeply disappointing that many who decry systemic injustice in our society will cast ballots for the woman who is the very embodiment of it.
(2) I also have no intention of voting for Donald Trump. I understand why a number of Christians will draw the opposite conclusion here. They recognize that voting is always an act of choosing among imperfect options, and that, if one of these two terrible candidates will be President, we should help elect the least terrible one. Add to this mix the fact that Trump has now said that he will nominate pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, and there seems to be a slight glimmer of hope that, perhaps, in all of the chaos it would inevitably produce, a Trump presidency could actually result in a net gain on the Supreme Court for conservatives. And if that happens, the benefits would last for a generation, possibly even setting up a scenario in which Roe v. Wade could be overturned. I understand that reasoning completely.
However, I cannot follow it, for several reasons:
- Whatever Trump promises regarding the nomination of justices, the fact remains that he is not qualified for the office of President. I could list numerous reasons for his lack of qualification, but just one is the fact that he has said he would issue illegal orders to our soldiers to target innocent family members of our enemies. Even the suggestion of such an atrocity represents the lack of a moral compass sufficient to qualify him for the role he seeks. If I regard him as unfit for the office, and yet choose to vote for him nevertheless because it could possibly (though by no means will certainly) result in a better outcome for the Supreme Court than the alternative, then I have determined that a good end (Supreme Court nominations) justifies bad means (voting for an unfit candidate). I do not subscribe to a consequentialist philosophy of ethics, namely, that the end justifies the means.
- But the entire premise of the consequentialist approach is subject to serious doubt in Trump’s case. Yes, he said recently that he would nominate pro-life justices, but has Trump demonstrated any consistency throughout this campaign? Does his word, at this point, seem like something we should trust? I have a hard time believing that a Trump presidency actually would be any better than a Clinton presidency, and in some ways it could actually be worse.
- I mentioned above how disappointed I am that many who decry systemic injustice will nevertheless cast a vote for Hillary Clinton this year. I understand why they will do so: they are opting for what they believe to be the least bad option. They are, in other words, looking for the best deal they can get, even if it means ignoring the demands of justice in this particular case. They hate “the system,” but they choose to operate in it rather than make any attempt to change it. It’s easy for me to look at that kind of reasoning and criticize it for its hypocrisy (and, I believe, rightly so). But then I begin to think of how the same kinds of appeals can come from the other direction: “Just hold your nose and vote Trump. Get the best deal you can get in this terrible situation.” How is that way of thinking any different from the social justice warrior who will ignore Hillary Clinton’s crimes and cast a vote for her? I suppose one difference is that with Trump, we are not talking about crimes at this point (so far as I know) but rather deep moral flaws. Nevertheless, the fact remains that both candidates are unfit for office, and it would be hypocritical for me to regard Trump’s character the way that I do and nevertheless help him achieve the highest office in our land. He may indeed become President, but he will have to do it without my vote.
So, at present, my plan for November is to write in Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse for President, unless a good third-party option who is actually on the ballot presents itself before then. This gesture will be my way of registering my protest of both major parties and aligning myself with a conservative movement that is, apparently, going into exile for a time. In the long run, I think it will be better for conservatism to stay clear of Trump and start rebuilding for future elections rather than sell its soul this time around.