For several weeks now, I’ve been planning and writing a very rational, technical essay about the importance of voting in this election. That essay has always been morally colored: much of what I write is, because upholding the standards of Christ is the most important thing I can do, and He is not morally neutral.
Now, I’m just not sure anymore. I’m sitting here, waiting for a hurricane to hit, with three big assignments due on Monday, and all I can think about is how angry I am about Donald Trump. I don’t know if I will post that essay after all. It doesn’t seem like the right thing to say anymore. Which is a shame, because reasonable dialogue is one of the things I live for.
So I will start off this emotional diatribe by saying that by the meager standards in which I post to social media, I’ve written and posted a lot about Donald Trump in the last several months. Looking back on it now, however, it’s become very clear to me that in the midst of everything I feel like I’ve said, what’s actually happened is I’ve stood and watched in disbelief as this man, once a joke on the Republican party, gained enough momentum to co-opt a majority of it. Dozens of people I greatly respect have endorsed him. Well over half my family is planning on voting for him. This makes my skin crawl.
This does more than makes my skin crawl. This makes me want to throw things and smash mirrors. It makes me want to hate my family. Because yes, I take it personally. I take it personally, even as I advocate voting rationally—as I’m about to advocate in this post, actually, once I get this out.
Now imagine that the woman he’s talking about in that first video is me.
Go ahead, do it.
Would it make your skin crawl to hear a man speak about me like that?
Or your daughter?
Do you get it now?
This is the most troubling part of this campaign for me: that Donald Trump is a deplorable person, but rather than recognize this, so many Christians have brushed it aside under the charge that Hillary Clinton, who has done nothing even remotely of the kind, is somehow the worse between them, because of her husband. I’ve watched, complicit, as people I consider reasonable have tied themselves up in knots trying to justify Trump. In the end, finding nothing redeemable whatsoever about him, the main way these reasonable people have had to do this is by disparaging his primary opponent. They attack her trustworthiness; they attack her marriage. Just last week, actually, I had a conversation with someone about how they can’t support Hillary Clinton because Bill’s shortcomings reflect badly on her—a narrative, it’s worth pointing out, that Trump himself has used, as though he didn’t have a metaphorical Sequoia trunk in his own eye.
So vote third party, people say. Yes: in any other country, that would be a perfectly reasonable decision. The problem is, our political system does not now, nor it will likely ever, be set up to accommodate more than two major parties, for a bevy of reasons I’m not going to get into right now. The gist of it is that district-based elections cannot accommodate a coalition government, which is the basis of multiparty governance. Those who want to read more about that should refer to this essay. To return to my point, voting third party is, in this election, and for most elections except a minority of local positions in frontier states, a wasted vote. It’s a protest—a way of not voting by voting. And I say that after posting just last week in counsel to conservative third-party voters to choose Evan McMullin over Gary Johnson—a counsel I now amend, with my apologies.
The reason why is this. Christians—especially conservative Christians who cannot palate Trump, who constitute a strong majority of my friends—talk comfortably and openly of the depth of the moral quandary our nation is facing in this election. But what I now say is that we do this because it’s easy. We do this because it allows us to avoid having to make a choice. It allows us to avoid having to vote for someone we don’t like. And sure, I get it. But sitting back and doing nothing has an important consequence, most famously articulated by Edmund Burke: All it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men, and women, to do nothing.
If you won’t listen to me, listen to Jesus. Donald Trump is a man who stands for nigh on everything that Jesus stands against: he is a man who hates foreigners, who hates African-Americans, Latinos, and Muslims, who hates women, who cheats those who work for him out of their rightful wages, who evades taxes, and who, despite claims to being a great businessman, has declared bankruptcy repeatedly due to risky investments that fell short, which is just a very expensive way of gambling. Politically, he can’t formulate a real policy to save his life. What’s worse, people seem to cheer him for this. A wise hiring manager considering candidates for a business position wouldn’t touch a man like this with a ten foot pole. And here we are, thinking of handing him the highest political office in our nation.
One of the most telling lines I’ve heard recently, repeated by an abundance of young people from nations that have experienced truly corrupt governments, is that “now Americans know what it feels like” to face a specter like this. The reason Trump is so popular is the same reason the Brexit referendum happened the way it did: because people were unhappy with the current state of things, and they voted in a way that symbolized their frustrations. This is not unique to that referendum, nor is it unique to this election. The problem is, the average person would like to believe they make voting decisions rationally when the overwhelming evidence suggests this just isn’t the case. And what has, historically, followed emotional elective decisions like this is a deep level of regret for the outcome that follows the decision. The idea of change is often more compelling than the reality of it, and most candidates are more glamorous before they actually get to work.
What I like about Hillary Clinton—and, more importantly, why I am morally compelled to insist that everyone I know at least consider voting for her—is that despite her shortcomings, which are numerous, with her, you know what you’re getting. The reason why is this: no matter how much you may not like her, she will not significantly disrupt the United States as we know it. We have never faced a situation like this before in this country. And no matter how you personally feel about Barack Obama—or George W. Bush, for that matter, as the case may be—no sitting U.S. president has had a direct, significant impact on the daily lives of the American public at large since Franklin Roosevelt. Not a single one.
I believe that Trump would. I also believe that ignorance is not going to protect the complicit if he wins. By this point in history, people in the West have watched the rise and fall of enough people like him in other parts of the world to know how this story goes. You don’t even have to know that much about politics or history to know this story, either. That the American populace has been so taken in by this deception in light of this is astonishing. That Christians have is heartbreaking.
I won’t mince my words anymore. I won’t do it. You can look me in the face and tell me I’m being just as emotional as the voters I just spoke to, and my answer is yes, I am. Because I don’t get like this unless it matters. And my motive is the fatherless, the foreigners, the broken, and the least of these: I believe in mercy, and I don’t stand for hatred of any kind.