Never Trump, Never Hillary
A guest post from my husband, Greg, summarizing his thought processes on how he will vote in the presidential election.
Far be it from me to tell you how to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
This year, more than any other in my memory, we face a choice between two major candidates who are so deeply flawed that I have anguished about the vote I will cast in November. Your perception and clarity of vision may have allowed you to reach a conclusion without much angst, but for me it was not easy.
Ultimately, I have come to the conclusion summarized in the subject line of this message: I will not vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton. Whether I will pull the lever for another candidate or write in a name is not yet decided, but I can not–I will not–vote for the candidate of either major party.
Because I am adamantly pro-life, favor limited government, and believe that public officials should be held to the same standards (or higher) than those who report to them (think: security and classification), the reasons I can’t vote for HRC are obvious.
Below, I share with you some of the articles and essays that have informed my decision against supporting Trump.
I hope that you will pardon me for opening this rabbit-hole door that, should you choose to go through it, will lead you on a chase that could consume hours of your time. I believe that the authors of these pieces are particularly insightful, and they helped me to clarify my thinking about this most unusual election.
With those disclaimers issued, therefore, here are links to some of the more thoughtful pieces I have read:
On April 21, 2016, Matt Walsh warned us that, if Trump is the Republican nominee, Hillary will be in the White House. He pleaded with Republicans (especially Trump fans) that they not nominate Trump, and declared that he, along with a large majority of other voters, would not vote for Trump. He demolished the “a vote not cast for Trump is a vote for Hillary” argument by asserting that, because Trump is absolutely not electable, it would be a grave mistake to make him the Republican Party nominee. And if Trump were to become the Republican nominee, then he will lose–and the responsibility for that is on those who made him the nominee, not on those who take the principled stance that they will never vote for Trump.
Well, now that Trump is the nominee, I had to decide whether I could hold my nose and vote for him. The absolute unacceptability (to me) of the leading alternative (HRC) is unthinkable, and that, more than any other reason, is why I considered voting for Trump.
I was briefly swayed by Wayne Grudem’s arguments for why voting for Trump is a morally good choice. He makes a compelling argument that, due to the fact that the next president will be appointing a Supreme Court justice to fill Scalia’s seat (and probably one to three more!), the country cannot afford to entrust that responsibility to HRC. She almost certainly would stack the SCOTUS with liberal justices who would abolish all abortion restrictions, further restrict religious liberty and freedom of speech, and criminalize dissent from the Left’s liberal agenda. Also, her commitment to big-government approaches to the economy, education, and public health would likely exacerbate the issues we are seeing due to Obama’s liberal policies. Grudem concludes that “the most likely result of not voting for Trump is that you will be abandoning thousands of unborn babies who will be put to death under Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court, thousands of Christians who will be excluded from their lifelong occupations, thousands of the poor who will never again be able to find high-paying jobs in an economy crushed by government hostility toward business, thousands of inner-city children who will never be able to get a good education, thousands of the sick and elderly who will never get adequate medical treatment when the government is the nation’s only healthcare provider, thousands of people who will be killed by an unchecked ISIS, and millions of Jews in Israel who will find themselves alone and surrounded by hostile enemies. And you will be contributing to a permanent loss of the American system of government due to a final victory of unaccountable judicial tyranny.” With those considerations taken, Grudem concludes that his conscience and moral judgement compel him to vote for Trump as the candidate most likely to do the most good for the USA.
New York Times columnist Tom Nichols is a stalwart in the never-Trump movement, and decries the notion that conscientiously opposing Trump’s ascent to the White House invalidates his credentials as a conservative Republican. He argues that the Republican party could tough out four years under HRC, but that neither the Republican Party nor the conservative movement could survive even one year under a President Trump. He colorfully characterizes Trump as not just politically incorrect; he’s “an uncontrollable fire hose of offensive lunacy.” To hold his nose and cast his vote for HRC as he has vowed to do, then, is to concede a battle to the Democrats in order for the Republicans to live to fight another day. It seems to me, however, that it would not be necessary for Nichols to trouble his conscience and vote for HRC in order to stop Trump, because, at the rate he’s going, Trump will have no chance of winning, anyway.
In the Witherspoon Institute’s website, Public Discourse, Matthew J. Franck discusses the weight of a single vote and the burden on one’s conscience for casting it, and concludes that he can vote for neither Trump nor HRC. He poses the question, “What is more important, your conscience or the outcome of an election?” Franck argues that he cannot, in good conscience, vote for either of these “ludicrously unacceptable” candidates because that would be “an act of willing that Clinton or Trump be president, carry out her or his stated policy aims, and bring his or her fundamentally bad character to the highest office in the land.” Choosing the lesser of two evils only works when one of the choices is, in fact, not really evil. Franck provides an interesting historical summary of instances in which the electorate faced a “lesser of two evils” choice, but none of them sunk to the level of our 2016 options. He concludes with the exhortation to “vote as if your ballot determines nothing whatsoever—except the shape of your own character. Vote as if the public consequences of your action weigh nothing next to the private consequences. The country will go whither it will go, when all the votes are counted. What should matter the most to you is whither you will go, on and after this November’s election day.” Indeed. After all, because our ballot is secret, we have to live only with ourselves regarding how we cast it.
To this point in this case I’m building for how I will vote, I have made no overt appeals to the Bible. Because I am a Christ-follower, however, I must ask myself, what would He want me to do? In moving toward an answer to this question, I have been aided significantly by the scripture-based arguments made by Samuel Whitefield, of the International House of Prayer. In his powerful essay (also attached as a pdf), Whitefield raises four issues related to Trump and the church. (In this context, when Whitefield refers to the church, he is talking not about any specific denomination but about Bible-believing Christ-followers who trust Christ as their savior. That is the way I will use the word herein.) In summary, those issues are:
- Wrong is wrong, no matter the political party or other social construct. I’ve already touched on the “lesser of two evils” conversation, and how choosing not to vote for one candidate works to the advantage of the other, more evil, candidate. That argument has a certain logic, but it is crushed by the weight of the fact that some things are just wrong. Trump’s (recent) embrace of a pro-life position does not make up for everything else he stands for (misogyny, infidelity, bigotry, profanity, deceit, pride, arrogance, rudeness, and on and on).
- For Christians, the conversation about Trump is much bigger than just the issues because he claims to be one of us. Scripture tells us to assess a tree by its fruit, and Trump’s fruit provides almost no evidence that he is a true follower of Jesus. If the church embraces as its candidate a man whose life and actions are, in almost every way, antithetical to the character and teachings of Jesus, then it loses its prophetic voice in our culture. “Despite his wickedness, many Christians are being rallied to Trump’s cause by the idea that we must do anything to prevent a Clinton presidency. However, … a Clinton presidency is not the biggest thing at stake in this election. The biggest thing at stake in this election is the church’s prophetic voice to the culture. The church’s role in the national discourse is at stake and that is far more important than who the next president is. … If the church breaks her slavish ties to the political system, and recovers her prophetic voice in the culture, that would be far more valuable than avoiding a Clinton presidency.” When a man like Trump claims to be a Christian, for the sake of the gospel we can’t go along with it, and we certainly can’t endorse him as a fellow disciple of Christ–else we have no defense when the culture charges us with hypocrisy.
- We read in the Bible that God uses a wayward nation’s adversaries and leaders to humble its people and bring them to repentance. We should reflect on what “season” our nation is in, and consider the possibility (likelihood?) that God is using our leaders–as well as international influences–to chasten and correct us. If, indeed, God is moving us into a season of decline from “American exceptionalism,” then to rally behind Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is to choose to defy God’s sovereign plans. “If the Lord is humbling the nation, Trump represents something entirely different – pride, arrogance, and tolerance of sin. Promoting and embracing Trump is a statement of our trust in human strength at the cost of decency and morality.”
- Like Daniel, Christians should be participative and influential in government, but we should not put our hope in it. Every four years, the church seems to succumb to the temptation to seek its security in a political savior, rather than in The Savior. It may be that, this election cycle, we “are faced with two unqualified options because the Lord wants to break our search for a political savior.” “In the absence of a focus on the beauty of Jesus, the ‘lesser of two evils’ and ‘anyone but Hillary’ arguments have created a context where most of American Christianity is being fearfully motivated to remain essentially subservient to Republican politics. Now is the time for the church to break free of every political machine in order to become a prophetic voice to the nation.” “Both candidates are morally compromised. Both parties are breaking down. If we step outside the political fervor we may just hear God’s voice inviting us to recover the church’s voice in the culture by once again setting our hope on the one true Messiah.”
In summary, despite the hysterical cries to the contrary, this too shall pass. God is on His throne, and we are not responsible to effect change by determining who will live in the White House. God will effect the change He wills, and we must be His voice in our culture. If we are compromised by our adoption of a supportive stance for a candidate who defies God, then how can His voice be heard through us? Might our nation’s obsession with finding a political savior result in less comfort in the lives of Christians? Might there be efforts to restrict our “rights” accorded by the First Amendment? Might we be persecuted for taking scripture-based stands on cultural issues? Might that persecution be imposed even by our government? Yes to all of these. The greater question is whether–like Daniel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah–God’s people will be faithful to Him above all else and preserve our standing to speak prophetically into our culture. May God lead and bless His people, and may we find the words and the courage to point our culture back to Him.