Several times over the past few months I’ve tried to explain to people I’ve run into why I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the November presidential election. Mostly, I’ve been bumbling through the explanations, still trying to get a good handle on my position. But recently when I tried it out I thought, okay, that’s nailed it. So, heart on sleeve, here it is. It’s pretty simple, actually. Here’s my story
When the Democratic and Republican conventions took place in July, I watched all 12 hours over the four nights of each of them that were shown on PBS-TV. And I approached them as a professional researcher – as someone who knows what his own biases and beliefs are but who has been trained to know how to set those aside as far as possible to listen as objectively as possible – for the sake of learning and discovering further truths, and perhaps even the changing of one’s mind.
And at the beginning of each 12-hour period I said to the TV: okay, convince me; I’ve already decided not to vote for Hillary or Trump; change my mind. But neither party convinced me to support its presidential candidates. Instead, most of the speakers on those stages for the Democrats and the Republicans, including Hillary and Trump, left me deeply grieved that this is the best America can do for itself and the world.
I’m not voting for Hillary for many reasons, but the tipping point for me came during Bernie Sanders speech, when he announced that there had been a “significant coming together” of the Democratic Platform Committee – between his campaign team and Hillary’s – to produce “by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party” – a point he emphasized with exceptional clarity and deliberateness several times during is speech, to huge applause.
I’m not voting for Trump for many reasons, but the tipping was the accumulative effect of the speeches during the Republican convention. Speakers: defining themselves by what they are against; blaming Hillary Clinton and President Obama for all the turmoil in the Middle East and with Russia; and giving shockingly inane analyses of domestic and international problems and offering the vaguest generalized (i.e. impossible) policies as solutions (something the Dems also did the following week). And there was: the explosive, war-mongering speech of Gen. Michael Flynn (former Director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency); Chris Christie’s utterly stupid mock prosecution of Hillary Clinton, in which he had the coliseum rocking and screaming “Guilty!” every time he presented his “evidence” – and this is the guy who would like be appointed Attorney General if Trump wins the presidency?!. The flagrantly misleading claims about the rise of terrorism and ISIS were unconscionable, and there was not a word, not one single word, about how the Iraq policy of the George W. Bush administration gets implicated in the tragic condition today of Iraq. And especially for solving problems of international relations, the barrage of militaristic hubris overwhelmed me. Didn’t we get our fill of what a disaster that can be from the first four years of the Bush administration? I could go on, but I’ll stop.
Since this is a time when both main presidential candidates are the most unpopular candidates in modern history, surely our country must be under some sort of judgment from God. If so, it’s not “just the Democrats” fault, or “just the Republicans fault,” or just anyone else’s fault. We’re all at fault in our own ways. So what’s a Christian who tries to be a good citizen to do?
You can makeup your own mind. Here’s where I have arrived. I had told friends for a long time that I would probably not vote this year. But recently I went on the Internet and discovered that the state in which I live is one of dozens that permit a write-in vote for President. So that’s what I’ll probably do this November 8. I know, I know, the person I vote for isn’t going to win. But I figure that if enough millions also cast protest (write-in) votes, maybe it will send a good message. That doesn’t mean that either party will listen. But we are not responsible for others’ actions. Only for our own.
The heavyweight theologian St. Augustine taught that Christians must assume the obligations of citizenship. Let us remember, however, that there are limits to the claims that political parties have on conscience. For some, and I’m one of them these days, there may be too much distance at times in our land between the City of God and the City of Man. If the two major candidates seem to you capable only of furthering that distance, God is not forcing you to vote for either one. Yet you can still participate in political community as a responsible Christian citizen by finding a way to protest against the status quo. You don’t have to stay away from the voting booth, as I was going to do. Find out if your state allows write-in voting.
If you’re not up for voting this year, you can find other ways of engaging in political community for righteousness sake. For example, think through your political view, so you can clearly communicate it to others, or explain your good and sufficient reasons (briefly!) in a “letter to the editor” or to your senator or representative. You could start a group (or join an existing one) to pray for elected officials in local, state, and national governments, or meet with politically frustrated, like-minded others and brainstorm creative forms of political witness, and then chose one and go for it. And it is especially good to get involved in the lives of the poor, the needy, the helpless, the outcasts, on whom the Bible places special emphasis – for they need our help more than the rich, who have power and means to be their own advocates.
In other words, for heaven’s sake and for your community’s sake exercise some political muscles. If you have not done this for a while, those muscles will soon let you know they exist – you’ll notice the ache! It’s good feeling.
©2016 by Charles Strohmer
Images via Creative Commons. Top, by Lauren Macdonald. Middle, by Great Beyond. Lower, by Magdalena Roeseler
For other posts about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, see these, beginning with this one: To Boldly Go: anti-Trump Republicans Speak Up [Jun 11]; Donald Trump Is Wrong about the Founding of ISIS [Aug 12]; Is Donald Trump Merely Lending His Name to “America”? [Sept 16]; Predicting Presidential Debates [Sept 23]; Who Lost the First Presidential Debate? [Sept 26].
A note from Charles: If you want more of the perspectives that Waging Wisdom seeks to present, I want to invite you to follow this blog for a while to see if you like it. Just click here and find the “Follow” button in the right margin, enter your email address, and then click “Follow.” You will receive a very short email notice when I publish a new post. Thank you.
I assume you were pretty skeptical about Saunder’s rallying cry then Charlie…
Still the write-in protest alternative might be a good idea here too
Hey MP, thx for taking time write. Re B. Sanders, I can dig some his soundbites about issues that need attention, just as Trump is skilled at doing about other issues, but I have trouble with his far left policy solutions, just as I do w/ Trump’s far right. It’s easy for sides to curse the darkness, hard to formulate, let alone get Congress on board with, policies that don’t arise from more of the same hard-nosed ideological thinking that contributed to the problems in the first place. These guys should take a deep breath and call in James Skillen and Chris Seiple for a long natter. Shalom.
I would love to know who you are writing in, I have two options in mind…
Not sure just who, yet. Sorry. I have one or two in mind, but must have a good think first. Really appreciate the question, though. Forcing me to with it.
This is excellent Charles,
Have you seen/read Os Guinness’ new book “ Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle For The Soul of Civilization”?
A prophetic/wise disturbing book which I think will be a game changer for thinking through our present situation as Christians in the West.
The blind leading the blind means a very large number in deed will all fall into the ditch and come to ruin…..in this case whole nations?
Love and Peace,
I haven’t read OG’s new bk. Thx for the heads-up.
I’m hardly surprised that you won’t be voting Trump…but would have been interested to hear more of why you won’t be voting for Clinton – you mention many reasons but you don’t go into them (perhaps you don’t know where to start!?); and I’m not up enough on US politics to understand the significance of Sander’s speech for you
Good to hear from you, Andrew. Thx for taking time to write.
Re Hillary, today I think I could, with qualifications, sign off on much of her FP if she becomes President, although I reserve the right to change my mind on that. Even though she’s a liberal hawk, not unlike her FP mentor Madeleine Albright, I suspect she will mostly carry on internationally in a vein similar to the current Pres. But also like Pres. Obama, I think she will carry on and even take further in an extreme progressive (lib) direction her domestic policies. I can’t support that. This is why I mentioned Sanders in the post. His is a very socialist domestic FP agenda. Apparently, to get strong voting support on election day from the huge following Sanders has, Hillary signed off on that — not that she might not have gone there anyway.
Thanks for the response Charlie. If you are right that would entrench the reaction of the right wing conservatives even more. Obama saw himself, to start with at least, as trying to reach out across the political/social divide; to what extent do you think he was genuine in that attempt? Did the right wing republicans spurn him out of spite, or can you see things in his progressive liberal agenda that they quite understandably found provocative.
Good question, Andrew. Hard to know a president’s motives, but I have assumed Obama was genuine in his reaching out across the aisle, just as I think he genuinely reached out in his FP to the Muslim world in the ME, including to Iran, very early on in his first term. My reason for concluding this is that his outreach domestically to Republicans in Congress and to the ME Muslim world were both big risks for him, and I don’t think a president takes such risks insincerely or whimsically. A far as right wing Republicans spurning him, I think it’s both: some find many of his progressive policies objectionable but others have in recent decades become organized intellectually around a hard-nosed, almost absolutized, political ideology: it’s our way all the way and nothing you propose is acceptable. Of course, the Dems have their counterparts. And hence: our house divided. And as you know, Jesus said: A house divided against itself cannot stand. We are in deep social and political trouble here, and I suspect it is going to take something even greater than the wisdom of Solomon to solve.
Thanks for the response, Charlie. If I were a US voter, if come the election the polls showed Trump in serious danger of winning, I would vote Hilary on the basis of her being the least worst option and to stop Trump getting in. I think there are occasions, like that one, where there’s a place for tactical voting for some one you don’t like.
Thanks, Charles, for your cogent view. We differ, and we pray together “Thy kingdom come.”
Thx for writing, Mark. Yes, we see thru a glass darkly, as an old translation puts it poetically. We try our best to participate together in our diversity by grace as samples of the kingdom in the here and now in our struggles against structural sin. And as I like to say, you know it don’t come easy.