I have voted in every presidential election since 1976, often more against one candidate than for another. I have also, as best as I could, participated in voting for local officials and state questions on the ballot. This year, however, I cannot in good conscience support either of the two major presidential candidates. They and/or their platforms are flawed beyond what I can support. Let me be clear:
I know voting is a civic duty and privilege. I AM going to vote, just not for one of the two major candidates. I may go with a third party or independent candidate, or I may write in someone.
Some say if I don’t vote for a candidate with a legitimate chance of winning then I can’t complain. Oh, yes, I can. My track record of civic duty is not nullified by this one “major party” omission. I am not apathetic. It is a conscious, intentional, and, in some ways, gut-wrenching decision.
Some say if I don’t vote for a candidate with a legitimate chance of winning then I am somehow personally responsible for the mess the other one will make. Well, no. The responsibility falls on those who voted for him/her in the primaries, for those who made the nomination, for the system that gave us these two, and, ultimately on all of us, for perhaps we are going to get what we deserve.
I am NOT arguing for some unattainable perfectionism for any candidate. Good grief, I grew up under Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, three very flawed presidents. I have voted since 1976, so I know well how imperfect presidential candidates are. There is a point, however, somewhere, when I have to just say no.
Certainly others may come to different conclusions. That’s fine. Here’s why I have decided not to for either of the two main party nominees:
1. The medium has become the message. This is true of BOTH presidential candidates; that is, the character of the messengers has overwhelmed the issues and become the message. We have always been concerned about experience, integrity, character, and honesty. It seems, however, that the outrageous flaws of both major candidates have become the story ad nauseam. Sure, the issues get their usual talking points, the platforms are important, but it has become all about the creepy amorality and narcissism of one and the blunt dishonesty and arrogance of the other. Speaking of platforms . . .
2. Platforms do matter, but point #1 just trumped them for this election (pardon the pun). Some insist I should get past the candidate and vote for the platform. They almost had me with this one. I cannot in good conscience support the Democratic platform (I am not opposed to all of it, just key parts), and I do support much of the Republican Platform (not all of it, just key parts). But see point #1. I am not sure that either candidate is worth the risk, short or long term. Do we really want to hand the car keys over to one that is reckless or to one who can’t be trusted? Furthermore . . .
3. At some point, Biblical convictions and Biblical morality do matter. Again, I am not looking for the perfect candidate. Sometimes we do have to compromise because of the big picture and “choose the lesser of two evils,” like almost every election! Well, this time I am going to choose the less of three evils: Not voting for either. At some point, the end can no longer justify the means. My prediction is that whoever wins will create mid-term election backlash in favor of the other party. Happens regularly. Guaranteed this time. Some say, “We are not voting for a pastor or a Sunday School teacher.” My point exactly. We are voting for the so called “leader of the free world” and both candidates have crossed just about every moral line conceivable. The entire debate has now been reduced to whether we are electing a sexual predator or the enabler of a sexual predator. And in many ways the supporters of both are worse than the candidates themselves. Perhaps we do get what we deserve. Therefore, it is also about . . .
4. Patterns of behavior. This applies to both Clinton and Trump. Everyone says and does something wrong every now and then. The problem is when the wrong behavior becomes a pattern, for that reflects one’s true character. In these candidates we have patterns of narcissism, arrogance, elitism, vulgarity, dishonesty, corruption, lying, untrustworthiness, and on and on. The big issue is not so much what they have done (although that is important), but will they continue to behave in the same way? What they have done disqualifies them from leading; what they could possible do is even more frightening. So, you say, pick the lesser of two evils. I can’t. They both represent a level of individual and social immorality that has crossed the line. Both are unqualified to serve as President. Speaking of morality and what most of my friends refer to as the “lesser of two evils” . . .
5. If I vote for either candidate I believe I will lose significant moral authority to speak again. That sounds pretty hard and determinative, but this is important to me personally. If I vote for either candidate, I can no longer hold any public official or even any public figure up to any sort of minimal moral standard. I will have no right to a prophetic voice. Please understand, I am talking about ME. I do not judge you for your vote. You don’t have to feel the same as I do about this. I just do not want to have to explain to my grandchildren why I voted for either Trump or Clinton. But, you may say, at least it will be something different! At least there will be change! Yes, I get it, but . . .
6. As a Christian I don’t want to move from being pragmatic to pragmatism. Oh, we do need change. We do need to throw most of the rascals out. I get it. Trump does have some good points about that, although the conspiracy mentality has gone over the edge. But, to overlook all the moral and ethical issues (even on the Democratic platform side) because it will “work,” or be “something different,” is to move from desiring a legitimate pragmatic (workable) outcome to outright pragmatism. Being pragmatic means you do the right things the right way and expect they will work. Pragmatism means you declare things right because they work. The first means you do the right things in the right way regardless of outcome. The second means you do whatever it takes, good or bad, because it works. That is, the end justifies the means. Pragmatism, and that is where so many Evangelicals leaders have landed, demands a lot of compromise, and too often a Faustian compromise. But there is also a political reason not to vote for either candidate . . .
7. Send a loud message by voting, but not for either Trump or Clinton. Is it patriotic if 85 % of Americans showed up at the ballot box but did NOT vote for either major candidate? It is if it sends a message. I have no illusions. I don’t think a third party candidate will win, and no matter who wins, he/she will continue to be delusional and claim a mandate. But a low percentage of votes will send a clear message: “You are a one term President. That’s it, so get it right this one term.” Both parties will be put on notice, “You have got to do better than this. Beware.” Then throw all the bums out during the mid-term elections.
These are only my personal convictions (none of which require the breaking of a friendship, by the way). Many will strongly disagree. That is fine. If you have been struggling whether or not to vote, I hope this helped some. If you are a strong supporter of one candidate or the other and are totally irritated, I told you not to read this!
Look for my last post before the election, “Why it should not matter to Christians who wins the election.”