If you’ll permit me, some thoughts about the American political process, from down here on the ground:
“Super Tuesday” is next week, in which ten states are holding their presidential primaries. And at this point in the process, we the people still have options, no matter our political party affiliation. You may not be pleased with all your choices, and your preferred candidate may have already gone by the wayside.
Still. You have a choice, and you have a voice. So use it. Vote.
Vote, even if it feels like you’re tilting at windmills. Vote, even if you know that your preferred candidate is perhaps days or weeks away from fading out and dropping out. Vote your conscience. Vote your principles. Vote for the person you think best represents you.
But let’s talk about November, as well. I’ll begin with some personal history.
I’ve had the privilege of voting in four presidential elections. In the first two, I voted for a candidate I actually believed in: George W. Bush. I don’t think he was a perfect president, and I willingly acknowledge that he did some things that still confound me. But I trusted him. He shared a lot of my beliefs. I think, all told, he was and is a sincere and good-intentioned man. And I don’t regret my votes.
[You may disagree. You may think I’m crazy. That’s your prerogative.]
In 2008 and 2012, I voted in the GOP primaries for candidates that I knew wouldn’t become the nominee. Texas’ primary was later in the process in those election years, and the writing seemed to be on the wall. Nevertheless, I decided that I shouldn’t have to vote for either of the eventual nominees more than once, so I threw in my lot with “lost causes.” And each time the general election came around, I held my nose and voted for the “lesser of two evils,” because I believed that, at worst, those candidates would do minimal harm to the country I love.
I’ll admit that those two votes were, in part, votes against President Obama. I disagreed with President Obama on most if not all of his policy positions. I didn’t think his ideas were best for the country. Now, almost 8 years later, I still don’t. I don’t think he’s “the most evil man in America,” as I’ve heard friends and family refer to him. But I think his ideology and policies are wrong and are harmful to the country in the long term. So my votes for the Republican candidates were mainly votes against a candidate and a party platform I just could not support.
So now, 2016. As I said, we’re in the midst of primary season, and there are a few candidates I can feel good about supporting, if they make it to November. But there are also candidates that I just can’t support in any way. Their ideology, policy positions, and personal integrity make them wholly untrustworthy representatives of the good of the American people.
The “lesser of two evils” approach only works, in my mind, when there really is a lesser “evil.” But when two candidates from (seemingly) opposite ends of the spectrum are equally troubling, equally problematic, and equally likely to make destructive and wrong-headed decisions, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to determine which would be worse for the country.
I’m tired of holding my nose and pulling the lever. And I’m tired of voting against candidates.
In my own heart and conscience, I’ve come to this decision: I want my votes to be a vote for a candidate whom I think represents my values and concerns. Representative democracy provides me the privilege and responsibility of choosing a voice to speak for me in the halls of government. I want to choose without shame and resignation.
This doesn’t mean I’m looking for a perfect candidate. No such person exists. And this also doesn’t mean I am looking for a candidate who lines up perfectly with my beliefs. If that were my expectation, I would have to run for president myself. (And it strikes me that I’m now legally old enough to do so, which is chilling.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of coram Deo, living my life “before the face of God.” If my actions, my words, even my thoughts matter to God, then I am no less responsible before God for my vote. After all, my vote is my voice.
So, as for me, when the November election comes around, I will do my best to vote only for candidates that I can support with a clean conscience–not perfect people, but people who I believe best represent my values. And if there is not a presidential candidate who can do that… Well, we’ll see.
In the meantime, I’ll be praying that I won’t have to face that decision.
Your Turn: …I don’t think I really need to invite your comments, because if you think this idea is completely bonkers, I’m sure you’ll let me know! Just remember–be respectful. Inappropriate language or cheap personal attacks will be edited/deleted. [That’s my prerogative.]