Let me lay out all my cards on the table: I’m a moderate, small government, pro-life voter, and I find a Trump presidency scarier than I do a Clinton presidency.
I know, I know — the SCOTUS nominations. The email scandal. Benghazi. The pro-choice platform. Hillary Clinton herself. But at the end of the day, after hearing everybody’s reasons for why Clinton’s scary, evil, and destined to wreck our country, I am unpersuaded that she, a crooked politician, is worse than an ignorant, bigoted, sexist bully who resorts to Twitter and insults. What is this, middle school?
This election blows my mind. Fifty-four percent of voters dislike Clinton. Fifty-eight percent dislike Trump. The Republican party doesn’t like Trump. Many Democrats don’t like Clinton. How is it possible, with all the disgust and horror thrown at these two candidates, we nominated them as the major candidates for president? This is not a rhetorical question: where are these people who voted for Trump and Clinton, and why didn’t the 54% and 58% stop them?
This is all a great mystery. In my mind, you can’t go wrong and you can’t go right in this election, however you vote. You know that ethical dilemma where you’re at the helm of a train hurtling down a track, and you can chose to either hit the one person or sacrifice all the people in the train?
That’s this election. Morally impossible.
All that to say, I started a constructive dialogue on my personal Facebook page about voting in general and for whom to vote, specifically. Though all my friends fall into different categories (bite the bullet and vote for Trump, vote Johnson and shake up the system, vote Clinton because Trump’s worse, vote the third party of your conscience), the conversation essentially boiled down to this:
Is voting ultimately a representation of your personal convictions, or is voting ultimately a pragmatic move?
With such truly awful candidates, many Christians argue that it’s unconscionable to vote for any of them. Matthew J. Franck makes a powerful case for just that: “It is wrong to think of a vote not cast for Leading Contender A as a de facto vote cast for Leading Contender B.”
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.
This sounds tempting to me, and I leant toward it for a while. It’s far easier to vote for a third party candidate who won’t win than to step into the larger two-party mess. I couldn’t confidently say I voted for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, couldn’t proudly say I voted for an increasingly pro-abortion platform or a self-destructive, anti-everybody reality star.
Then one of my former professors challenged me on that view: that’s a romantic idea, but is that the purpose of voting?
Is it? Is the purpose to express myself and my views? Or is the purpose to make the best decision possible in this worst case scenario? Is personally expressing myself in this election, of all elections, throwing up my hands at the helm of the train and doing nothing?
Or is the purpose of voting pragmatic — sticking with the reality of the two-party system and playing the political game to protect those with the most to lose? Is expressing myself via my vote constructive and democratic? Is it benefiting those around me, my fellow citizens, especially those more effected by whoever rises to power?
That is the dilemma for many of us. We need to figure out what exactly our vote means before we figure out which of the evils we vote into the office. That’s given me some clarity in this election. (Some.)
Personally, I’m leaning toward pragmatic voting, which means I need to figure out the worst that can happen and then the “best way” to prevent it from happening. I’m convinced Trump is the worst thing that could happen to this country. Of course, he could be gridlocked by a Congress and Senate who despise him. If I that seemed likely, I would vote for him — but I’m not granted that assurance, not with his penchant for lashing out at people he dislikes and cozying up to our enemies.
That leaves me with two options: voting for Clinton, which makes me die inside, and voting for Johnson, in hopes that the Libertarian party collapses the two-party system.
But that’s just me. I am not certain voting pragmatically is the right way to go, much less the specific vote I cast. But the train’s hurtling toward a lot of people, and we’ve got to make a decision — pragmatism or personal expression?