Political Choices Are Hard (or Why I’m Not Voting for Trump)

When I was thirteen, I outlawed slavery.

It was probably my proudest jr. high moment (not that it had a lot of competition, because jr. high). Our history teacher declared a session of the Continental Congress to frame the Constitution. We would take two days to debate issues, and each person received a state, a character, and a list of how that person voted that you were supposed to follow.

My history teacher chose what he thought was the perfect role for me, the awkwardly quiet homeschooled kid in the back row: Roger Sherman, the meek, mild-mannered delegate from Connecticut who basically only spoke up in a significant way once during the convention.

(If you’re laughing right now, then clearly you know me better than my jr. high teachers and classmates did.)

My role sheet spelled out my task: I’d deliver the Connecticut Compromise allowing slavery (but restricting the power of the South) like I was supposed to, it would pass, and that’s all I’d have to do.

Guys, compromise isn’t really my thing.

convention

Roger Sherman is the muted-brown, wig-less guy who Alexander Hamilton’s elbow is pointing to. (That might be his biggest claim to fame.)

I actually wrote the speech, two paragraphs of cool-headed assessment of the politics behind slavery and the need to make the choice that was best for the survival of our young nation.

And then, during the actual event, staring out at pimpled and brace-wired faces who I didn’t really know and who didn’t really know me, I completely ignored it. “Gentlemen,” I said after being recognized by George Washington, “I’d like to address the sectional concerns we’ve been discussing.”

“I object!” cried a bombastic Southern senator with a makeshift thrift-store colonial costume. He actually leapt over the tables arranged in a crooked circle to confront me, even though I hadn’t said anything objectionable yet. “The South has a right to have its full population counted!”

He towered over me, this passionate roleplaying kid who—full disclosure—I secretly had a crush on. In that moment, I seriously considered backing down and reading my speech like I was supposed to. It would be so much easier. Everyone was watching me, and I could feel my face turning bright red.

Instead, I stood. “Do you want your slaves to be counted as full people in the census?”

“Of course. That’s what I’ve been—”

“Then treat them that way.”

The dignified assembly of delegates did a little background hum of “Oooh, burn.”

I went on to make a passionate plea for the outright abolition of slavery. I don’t remember what I said, but it was convincing enough, because it passed by a slim margin. Apparently other people voted against their script too.

“That wasn’t exactly what you were supposed to do,” my teacher said to me after the tables were pushed away and we settled into the proper century. And he smiled and shook his head. (Take that, educators. Never underestimate the quiet kids.)

I got a free pizza out of the deal as a prize, and the satisfaction of looking up at our posterboard Constitution for the rest of the year and seeing our renegade amendment in permanent marker.

And I remember wondering: Why wasn’t slavery killed in the cradle way back in the 1700s instead of ending in a war that left hundreds of thousands dead, brother against brother? It was so simple.

Now I know: it wasn’t simple. Then and in the years leading up to the Civil War, there were thousands of interconnected threads: economics, gradual emancipation, votes in the Senate, settlement of the West, state’s rights, desperation to avoid war until it came anyway.

I’m not saying the Continental Congress did the right thing. Heck, I’m not even saying Abraham Lincoln did the right thing.

What I’m saying is: politics is complicated. I want to be very clear to affirm that good people now and then asking the question, “What is best for this nation?” come to different conclusions.

But I think thirteen-year-old Amy has some wisdom for us: political choices are complicated, but we have to take a stand somewhere.

And here’s an addition that I personally believe to be true: it’s better to risk negative consequences while voting your conscience than to justify a choice you don’t believe is right.

Welcome to 2016.

election

I’m not telling you to vote for. That’s not my style. I just want you to tell you the story of my struggle.

Because I’m fairly conservative politically and very conservative theologically, I was given a role card that tells me how to vote. I can write the speech in my sleep, two persuasive paragraphs on a few key issues.

For the first time, I’m planning to wad it up because I can’t affirm Donald Trump in any way.

Yes, I’ve heard arguments about the Supreme Court, religious liberty, abortion, checks and balances, and all other legitimate reasons other conservative friends are planning to vote for Trump. This is part of the complicated, difficult choice I mentioned earlier.

But someday, I believe I’ll be held accountable before future generations and God himself not just for the end, but the means to the end. In some way, my vote is an endorsement that I think this candidate is a good choice to lead our nation.

I’ll be clear: I’m fine with voting for an imperfect candidate because I always will be.

I am not fine with voting for a candidate whose actions don’t match his platform, whose rhetoric is divisive, ugly, and dangerous, whose personal integrity is low enough to make me sick when I think of him being leader of America.

You may choose differently. I don’t write this to change your mind or start a political argument about how to balance fears and policies and future evils to make a right choice in the voting box.

It’s complicated. I recognize that in a way thirteen-year-old Amy did not. That admission means I’m more cautious when I talk about politics. It robs me of my jr. high arrogance. It encourages me to show grace.

At the end of the day, though, I’m the same person I was when I was thirteen in some ways. I’m not following the script anymore, but I am following what I believe to be right.

And maybe I’ll buy myself a pizza on Election Day.

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23 comments

  1. So you think a despicable Bill Clinton as First Man will be on a higher moral platform than Donald Trump? Have you checked out HIS continuing sexual predatory behavior recently?

    1. Trump’s SCOTUS picks is worth having him. Hillary would pick liberal justices and continue lying. She would likely be impeached and Kaine would be President. Pence is a sound pick for Trump as a successor.

      1. I am not sure if you watched the last two debates, but the people were doing most of the lying were Trump and Pence.
        I also question the term “sound” when both Trump and Pence have continually made statements that violate the 1st Amendment.

      2. Like I said, not trying to start a debate, just helping people consider a different point of view. I understand the Supreme Court concern, but for me it cannot overcome my conscience, which tells me I cannot vote for Trump. I know other wise Christians who disagree.

    2. Hi Cindy, my issue is more that I’m not comparing Trump and Bill Clinton’s integrity when placing my vote. As a matter of conscience, I can’t vote for Trump (or Hillary, actually).

  2. In re: fifth paragraph from the end … The devil’s minion in the Mao Tse-Tung garb possesses ANY redeeming quality?

    1. If you are going to criticize Hillary Clinton’s outfit by referencing the first chairman of China, at least spell his name in Chinese pinyin- Mao Zedong. Not to mention that I am pretty sure Clinton has at least more redeeming qualities than Trump, if we are making comparisons here, both as a president experience-wise as well as competency and as a human, who actually has some self-control and respect.

  3. Months ago your father asked me what I would do if the contest came down to these two pathetic candidates. I had no answer then; I find my answer now distasteful.

    However, as a confessing Christ-follower I have become convinced that God will not hold me accountable for the outcome of this election – or for my reluctant selection – but rather for how I live out my witness in our increasingly godless society. I suggest that regardless of our individual political selections, we who identify with the risen Lord should focus (as the great Francis Schaeffer phrased the dilemma) “how should we then live?”

    1. I think you are definitely on to something good there, Uncle Goat. Living a life that is full of love as our Savior showed us to will probably make the most difference regardless of who is elected.

      As a side note, I think God would hold us accountable for everything we do, even an election, but the blood of Christ covers all things regardless. Just my take.

    2. I think you’re right that it’s way more significant that we live out our faith (though I do think a very small part of that is our vote). But I think many thoughtful people’s votes are reluctant this time, so you’re in good company.

  4. If I believed Trump was the same person today as he used to be, I could not vote for him either. However, I do not believe he is the same person. I see positive steps toward change in his actions, his words, and his decisions. If we hold everyone accountable for their past actions, without permitting them the potential for change, we do them a disservice. I am not the same person I was a decade ago; my father is not the same person he was a decade ago; Paul was not the same person before he met Jesus on the road as after. We all change. We all are either walking toward greater godliness or further from the light. Does Trump’s behavior, in a broad scope, show a man trying to better himself? I believe so.

    Then too, can God USE Donald Trump, despite all his flaws and moral shortcomings?

    Sometimes God sends a General Washington to do the job, and sometimes he sends a General Patton.

    I’m not sure anyone BUT Trump could beat Hillary; no one else is willing to fight her for it.

    Respect your views, as always. Enjoy reading them. 🙂

    1. Charity, I do totally agree that people change, and know that a lot of ugly mudslinging from the past goes on in campaigns. Even with that, though, the things Trump has said during this campaign give me cause for deep concern.

      That said, I am so thankful for the sovereignty of God!

  5. Perhaps we christians tend to place more importance on actions than we should. Let me explain what I meant by God not judging an individual for the vote cast on election day. We must remember that God does not look at events, actions or people as do we. Humans observe with the senses and interpret the action or outcome with finite minds. God looks on the heart. (1 Sam 16:7) With Him the issue is intent, or conscience. (Jas 4:17) We cannot truly know an individual’s intent except to the extent that (s)he reveals it by way of explanation.

    Cogent, well-intentioned, well-reasoned arguments may be made in favor of either – or neither – of the candidates running for the office of president of the United States by earnest, faithful, thoughtful, careful, deeply committed, biblically informed christians. The moral issue is not the vote itself; it is the intent of the heart. This allows the maintenance of christian fellowship among believers who disagree politically.

    There is an extreme polarity in the political arena today, even (especially?) among committed believers. But we humans can only judge the action and the apparent result; we cannot judge the heart. That is God’s exclusive prerogative and that is what He, the righteous judge, will do.

    1. Okay, yes, I am totally in agreement, Uncle Dave, and that clarification is actually really helpful. I don’t think there’s one right or wrong choice for every Christian, so what I meant was in line with your discussion about motives: I felt a very strong personal conviction not to vote for Trump but was tempted to do so anyway out of fear, until I realized that’s never a good motive for anything.

      The one positive thing about this election is that I think most people are considering their vote in a way they haven’t before, and whenever people are thinking and praying more about their actions, I’m on board. (Even if they come to different conclusions than me: I know many Christians who I deeply respect who have.) It’s a good reminder, because sometimes I’d rather have something clear and black-and-white, when often political issues don’t work that way.

      Thankfully, God is in control regardless of who we vote for or who gets elected. That’s something I think we could probably talk about more (and all agree on) in the church.

  6. Thanks for posting, Amy. It’s a tough subject and one that requires a certain amount of bravery to post about these days… so thank you for saying something.

    Thankfully, in the end, Jesus is King. We in America have deluded ourselves into believing that verses like, “He deposes kings and raises up others…” (Daniel 2:21) or “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1) don’t apply to us. WE THE PEOPLE decide who will be our governing authority. We’ve outsmarted God. Haven’t we?

    Of course not. God is still God. He is still on the throne. He is still in control of our paltry little elections.

    So, though I have NO IDEA for whom I will be voting come November, I do know several things for sure: I will do my civic duty and vote, I am going to do some serious research on the other races going on besides the presidential one, I’m going to spend a lot of time in prayer about this, and I’m going to rest in the knowledge that my vote matters… and the outcome of this election is solidly in God’s hands – not mine, and not any other human’s – and I’m going to teach my children that this world is NOT our home, and though this election may seem enormous and scary right now, from the eternal perspective, it’s just a tiny speck.

    1. Amen! I’m so thankful for that ultimate reality. While the choice of who to vote for is one I want to think about carefully, I can trust that God is in control, and that makes a huge difference in how I approach this election. Thanks for a great articulation of the bottom line, Jenelle.

  7. I’m in the unfortunate situation of disliking all the candidates for some reason or another. I will probably just vote for Trump, that way my parents don’t lecture me over my choice and so I can stick to my policy of at least voting for someone.

    My boyfriend will be voting for Johnson, as he strongly dislikes Trump and doesn’t care for Hillary. I’ve thought about doing the same thing, but I don’t necessarily like Johnson either and unless I really like the candidate, I don’t know if it’s worth voting for him when he probably won’t win.

    1. Thanks, Autumn. It’s a struggle, that’s for sure! Here’s my thought on the last part of your statement: I will probably be voting third party not because I think that candidate will win, but because it’s my way of showing that neither of the two major parties has a candidate I support (or values I can affirm). Yes, there are a few crazy scenarios where an upset could happen, but I mostly just want to vote my conscience and add to the growing number of dissatisfied voters who might make the current parties think, “Hey, maybe we need to change some things to get those votes back next time.”

      That said, I’m mostly going to show up on election day for state and local offices. There are some people in those races I can genuinely get behind.

  8. Unfortunately, you younger people haven’t been exposed to the long and distasteful history of the Clintons, which our liberal media is happy to conceal as much as possible. Bill’s commonly used nickname when president was “Slick Willy” as he could lie better than anyone, and did it without compunction. Hillary was his right-hand man and aided and abetted all he did, including his numerous affairs and assaults on women. She is no friend of women nor of children, as her staunch support of abortion will attest. She is in this for power and power alone, to bring about her globalist ideals. Anyone who gives a fig about truth and honesty would vote against Hillary. Trump may not be the smoothest game in town, but at least he is an honest and successful businessman who can bring some sense to Washington, which has lost its bearings. As for me and others of faith and conscience, we are sick to our stomachs at the idea of the Clintons back in the WH and how they will hasten the demise of this once-great country under God.

    1. Hi Jennifer! I do see your point…and I’m not planning to vote for Hillary either, for a few of the reasons you mentioned and others. I realize some people think no vote or a third party vote is essentially a vote for “the other candidate,” whoever that might be. But, for a number of practical and ideological reasons, I just don’t think that’s true.

      In some ways, I am voting against both Trump and Hillary. No, the chances of a third-party candidate being elected is slim. But when both parties look at the number of disgusted people who turned to a third party, I think they’ll reconsider their strategies for getting those people back, which would mean addressing the concerns we have with our respective parties as they are now. It’s playing the long game, and I realize not everyone is with me on this, including many people I respect, but for me, it’s the only way to vote my conscience.

  9. I too am not voting for either candidate, for two reasons.

    First, if you vote for Trump because he is not a Clinton, you are making a trade. You may be doing less harm to the unborn, to individual liberties, and to America’s economic status, but you’re doing it at the expense of the poor, refugees from war-torn countries, people who aren’t white, and women. And here’s the thing: Jesus NEVER wants us to sacrifice the weak for the “greater good.” It’s why he stopped to save the woman with internal bleeding even though a little girl was dying, and ended up saving both.

    Second, have faith. Not small faith that everything will work out in the end somehow, but big faith that God will not be mocked, that God will reward the perseverance of the saints, that God will sustain you even if you lose everything. Have faith that if God’s children follow Jesus without compromise, he will be glorified, regardless of whoever is in office. Jesus would not vote for Trump, because Jesus NEVER chooses the lesser of two evils.

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