How I plan to vote this election, and why.

A lot of people don’t know what to think this election. And that’s fair — it’s been unusual from the beginning. I don’t claim to be an expert in any field, but as a Christian who also tends toward traditionally conservative economic principles, I have thought about this a lot, and have come to several conclusions. I thought it might be helpful to share my journey/thought process for anyone who cares.

Note: I’ve been planning on writing this for several weeks now, and it has nothing to do with the latest scandal(s). It is consistent with all of my past comments/posts/conversations/retweets, some of which are re-linked to here. Please feel free to either ask questions or try to persuade me of a different option. I am happy with my conclusions, but I remain open to better alternatives.

Early in the election, when it was generally clear that it would be Clinton/Trump, I read an article on Christianity Today about voting for the lesser of two evils. It reminds us that morality is not relative, and that saying, “the alternative would be worse” isn’t a valid excuse. A key paragraph reads:

“When Christians face two clearly immoral options, we cannot rationalize a vote for immorality or injustice just because we deem the alternative to be worse. The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).”

I also read a phenomenal article written by Senator Ben Sasse on what it means to vote for someone:

To us, the act of voting is also a civic duty that tells people what we think America means, what we want to teach our kids about moral leadership, what face we want America to present to the world, and what sort of candidates we want more of in coming years.
It isn’t enough to simply tear down — nihilism never built anything or ultimately satisfied anyone. We do need to disrupt Washington, but not for disruption’s sake. And so, if a candidate says they want to disrupt Washington, then they darn well better be able to explain why — to what end. They need more than slogans; they need to lay out an actual vision for the future and where they will take us.

After the Republican convention, where Donald Trump was officially crowned the nominee, I read a resignation letter from a (former) York Township Republican committeeman. His title wasn’t impressive, but his words are. I strongly encourage you all to read it in full, not just the three paragraphs I’ve included below:

We come together in political parties to magnify our influence. An organized representative institution can give weight to our will in ways we could not accomplish on our own. Working with others gives us power, but at the cost of constant, calculated compromise. No two people will agree on everything. There is no moral purity in politics.
If compromise is the key to healthy politics, how does one respond when compromise descends into complicity? To preserve a sense of our personal moral accountability we must each define boundaries. For those boundaries to have meaning we must have the courage to protect them, even when the cost is high.
With three decades invested in the Republican Party, there is a powerful temptation to shrug and soldier on. Despite the bold rhetoric, we all know Trump will lose. Why throw away a great personal investment over one bad nominee? Trump is not merely a poor candidate, but an indictment of our character. Preserving a party is not a morally defensible goal if that party has lost its legitimacy. [Emphasis mine]

Since I could not, therefore, vote for Trump because it would be too great of a compromise of both my values and my economic philosophy, I took a look at Clinton. But while she is in almost every way more qualified and less dangerous to our country and society, I found myself only tempted to vote for her because “the alternative would be worse.” The Democratic nominee would also be too great of a compromise, although in different ways. If I did vote for Clinton, it would not be voting for Clinton, but against Trump. If you’ve been paying attention, that is exactly what the first article I mention warns against.

So I began to look for someone I could vote FOR, even if it was outside the two-party system. For a while I flirted with supporting Gary Johnson, but while he genuinely appears to be a nice person, I found him uninspiring. He failed to convince me that he would take the job seriously, failed to cast a vision for our country’s future, and failed to convince me that he would maintain America’s leadership role in the world (including, but so much more than military strength).

Without a viable alternative, I was back to the Trump/Clinton dilemma. Had I perhaps missed something that would tip the scales? I found only two points in Trump’s favor: 1) That he had promised to appoint conservative Supreme Court Justices; and 2) that his damage (and the role of the presidency more generally) would be limited by Congress. On the surface, these arguments are attractive — but they, too, do not stand up to scrutiny.

1. I realized that laws do not shape culture. Culture shapes the laws. With conservative Supreme Court Justices, the legal system might resist the larger culture shift away from Christianity for another generation, but it would not be nearly as effective as we want to believe. In addition, by electing Trump we would lose the conservative party/movement for at least a generation as well.

Not that Christians can’t be involved in politics. We can. Not that change can’t happen through legislative process. It can and it has. But God did not become man to show us how to vote. He became man to show us divine love, and then to teach us to do likewise. Christians lose the Gospel when we become known more for how we vote than how we love.
“But if we can change the laws, we can change the culture.” Ehhh… not really. Any good student of legal history will tell you that laws don’t shape culture, culture shapes laws.

2. I found myself unable to trust Congress to stand up to Trump. They (Republican Members of Congress, speaking generally) have been too afraid of his wrath to stand against him even when he wasn’t the nominee. Now that he’s the nominee, that hasn’t changed, and if he becomes president, I cannot imagine them suddenly growing a backbone. Trump has already hijacked the Republican party, and if he is elected, it will fall completely in line with whatever he says. It turns out many Republican leaders are more concerned with their own re-election than protecting the principles they claimed to stand for. (Exceptions: People like Senator Ben Sasse, who make me proud to have lived in Nebraska)

At this point, when people asked who I would be voting for, I honestly said, “I don’t know.” I was stuck, waiting and hoping that something would change. And then something did. Evan McMullin decided to run for President. Under the slogan: “It’s never too late to do the right thing,” McMullin decided to stand up and become the face of rational conservatives. Conservatives who don’t deny science. Conservatives who respect women and minorities. The first things that struck me about him were that he was undeniably smart, sane, and refreshingly straightforward. As I have listened to him, watched him and researched him over the past two months, I have found no reason to doubt my initial assessment.

Evan McWho?

Evan McMullin was a Republican, served our country in the CIA, has business experience, and most recently served as the Chief Policy Counsel for the House Republican Caucus. But he is running as an independent, because the Republican party no longer stands for what it used to. It is no longer the party of Lincoln, no longer dedicated to the premise that “All men are created equal,” and no longer committed to conservative principles. Much like the church at various points in history, they have compromised the principles they stand for in the search for political power.

In McMullin, I have found a man who stands for *almost* everything that I believe the Republican Party should be about. We still have our differences, but those are compromises I am happy to make. Compromises I do not feel guilty or uneasy about making. Compromises that do not morph into complicity.

Yet voting for a third-party, or in McMullin’s case an independent creating his own party, brings up several other questions worth addressing:

BUT HE CAN’T WIN/YOU ARE THROWING YOUR VOTE AWAY: These are two separate issues that are often incorrectly merged together. He can actually win, but you’re right, he probably won’t. I will vote my conscience, and even if he loses, then political leaders will realize that they cannot take our vote for granted. They need to earn it.

When we vote for Donald Trump, it is a signal to other politicians that the evangelical vote can be gained simply by offering lip-service to a pro-life platform.
Trump knows quite a bit about bargaining, and I suspect he’d say that evangelicals have just handed over all of their political influence this election by supporting him. Why should any future GOP candidate work to earn our support? Why should they care about our concerns? If we will vote for Trump, who will we not vote for? A vote for Trump is a vote signifying that evangelicals are owned by the GOP.
At most, the McMullin campaign believes he could win a state or two and throw a tight election to the House. “But we’re not banking our entire existence on that,” Searby says. “We also believe, deeply, that it’s time for a new generation of American leadership. And so we are building this movement. And that is an equally important goal to us.”
Also see: — And pretty much anything else Michael Gerson writes.

BUT BY TAKING CONSERVATIVE VOTES AWAY FROM TRUMP, YOU WILL HELP ELECT CLINTON: Probably true. While I cannot vote for her, she is in my mind beyond any doubt the better of the two. By encouraging disaffected Republicans (who would otherwise stay home) to vote for McMullin at the top and conservatives down-ballot, there is a chance that Congress would remain Republican, providing a check to policies conservatives might disagree with. Even if I believed Clinton was the worse option, however, I doubt it would change my mind. I still would not be able to bring myself to vote (and with it my endorsement) for either of them.

It also really shouldn’t change anything, but Trump cannot win. Many knew that before, but now everyone knows it. There is coming back from bragging about committing sexual assault. I repeat: Trump will not win. Ironically, I would challenge any potential Trump supporter that they are the ones throwing their vote away-and not just their vote, but also their party. Trump has irrevocably tainted the Republican Party, and unless Republican voters abandon him this election, the Republican Party will surely die.

If you have short thoughts, please comment — I’ll do my best to respond concisely. If you have longer thoughts, message me and we can dialogue more about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

EDIT: For your convenience, here are some links/videos of McMullin explaining what he believes in.

General Principles List:

Foreign Policy:

A TEDx Talk McMullin gave this year before he knew he’d be running for President [Warning: Graphic Images from Syria]:

About Mindy Finn, McMullin’s running mate:

(Image Source: Architect of the Capitol;