If You Don’t Like Either Candidate, Then Vote for Trump’s Policies.
Sudden media attention
After I saw the shocking 2005 video with Trump talking about his sexual aggression against women, I wrote, “There is no morally good presidential candidate in this election.” I condemned Trump’s immoral conduct and said I did not know how I would vote. I asked Townhall.com to remove my earlier article, “Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice.” I urged Trump to withdraw, hoping we could get a better candidate.
The liberal media loved this. “Evangelical theologian calls on Trump to withdraw.” I suddenly had more requests for interviews from mainstream news organizations than ever in my lifetime. I turned them all down.
And Trump did not withdraw.
Now, how should I vote?
Voting for Clinton and her ultraliberal policies is not an option for me as an evangelical Christian. Therefore I am left with two options: (1) vote for Trump, or (2) vote for a third-party candidate whose hopes of winning belong to fantasy, not reality.
And if these are my only two options, then voting for a third-party candidate has the clear effect of helping to elect Clinton, because it is taking my vote away from Trump. That is why the liberal media loved it when I said I was finding it hard to decide.
It also means that my two options are actually this: (1) vote for Trump, or (2) help Hillary Clinton get elected.
Once I put the choice in those stark terms, there is a good way to make a decision. Since I find both candidates morally objectionable, I am back to the old-fashioned basis on which I have usually decided how to vote for my entire life: Whose policies are better? Do I agree more with Trump’s policies or with Clinton’s?
It isn’t even close. I overwhelmingly support Trump’s policies and believe that Clinton’s policies will seriously damage the nation, perhaps forever. On the Supreme Court, abortion, religious liberty, sexual orientation regulations, taxes, economic growth, the minimum wage, school choice, Obamacare, protection from terrorists, immigration, the military, energy, and safety in our cities, I think Trump is far better than Clinton (see below for details). Again and again, Trump supports the policies I advocated in my 2010 book Politics According to the Bible.
A caution: There are still three weeks until the election. Given the questionable backgrounds of both candidates, there may still be another major “October surprise” about either Trump or Clinton – or both.
But there is also a positive possibility, because Trump claims he is a changed person from who he was in 2005 and he has apologized for how he acted back then. There is a possibility he has really changed, and I hope it is true. I don’t know. Therefore what I write here is my best judgment as of October 18, 2016, given the information we know now.
Moral objections to voting for Trump
Several Christian friends tell me they still have some moral objections to voting for Trump. They say evangelicals should vote for a third-party candidate. Here is why I am not persuaded by their objections:
(1) “My conscience won’t let me vote for Trump.”
Answer: I fail to see how your conscience lets you help Hillary Clinton get elected, for that is the result of withholding your vote from Trump. Does it not trouble your conscience to help advance the terrible harm that she will bring to the nation? (See details below.)
(2) “Voting for Trump means you approve of his immoral treatment of women.”
Answer: No, it absolutely does not. In my Oct. 9 opinion piece, I proclaimed to all the world that his treatment of women was morally wrong. And so did every other evangelical leader who is supporting him.
(3) “When faced with the lesser of two evils, choose neither one.”
Answer: I agree with this principle when facing a choice between doing two evil actions. For example, when faced with a choice between stealing and telling a lie, I should choose neither one. But this is not that kind of situation. We are not talking about doing something evil. We are talking about voting.
Yes, it is morally evil to commit adultery. It is also morally wrong to approve of committing adultery. But that does not mean it is morally evil to vote for someone who has committed adultery. In a world affected by sin, voting for morally flawed people is unavoidable. Voting for the candidate you think will be best for the country (or do the least harm to the country) is not a morally evil action, so this objection does not apply.
(4) “If you vote for Trump you’ll never have credibility in the future when you say that character matters.”
Answer: I disagree. The current chaos over Trump’s candidacy (and Clinton’s) is mostly because of character issues, and character will continue to matter in future elections, perhaps even more so because of this election.
On the other hand, if you refuse to vote for Trump, how can you ever have credibility in the future when you say that the policy differences between candidates and between political parties matter?
I have read the Republican platform and the Democratic platform for this year. In my opinion, the Republican platform is more consistent with biblical moral principles than any platform I have ever read. And the Democratic platform is more antithetical to Christian principles than any platform I have read. This is important, because most elected officials vote consistently with their party’s platform most of the time. Policy differences do ultimately determine the future of the nation.
(5) “We have to send the Republican party a message that a candidate like Trump is unacceptable.”
Answer: You don’t have to. You want to, perhaps thinking that it will demonstrate moral courage and heroism. But the leadership of the Republican party already knew that Trump was the most unacceptable of all the choices we had. They fought tooth and nail against Trump in the primaries, and he won anyway.
Is it worth turning the country over to a corrupt Clinton political machine that is hostile to Christian values, just to “send a message” that the party leaders already agree with? That’s a steep price to pay.
And why not vote to help defeat Clinton and send the entire nation the message that a candidate like Clinton is even more unacceptable?
(6) “It is wrong for Christians to place their trust in a morally compromised man.”
Answer: Our ultimate trust of course should be in God alone. But the question in this election is not whether we trust Trump or God. The question is whether we trust Trump or Clinton.
When the apostle Paul was on trial before the Roman governor Festus, he saw that things were going badly, so he said, “I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11). But “Caesar” was the emperor Nero, an immoral and corrupt person. This doesn’t mean that Paul was trusting in Nero instead of in God, but it means he wisely decided that he would have a better chance for a fair trial under Nero than under Festus.
Similarly, I think we have a much better chance for good government under Trump than under Clinton.
(7) “I could never tell my friends that I voted for Trump.”
Answer: Why not? Are you acting out of a misplaced fear of what your friends will think? The future of the country is at stake. Is it worth it for you to pay the price of disapproval from your friends?
(8) “We should vote for neither one and trust a sovereign God to bring about his good purposes for the nation.”
Answer: Every time I hear this objection, I think of the story of a man who climbed up to the roof of his house in a flood and prayed for God to save him. A man with a boat came along and urged him to get in, but he refused, saying, “God will save me.” Another boat came and he gave the same response. Finally, as the waters were lapping at his feet, a helicopter came and dropped a rescue harness to him. He waved it away, yelling out, “God will save me!”
Then he drowned in the flood, and when he got to heaven, he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me when I prayed to you?” God replied, “I sent two boats and a helicopter.”
The moral of the story is that God often works through human means to answer our prayers. And I think that the ballot box in this election is still the human means that God has given in answer to our prayers that he would deliver us from the increasing opposition to Christian values brought on by the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. Why not vote for the candidate whose policies are best, and also trust God for the future of the nation? Please don’t wave away the helicopter – even a faulty helicopter – and later say to God, “Why didn’t you save us?”
(9) “Are there no limits to what you will tolerate in a candidate?”
Answer: This is the question that set me back on my heels and threw me into a few days of uncertainty after the release of the Trump video.
In the end, I decided it is useless at this point to speculate about all possible future elections. The question facing us is how we should vote in this election, given what we know now. The question is whether Clinton or Trump would be a better president. My conclusion is that, because I agree with his policies, Trump is the far better choice.
(10) “My vote doesn’t really matter. I don’t even live in a battleground state.”
Answer: This election is unlike any other in our lifetimes, and it is possible that the polls are more wrong than they have ever been. Individual votes matter. George W. Bush became president because of only 537 votes in Florida in 2000.
In addition, your vote sends a signal. Every vote in every state affects the margin of victory for the winning candidate. A large nationwide victory gives a strong political mandate and a lot of political clout going forward. A small victory gives a weak mandate and less political clout going forward.
In future years, people will ask, “In 2016, did you do what you could to stop Hillary Clinton or did you vote in a way that helped and encouraged her?” If we fail to vote to stop Clinton and her support for abortion rights, government imposition of gender confusion on our children, hate speech laws used to silence Christians, and government-sanctioned exclusion of thousands of Christians from their lifelong occupations because they won’t bow to the homosexual agenda — will our failure to oppose these evils destroy our Christian witness for the future? Will our grandchildren ask us why we failed to at least vote to try to stop the imminent triumph of anti-Christian liberal tyranny when we had the ability to do so?
(11) “I can’t trust Trump to do what he promises.”
Answer: This objection carries no weight with me. It asks me to believe that Clinton will be a better president than Trump even though Clinton promises to do what I consider bad things for the country while Trump promises to do good things. This objection says I should vote third-party and help the person who promises to do bad things rather than vote for the person who promises to do good things. This is nonsense.
Of course we cannot know Trump or Clinton’s future conduct with 100% certainty, but we should decide based on the most likely results. And the most likely result is that both Trump and Clinton will do most or all of what they have promised. That’s what elected officials always do, or they lose the support of their own party and become totally ineffective. Their policy differences matter a lot.
Yes, Trump has changed his mind, but notice how he has changed his mind. His policy statements continue to move in a more conservative direction, and he has chosen a very conservative vice president and list of judicial appointments. His transition team includes many solid conservatives, and they will determine many of his appointments and much of what his administration will do. Just as he succeeded in business by listening to the best experts to solve each problem, I suspect that he has been learning from the best experts in conservative political thought and has increasingly found that conservative solutions really work. We should applaud these changes.
His choice of Indiana governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate is an especially significant indication that he will govern as a conservative. Pence was outstanding when he debated Tim Kaine in the vice presidential debate. Trump could have picked a moderate but instead picked a lifelong solid conservative who is a thoughtful, gracious policy wizard. Pence is a lawyer and former talk radio host who served 12 years in Congress and had significant congressional leadership positions, so he will be immensely helpful in working with Congress. He is a committed evangelical Christian. He is a former board member of the Indiana Family Institute, a conservative Christian lobbying group in Indiana.
(12) Conclusion on moral objections
Trump has a morally tainted past. I will be voting for him, not with joy but reluctantly because of his deplorable past mistreatment of women. I wish the Republican candidate were someone with a spotless moral reputation (such as Mike Pence). But because anything I do will help elect either Trump or Clinton, these moral objections raised against voting for Trump are not finally persuasive to me. Most of them become even stronger arguments for voting to stop Clinton.