As this year’s presidential campaign continues, I am asked more and more often, “What do I do? I can’t decide who to vote for. I don’t like either of the two main candidates.”
Now, there are some who are happy with Trump and some who are happy with Clinton — I have a wide range of friends — but there are the ABC (Anyone But Clinton) crowd and the #NeverTrump crowd, who are voting against a candidate they despise rather than for a candidate they admire.
I write this post not for the happy voters, but for the confused and angry voters, the ones who feel stuck voting for someone they don’t like because they dislike the other option even more.
Here is a basic life ethic: It’s better to do what’s right and fail than to do what’s wrong and succeed.
If we bend our principles in order to stop the possibility of evil, we simply end up bent.
There are four basic problems I see in the way too many of us vote.
Problem #1: Choosing what works over what’s right
Choosing what’s pragmatic over what’s ethical is a slippery slope into becoming evil ourselves. As a culture, we’ve done this far too many times. We need to stop.
Don’t become a monster in order to stop a monster.
There’s an interesting story in the Bible that is often overlooked because it’s in the rarely read book of Isaiah, chapter 7. In it, the kingdom of Judah was worried about attacks from the rising power of Assyria in the north and east. So, God sent the prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz and told him not to worry about it. In fact, he said, God offers you a sign to prove he’ll take care of you. But King Ahaz, in false humility, refused the sign. Why? Because he had already made up his mind to make an alliance with Egypt, the kingdom to the south and west. In other words, King Ahaz did the practical thing, selling his soul in the process. (It didn’t work out so well.)
Along with this, being too pragmatic in the present betrays the future’s potential. It stays in survival mode in the present and gives up on the potential for flourishing in the future. It gives up on what may need to be a long, hard rebuilding process by refusing to go through the pain the process probably would require.
Problem #2: Giving in to fear over trusting in hope
I’ve received mailers and heard people argue the following: The Supreme Court is up for grabs and we need to grab it before the other side does! The Constitution is up for grabs and we need to protect our approach to it! The abortion issue is up for grabs and we have to vote a certain way to protect reproductive rights or the rights of the unborn! (I have a wide range of friends.)
All of these are fear-based and few of them have anything to do with what will actually happen.
For two decades, Republicans had played the abortion card and said, in effect: If you give us the presidency and majorities in Congress, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, we’ll get rid of abortion. And Democrats had said: If we give it to them, we’ll have to go back to wire hangers. Well, for two years during George W. Bush’s presidency, all four boxes were checked. And were the fears of reproductive rights promoters realized? Nope. Not one piece of legislation was introduced on the national level and not one legal case brought to the Supreme Court.
Fears have a way of not being realized. Don’t let fear make your decisions. (We’ll get to vote again in another four years anyway.)
Problem #3: Making decisions based on today’s feelings over tomorrow’s needs
It’s just a bad decision-making procedure to base our decisions on current feelings over tomorrow’s needs.
Car dealers try to do this to us. They get us into cars, test driving them and getting the feel for them. And then we end up with payments we can’t afford.
I do this with food, too. I decide that I’m going to only eat one cookie at the party and end up eating a dozen (or more). The current desire for buttery sweetness trumps the need to lose weight.
If we vote out of a sense of urgency about what has to happen right now, we’re going to cut corners on what truly needs to happen over the long haul for the sake of the future.
Collapsing the future into an immediate vote (“The whole future rides on this one vote”) is just plain wrong. This isn’t an all-or-nothing vote. History is a catalog of humanity surviving a long list of mediocre and bad regimes. It’s also a catalog of people working hard to bring about new and better things. If we need to survive a few bad Presidents in order to work for a renewed and better Union, let’s do it.
Problem #4: Falsely limiting our options
This is another bad decision-making procedure. (For a great read on the best ways to make decisions, check out Chip and Dan Heath’s book Decisive. It’s brilliant and may just change your life. Really.) One of the things the Heath brothers point out is that most of our either/or decisions are false limits.
Good decision making refuses to be pulled into binary options.
If I’m at the store and I see a shirt I like but feel conflicted because of its cost, my question doesn’t need to be “Do I buy a shirt or not?” It can be “Are there other shirts I like just as much but are within my budget?” As an old teacher of mine said on an almost daily basis: “You always have options.”
Just because we’re told that we have to vote for one of two options doesn’t mean that’s true. There are actually plenty of other options to vote for — yes, there are other people running for President. Sure, the other options probably won’t win this time around. But aren’t there things worth fighting for that will lose many times over before they find success? This is not throwing away your vote. It’s making a downpayment on the future.
Again, there are not just two choices. That is a lie told by the two major parties to maintain their power. As long as we keep believing that lie, we sustain their power. Remember, they only win elections because people keep thinking they are the only options. If we don’t vote for them and our number increase over time, they won’t win.
Don’t limit your options. Don’t sell your soul. Be willing to struggle and lose along the way. Be hopeful. Invest in the future. Trust God.