Today I will do what I originally intended NOT to do, and that is wade into the quagmire that is the American Presidential election. The outcome of the election matters not only to those who vote in it, but since the winner will be the most powerful person in the world, it matters to all of us.
To say that it has been and is a vicious campaign is an understatement. A seasoned American journalist said after the second debate on October 9 , “this kind of thing goes on in a banana republic, but this is the United States of America!” And after last night’s debate, which began in a civil manner but quickly deteriorated to the usual mud-slinging of untruths, commentators are saying that Americans have reached an unprecedented low in American politics, where one of the contenders on stage refused to confirm that he would accept the verdict of the electorate.
What makes this election so troublesome is that neither of the two candidates of the two major parties is morally fit to occupy the White House, and wield the power that goes with it. The character, or shall I say that lack thereof of Donald Trump has dominated the news. While many of the racist, sexist comments are outrageous, the most disturbing thing is how Donald Trump manipulates, reinvents and ignores the truth. Whether the subject is climate change, ISIS, past foreign policy, or anything else, Mr. Trump has his own reality: the truth according to Donald Trump. The list of lies that he has told is far too lengthy to reproduce here, but here is an example of the fact-checking that confirms this.
As theologian Wayne Grudem has written, “Hillary Clinton is no better. She vilified the victims of Bill Clinton’s sexual advances; she abandoned our diplomats to be killed by terrorists in Benghazi and then lied about it; she illegally handled classified emails on her private server and put national security at risk; she left much of the world in chaos after four years as Secretary of State; and she has a lifelong pattern of acting as if she is above the law, protected by the Obama administration’s Justice Department, the FBI, and the mainstream media”.
It is no small wonder that American voters are confused if not hard pressed to make a choice between these two front running candidates. Along with the rest of the world, many are wondering that with an American population of 324,824,839 how it is that the two major parties could come up with these two candidates for the office of President. The easy answer is that both of them have had their eye on the White House for a long time, and both have the financial means to pursue this prize. It seems that the White House is for sale to the highest bidder and that is sad.
The outcome of the election is impossible to predict, although Trump is trailing in the polls. However, polls have been wrong in the past, and anything can happen. Here are some things that will almost certainly happen on November 8:
- Some voters will vote along party lines, no matter what. In other words some will vote Republican or Democrat because that is the way they, and perhaps their ancestors before them have always voted. We have voters like that in Canada too. I remember one of my barbers telling me about his father, a staunch Conservative. Whenever the Liberal Party was in power, he would hang mourning crepe in his house and wear a black mourning band. Party ideology means everthing, regardless of the human being out front.
- Some voters are single issue voters. In other words people who cherish their guns and the “right to bear arms” will go with Donald Trump, as will many of those whose beliefs mesh with the bigoted, racist remarks that their candidate has made. On the other hand, feminists and those firmly in favour of abortion will side with Hillary Clinton. Whatever else the candidate believes about foreign policy, or the economy, or whatever doesn’t matter to these voters.
- Some voters will try to mix and match their religious and their political beliefs. An important wild card in American politics is known by different names: “the religious right”, or “the evangelical vote”. While some have tried to organize something similar in Canadian politics, it has never been unified here. But in US politics this is a formidable power that no candidate ignores. Both Clinton and Trump have tried to pander to the people of faith. Incredibly, Donald Trump actually has a “religious advisor” and an “evangelical advisor” on his campaign team. The latter is televangelist Ken Copeland.
- Some will vote for what they perceive as the “Lessor of Two Evils”. People know that whoever becomes president will have the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court of the United States. To evangelicals and other pro-life voters, Trump is waving the flag that he will appoint conservative leaning justices who will reverse Roe v. Wade, the court decision that permits abortions. Hillary Clinton is promising the opposite – to appoint liberal-leaning justices who will not only uphold Roe v. Wade, but ensure that the court has a liberal slant for years, perhaps decades to come. So the argument goes: what kind of America do voters want? They should therefore overlook the weaknesses or flaws of the candidates and vote for the one who will best promote the causes that the particular voter favours. In an initial statement, theologian Wayne Grudem advocated doing precisely that. Other evangelical leaders have gone on the record as supporting Donald Trump for the same reasons. Grudem has since reversed himself and said he would not vote for Donald Trump, and apologized for his earlier position. I will say only that I find the practice of combining one’s faith with a political view, as the “Religious Right” movement in the US advocates very disturbing, and that whole problem would be enough fodder for another discussion.
- Some voters have said that they will “sit out” this election, that is they will not vote at all. While they will not have a direct say in the outcome of the election, they may indirectly help one or the other candidate, depending on how the numbers pan out.
- Some voters will either spoil their ballot, or use the “write in option”. The “write in option” does not exist in Canada as far as I know. Writing in a name other than those printed on the ballot will spoil your ballot in our country, but Americans apparently have that option. They can also vote for other names that are on the ballot, and apparently there are two other candidates running for president, although most certainly neither of them will become president. But it does give voters an option. Again, depending on how many traditional Republican or Democrat voters are pulled away from their favourite party to these fringe candidates, that could affect the outcome, but not necessarily in the way the voter would want.
So with all of these factors, what is a voter to do? I certainly would be the last person to tell anyone how to vote. In a democracy, the secret ballot is a sacred secret between ourselves and our conscience. Certainly, Christian voters would be well advised to pray for guidance. Speaking for myself, there have been times when I didn’t decide how to vote until I entered the polling booth, (and even changed my mind). I know I am not alone here, so for those reasons I am not going to predict the outcome of November 8. Either way, I think there are dark times ahead for us all.