As I’m sure many others have, I’ve had a tough time figuring out what I’m going to do this election. To not vote? Or to vote and maybe compromise some on my standards for the office(s) I’d be voting for?
The reality is that, when we vote, we choose the best of the options we are given and participate in the right to say who we’d rather have as an elected official. A vote is not necessarily meant to be equated to an “I fully support or endorse this candidate and everything that they do” moment. Although, to some, this may be what that means. Rather, to many it is an “I am going to participate in my right to vote for who I would prefer in this office rather than have no say in this election” moment. If you care about policy and character at all in a candidate, then there will likely always be a compromise of your personal standards on policy or character when voting. I can’t think of many people who would really line up near perfectly with the record, character, or platform I’d personally prefer them to have.
For me, it is clear that the options for the Presidential race have very different political records, personalities, and platforms. Personally, I take issue with some things that each candidate’s ticket brings to the table. Some more than others. And this is the case for my state level elections as well. If you will be participating in voting (especially for the presidency), then I think that all of these main categories should be weighed:
Policy, Moral Judgment & Character, Political Record, Promises & Plan, Fitness for Office, and the same questions for their running mate.
If you have mostly only seen video clips from the media, followed certain biased sources, and heard radio shows in agreement with you about a certain candidate and have made up your mind that you want to vote for that person without reviewing and researching their policies, record, and evidence for any claims for or against them, then I think this should cause you to take a pause before voting. You certainly have the right to vote, of course, but this is evidence that you may not be thinking critically about the issues. So think & research a bit, then go vote. Don’t just ignore the other candidates because of their party or the allegations you’ve heard against them. If anything, this is an opportunity to seek some understanding of what each candidate stands for, even if you likely won’t agree with most of their platform. This is also an opportunity for you to find the best recollection of the truth of allegations about them or their record that will inform your decision.
Here are some things I think are imperative for each person who will be participating in this years election to realize, whether they are left-leaning, very left, right-leaning, very right, or in the middle somewhere:
1) You are not defined by this election. Life will go on. You may feel as if you are compromising your standards in some way by voting for someone who doesn’t meet them as perfectly you’d like. However, a vote for a candidate does not necessarily mean that you are endorsing those things that you don’t like about them. You are in essence saying, “this person has my vote over and above the other for the purposes of carrying out the responsibility of the office in question”. A vote is a choice between options, oftentimes imperfect ones. And if you do not think that you can be content with a sense of responsibility for the outcome of a political race after looking into the options, or if you feel that the candidates have not earned your vote, then it is respectable if you abstain from voting.
2) Don’t be controlled by fear. There are some people who are provoking fear and anger in others to try and sway them to their side or deter voters who may support the other candidate(s). I fear that because these things have been enabled in many ways by the culture and media, that there will be some sort of unrest after the election regardless of the winner. The sad thing is that I think the majority of any unrest would be caused by, not serious rational reflection or justification, but by an emotional reaction based on the fear and anger that some of those in power have propagated. Fear tactics and threats of social “cancellation” have no place in healthy political discussion.
3) Be a civil and responsible citizen. Temper tantrums with crime and looting because your party did not get their way in a civil and (I hope) fair election should be detested. Unfortunately, with Antifa and other “protestors” being allowed to recently tear businesses down, brutally attack people, and incite riots that have even resulted in death, this mindset has become somewhat normalized.
The forces at work within culture have been geared toward inciting people to react before thinking, which has a cost. I think that we do have rights and certain freedoms to protest and have civil debate, but we don’t have so much freedom of expression that we have complete free reign in our country to do whatever we’d like at the cost of the livelihood of others. Unchecked anger and anarchy is very different from civil protest and debate.
We are not “totally” free either. We should defend different categories of freedom, but understand that freedom and rights are unavoidably limited by government in some ways. Also, being a “law-abiding citizen” shouldn’t act as a security blanket for immoral and prejudice behaviors. Freedoms and rights established by the government are not always one and the same with what is actually morally good. There are always limitations to our freedoms, and usually, for good reason. What would sinful and imperfect people do with “total” freedom? Would they create and sustain a utopia of individualism and humanitarian effort? Don’t count on it.
To those extremists on the left and right, if your preferred party or candidate doesn’t win, then grow up and take the loss like everyone else.
4) Think before you vote. You have a God-given gift of critical thinking and reason to decide what is best for you, your country, and community. So use it.
There are forces at work on every side that are trying to convince you that you will be defined by, and have your value to society and character judged by, how you vote. The only judge of our character ultimately is God, and He is who we will need to give an account of our lives to.
5) Don’t be a bully, and don’t stand by and let bullies have their way. There are many people who are employing fear tactics and hateful rhetoric that would like to see this country divided for the sake of political power. Don’t buy into it.
If you, no matter what side you agree with most, are threatening getting rid of others from your life who have a disagreement on the issues with you, or even threatening violence on those with differing opinions, then I have a question for you. What makes you different from an arrogant bully? Stop and ask yourself: Am I thinking clearly and fairly? How would I feel if someone said that to me? If you are threatening others for their beliefs alone (especially if they intend no harm by them), then it may be that you have been saturated by an ideological force at a very unhealthy level. So stop. Breathe. And use your noggin.
6) Your convictions matter. If you are going to vote, then there are many important issues on the ballot to think through. And if we claim to have a conviction on an issue, then there should be some rational analysis on our part before championing that conviction. We should seek an understanding of our view and other views so that we can identify why we are convinced that our view is more well reasoned.
Not all issues and policies have the same implications and moral weight. For instance, while the issue of abortion is a hot button topic, it is so for a reason. I care about a lot of issues very deeply, but since millions of babies have been killed in the womb in our country in the name of women’s choice and abortion-on-demand industry, then this is certainly more weighty to me than how someone wants to upgrade industry or infrastructure around the country.
Furthermore, since Planned Parenthood is responsible for a large amount of black babies being aborted and was created by a complete and total racist who wanted to target black neighborhoods (Margaret Sanger), then this ties racial injustice into the topic of abortion, which is another important issue for me. Furthermore, the fact that churches were pretty much forced to shut down for months during the pandemic but Planned Parenthood’s have remained open for business (targeting black neighborhoods) has been incredibly concerning to me. This ties into other important issues such as my concern for religious liberty.
And on this point, some may disagree. But maybe my reasoning should at least help you understand my position on this issue and what I mean when I say “implications & moral weight” differ on issues. In short, if you don’t think an unborn baby is a human child in the womb, most scientists and God would disagree with you. If you don’t think they should have rights just as the mother does simply because they are still in the womb and unable to have a voice, then, in my view, that is a very hypocritical argument. And lastly, you and I were both babies in the womb, so would you be alive today if you were aborted? The answer should make this obvious and also point out that some issues, such as abortion, have larger moral implications than others.
Those who disagree with me on this do so because, more often than not, they really are convinced that an unborn child is not a human, or at least has not yet attained “personhood”, and they don’t want to take away the ability and convenience of a woman having a choice in doing what they view as terminating a pregnancy (the developing baby being part of their body).
The above exercise can be done for any issue. Reason through why you believe what you believe, consider its implications and/or moral weight, and seek to understand the opposing positions as well.
The likelihood is that there are two or three issues/policies that everyone really focuses on a little more than a lot of the others depending on their convictions, insight, or experiences. And this is ok. But, let’s consider the whole picture as well. However, this doesn’t mean that one must set aside what they care about most.
Regardless of what you decide to do (or already did) for this election, do not be controlled by fear. Think critically about the issues and what matters. Seek truth. Do what you are convicted is best for you, your community, and your country.
Vote (or don’t). Breathe. The election and its results are temporary. We are accountable to God for what we do on Election Day and how we react to the results. So be wise and be kind.