It has been with a mix of bemusement and pained resignation that I have watched the sadly predictable torrent of vitriol flood social media since election night revealed its astonishing plot twist. Predictable, since, as I’ve noted before, those who seem to live their lives wrapped in a Teflon banner of 21st century-style “tolerance” are too often among the most intolerant people out there. They’ll tolerate anyone or anything - so long as it in no way conflicts with or falls short of condoning and praising every tenant of their belief set. “My way or the highway,“ to borrow an old-school phrase.
To judge from the venting since The Clinton Coronation went down in the flames of populist revolt, you’d think David Duke was our president-elect, with the inauguration taking place at the warped Westboro Baptist Church. Good grief.
There is, of course, no shortage of opinion over why things played out the way they did, and what lies ahead. I am no exception.
I was surprised, but not stunned, that Trump won. Part of it may simply be cyclical. Typically, it seems, eight years of steering The Good Ship America in one direction leads to an inevitable course correction. Certainly not the first time it’s played out that way, anyway. But deeper than that, I feel this was a clear repudiation of some of what was forced upon us over the last eight years, and the anticipated continuation of those policies during a “Clinton 2.0” administration.
And what to make of this ad-lib revolution? Well, count me among those ‘revolutionaries’ weary of my demographic being branded as no more than a bunch of bigoted, homophobic, Islamophobic, war-mongering, holier-than-thou, outdated relics of unenlightened, uneducated thinking — particularly by people who don’t know me whatsoever on a personal level. As part of the ‘new oppressed minority’ — middle-aged white evangelicals — I’d simply like to be understood…and have my reasoning and beliefs, you know…tolerated.
Judging individuals with an overly broad brush is a slippery slope. Take the anti-Trump protests which erupted after the election. Should I lump every liberal Clinton supporter in with those who burned flags, assaulted passersby and vandalized property? That seems unreasonable to me — every bit as unreasonable as lumping every person who didn’t vote for her in with the racist/misogynist crowd.
I’m blessed with a lot of caring, passionate liberal friends and family members, whose core motives I have no reason to question. Yes, I passionately disagree with them on some key issues, but I do so with the belief that they are motivated by the same genuine care and concern for their fellow citizens that motivates me.
For those who just can’t understand why anyone would vote for Trump over Clinton, allow me to attempt to lend some clarity.
I’m one of what I suspect is a very large group that struggled mightily with this election. Never before have both major parties performed so poorly in presenting a palatable presidential candidate. Egregious flaws which have existed in each party’s selection process were fully exposed, and the result was painful. I remained a staunch independent from age 18 until a few years ago when I finally tired of being shut out of the primary process. I registered conservative, but that didn’t allow me meaningful entry into the primary process, either, so I registered Republican to at least have a voice. And, as noted in a prior blog, that’s the extent of my influence here in the blue State of New York. (Perhaps the angst over the close popular/electoral vote split this time around will at least spur much-overdue reform toward a one person/one vote system…though I have to wonder how vocal the Barbara Boxers of the world would be about this if Clinton had won.)
Anyway, for me and many others, this vote came down to a few key core issues — foreign policy, such as the chance to rescind the absolutely disastrous Iran nuclear treaty, and the implications of anticipated SCOTUS appointments being two of them — and which party most closely aligned with my beliefs. It didn’t come down as much to the candidates themselves, since I found them equally unsavory. Am I concerned about Donald Trump’s credentials and core beliefs? You bet I am. Ironically, some of my concerns about him as a person come down to the fact that, in prior decades, he leaned decidedly more liberal that he portrayed himself during his campaign. He really does seem to be an enigma, and I doubt anyone outside of his inner circle has that much of a clue yet how his administration will truly play out. Clinton, by contrast, would’ve been as predictable as sunset.
So, to borrow an old George Bush line: “Read my lips.” I, albeit reluctantly, voted for Donald Trump, and it was a reasoned decision made by a college graduate. I’m not a racist, I’m not a misogynist. I harbor no inherent bias against a woman being president; Golda Meir convinced me a woman can effectively lead a long time ago. I care about all people, I care deeply about our country, which is in more trouble right now than it’s ever been in. But also, please know this: I care even more deeply about my faith, and I don’t see my love of country and that faith as somehow mutually exclusive. Rather, I see them as inseparable. The forced divorce of America from its foundational Judeo-Christian beliefs and ethics is now many decades old, and I don’t think it’s going very well. I’d say it’s time for a course correction there as well, and if holding my nose and coloring in the circle next to “Trump” is ultimately a step in that direction, then it will prove to be the right move.
Right off the bat, I confess that I approach this nearly farcical presidential election with a great deal of resignation, owing to the reality that, as a non-Democrat in the State of New York, my individual vote will almost certainly mean absolutely nothing on election night. The white elephant that is the Electoral College system will once again see to that. I will cast my vote knowing that I might as well be casting it into an bottomless abyss. I pray that ‘one person, one vote’ electoral reform will one day gain the traction required to rid our nation of this tremendous flaw in our system. If you want to learn more about that reform effort, I commend to you www.nationalpopularvote.com
That said, I, along with many Christian voters, have struggled mightily this year to discern for whom it is I should cast my symbolic vote. My heart tells me that ours is a nation under supreme judgement. I certainly seem to have some company in that view.
Russell Moore, public policy point man for the Southern Baptist Convention, recently told The Washington Post: “What I expect the primary question from evangelicals is: ‘What do we do in terms of voting in November?’ That hasn’t been it. It’s been: ‘Does this mean America is under the judgement of God?’” Added Moore: “There’s a kind of person for whom every year seems like an End Times novel. This year has even sober-minded people feeling they are in an End Times novel.”
Amen to that.
Once upon a time, in a famous Harvard commencement speech, Soviet dissident
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “There are meaningful warnings which history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen.”
Check…and check. And yet, futile or not...symbolic or not...I, like every other voter, must make a choice.
I guess this is just a side-effect of being 56, but my difficulty in reaching a Clinton vs. Trump decision is most definitely not due to lack of information about them. The body of work on both of them stretches back for decades. Both have clearly shown their true colors over the years, and it’s not a pretty picture they’ve painted in either case. I heavily discount what they - or anyone actively campaigning for office - says in the days running up to the election. What they say & do before they’re running for office speaks much louder to me.
The first time I was allowed to vote for president, it was Carter vs Reagan in 1980. I’m pretty sure I voted for Carter, who lost in a landslide. In 20-20 hindsight, that may have been the last time - or at least the clearest time - that we were at least offered two qualified candidates of high moral character from which to choose.
That sure as shootin’ isn’t the case this time around.
The more I’ve studied this sorry situation - particularly through the lens of scripture - it has become, for me, not so much battle of those two unsavory individuals, but rather a choice between fundamentally opposed ideologies.
I think that underlying reality has been a significant source of the unprecedented vitriol we’ve witnessed this time around. All of their polarizing personalities aside for a moment, I think it’s fair to say, no matter which side you come down on, that Clinton and Trump present almost mutually exclusive choices on the direction of this nation. From foreign policy philosophy to the crucial role the U.S. Supreme Court will play in decades to come, this election, for me, anyway, comes down even more to that that it does to the unfortunate choices each major party made to bear their respective banners.
So upon that basis I will cast my symbolic vote. And then I will go home, and take a badly-needed shower.
But come Wednesday morning, whatever the news may bring, I will take palpable solace in the reality that God is still in control.
Christian commentator John Stonestreet summed it up so well:
"First and foremost, the ultimate reality is this: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead...This is not just a spiritual truth, it is the singular truth of the universe. The entire story of human history centers on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Yes, we have two horrible candidates for the presidency. Yes, Supreme Court seats are at stake. Yes, the Church is coming under enormous and fiendish pressure from all sides.
But none of that, not an iota, changes the fact that Christ is risen. To be a Christian in this world means to place our ultimate hope in that incontrovertible fact, not in the electoral process, in our nation, or in anything else."