This post is taken from a conversation that I had on Facebook with a friend, who is a Mormon (as I am) wherein I tried to explain to my best ability why I’d vote for a third party. It’s a rough argument, but it’s also a Facebook response. It’s got room to grow.
Warning: A whole lotta religion and personal belief follows. I spend very little time being funny and a lot of time being uncomfortably serious in this post. Trust me- it wasn’t easy.
Voting McMullin is a long-term strategy. I know he’s going to lose. I am ok with this (as far as being ok with my candidate losing, or Trump surging in Utah goes…)
I’m not talking about making a statement for the sake of making a statement. I’m talking about apprising the GOP that if they want my vote in the future, they’re going to have to take me and my principles seriously. By withholding my vote from both Clinton and Trump, I’m saying “I expect more from my candidates. In the future, I will continue to vote elsewhere until you guys get your acts together and present me with something worth voting for.”
Trump’s distasteful personality vs. Clinton’s criminal acts
I keep hearing people say “Trump said things but Clinton DID things.” The insinuation is that Trump simply speaks poorly, but that Clinton has been verifiably criminal. The next logical insinuation is that Clinton is therefore “worse” than Trump. I don’t understand this. If you don’t believe that Trump is not guilty of criminal acts (Google search: “trump and the law” and read about 75 separate lawsuits against Trump), then it might be easier to get back to something you and I agree on: “As a man thinketh, so is he…” This is found in Proverbs. If you believe that there is no act that Trump is guilty of, except in word, then consider that the way that Trump speaks is the way he thinks and that, as he thinks, so is he.
“The stakes have never been higher” and voting out of fear
Each and every election year, we hear the same phrases: “The stakes have never been higher.” “Now is not the time to vote your conscience.” Etc. With this mentality, we’ll be stuck in this cycle forever. Every election year that we don’t say, “Vote your conscience” or “Vote for who represents you”, we further embed into our political system a habit of non-reform and send a message to both major parties that we will vote for the frontrunner of our own party, REGARDLESS of how they’ve lived their personal lives and in a lot of cases, regardless of their past policies.
Right now, by voting Trump, republicans are saying, “Send us a filthy-mouthed, womanizing, dishonest-in-business xenophobic candidate and we’ll vote for him.” By voting Clinton Democrats are saying “Send us an election-tweaking, corruption-mired public servant, private server-holding candidate and we will vote for her.” There is no line in the sand. We simply tell ourselves that we’ve done our best and that our only hope is to “block” the other bad guy from taking office. We vote out of fear and not out of duty to our principles.
I don’t want Clinton to win; But I don’t want Trump to win even more
Some of us see Trump as a greater threat than Clinton. We see a man who can’t go a couple of days without losing his temper and “going off”. We see a man who is unhinged and literally needs to remind himself verbally at the microphone to “stay on point.” Sure we despise Clinton. Some of us (like me) were furious with what her campaign did to Bernie Sanders. I was a Sanders supporter (long story, if you’re interested, but I’ll skip it, for now.) So I’ve been accused of wanting to see Clinton go into office. This is not true. I wish people would stop saying it.
Doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult
Well-meaning adults spent a great deal of time in my youth, teaching me that sometimes we need to do the right thing, even when it seems to hurt us. For instance, I was taught that if I get into a situation at school where I haven’t put myself into position to do well on a test, it’s not ok to cheat off of another classmate. We tell the story of a kid who didn’t cheat, but ultimately received a poor mark on his test- and we celebrate the personal integrity of this student. The reason that this is an important lesson, is because we know that a student who doesn’t cheat on a test (even when it means a personal, yet temporary defeat) will ultimately grow up to be true to himself, which will of course serve his family and community well.
But right now I hear people saying, “Look, you need to vote for the sleaze-ball (Trump or Clinton), even though there’s a perfectly decent man who is running for office (let’s use McMullin in this example, although surely there are other decent people), because he doesn’t have a chance of winning.” In my opinion we are turning our backs on the lessons of our youth and saying to ourselves, “Well in this case, it’s different because the stakes have never been higher”. All of a sudden it isn’t how we play the game; it’s whether we win or lose. All of a sudden, it’s ok to cheat on the test, because if we don’t pass, we’ll never get into medical school. Sure we wouldn’t cheat on other, lesser tests, but this one- this is critical, we tell ourselves.
If we continue to elect people who don’t reflect our values, we will never be represented
I believe that my freedom is best exercised when I vote for a person who represents me. If my values are most-closely reflected in a Trump or Clinton, then I am best served when I vote for whichever one aligns with my principles. But if neither do a decent job of representing me, and a McMullin is available for election (and does represent me), I’m best served by voting for him.
Voting for the long-term future and shirking a party, if needed
In Helaman, chapter 2, verse 5 (Book of Mormon), it reads:
“For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.”
It never occurred to me before, but I wonder if it’s possible that, in this verse, the people who “chose evil” were well-meaning citizens, that chose evil over good, simply because they were afraid. But in this verse, there is still a small group of people who chose good. They chose good, even though they were in the minority. It was the right thing for them to do. They literally chose to lose for the sake of choosing the right. The did not align themselves with the majority. I wonder if they did this, even though the stakes had “never been higher”.
I don’t share this to say that this candidate or that candidate is the right or the wrong candidate. I use this to illustrate that those of us who are choosing someone who we believe to not be the best candidate, simply because we are fearful, should reconsider the advice laid out in the Book of Mormon.
Steadying the ark
Another possible analogy, which may or may not hold water, is the lesson in the 2 Samuel, about steadying the ark. In this analogy, a well-meaning Uzzah puts forth his hand to steady the holy ark of the Lord, even though a strict commandment forbade touching the ark at all. Uzzah was concerned that without intervention, a stumbling ox would cause the ark to fall. So he made a judgement call and tried to steady it, rather than do what he already knew was right.
This story is used to illustrate that even though we may be fearful and well-meaning, our first call is to uphold our principles and obey God’s commandments and let the chips fall where they may. This election is no different to me. We have been called upon to elect wise and righteous people, who represent good principles and sound judgement.
There is an LDS (I think?) hymn that goes:
Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.
God will protect you; then do what is right!
Let’s consider the long-term, both spiritually and civically. As long as we continue to vote for subpar leaders, both major parties will continue to select subpar candidates for our consideration. We can and should do better than this. And since I actually do believe the stakes have never been higher, there is no time like the present to lay the groundwork for our country’s future, by voting for a “losing” candidate.
Let’s not reach out to steady the ark by voting out of fear. Let’s do what is right and let the consequence follow. God will protect us.