The US presidential election – how do you choose?

I’ve posted a couple of articles about the US Presidential election already and I’ll probably include a few more as we get closer to the 2nd November.  Although I’m posting from Britain, I do get some US readers and there are of course some American citizens entitled to vote who live here (although they will probably have needed to send in their postal votes already). Also, the comments I make here will hopefully have wider implications.

First of all, it is worth remembering that this election is about choosing a specific person to do a job.  This is different to a UK style General Election or US congressional and senate elections where your vote contributes towards a party being able to build a platform for their policies. However it is similar to the mayoral elections coming up in the next year or so for London, Greater Manchester and The West Midlands.  This means that personality matters, so as I argued the other day in support of John Piper’s position, character and personality come before party and individual policy proposals. In effect you are interviewing someone for a job. You want to know if they are competent for the job and will show the integrity and strength of character to do it well.

Secondly, do look at their whole platform not just at individual policies. Do you think that your country or city is likely to be better off in 4 years as a result of what they are planning to do? This isn’t just about people being economically better off. How will your choice affect the culture and moral fibre of the society around you? Whilst you should be looking at the whole programme, there may well be policies they are proposing that go so far against scripture that the laws they plan to implement will create a conflict between God’s law and human law.  If that’s the case, just as if there is something significant about their character then don’t compromise and don’t push others to compromise.

Bothering to vote isn’t all that matters. We often have “get out the vote” campaigns where religious leaders and celebrities tell people that all they care about is that people bother to turn up and vote. That can’t be right can it. In the UK we have a few smallish parties on the extremes committed to racist policies, we also have Marxist influenced parties that long for the day of violent uprising and then occasionally someone will set up some weird “spiritual party” – remember the Natural Law Party and its political broadcast that was just a bunch of men trying to levitate for five minutes? So I think it’s actually quite disingenuous to say “I just care that you vote and not who you vote for, we all do care.”

This takes us to my third recommendation. It is okay to refuse the dilemma. Many of you will know that I was one of a number of people who could not in good conscience vote for either party at the last election. Questions about moral character, competence and a pretty strained relationship with the truth put me off of the Prime Minister. At the same time, even if I was warmer towards Jeremy Corbyn’s policy platform, I could not protest the horrendous immigration policy of the Tories without also protesting against the tacit encouragement of anti-Semitism that we were seeing from the hard-left.

Some people will have watched the Presidential debates and will be struggling to choose in this election too. So, here are three options if you want to make it clear that you are unhappy with the choice set before you.

  1. Vote for a third party. If you are not happy with the main two options, then this is not a wasted vote. A wasted vote is checking the name of someone on a ballot paper that you don’t really want to get the job.
  2. Write in an alternative candidate’s name. This is something you can do in the States but not in the UK.  Over on twitter there has been a rather enjoyable social media campaign to elect a young Australian @realandreac and I must admit it would make my day if there was a major surprise on polling day and complete unknown is suddenly up there in the running. However, even if not, again your vote has not been wasted because you have signalled a clear preference for something different.
  3. Spoil your paper. In some countries this is the only option after voting for a third party. In others you can tick to “re-open nominations.”  This sends a stronger signal yet to those who hold power that you are unhappy with the choice placed in front of you.  Writing in a name says “the choice is so bad, I’ll go and find a better candidate.” However, spoiling your ballot paper says “The choice is so bad and no, it is not my job to go and sort things out for you.”

However,  you choose to vote in the election, do so prayerfully and to God’s glory. For the many more of us around the world who don’t have a vote in this election, let’s commit ourselves to prayer for the US and when our time comes around again, let’s resolve to vote wisely and for God’s glory.

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