When Americans go to the voting booth on November 8, 2016, we are facing a choice like we have never seen before in our history. As people of faith in our country, it is the responsibility of Christians to be a light reflecting the value system Christ brought to earth into our nation.
In order to be that light, we need to know what the Bible teaches about the issues we will be deciding in that voting booth. We also need to know how the American government and political system works. If we do not learn these things for ourselves, then we will never be more than pawns being manipulated by the people who we let tell us what to think.
As Jesus famously taught,
“If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump in 2016
The 2016 presidential election is like no other in American history. History is watching as we make this decision.
In a typical American election, we are deciding between candidates who are closely aligned with the policies of their political party. By voting for the candidate of our party, we are voting for our party’s positions on each of the ten major policy issues shown on Day 7 of this series. That is not true in this election.
On the Democratic side, we have an election like pretty much every other American presidential election. The Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton, is closely aligned with mainstream Democratic policies. The strength of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries pushed Clinton’s policies to the Left of what they would likely have been without his influence. Still, they are solidly in the Democratic tradition and align closely with the original Federalist approach to government.
On the Republican side, we have a candidate who is completely outside the norms of any other candidate in American history. His policies are deeply at odds with much of what has been Republican orthodoxy for a generation. Furthermore, many of his most forceful policy pronouncements have been at odds with American ideals of government from both parties. In a number of high profile cases, they have been clearly unconstitutional.
Of the two presidential candidates in 2016, Hillary Clinton is the easiest to discuss. Whether you like or hate Hillary Clinton, we know exactly what we will get if she becomes president. She will be a classic Democratic president, in the mold of Kennedy, Johnson and Obama. If anything, she is more of a known quantity than most because we can look at the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama presidencies, of which she was a part.
Democratic Politics as Usual
Hillary Clinton is firmly established in the Liberal / Progressive tradition of Democratic politics. She has posted extensive details about the policy proposals she will seek to enact on her website. Also, she has a long record in government that is consistent with those proposals.
There is no uncertainty about what she will do as president. Her policy proposals are all center or center-left Democratic policies in alignment with policies the Democratic Party has been promoting for literally 100 years, since Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1912.
Being a former Senator, Secretary of State and the wife of a former president and deeply entrenched in the leadership of the Democratic Party will let her draw on all the best and brightest leaders in Democratic Politics to join her cabinet and serve as advisers.
There really isn’t much more to say than that. We know exactly what we will get.
We must each decide if we think mainstream Democratic policies are good for America. Many people do not. We must also decide if we think she is trustworthy enough to carry out those policies faithfully on behalf of the American people. Many people do not.
On the one hand, Hillary Clinton has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to certain ideals consistent with her Methodist upbringing. She has spent her entire adult life working to support the causes of women and children. Consistent with the Protestant work ethic, she has worked hard, studied and prepared to excel in everything she has set her mind to accomplish. Her preferred approach to solving problems has been to build consensus, including co-sponsoring bills with 57 out of 65 Republican Senators.
On the other hand, there are serious concerns about her trustworthiness. Since 1992, everyone interested in American politics has known that Hillary Clinton was planning to run for president one day. Since then, there have been extensive efforts by the Republican Party and Conservative political operatives to uncover scandals. Recent high profile examples include her use of a private email server as Secretary of State and taking lavish speaking fees from Wall Street firms who she will be expected to regulate as president.
The pattern that emerges from these “Clinton Scandals” is one of an ambitious political player who is seeking power and works the system to get what she wants. These are things we hate about politicians in general. As bad as these scandals are, though, she is not very different from many of the men, from both parties, who have run for president throughout our history. Most Americans do not like politicians who elbow their way to the top and bend the rules to make things work their way. Still, in even the worst case scenario, with Hillary Clinton we would be getting a Democratic administration very much like the one we have today. Many Americans will not like it. But we can easily tell what it will be like.
We have had six Democratic presidents since WWII who have all followed agendas very similar to Hillary Clinton. We just need to look at the years when these presidents were in office to see what a Hillary Clinton presidency would look like: (Truman: 45-52, Kennedy: 61-63, Johnson: 63-68, Carter: 77-80, Clinton: 93-00, Obama: 09-present).
Many Christians believe strongly that Democratic policies are damaging to our nation. In a normal election year, a vote against the Democratic candidate would be a vote for Republican policies and a Republican vision for the nation. That is not true in this election.
Donald Trump is something completely new in American presidential politics.
In a typical presidential election, it is a safe bet to vote for the nominee of whichever party to which we belong. If we agree with what the party stands for, we can be pretty sure our candidate will stand for those things.
Donald Trump is not that candidate. We just need to look at how his own party is responding to see that he does not represent their views.
Not Republican Politics as Usual
In any other presidential election, the leaders of the Party have supported their Party’s nominee. This year, many leading figures in the Republican Party have stood up against Donald Trump. To some this may seem like a badge of honor for an outsider. But we must carefully consider what would it take to make lifetime politicians take a stand against the presidential nominee of their own party? Nothing like this has every happened before.
We must take seriously the testimony of Donald Trump’s own party leaders:
- Former Republican Presidents and Presidential Candidates
The former Republican Presidents and presidential candidates sat out the Republican National Convention nominating Donald Trump. George HW Bush has said he will vote for Hillary Clinton. Mitt Romney is actively working against Trump’s election. Only Bob Dole is saying he will vote for Trump as a show of support for his party.
- On The Economy
All of the living Economic Advisers to the president (45 of them), going back to Richard Nixon’s presidency, have been interviewed. Not one will support Trump. That includes every single living economic adviser to former Republican presidents.
- On National Security
50 leading Republican national security experts have come out strongly warning the country that Donald Trump would be “the most reckless president in American history.” George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has also come out against Trump.
The testimony of the leading experts in all fields of government and the economy, both Democratic and Republican, are aligned against Donald Trump. 75 former ambassadors and senior diplomats have issued a strong warning against Trump. Of the CEOs from America’s 100 largest corporations, not one is supporting Trump. Nothing like this has ever happened before in American history.
We have to ask ourselves, why have so many respected leaders in both parties felt compelled to break all protocol and warn the nation about how bad it would be to vote for this candidate?
At the very least, this shows that we cannot look to the years when Republican presidents were in office to see what a Trump presidency would look like. The leaders of the Republican Party themselves are warning us of how bad a Trump presidency would be.
Unlike Hillary Clinton, and most other presidential candidates in history, Donald Trump does not have a record to show us what he will do in office. We must look at his record as a businessman and judge him by his words about the things he says he will do as president.
This is where we find the reasons so many leaders of both political parties are raising alarm bells about a possible Trump presidency. Donald Trump comes across as a showman who is great as working his crowd. He finds themes that resonate with his audience and then keeps driving them home. The problem is that many of the themes that he has continually repeated throughout his campaign undermine some of the most cherished values of our American Democracy. In some cases they are demonstrably unconstitutional.
This is not an argument against Republicans or in favor of Democrats. Donald Trump represents something different than both. Together with many respected leaders from both parties, I believe he represents something extremely dangerous to the very core of who we are as the American people.
People often say what they like most about Donald Trump is he speaks his mind and says what he means. We have an abundance of statements from Donald Trump during this campaign. We can look at his own words to see what he believes and what kind of president he plans to be.
On the other hand, when Donald Trump says things that are outside the limits of what has ever been acceptable in American politics, many people say that he really doesn’t mean it. Since we have no record of what he has actually done in government, we cannot afford to ignore his own statements just because we think they do not make sense. We must take him at his word when he says things that disqualify him from being president of our country.
To keep it simple, we can look at three things we want and expect from our president.
1. The President Upholds the Constitution
Donald Trump has repeatedly shown that he not only does not know what the Constitution says, he has complete disdain for the most cherished principles of the American Rule of Law. He has repeatedly put both legislators and judges on warning that he will take actions against them if they do things he disagrees with. He repeatedly says that he will jail his political opponent when he gets into power. The literal heart and soul of our Constitution and our form of government is the separation of powers. The Legislative and Judicial branches are independent of the Executive. The vision Donald Trump has of government is one where a Monarch or Dictator can do whatever he wants and the other branches of government must bow to his will. This is the kind of government we did away with when we formed a free nation apart from the King of England. We should take him at his word when he says this is how he will lead.
He also has repeatedly attacked the press for fact-checking his statements and printing stories he disagrees with. He bars press from his rallies if they print things he does not like. He only does interviews with news media who say only good things about him. His vision of the press is one that is not free, but is a propaganda mouthpiece for the leader. The First Amendment was written to forever ban that view from American government.
He said that he would institute a religious test as a condition for entering our nation. He repeated it over and over again until people convinced him to stop saying it, because it obviously violated the First Amendment. Now he says he wants an “ideology test.” We should believe what he kept repeating when he was saying what he really wants to do.
If we take him at his word, it is clear that Donald Trump has no intention of following the Constitution when he becomes president. We really should take him at his word about this.
2. The President Leads the World’s Strongest Nation as a Light to the Rest of the World
Donald Trump has often praised Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB Director who even now has invaded the Ukraine and is occupying their territory. He has said Putin is a very strong leader and much better than our own president. He has said that if Putin tries to take the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) that he reserves the right to turn our backs on NATO and let Putin have them. At the same time, Donald Trump made as his campaign manager someone who was instrumental in setting up the pro-Russian puppet government of the Ukraine.
Donald Trump has also praised Saddam Hussein, saying, he was strong on terrorism. But there were no terrorists in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. He committed genocide against the Kurds using chemical weapons and called them terrorists. Following the leadership model of Saddam Hussein, Donald Trump has said we need to use even stronger forms of torture than waterboarding and kill the families of our enemies.
These things cut so deeply against everything we have always stood for as a nation that it is almost impossible for Americans to believe it could happen. Many Americans are choosing to ignore it.
We should believe him when he says things like this. Taken together with this complete disdain for following the American Constitution, we should be very concerned when he also gives such high praise to the leadership style of dictators.
3. The President Sets Precedent for Governing in the Future
Donald Trump has made his entire campaign about fear of a strange religion who are against our ways and fear of foreigners who have bad moral character and are hurting our economy. He constantly repeats degrading racial stereotypes about African American communities. When asked how he would heal racial tensions in the country, his answer was to use “Stop and Frisk” policing in all American cities. Stop and Frisk is the unconstitutional tactic where police officers racially profile and randomly stop and frisk people of color.
Illegal immigration and violent crime have been falling every year during the Obama administration. Yet Donald Trump constantly says they are the worst they’ve ever been. He has told us that only he is strong enough to take matters into his own hands and deal with them. When told that the policies he proposes are unconstitutional, he just shrugs and keeps proposing them.
The guiding principle of his campaign has been to divide America into enemy camps who distrust and fear each other. He offers no practical solutions to any real problems facing our country. Instead he talks about building a wall to keep Mexicans out. He talks about creating an “ideology test” to keep Muslims out. He talks about Stop and Frisk policing to keep Black communities “safe”. Apparently, he hopes that his camp will be bigger than the enemy camps who he keeps telling them to fear and that is how he will get elected.
The more important question is, how will he govern if he is elected? How will future presidents govern after he has made that the new normal in America? We really should believe him when he tells us these are his priorities.
When we vote, we are sitting at the table of power and deciding what kind of country we want to live in. In a typical election, we are voting mainly for our political party. The person running can be expected to follow most if not all of the major policies of the party. We are voting for the kind of country our party stands for.
In the case of Donald Trump, that just isn’t true anymore. Donald Trump is nothing like the Republican Party. That is why so many Republican leaders have spoken up against him.
I truly believe that Donald Trump is as worthy to receive the grace and forgiveness of God as we all are. As Christians, I believe we should pray for him to find the saving grace of our Savior and become transformed into a man who yields to the Spirit of God. He has many years ahead of him where he could use his wealth and business ventures to be a light in our world. Jesus teaches that we will know a tree by its fruit. To date, Donald Trump has not yet shown the fruit of a man who has dedicated his life to the service of God and his fellow man. I truly hope and pray that he will find that saving grace and become that man. In the meantime, we cannot afford to put the man who he is now in control of the strongest nation on earth.
Our Choice in 2016
In the past few presidential elections, our choice came down to a Republican candidate who represented what were mainstream Conservative policies of the time versus a Democratic candidate who represented what were mainstream Progressive policies of the time. As we have seen throughout this series of blog posts, both sides are fundamentally based on a biblical world-view. Both sides have a mix of policies that do or don’t align with biblical values. Our choice as Christians in a typical American election comes down to a combination of which policies we think are best for our country and which biblical values we think must be emphasized in our politics.
Some Christians believe the most important issues are to end abortion and decentralize government. They would likely vote for the Republican candidate. Other Christians believe the most important issues are regulating Wall Street and defending the rights of the marginalized. They would likely vote for the Democratic candidate.
Our choice in 2016 is not like this.
On the Democratic side, the choice is basically the same as any other presidential election. Regardless of her trustworthiness, a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for mainstream Democratic politics.
On the Republican side, a choice for Donald Trump is basically a vote to blow up the Republican Party as we have known it. He has disavowed almost every Conservative principle. He has expressed not just misunderstanding, but outright contempt for the Constitutional separation of powers that would limit his power as president. There cannot be anything more opposite the Conservative principle of limited government. He has also made fairly strong stands against most family-oriented values. In addition to his widely reported boasting about adultery and sexual assault, he never personally declared himself to be pro-life until he decided to run for president as a Republican.
The purpose of this series of blog posts is not to tell any Christian how to vote when it comes to a choice between Conservative and Progressive principles. I honestly believe both have important biblical ideals. Our government is strongest when both sides are strong and continue to debate the issues where they disagree. However, this election is not between Conservative and Progressive principles.
Our choice in 2016 is different than we have ever experienced in our history. On the one hand is a mainstream Democratic Progressive. On the other hand, is a self-proclaimed leader who has repeatedly said he will disregard our Constitutional separation of powers and trample on our most cherished values as a nation. Many Evangelical Christians are supporting him in spite of all these things because he promises to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. I ask you to consider his track record of telling the truth and ask yourself, “Why should we trust him about that?”
Day 10: America is Great Because America is Good
Day 9: Nine Biblical Principles in Public Policy
Day 8: Two Things Americans Should Never Do
Day 7: Ten Key Issues in American Politics
Day 6: Which Side Should Christians Take?
Day 5: Of the People, By the People, For the People
Day 4: Which Policies are Most Biblical?
Day 3: Clinton vs. Trump in 2016
Day 2: A Vision for America
Day 1: My American Story
Election Day: VOTE!