Is the Write-In Vote that Ill-Conceived? A Brief Response to Pastor Robert Jeffress
I had one of those long, face scrunching moments while reading Dr. Robert Jeffress' article “Why Christians must vote in this election (staying home is not an option).” It's found here in the Fox News Opinion section.
My facial contortion began right out of the gate. Here's how Pastor Jeffress begins,
“I hear the lament often from conservative Christians as I travel the country: 'How can I vote for either of these candidates with a clear conscience?'
Increasingly, many Christians are choosing the stay-at-home option (or throw away their vote with a write-in candidate option) as a way to maintain their integrity.
Frankly, I understand the appeal of such a choice. Not voting allows Christians to avoid both having to make a difficult choice or defending an unpopular choice to disapproving friends or family members. And let's face it, playing the “conscience card” allows someone to feel holier than other Christians who sully themselves by getting involved in the political process.”
Now in an election where rhetoric already registers a ten on the Richter scale, one might hope for more charity (expressed through fairness) in the Christian quadrant. But as one might have noticed, that isn't always the case. Politics often elicits that peculiar quality of craziness in people.
Now at the risk of having already dipped my pen into the pool of rhetoric myself, let me pull back and make a serious point. The way in which Pastor Jeffress frames the “no vote” position is loaded from the start. It doesn't cover all the bases. In fact, it misses the most important point:
What if a person believes that both candidates are catastrophic failures? What then? Or to state it a bit differently: What if a person believes that there is a rough equivalency of unfitness for both Hillary and Trump?
Now granted, such unfitness manifests itself in different ways for both candidates, but what if it is nevertheless a rough equivalency?
This is the failure of Pastor Jeffress' article. He views the write-in option as throwing away one's vote.
Um, no. A vote is just that. A vote. But just as importantly, the assumption (and argument advanced in the form of three points in his article) is that Trump is the better choice.
Now for the sake of fairness, I will grant that one can view elections through the lens of a lesser of evils approach. That's an ethically sensible position. However, if someone believes that Trump is woefully inadequate for the presidential office- both morally, intellectually, and emotionally- and displays traits not entirely unlike those of a dictator, then the lesser of evils outlook flattens significantly.
This might lead one to argue, as he does in the third point, that one can vote for policies and not personalities. But this again assumes that the personality in question will even begin to be able to accomplish what they say they will accomplish. Or that they're not simply lying.
So at the end of the day, Pastor Jeffress ought to represent the “no vote” or “write-in” option in a more balanced way, being careful to speak of those Christians who see both candidates as hopelessly bad- indeed, Christians who take seriously what the Proverbs say about fools and leaders and nations.