Yes, the Election is a Dumpster Fire. But Vote Anyway.
We’re now less than a month away from the 2016 U.S. election on November 8. While the presidential race continues its dumpster fire downward spiral and very few people are excited at the prospect of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump occupying the White House, the fact is the election is still happening and it will decide a lot more things than just the presidency.
When it comes to our options for president, I’m with Russell Moore when he says: “I’m pro-life, pro-family, pro-racial reconciliation, pro-immigrant and pro-character in office, so no matter what happens in November, I lose.”
At least when it comes to the presidential race, that is. It’s looking like Hillary Clinton will almost assuredly be elected president on Nov. 8. But that fact should not dissuade you from voting, for a couple of reasons.
1) Post-election analysis matters. Political parties and candidates shape their trajectories based in large part on where trends in the electorate are going. If enough evangelicals, for example, refuse to vote for Trump or Clinton and instead vote in significant numbers for an alternative like Evan McMullin (he’s my choice, largely for the reasons Alan Noble articulates here), this sends a message. It communicates that a significant voting bloc is not a sure thing for any party. Far from “throwing away” your vote by refusing to vote for Clinton or Trump, you are communicating that you are an engaged voter (a too rare thing!) whose coveted vote will have to be earned. Voting on principle rather than party allegiance gives voters more power in the long run. It forces parties to truly listen to their concerns.
2) Down ballot voting matters. This is the biggest reason why you shouldn’t just sit out the Nov. 8 election on account of the depressing presidential options. Even if Clinton wins, there is much at stake in all the other things on your local ballot. The balance of power in Congress will be (or won’t be) a significant check and balance to Clinton’s power.
Meanwhile, your city and state elections are also hugely significant. And these are often the ones where your vote can matter the most. Often these state legislature, mayoral and city council elections are decided by a couple hundred votes. If there is anything I was reminded of this summer when the California state legislature attempted to remove religious liberty from the state’s faith-based colleges and universities, it is that state legislatures have quite a lot of power. In one fell swoop in California they could have ended Christian higher education as we know it today (thankfully it didn’t turn out that way). The point is, do your homework! Does religious liberty matter to you? Criminal justice reform? Environmental policy? Pro-life issues? Explore the candidates for state positions and make sure you’re voting for the ones who align with the issues you care about. Email them, call their offices and ask where they stand. You can find out who your current state legislators are here. Research their positions and vote them out of office if you don’t like what you see. You are not powerless here!
Yes, it can be an overwhelming thing to try to be an informed voter. California’s Official Voter Information Guide this year is 224 pages long (coming at a cost of $15 million to Calif. taxpayers!) and covers all 17 (17!) statewide ballot propositions, including measures on repealing the death penalty and legalizing marijuana. If you don’t have time to read every page of this voluminous tome, I don’t blame you. But we as voters only have ourselves to blame if we find ourselves with corrupt elected officials, crazy taxes, bureaucratic complexity and laws that impair the flourishing of our state.
Informed voting is the duty of anyone (a Christian, for example) who claims to care for the flourishing of society. Apathy out of frustration or laziness or the (false) assumption that “my vote doesn’t matter” is unhelpful and unChristian.
Yes, this election sucks. Yes, there are times when we might resonate with the 13% of Americans who would rather a giant meteor hit earth than vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. But there is more to this election than the presidency, and all the other stuff matters. Politics is powerful. It shapes our communities for good and for ill. When we vote we have a say in what we think the “for good” should be.