A Lesser of Two Weasels? Some Unsolicited Advice on Voting


Loren Fishman Cartoonist Used by permission

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Yet another Christian has decided to tell you what and for whom to vote for? It seems these days Christians are being battered by pundits telling them what to do with their vote.

Recently, evangelicals have divided over what to do about the possibility of voting for Donald Trump. The responses run the gamut from bending their past statements into a pretzel in order to now endorse the person they railed against before to calls for voting third party in protest.

Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has not said how he’s voting but he hasn’t discouraged those who embrace #nevertrump.

“Some conservative evangelicals will vote for Trump,” Moore conceded. “Many others simply won’t vote, or find a third party candidate or write in someone.”

He said these disappointed voters “believe there is something more than politics: a good conscience.”

This has another evangelical pastor, Carl Gallups, touting the virtues of voting for the lesser of two evils.

 “I sincerely appreciate what [Moore] is trying to accomplish, but he’s simply leaving out the harsh realities of our electoral system. . . Christians say, ‘Well, I’m voting for the lesser of two evils’ – well, yes you are,” he admitted. “Yes you are. But you always have and you always will – until Jesus returns. If you don’t vote, or you vote for a third party which will not and cannot win, then you have literally, actually voted for the greater of the two evils.”

Here’s where I disagree. With respect to Pastor Gallups, it isn’t that simple. Voting for the lesser of two weasels isn’t the only ethical choice just because it is the only practical choice. First of all, I thought Christians didn’t decide morality in terms of the end justifies the means. I’ve been taught that all my life. Christians were not Utilitarians. But let’s examine his claim more closely. If you don’t vote or you vote for a third party you are voting for the greater of two weasels.

Pastor Gallups simply doesn’t understand voting. In a national election if everyone who reads this blog didn’t vote, it would not sway an election. I know this a deeply ingrained intuition we have that if we don’t vote it could make the difference in a close race. We’ve been regaled with stories of how elections were decided by one vote. Maybe for city council or in the state senate surely but the presidency? We all saw in 2000 what happens when one state’s electoral vote is close. Lawyers. Lots of them. If the election came down to your vote, a court would decide not you.

If you live in Ohio or Pennsylvania maybe, just maybe, you could swing an election if you know a lot of people or have a really really popular blog. But Pastor Gallups doesn’t say if you are in a swing state vote for the lesser of two weasels. He says, it is your duty to vote for one of these two weasels no matter where you are and if you don’t you are the cause of the greater weasel winning. Nonsense.  This is a fantasy of a romantic view of democracy not the realities of a republic.

But if I don’t vote, you say, I won’t have a right to complain. Really? Let me borrow an analogy from Jason Brennan, a professor at Georgetown who writes an excellent book called the The Ethics of Voting. Considering the astonishingly small chance of your vote making a difference, that’s a bit like saying, “If poor people don’t play the lottery, then they have no right to complain about being poor. There is something they can do about it.

You might say, but if enough people follow your advice and don’t vote, we would be in trouble. Yes, if more Christians simply didn’t vote at all, it might sway an election. But notice, that’s not Gallup’s argument. His argument is that if you individually don’t vote you are guilty.

“Voting your conscience in the primary is one thing, but if Hillary Clinton is in the White House on November 9th because millions of Christians did not want to ‘offend their conscience,’ how can they live with themselves? How will they explain how they enabled handing over the nation to policies which perpetuate evil? How can they explain that hypocrisy to their children and grandchildren?”

What about voting third party?

Gallups seems to think all that does is ensure victory for the greater weasel and then says it will be your fault. Actually when it comes to a third party your vote is more likely to make a difference. According to one reading of the electoral map, if likely Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson won just his home state of New Mexico, it could throw the election to the House of Representatives where there is a chance he and his running mate former Massachusetts governor William Weld could emerge as the compromise candidate.

Nonsense you say? Chaos? Unthinkable? Stranger things have happened.

Would that be a good thing?  Lots of Republicans have defected to the Libertarian party. Is that a mistake? After all Johnson is pro-choice. He won’t appoint judges that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Yes but he’s also against partial birth abortion and any government funding of abortion. I could make a joke here about the lesser of two evils between abortion and partial birth abortion but I won’t.

How about Gallups claim that voting for a third party would just be a vote for the greater weasel?

I have significant data that says that even if third party voters don’t win (which is likely) they have a big impact not on the election but on the actual governing. When a third party wins a significant number of votes, the victorious party modifies their governing strategy accordingly. A vote for a third party actually sends a message that the people in charge better take our views seriously. Where as voting for the lesser weasel, just sends the message that evangelicals will roll over as long as the other guy is worse.

One thing that bothers me about Gallups argument is that it assumes the only election that matters is this one. Nonsense. Do I think Hillary Clinton can do a lot of damage to Religious freedom in four years? Yes. Do I think she can nominate judges that will turn the Supreme Court so far left that it will make Noam Chomsky blush? Sure. But I also know that Americans like divided government and a strongly conservative congress can hold the tide against either of these two weasels.

What I won’t accept is that if I vote my conscience, I am some how to blame for what befalls America for the next four years. If Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becomes President, I will be able to look my grandchildren in the eye and tell them I didn’t vote for a weasel. So much for pragmatics. How about some moral theology?

Is there a moral case for not voting for the lesser of two weasels? Well consider this musing from Chris Skates at The Resurgent.

Perhaps if Ted Cruz had won, the American church would have fallen back into the trap of assuming that temporary economic prosperity and security from terrorism would have been a solution to the deep seated problems the world faces. As an American Christian I have always felt I was relying on a great God, but in the back of my mind, just a little bit, have I actually been relying on the greatness of America?

Yes. Suppose we get the lesser weasel as Gallups wants. What does this do to Christianity and its uneasy relationship with the Republican party?  Over and over in the book of Isaiah a theme emerges that we get the leaders we deserve. God allows the leadership we deserve. If we accept those leaders as the lesser of two evils, do we not accept evil is just the nature of the game? And if that is the case, do we have any reason to rise up against it. If you vote for the lesser of two weasels, are you to blame when they assume you will continue to do so every time?  Don’t we perpetuate the idea that all one has to do to win is be less horrible? Would Jesus approve?

I’ll give Skates the final word and then ask you to respond in the comments where we can work out our faith with fear and trembling.

Could it be that God knows full well that we American Christians are being marginalized by a culture that not only rejects our faith but is now openly hostile to us as individuals and that this marginalization will only become more intense under a Trump or a Clinton or a Sanders Presidency? And does he know that it will be then and only then when we will truly let go of what we have been clinging to and fully reach for Him?Ω

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A Lesser of Two Weasels? Some Unsolicited Advice on Voting — 5 Comments

  1. Hi my cherished friend Don. I agree in this case with Pastor Gallups and not Russell Moore. Regrettably I find any musings about voting third party extremely pollyannish. I don’t usually write long posts but all this well-meaning but misguided hand wringing by some “Evangelicals” make them appear as naïve crybabies. Absurd statements like “I’ll vote for a third party candidate” (chalk that up as a vote for Hillary), “I’ll write in a candidate’s name” (chalk that up as a vote for Hillary), etc. Where were you when Obama ran for President? Twice! Among other things Obama is pro-abortion and hates Israel. Ever read Genesis 12:3? These Evangelicals say Trump “may” not be pro-life. Well Obama doesn’t hide it- he is very much pro-abortion. I am convinced that Obama is either a demon or demon possessed along with his evil racist wife. So your flawed candidate Cruz lost. Pick yourself up and put your big boy pants on and shut your pie-holes! Make your vote count by voting for a candidate who can beat Hillary (possibly another demon) in November. You rant on about Cruz but ironically the majority of people who actually know Cruz personally going back to his school days dislike him. Conversely the majority of people who actually know Trump personally going back to his school days like him. Yes, Trump is not perfect but here is a news flash neither are you or I. And please, please stop comparing Trump to Hitler. If you do this, you should be ashamed of yourself as you are using the worst kind of hate speech possible and parroting a comparison created by far left liberals. Even MSNBC is against the comparison. I also find it interesting that the majority of black Evangelicals & Pastors like Trump. It’s mostly white Evangelicals and pastors pontificating against Trump. In my opinion it’s time to look in the mirror and slap yourself back to reality!

    • Hey Bill. I will be glad to respond to your objections later today but don’t assume that Don agrees with me just because he agreed to publish my post. All comments are not necessarily those of the president of MCOI.

  2. Jonathan, have you ever watched the documentary movie, “Ethos”, by Woody Harrelson? If so, do you have any comments on that? I watched it a few years ago, and it made some sense of my deepening conviction the media-fueled increasing polarization of rhetoric, public perception and discourse we have seen over the past 2-3 decades and the increasingly outrageous choice of candidates is evidence our supposed democratic process in this country (at least for anything not on the local level) is a well-crafted and manipulated illusion. What we have in real practical terms is a very elite and small oligarchy on a near global if not global level, that is always carefully maneuvering, planning years in advance behind the scenes, and manipulating public opinion through the mass media, which they also own, to always put their person in office to further their own social engineering and economic agenda. I said when Donald Trump went on the ticket and then moved to the top this season that the political movers and shakers (definitely NOT the people), were perfectly positioning things to get their puppet woman in office! I have voted half-heartedly for the third party option or the lesser of two evils for the last several elections. I will not participate in the farce this “election.”

  3. The conventions are now over. It is 7/29/16.
    I have no greater judge then God. However I decide to vote is based on faith. ( however, not whomever- I can show up to vote as an American and fill out my ballot so that is counted for no one.)
    ” and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
    The issue of who I vote for is not a matter of numbers. Not knowing the heart of man I cannot stand before God and dare say “I voted for the lesser of two evils.” or ” I voted for who might bring about the greater good.”

    “Lord, forgiven me for the evil I have done, not spoken out against when it was in a path you had me walk or ignorantly supported – instead of good works that you have prepared for me to do that someone may glorify my Father in heaven. I pray now that the door will be open that I may be able to preach the gospel, unashamedly and boldly, as I should. Send me Lord . I will not vote a false security of my pocketbook and I will not vote a false security that might keep me from sufferings. This is not my home. You have entrusted me with the gospel and made me an ambassador for Christ. Your Spirit disciplines and refines me as the world reveals its heart. I do not belong to the world, I belong to you.I cannot serve two masters, God and money. I will either love one and hate the other. I’ve been listening Lord and I hear you, repeated 7 times to 7 churches-” Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

    You are my reminder and my only security,and all power, honor and glory belong to You- “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victors crown.”
    If God is for me who can be against me? Come Lord Jesus.

    Jonathan- I obviously appreciated how you chose to end your article. The circumstance of which I have come to evaluate my positions as a child of God has not been politics, but the big picture perspective that is revealed in the quoted question entails the same challenges. Present day politics is instead an additional refiner as God has been refining me. Lol… Well part of the refining is we are entrusted with something much greater than politics, and politics is only a mask for a battle that is not actually flesh and blood.

    Bill -vote your conscience. Who am I to judge the Master’s servant. He knows your heart as he knows mine and neither of us serve any greater judge.

    Hmmm… Maybe I should set up a soapbox near a voting pole. It probably will be the biggest turn out the United States has ever seen. And…. The last time I checked there is still a huge percentage of churches that SERVE as voting locations.(Another verse from Revelations to the churches just came to my mind.)

    My conscience- my only consideration for voting in favor of a person is in regards to supreme court justices who would be appointed. While writing this I have decided that I cannot do this in faith.

    I am returning to my first love,

    Proverbs 20:5

  4. This article brings much of what I have processed and still processing to the forefront. Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice

    It is worth a test of what I can do in faith.

    However, again, the author beats the drum, concluding that by not voting for Donald Trump a christian would be “contributing” to the evil outcomes of a Hillary win.

    But, again, on this issue among Christians- Who am I to judge the Master’s servant. This is an issue of conscience. Therefore, I think it is very relevant to challenge each other to the question of what would we be contributing to and whom we are serving as a matter of conscience.

    On this issue I will not be blaming or shaming another christian brother or sister for voting their conscience. More, I am thankful to brothers and sisters who have faithfully shared their maturity and have by discipline served the body of Christ, challenging the rest of us to wrestle and test the positions we will take in order to make informed decision.

    It appears I’m not done testing and wrestling. I know I’m not done learning. May my conscience bare witness to Christ when I cast a vote. What else could be revealed and discovered by November?

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