This election year I have witnessed many things that surprised me, a few that angered me, and some that just bewildered me.
First, let me be clear where I am coming from. I am a Christian and a conservative. I considered, during the primaries, that Donald Trump might be a viable candidate. Here was a reported billionaire, a successful businessman, an entrepreneur. Here was a man angry about his nation’s condition, and by golly, he was going to do something about it. But as things got rolling, it became clear to me that he was some other things, some things I did not believe would make a good president. I supported Cruz in the primaries and considered Rubio a good option as well. Then when it became more and more clear that Trump was likely to get the GOP nod, I had to make a decision. I decided that it would be a violation of my principles and values to vote for him. To keep this short-ish, I concluded he did not embody the things I believe make a good president and that he lacked fundamental qualities a president should have, especially one representing America’s conservative party, a Republican.
That said, here are some takeaways from this season – things I have experienced and witnessed that define one of the most contentious election cycles I can remember.
I have seen well-meaning Christians put their support behind a man I believe is unfit to lead a country. “We’re not voting for a pastor,” we’ve heard. And good thing. Because if my pastor were a lying bully who took both sides of key issues, who encouraged his supporters to use violence to silence dissent, and who spoke of women as objects to be exploited, I certainly wouldn’t follow him. But even for a key political office, that’s not a man of integrity. Still, it is their vote, their voice. And while I will make my disagreement known, I also respect their decision. Indeed, many of them have reasoned out their choice and feel confident about it. I do not share their belief, but it is theirs to do with as they wish.
People have told me a conservative voting for anyone but Trump is a wasted vote. I take issue with that assertion simply because I believe our principles and values are of more importance than simply stopping a corrupt Democrat from obtaining office. Contrariwise, I believe it is a waste of our vote to simply throw in with someone we really think is horrible only because we believe the other person is more horrible. I also believe we waste our vote by allowing intimidation, fear, emotion, peer pressure, or ignorance to dictate our vote. My vote is mine. It is a privilege (not a right) granted to us as citizens and one we should not take lightly. I owe no allegiance to a political party – my vote belongs not to them! If my vote is cast for someone who seems to have no chance of winning but in whom I believe, at least I won’t have to reclaim my principles and dignity on the way out of the polling station.
I have heard that things will get worse if Clinton wins, and therefore voting my principles will result in things getting worse. And they very well might. But is that a good enough reason to abandon or suspend principle? I think not. Indeed – sticking to our values even though things might get worse is always a risk. But I’ve always believed that when we hold something dearly, there is risk involved. Is that not why our forefathers left England?
I have tried engaging in bold but polite discussion with several people. Oddly, while many reserve the right to be forceful with their arguments, my challenges have oft been deemed “stupid” and “idiotic.” Hardly convincing, if one were trying to persuade others to help save the Republic! A few have entertained my reasonings and we left the discussion with a better understanding of each other, if still unmoved. Unfortunately, not all “Christians” have been so courteous. One lady blocked me and proceeded to rant hatefully against me (and although I could no longer see her social media posts, I suppose she forgot others could see them, which is how I know what she said). Others still have questioned the spiritual state of those who disagree with them, even concluding that we must be poor damned souls, having never experienced God’s salvation. All in all, I have seen a lot of spite and hate from people who are to love others.
I have watched as Christians, who boast of their love for God and man, turned vicious and cruel. Still others I witnessed mocking and laughing at other candidates and their supporters, acting like playground bullies as they belittled dissenters and opponents.
To be clear, most Christians have not acted this way. Indeed, most have been gracious in disagreement. Even in spirited debates I have experienced respect and consideration, traits I believe are essential and telling. But there are those few whose emotional investment and perhaps shortsightedness is so great, that they will quickly lose all semblance of Christian character to pound on those they believe are voting the wrong way this year.
My contention has not been so much with people with whose vote I disagree; my biggest beef has been with those who abuse their fellow Americans. I have taken issue with how some Trump opponents questioned the integrity of his supporters and how they treat those supporters. And on the flip side, as I referenced above, I have challenged some of his supporters for how they treat those who say they will not vote for the man. We are Americans. Many of us Christians. We are above this. How is it that we are stooping so low?
The cult of personality, I suppose, is capable of consuming any of us, of creating division where there should be unity. It makes us forget that there can be general unity even when we disagree about details.
Along those lines, I have seen political opponents find common ground in their concern for America, driven by dislike for their party’s selected candidate. That has been perhaps the bigger surprise to me this year. I have found Americans embracing in unity because they care about the condition and direction of the nation, even if they disagree on the ways to remedy our predicament.
They remind me of a time when political discourse was not so angry, hateful, spiteful, and rude. When men could say, “I disagree. But let’s put both ways out there and see how we do. Let’s try to work together as Americans to advance our great nation.” I have found more of that from my political “opponents” on the left. And that has left me hopeful.
All things told, I have learned a lot about me this year and I have learned a lot about others. I have learned that some want to stand on principle until it hurts. Then they want to stand on “let’s just win” (or, “let’s just not let the other guys win”). I have learned that my desire to speak out, to challenge what I disagree with, and to defend other still sometimes gets me in trouble. I have learned that some people, though saved, still carry the attitude of beating dissenters into compliance. But thankfully, I have observed that Americans are a resilient bunch and that there are many who still know how to disagree graciously and move forward together.
It is that ability to unite in spite of disagreement that will show the true character of America and move us forward.