Yesterday I shared a video that had Southern Baptist Leaders Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Russell Moore explain why they could not vote for Donald Trump. Rick Garnett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, offered a different perspective.
One could reasonably think (and, to be clear, I’m not saying that this is what I think) something like this: ”Look, candidate X has said all kinds of stupid and offensive things and also proposed stupid, dangerous, and immoral policies. But, it is not the case that, if candidate X were elected, those policies would become operative because Congress, the courts, the press, the bureaucrats, candidate X’s laziness and ignorance, etc., would prevent or obstruct them, or at least most of them. Candidate Y, on the other hand, is smart and ideologically motivated, and would enjoy the support of the press and other opinion makers, and so would very likely be able to make operative a number of candidate Y’s stupid, dangerous, and immoral policies. So, I prefer candidate X, not because I intend that candidate X ‘carry out his or her stated policy aims’ but because I intend to do what I can to prevent candidate Y from carrying out his or her policy aims.”
This is different, I think, from the usual “lesser of two evils” argument, because it is focusing more on the “state of affairs that is likely to come to pass as a result of the election of candidate X or Y” than on the merits of X and Y’s character or proposals.
He was responding to an article written by Matthew Franck who is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Radford University in Virginia, and Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute.
Garnett took exception to Franck’s assertion:
[M]y conscience is more important to me than the outcome of this presidential election. I cannot in good conscience vote for either Clinton or Trump. What matters for me is that I cannot bring myself to intend, to will the victory of either of these ludicrously unacceptable presidential candidates. And that is what a vote for one of them would be—an act of willing that Clinton or Trump be president, carry out her or his stated policy aims, and bring his or her fundamentally bad character to the highest office in the land.
He was not certain that a vote would be “act of willing” that Trump or Clinton become President and offered the response above.
I think that is a reasonable response, it is in a way, a principled approach to pragmatic voting. It is not where I am at, but it is a thoughtful approach to the general election. What I’ve seen that has been disturbing is a knee-jerk response by some evangelicals to automatically supporting the Republican nominee. While Christians can differ on this question all should wrestle with it and follow their conscience which is not meant to be a micro-aggression for Trump supporters, but something all Christians should do whether it means voting for Trump or voting 3rd party.
This approach suggested by Garnett also doesn’t lead one to losing their credibility by trying to make a “Christian case” for voting for Trump something that I have very little tolerance for.
HT: Justin Taylor