Better than a ‘lesser evil’

Jul 18, 2016 by

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The nominations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump pose a problem for me as an Anabaptist Christian. Clinton is a war hawk who voted for the war in Iraq and ended two years of relative peace when her State Department took over U.S. operations there in 2008, neglecting the peacemaking process that had advanced significantly. She advocated for disastrous intervention in Libya and also in Syria, which would have dramatically escalated that war. While John Kerry built the groundwork for peace with Iran, she pushed for stronger sanctions that would likely have turned the country off to the U.S. entirely. In Honduras, she legitimized a military coup that crushed a progressive movement. A priority for me is to vote for someone who seeks peace, and Clinton isn’t such a person.

Neither is Trump. Jesus calls us to welcome vulnerable people, not to drive them out and exclude them based on unsubstantiated fears. When Trump describes Mexicans as rapists and condemns a judge as untrustworthy because of his ethnic background, he violates the basic principles of solidarity and human identity. When he blames immigrants for our national problems, he makes a mockery of the biblical mandate to welcome the alien, give food to the hungry and do well unto the least among us. Trump has also called for torture and assassination of terrorists’ family members in the Middle East. These calls are monstrous and unacceptable.

I am not prepared to give either of these candidates my heartfelt support. Moreover, I am discouraged that so many Mennonites are falling right in line with their parties. When we give ourselves enthusiastically to the least bad of two bad candidates, the convictions and values we claim in church fall by the wayside. Why does Clinton’s militarism not concern Democratic Mennonites more? Why does Trump’s racism and violent impulsiveness not concern Republicans more? Why do we angle against each other on behalf of candidates who are far from the vision for humanity to which God calls us?

I suggest a simple course: acknowledge our candidates’ negative qualities and vote our true values when possible. While I prefer one of the main candidates over the other, I hope everyone I speak with will come away knowing this candidate inspires little optimism in me.

We don’t have to vote for Clinton or Trump; I know I won’t. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, is peace-minded and supports a robust social safety net and a clean environment. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, is a person of integrity who is concerned with our oppressive justice system. Both call for massive military cuts and the end of offensive wars. If either got 7 percent of the vote, it would send a signal to both parties that an antiwar stance is palatable to the public.

Perhaps you live in a swing state and the election will be close, and you, like I would in those circumstances, might feel compelled to vote for your preferred major-party candidate. For those for whom that’s not the case, we can do better. Christ calls us to greater goods, not lesser evils.

David Jost
Goshen, Ind.


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