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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  • Dale Welty

    Many of us have known for many years that Hillary considers herself above the law regarding the many scandals she has been involved in. She also has been known to lie regarding her past actions such as Benghazi and email server. Further, she is in favor of gun control for law abiding citizens. If law abiding citizens are denied gun ownership, then law breaking criminals will have guns. Therefore, I will gladly vote for the Republican ticket of Trump and Pence and will encourage everybody else to do the same. I believe they will respect the US Constitution. Criminals should be in prison and not the White House. Dale Welty.

    • Keith Wiebe

      Your sentences on gun control don’t make any sense at all. Why would law breaking criminals have guns if law abiding citizens are denied gun ownership? But, you know you lied (or are gullible) if you think a perfectly sane law abiding citizen will be denied gun ownership. They may be denied a certain type of gun as they currently are. Are you for rolling back fully automatic gun laws? I was told Obama is going to take away our guns aprox 8 yrs ago at a track meet talking to a cousin who grew up in the same Mennonite church I did. I questioned his facts and he quickly changed the subject. He still has his guns. I see you have brought into the mainline evangelical republican religion. Yes, you are an xmenno.

      • Dale Welty

        Keith, thank you for your comments. First, there are states and cities that have very restrictive gun ownership laws for law abiding citizens. These same cities have a very high gun violence rate, because criminals somehow have access to guns inspite of highly restrictive gun ownership. Obama has made no secret of desire for increased gun control. That comes out every time there is some kind of gun violence such as Orlando, San Bernadino and more recently the shooting of law enforcement officers. I stand by my comments of BHO desiring highly restrictive gun ownership laws as in his hometown of Chicago, however the 2nd amendment still stands as determined by the US Supreme Court. Gun ownership has increased in recent years as the public, especially women. want to get their guns before it is too late. Hitler implemented very strict gun ownership prior to his take over of Germany prior to WW 2. If we don’t learn from history, we will most likely repeat history. Dale Welty

        • Keith Wiebe

          I would be more worried about “facism wrapped in the flag carrying a cross” than what will happen to your guns.

  • Berry Friesen

    David, your letter describes very accurately Clinton/Trump and offers thoughtful advice for Mennonites. Thank you for writing it.

    The Democrats and the Republicans are both war parties. They both fully support US domination of the world via military force, terrorism, economic blackmail and continuous surveillance. No peace-loving Christian can be loyal to either party, at least not at the national level.

    This election cycle, let us vote (if we vote) for either Jill Stein (Green Party) or Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party). Currently Johnson is polling at 8-9 percent, Stein at 4-5 percent. For those of us who generally have supported Democrats in the past, Green is the easy choice. For those of us who generally have supported Republicans in the past, Johnson will be preferable.

    My one point of disagreement with you, David, is where you suggest we should abandon all you say if we live in a state where the contest between Trump and Clinton will be close. That strikes me as morally incoherent.

    We’ve all engaged in “lesser-evil” voting from time to time and I don’t claim a position of moral purity when I vote. But obviously, the “lesser-evil” approach to voting eventually takes us over the edge and into the abyss. Thus, there must be a point where we say “Yes, I have moral scruples. So no, I will not justify my participation in evil by parsing evil.”

    With Clinton/Trump, we have reached that point.

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