Why I’m Probably Not Voting This Year

As election day approaches this year, the prospect of voting looks different to me than it has in the past. Whether I look to the left or to the right, my thoughts echo the prophet Jeremiah: “…Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jer 12:1).

Hopefully the situation improves by 2024.

Some may wonder what principles would normally make a Christian feel obligated to vote. They include these:

  • Those in government have duties assigned to them by God (1 Pet 2:14, Rom 13:1-5).
  • In nations with rule of law and elected lawmakers, we’re all in the government in at least two ways: the power to choose lawmakers by voting, the power to seek justice through the courts.
  • Love of neighbor means acting in ways that make for a better society for them, and this applies even more to family and church (Gal 6:10).

These are solid and compelling principles, and some of the reasons I’ve heard for not voting don’t hold up either.

Wrong reasons to skip voting

(1) This world is not our home. Our citizenship is indeed in Heaven (Phil 3:20). It doesn’t follow that the condition of the world we live in now doesn’t matter or that we have no duties to our fellow humans. The fact that we will live forever somewhere makes what we do here matter more, not less. “Just a passin’ through” doesn’t seem like the right way to view our stewardship (Matt 25:14-27, 1 Cor 4:2).

Regardless, we’re called to seek the good of our neighbors—and our enemies, too (Luke 6:27-28).

(2) God is sovereign. God will do whatever He pleases. All His plans and goals will be accomplished. Scripture is clear on this—Isaiah 46:10, for example. It’s a mistake, though, to think that, therefore, we have no obligation to fix anything ourselves or that we’re not responsible for our choices. The things we do or fail to do are part of the fabric of secondary causes that ultimately achieve God’s plans—and we’re responsible. That’s why there’s a judgment (1 Pet 1:17). God’s sovereignty is never a reason for inaction (though His instructions certainly can be: Exod 14:13, 1 Sam 12:16).

(3) Only the gospel matters. Is “politics” just a huge distraction from spreading the gospel? It certainly is a distraction for many—but so are sports and other entertainments, hobbies, work, parenting, and some of what we call ministry.

When is an activity “a distraction”? Multiple factors determine the answer. Maybe the person doing the activity isn’t doing it out of a heart and mind that is gospel-rooted and gospel-suffused. Maybe the person doing the activity has special gospel-serving duties he’s neglecting. But maybe the activity is more gospel-related than it seems.

The gospel is the good news that God intends to fix our sin-ruined world, starting with sin-ruined humans who put their trust in Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as Lord. When these believers engage in good, or creative, or helpful work in a way that seeks the glory of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, they aren’t competing with the gospel. They’re living it.

Why not, then?

Given all of that, why not vote this time around?

  • While the social/political left continues to do the usual and nominate candidates I can’t support, the right is nominating its own breed of unfit candidates. Our major parties seem determined to out-dolt, out-kook, and out-hothead each other.
  • I can’t seem to get good information. The conservative candidates don’t talk about their own party. On the topic of the GOP, they’re either not talking about its sad state or they’re personifying it. I can’t tell who the sober-minded grown-ups are.
  • We’re going to keep getting bad candidates if we keep voting for whatever bozo is on the ballot, just to try to beat the other party’s bozo.
  • Our form of government can’t thrive with untrustworthy people in power—and I can’t see any way to vote that would help put trustworthy people in power.

The bottom line: this time around, voting seems—more than usual—like an exercise in futility.

You’re too idealistic

Yeah, I know… Politics is the art of the possible. Quit being so idealistic. Our duty as voters is to help elect whoever will (probably) do the least damage or whoever will prevent someone worse from gaining power.

My defense of “idealism” is essentially the same as it’s been since 2016. I don’t have a new one, but I can summarize it a different way.

First, three points I’ll gladly concede. I’ve never doubted or questioned that …

  1. outcomes matter;
  2. elected leaders don’t have to be paragons of virtue to earn a vote;
  3. a vote for a leader is not an endorsement of everything he is, says, or does.

Absolutely! Still, other truths remain:

  1. More than outcomes matter: some things are wrong regardless of better results.
  2. Even if “greatest good for the greatest number” was a Christian approach to ethics (it’s not), we often don’t know what will accomplish that goal.
  3. Scripture is far from silent about what sort of people are fit for leadership and what tends to happen when the unfit gain power.
  4. Though a vote is not an endorsement of all a candidate is, says, or does, it is an act that directly helps the candidate rise to power.
  5. Increasingly, the worst pundits, candidates, and officeholders on the right are the most vocally “Christian.” How much damage to Christian testimony should we do in order to achieve social and political good?
  6. What’s less painful in the short run is often more painful in the long run, and what’s more painful in the short run is often most beneficial in the long run.
  7. Political parties hate losing. Losing enough elections may eventually alter the perception of what sort of nominees will win.
  8. Indirect outcomes of our actions (or inactions) aren’t ethically the same as results we cause directly. (Example: withholding “heroic measures” and letting a terminal patient die isn’t the same as killing that patient.)

When I add it all up, it seems I might as well just sit back and watch this one―but also pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:2).

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There are 54 Comments

G. N. Barkman's picture

T. Howard.  Can you supply us with an example of a "nutcake" Republican who received Republican Party support in a Primary?  (I can't, but you may know something I don't.)  Or, are you assuming something that is actually not true?

G. N. Barkman

JNoël's picture

As always, the decision to vote and for whom to vote is a matter of conscience. The author appears to be conscience-bound to abstain because those available on his ballot have exceeded the threshold of what his conscience will allow. That is his decision, and we are wrong to compel him to violate his conscience.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

JNoël wrote:

As always, the decision to vote and for whom to vote is a matter of conscience. The author appears to be conscience-bound to abstain because those available on his ballot have exceeded the threshold of what his conscience will allow. That is his decision, and we are wrong to compel him to violate his conscience.

Of course it's his decision, but the whole purpose of an article is to persuade, in this case, to persuade others why "not voting" may be a good choice.  If that persuasion can be written without "compel[ling] [us] to violate [our] conscience[s]," counter arguments in comments can certainly be written in the same fashion, without worrying that we are somehow compelling those who don't want to vote to violate their consciences simply by listening to our arguments.

I certainly agree that how each person votes is between them, their God, and their conscience.  I don't have to agree with their choice, nor do I have to be quiet about it.

Dave Barnhart

Dan Miller's picture

JNoël wrote:

As always, the decision to vote and for whom to vote is a matter of conscience. The author appears to be conscience-bound to abstain because those available on his ballot have exceeded the threshold of what his conscience will allow. That is his decision, and we are wrong to compel him to violate his conscience.

Sure. But the conscience sometimes needs to be "calibrated" or re-thought. And, as Aaron has said, Persuasion is always on the table

JNoël's picture

The best parts of the article are in the "wrong reasons" section. No scriptural support was given to support his probable abstention.

There are likely many Christians who are on the same fence. Wouldn't it be good if some biblical support could be provided to support that position?

Looking at his "other truths" list:

1 - What things might he be referring to?
2 - This sounds a lot like the "God is sovereign" "wrong reason"
3 - "Fit for leadership" is his opinion, nothing more.
4 - This statement is true on the surface, but the application involves conscience.
5 - Does the word "Christian" matter? The largest "Christian" religion in the world is apostasy. Is the damage done by politicians who use the word Christian but lack the Spirit really too much for God to handle?
6 - "Often" reveals that this is a principle that is not necessarily always true.
7 - This has already been debunked in other comments. It is not a "truth" - it is a "may."
8 - This deserves much discussion, more than can be done in this conversation. The Hippocratic oath, for example, would argue that withholding potentially life-saving, but risky, treatment is immoral. My point here is this: "truth" does not apply to #8.

In short, I am disappointed that the article has offered a potpourri of opinion and very little in the spirit of "iron sharpening iron," certainly nothing a potential abstaining Christian can look at for biblical counsel.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

G. N. Barkman's picture

For bringing this 2016 article to our attention.  I consider Aaron's reasoning to be sound in the 2016 article.  The ability to tell which is the lesser of two evils is pretty simple when we recognize that more than one or candidates are in view.  Elect an unqualified man from the more conservative party, and you help the conservative cause.  Elect a more qualified man from the more liberal party, and you help the liberal cause.  One party defends gay rights, affirmative action, open borders, going easy on criminals, unlimited abortion, restricted speech and restricted religious freedom, restricted gun rights, and so forth.  The other party opposes all these things.  How does it help to refuse to support someone whose election would restrain evil?  Yes, its always a vote for the lesser of two evils, and that's really not very difficult to decide.

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This discussion moved too fast for me.

But I'll throw in a bit on this much...

But "fringe" and "extreme" really shouldn't matter.

This confuses me. My first thought was maybe it should not but so what, it does. But my second thought was, no, it not only does matter, it should matter... for reasons I've already written about at length.

I hear sometimes, "Both parties have gotten so extreme!" I don't agree. The left has moved WAY left. (probably should be WAY WAY WAY)
The right has actually also moved left.

I don't know how you're arriving at this. It's true that the right has moved left on a couple of things. They've moved further right on others, but most the movement is "extreme" on a completely different axis. Not left or right, but down.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

G. N. Barkman wrote:

I consider Aaron's reasoning to be sound in the 2016 article.  The ability to tell which is the lesser of two evils is pretty simple when we recognize that more than one or candidates are in view.

I also appreciated the repost of the repost of the (originally 2011) article.  I actually got more enjoyment out of reading the comments, as I already agreed with the reasoning in the article.  Seeing all the prognostication about how both Clinton and Trump were so bad that there was essentially no difference between them (Hitler vs. Stalin) was quite humorous.

Back during the 2016 primaries, I was also unsure what I was going to do if Trump became the eventual candidate.  I voted for Cruz, even though at least one commenter said he was just about as bad as the others (which I did not agree with).  Of course, Cruz didn't win the primary, and I did end up voting for Trump in the general.  I wasn't completely happy with that vote when it was time to actually cast it, but I believed I was able to clearly see a difference in the level of evil between the two candidates.

Seeing the level of vitriol and opposition to Trump that arose immediately after Trump won only served to convince me that my vote had been the right one.  It was not as satisfying as voting for Reagan in many ways, but in a few others it ended up being even more so.  The following four years were probably more a great deal more chaotic than they would have been had Clinton won, but I'm convinced that even that disorder helped keep things from getting worse more quickly.  That fact in itself helped cement my view that Aaron's prior philosophy of "lesser of two evils" (and still my current philosophy) are far superior to the "I'm not going to vote because they are both so bad" line of thinking.

Again, thanks Paul for the look back!

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

T. Howard.  Can you supply us with an example of a "nutcake" Republican who received Republican Party support in a Primary?  (I can't, but you may know something I don't.)  Or, are you assuming something that is actually not true?

It happens here in Ohio with both parties. The "establishment" candidate gets the party endorsements and the party cash. The other candidate(s) are left to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, the "establishment" candidate is now more often than not the extreme candidate.

G. N. Barkman's picture

T. Howard, thank you for answering my question.  However, I still have questions, and your generalization does not give me a specific example to examine.  Is there a specific candidate (by name) who has received this kind of money?  Is this actual Republican Party funds, or funding from individuals or PAC's?   Is this money from the Ohio Republican Party, national party, or both?

Thanks for helping me with this.

G. N. Barkman

Dan Miller's picture

Wow. The British accented commentator was explaining how if the republicans win on Tuesday, "That will be the end of democracy and the last free and fair election you will ever get to vote in." 
 

There's a ramping up of vitriol that is going to kill us. Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, I predict that voting regulations will be a very contentious battle going forward. Could be our undoing. 

Dan Miller's picture

Aaron: They've moved further right on others, but most the movement is "extreme" on a completely different axis. Not left or right, but down.

I also am observing a different axis of debate and posturing, though likely not the same one as you.

For decades, there have been two axes: 

Fiscal liberal or conservative - (spend -vs- balance budget) and (give people a standard of living beyond what they pursued -vs- pursuit of happiness).

Social liberal or conservative - (protect marriage -vs- gay marriage) and (abortion on demand -vs- limit/outlaw abortion)

--------

There are new fights, but when I said the left has moved WAY LEFT and the right has also moved left, I was referring to those two....

T Howard's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

T. Howard, thank you for answering my question.  However, I still have questions, and your generalization does not give me a specific example to examine.  Is there a specific candidate (by name) who has received this kind of money?  Is this actual Republican Party funds, or funding from individuals or PAC's?   Is this money from the Ohio Republican Party, national party, or both?

Thanks for helping me with this.

"Establishment" candidates in Ohio receive endorsements and money from the Ohio Republican Party.

https://www.ohiogop.org/2020-ohio-republican-party-primary-candidates-en...

https://www.statenews.org/government-politics/2022-02-18/ohio-republican...

Ken S's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

There's a ramping up of vitriol that is going to kill us.

On both sides. I used to think most of the vitriol was from the left (and maybe it truly was 10 years ago). The vitriol now coming from the right is as bad or worse as any I've ever seen from the left. We have lost the ability to coexist with people who disagree with us in this country.

josh p's picture

You said: 

"Seeing all the prognostication about how both Clinton and Trump were so bad that there was essentially no difference between them (Hitler vs. Stalin) was quite humorous."

I believe I was the person who brought up Hitler and Stalin if I remember correctly. I would have to go back and find it but I never said that Clinton/Trump were essentially the same as Hitler vs. Stalin. My point was to illicit if there is ever a time where the "lesser of two evils crowd" would draw the line. Hitler/Stalin was the worst comparison I could think of to illustrate the point. It may interest you to know that there was at least one person that said they would vote for one of them in order to stop the other.  
 

Edit: I see someone else made that point as well. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Thanks for the information regarding the Ohio Republican party endorsing a slate of candidates for the Primary.  I don't recall seeing anything similar in North or South Carolina.  (Where I've lived all my adult life.)

I can see how refusing the vote for Republicans in this instance sends a signal to the Ohio State party.  They truly are actively responsible for putting questionable candidates into the general election.  Down our way, State Parties stay neutral until the Primaries produce the candidates who will run in the General Election, making candidate selection a strictly grass roots effort.  Even so, I would have a hard time sitting out an election and thereby helping Democrats gain office, given their truly evil agenda over the past several years.  It really does make a big differece which Party contols the levers of government.

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

josh p wrote:

I believe I was the person who brought up Hitler and Stalin if I remember correctly. I would have to go back and find it but I never said that Clinton/Trump were essentially the same as Hitler vs. Stalin.

I might have missed it, or you might have used a different ID, but I didn't see arguments from you about that on the 2016 thread.  Aaron's article actually mentioned those names first, but there was another poster (who I haven't seen around in a while) who made the comparison, even though it was somewhat indirectly.  However, whether it was implied or stated, I still found the comparison humorous when reading it again this morning.

Dave Barnhart

Dan Miller's picture

Ken S wrote:

 

Dan Miller wrote:

 

There's a ramping up of vitriol that is going to kill us.

 

 

On both sides. I used to think most of the vitriol was from the left (and maybe it truly was 10 years ago). The vitriol now coming from the right is as bad or worse as any I've ever seen from the left. We have lost the ability to coexist with people who disagree with us in this country.

Yeah, I guess both sides. It's really hard to be unbiased in that assessment.

But the absolute refusal to look at the Biden corruption is pretty incredible on the blue side as well as the MSM(NBC,CBS,CNN). 

T Howard's picture

I voted this morning. For the races where I thought the Republican candidate was unacceptable I left it blank or wrote in another option.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There are new fights, but when I said the left has moved WAY LEFT and the right has also moved left, I was referring to those two....

We agree on that I think.

To some extent it depends which social issues you look at. The new right is really, really big on individual liberty, and this fuels attitudes on social issues that align more with where the left used to be/still largely is. I think there's plenty of evidence that the new right is more libertarian and populist. So along with higher prioritizing of individual liberty (vs. good of society/social ethics)  there's an intense skepticism of everything traditionally perceived to be authoritative sources of information. But on the latter, the lines are drawn tribally rather than based on earned trustworthiness. So, there's a passionate anti-government stream, an anti-intellectual stream, an anti-science stream, and an anti-media stream all as targets for vocal and aggressive skepticism.

But exceptions to all of the above for the people seen as "our people."   ... no exceptions for people/groups who just do their work really well and let the political chips fall where they may. Personal loyalty and movement loyalty are valued way more than truth. 

Hence the popularity of identity-reinforcing conspiracy theories, for example.

I don't know what axis that is, but it's not really "further right," I wouldn't say. It's further "somewhere not good." Maybe the z axis is tribalism and both parties have gotten more extreme on that one.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Title, Aaron is this still you?

https://sharperiron.org/article/from-archives-why-vote-for-lesser-of-two...

"For the purposes of this essay, I’m assuming readers already believe Christians ought to vote. My aim is to present three arguments for voting for the candidate who is least evil, whether the office is President of the United States, U.S. Senator or Village Clerk."

I still think this generally works, mostly because there are usually not really two "evil" options on the table.

What I would add to that is an assumption I don't think articulated back when I wrote that piece: "assuming both candidates meet some minimal qualifications for office." Though I've been accused of unrealistically high standards, I don't really think that's the case. We've just reached such a low that now even requiring minimal qualifications for high office seems like a naive dream. (But as that old article shows, it wasn't really that long ago that we had multiple qualified candidates--though one having far better policies than the other).

But when with "two evils" that really are both evil, there is almost always a third (or fourth etc) option. If there is, it's better than one of the "two evils."

So, to say it another way, if it really is a "I have two choices on what to do and they're both terrible" scenario, the least terrible is clearly the way to go. But I think this situation is not at all common.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

But when with "two evils" that really are both evil, there is almost always a third (or fourth etc) option. If there is, it's better than one of the "two evils."

So, to say it another way, if it really is a "I have two choices on what to do and they're both terrible" scenario, the least terrible is clearly the way to go. But I think this situation is not at all common.

We are not living in 1910 Austria. Once we are past the primaries, we are a 2 party nation. Not voting for the party that best fits your philosophy is the same thing as casting a vote for the opposition. Bottom line: everyone in Georgia who abstained from voting for Walker - a bad candidate, instead gave Warnock - an even worse candidate, an advantage. But even more significant than that, of course, is they would also be rightly held responsible for keeping a party in power whose principles are in extreme opposition to that which any Christian should want. Now that the election is over, I exhort you to reconsider the error in abstaining in an election where your vote really does matter. If it really was your conscience that bound you from voting for a bad Republican candidate, I encourage you to consider the consequences of that decision - in order that the next time you are posed with this decision, your conscience, having been adjusted, tells you that even a bad Republican candidate is better than giving the advantage and, potentially, the power, to that which is far worse.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Not voting for the party that best fits your philosophy is the same thing as casting a vote for the opposition

Not doing something is never the same as doing something, though, admittedly in some situations are nearly the same.

As an example, some arsonist lights a building on fire and I happen by. I discover there are two trapped persons at opposite ends. I can't save them both at once. I pick one and save him. The other dies... because I did not act on his behalf.

Another: a terminal patient requests no heroic interventions. I'm his doctor and choose not to put him on a ventilator. He dies. This is not the same as smothering him to death, though the outcomes are identical.

Examples could be multiplied, but here's the point: in figuring out what's ethical/right, inaction often doesn't carry the same weight as action--and with that, indirect consequences don't care the same responsibility as direct ones.

In my two examples, the actual cause is complex. Most would say the first guy's death was really the fault of whoever started the fire. Most would say the "real" cause of the second death was the disease and/or the guy's decision against interventions.

Looking at an election, the cause of the final outcome is complex. My choosing not to vote for A may help B win, but the help is indirect and a consequence of my inaction. Further, it wasn't my fault nobody better was on the ballot. What's the "real" cause of B's victory?  In any case, a vote is action that has ethical meaning. The meaning isn't purely "I want A to win." It can certainly be partly "I want B to lose."

But part of the ethics of the situation are issues I raised in the article: how are we ever going to get better candidates if we keep helping the fruits and nuts win just because they're our fruits and nuts and not their fruits and nuts?

So, we're in a situation where candidate quality has declined so much in many places that it's hardly possible to tell which would be the lesser "evil." (They have completely different flaws, usually, but it's getting nigh impossible to tell if the bottom line "evilness" score is really any different.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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