Editor’s note: This is the first in a series offering endorsements for the four major candidates in the U.S. presidential election. We ask that comments refrain from inflammatory language and personal attacks.
For years I’ve resisted going public with election endorsements. As someone who teaches political science for a living, political independence has always been important to me. I encourage my students to make their own decisions, invoking data and perspectives from a variety of sources.
Yet I can no longer attempt neutrality with respect to this election. More than any other time in my lifetime, the choice is both monumental and crystal clear. Whether you love Hillary Clinton or not, she is obviously the most qualified candidate in this race. The United States faces very real challenges, including the threat of international terror; rising debt; a shrinking middle class; ethnic division; environmental concerns; gun violence; and myriad others. These issues dictate that our choice for president has the temperament and experience necessary to address them. Let’s briefly review the options:
Donald Trump has taken the election process to a new low. Many are energized by his business success and direct style, yet his lack of compassion, professionalism, thoughtfulness, and respect for the diversity of the American electorate is disturbing, to say the least. While he may be entertaining and a gift to late-night comedians and the media, the issues facing this nation require more than bravado. For this reason, it would be a grave mistake to elect him.
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian party’s nominee, is equally problematic. My criticism is not truly of the candidate, however, but of a platform that deemphasizes the government’s ability to address social issues and to accept responsibility for collective social conditions. While no problems are simple, the Libertarian penchant for ignoring the government’s unique role in providing solutions is perplexing. It is an irresponsible and individualistic ideology that rightfully has been relegated to the fringe of American elections.
Whether you love Hillary Clinton or not, she is obviously the most qualified candidate in this race.
Jill Stein, the Green party’s nominee, faces similar challenges. While I personally think their ambitious platform has some very appealing aspects, their inability to win local elections suggests an irrelevancy nationally. Were they to focus on winning local races, the presidency would not seem like such a stretch. Furthermore, their spending proposals require a tax base and government intervention on a scale larger than that with which most citizens are comfortable.
As a person of faith, voting is often a complicated matter. Jesus taught that we should “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” suggesting that we have dual citizenship. As citizens of both God’s kingdom and the United States, we have substantial obligations in both spaces. Consequently, it is critical not only that we vote, but that we make choices reflecting the spirit of what we believe. The God of the Judeo-Christian faith has a dominant set of priorities which should influence any election choices. These include righteousness, justice, community, peace, and a concern for the defenseless. These priorities are our most significant guideposts in a system where we have the privilege of choosing our leadership. While all candidates miss the mark on many levels, as Christians we make our political selections based on this set of values.
Hillary Clinton is not a perfect candidate. She has taken positions on issues with which I fully disagree. Yet, specifically against the Republican nominee, her work more closely reflects the aforementioned biblical qualities. Among other accomplishments, she helped to create the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice; fought to secure significant financial assistance for New York City in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks; was instrumental in protecting the State Children’s Health Insurance Program; and was critical in pushing tough sanctions that led to the Iranian nuclear deal. Throughout her career she has displayed a commitment to the vulnerable and an aptitude for problem solving across partisan lines that is critical for anyone serious about being president. For these reasons she deserves support.
History reminds us that elections have consequences. Milestones like the creation of Social Security, the end of slavery, and the de-escalation of the Cold War were achieved because of the leadership of the presidency. By the same token, millions have suffered from the decisions made in this office. The choice we make in this election will potentially impact our world for generations to come. Let us choose wisely.