What is voting? Can the Christian reconstructionist vote for the lesser of two evils? Is Donald Trump the clear lesser of two evils? What about third party voting or not voting at all? How does localism fit into all of this?
Amid these swirling questions, before we begin, let’s get this straight: Donald Trump does not represent my values, I think it’s clear he is interested in what seems right in his own eyes and that almost always lines up with his own political interest and ultimately, his own ego. Sometimes that portends to less injustice in society, sometimes more.
Joe Biden is no different, only that he plays the role of a more traditional politician. He’s as much a self-interested demagogue and charlatan as you would expect from a politician in power for decades in Washington. So I am not fooled by this notion that Biden is somehow “a decent man”. At the end of the day, the character of either man cannot be separated from the evil policies they support.
So as we begin, what is the case that policy-wise, Trump is meaningfully less destructive than Biden?
– Trump has publicly stated that he will not support lockdowns again and won’t enforce any kind of federal measure. This is a massive difference as the shutdowns and the prospect of more looming in the future has brought entirely avoidable national and global devastation. For me this is one of the biggest reasons to vote Trump.
– This means that my family and my community will not be further abused by the influence of the federal executive branch in our efforts to flourish. Biden has stated that he will lockdown again immediately if the Fauci brigade tells him to.
Taxation and Economic Impact
– Trump signed arguably the biggest tax cuts in American history. This means less theft, more jobs, and more economic flourishing for me and my neighbor than there otherwise would have been. Biden fought hard against the cuts, called them immoral, and promises to reverse them. Don’t be fooled by the lie that only “the rich” will pay more under Biden. People end up paying for corporate tax hikes with inflation, reduced investment, and job destruction.
– Trump has substantially reduced the regulatory burden on businesses – possibly more than any other president. This effects both me and my neighbor, especially the small business owner. Biden has loudly opposed deregulation and promises to re-instate these burdens.
– Trump has repealed the individual health care mandate penalty of $2,085 for a family of four. This effects members in my community who don’t have a health care plan and have to pay that money straight out of their pockets. Biden would re-instate the penalty. More theft.
– Trump withdrew America from the ridiculous Paris Climate Accord. It would have hampered the economy, destroyed jobs, increased energy prices and resulted in further plundering of the American people. These measures hit the poor the hardest. Biden would gladly sign on to the accord and invite all the economic devastation that comes with it.
– Biden has committed to eliminating the oil industry by 2050 as he continues to tout apocalyptic and alarmist theories related to global warming. Truly reckless.
– Trump has engaged in economic protectionism and implemented tariffs. This is one area in economics where he is slightly worse than Biden who is not quite as protectionist.
Criminal Justice, Gun Control, and Foreign Policy
– Trump signed the First Step Act which is prison reform that reduces the number of inmates and in the first year set thousands of prisoners free who were imprisoned unjustly. Biden authored the 1994 crime bill and other “tough on crime” bills which led to an exponential increase in incarceration. He has yet to repent for this.
– Trump has not started any wars, unlike his three predecessors. He had the good sense to fire John Bolton who he said just wanted to bomb everyone. He has actually modestly reduced the number of troops overseas from what he inherited from Obama and Biden. We will see if he follows through with his announced plan to remove troops from Afghanistan by Christmas.
– Biden voted for the war in Iraq and supported the military interventions in Serbia, Libya, and Syria.
– Trump’s veto threat against democrat gun control bills (after they took control of the house in 2018) has been constant. He also (according to the LA Times) “loosened regulations on the export of firearms and the online publication of technical information about guns, and it reversed an Obama-era rule restricting gun purchases by people deemed by the Social Security Administration to be mentally unable to manage their affairs.”
– Trump’s sole sins on gun policy have been limited to the “bump stock” ban and thus far not curbing the actions of his ATF chief who went after the manufacturing of the “honey badger pistol”. Thankfully, despite some of his rhetoric (“take the guns first, due process later”), his actual policy decisions have helped more than they have hurt.
– By contrast I can’t even to begin to describe how much worse a Joe Biden presidency would be on gun policy. Suffice to say, Biden has tapped “hell yes, I’m going to take your AR-15” Beto O’Rourke to head up his gun control plans. That pretty much says it all.
– With regard to Trump’s abortion record, in terms of policy, he deserves no better praise and no worse criticism than his republican predecessors. He obviously is not an abortion abolitionist willing to use executive power to end it immediately. He has been ineffective in opposing abortion generally speaking.
– Planned Parenthood federal funding has gone up under the Trump presidency, but this has been due to increased contributions under Medicaid which reflect market demand for Planned Parenthood provided birth control, not any Trump policy decision. Planned Parenthood also does better under any republican president because historically their donations always shoot up during republican administrations. Trump blocked some funding through title X restrictions which are projected to amount to about 60 million in lost revenue to Planned Parenthood for next year. He has enacted a few other federal measures to restrict abortion funding but overall, the slaughter of the unborn continues in America, mostly unabated.
– Trump has appointed some ostensibly pro-life individuals to the supreme court, but it looks unlikely that they will overturn Roe V. Wade if the history of republican appointed supreme court justices is our guide.
– Biden has continually provided full throated support for the right to murder the unborn and has been a staunch ally of pro-aborts at all levels of society and government. Biden would appoint supreme court justices in the mold of Kagan and Sotomayer. Biden has also winked to his followers about packing the court.
– At the end of the day, I do still rate someone who is ineffectively and inconsistently opposing abortion as less bad than someone who openly and explicitly supports any flavor of abortion and vows to fight tirelessly to see it continue. This isn’t to say Trump is good on abortion policy or that he is even close to being some kind of savior. He isn’t. He is however, less bad than Biden. And to me, that doesn’t say a whole lot, but it’s not nothing either.
– Rhetoric aside, Trump has been worse on actual immigration policy, but much of this been blown out of proportion not in terms of how bad he’s been, but in terms of how his actions are allegedly so much worse than his predecessors.
– But for his silly build the wall campaign and his muslim ban, Trump has essentially continued Clinton’s “Operation Gatekeeper” militarized border era policies on immigration which neither Bush nor Obama/Biden overturned. With the creation of DHS and ICE, it was only strengthened. In fact, Obama set records for deportations and was actually very stringent on immigration. The famous “kids in cages” photos referenced with moral indignation by Michelle Obama turned out to be detention cages built under her husband’s administration policy with Biden as Vice President. The family separation policy was in place long before Trump. What Trump did do, is increase enforcement which resulted in more separations. Obama and Biden presided over the same policy, just in lower numbers.
– If Trump should be blamed for his detention policies (and he should) should we not also blame those who came before him and made those policies possible? I do believe Biden should get credit as being marginally better with immigration policy overall, but he still stands as an established proponent of the immigration system we have according to his record.
How big of a difference is there really?
Taken together, there are real life differences where Biden and Trump are either far apart or polar opposites. These are not marginal issues or rhetorical differences only. They have real-world consequences for my family and my community and my county. The policies of Biden will hamper our local efforts for change from the ground up far more than Trump’s.
This is not intended to be a pro Trump screed. I could go on and on about Trump’s idiocy and cruelty on immigration, his failure to abolish abortion, his failure stand up to the Fauci brigade or his asinine tariff policies – not to mention his big mouth and his lack of personal moral decency.
But with the possible exception of the tariff blunder, most of Trumps poor policy decisions wouldn’t be changed at all by Biden. In some cases they would be made worse. In the majority of cases (not all), where Trump is bad, Biden would be just as bad. Where Trump has actually improved things, Biden would go in the opposite direction.
In some cases, Biden is better on the rhetoric (immigration, criminal justice reform, foreign policy) but in practice, his 47 years as a legislator and 8 years in the Obama administration show that he either perpetuated the system or makes it worse. Essentially, in all the ways you would hope a democrat would be “good” in a way that say, Tulsi Gabbard might be, Biden isn’t.
The priority of localism
Now that we’ve got all that compare and contrast out of the way, we need to have a heart to heart on how much we focus on presidential elections. American Christians need to put presidential politics on the back burner. Heck even state politics. That isn’t to say ignore it. It just needs to be assigned to its proper priority.
People will have all kinds of passionate opinions on what they think about voting Trump, or their favorite third party candidate, or not voting for anyone on the presidential ticket, but they have no clue who’s running locally. They don’t know who the candidates are for the state legislature, county Sheriff, Board of Supervisors or District Attorney. They don’t know the first thing about their policy positions, track record or character.
In the information age there is no excuse. If you can’t tell me the names of those people or the general positions they hold, or if you won’t vote at all because you don’t like who’s on the presidential ticket, please save me your opinions on the presidential election. You don’t understand localism and you are part of the problem.
We need to focus on local political engagement starting with our own neighborhoods and counties. Individual sheriffs, mayors, councils, boards, and district attorneys all can begin to enact principled change today. We don’t need to wait for the supreme court and certainly not a presidential election. I wouldn’t spend more than 1% of the energy I devote to political engagement on national politics. That’s not to say it doesn’t matter, but it’s just not how real change is formed.
Christian reconstruction is brought about through change in individual hearts from the bottom up. It is not brought about by foisting a new law order onto a country filled with people who hate God’s law or are ambivalent to it in the civil realm. Until the local citizenry repents and grows a moral backbone, they will always demand tyranny to support their pet idols and excuse them at every turn.
Judgement, pragmatism, and third party voting
“Go and say to David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’” 2nd Samuel 24:12
We must understand the times. The situation isn’t that we in America are a righteous nation who will be punished if we fall into apostasy. That ship has sailed. We need to understand that covenantally, America is already a nation currently in the midst of judgement. Donald Trump is not a righteous ruler. Some have compared him to a needed wrecking ball or a heavy dose of chemo therapy. This analysis swings and misses. He is not the solution, even a poisonous one. He himself is part of the cancer. He stands as a representative of the same statist system as Joe Biden. He is the judgement of God. God is presenting us with the punishment of cancer in the form of Trump or Biden. It’s not a question of if we will be stricken with cancer, but how aggressive that cancer will be. The cancer of Biden and the democrats is simply a more potent brand.
So what is the cure to this cancer? It is not Jo Jorgensen. It is not Ron Paul. It’s not any top down federal solution. Even if Trump was a righteous ruler, transformational change in America will not be brought forth from the results of a presidential election. The cure is repentance and faith in our own hearts starting with the Church. This must start in individuals hearts and must progress from the bottom up to permeate all of society. The support that Trump and Biden receive is not an indicator of the defectiveness of the two party system, it is an indicator of the moral state of the people. It’s not like deep down the populous really yearn to destroy our statist idols, but a righteous third party candidate simply can’t win because of some shared delusion about third party votes leading to the greater of two evils winning. The two evil options are popular because evil is popular. Christians need to get this through their head.
But this all begs the question, as we seek to enact change in our own lives, in our families, and in our communities what is the best way to manifest the righteousness of God locally? Let’s look at the pragmatic example of Paul, who was no philosophical pragmatist. Does your righteousness exceed his?
As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” Acts 22:25
Here Paul doesn’t appeal to some transcendent standard of morality. He employs situational awareness. He’s dealing with a centurion who has complete fidelity to a false god, namely Caesar. He doesn’t appeal to Caesar, but he appeals to the centurion’s obligations under the false religion of Caesar – obligations which happened to protect him at that very moment.
Understand that Paul made this appeal in the context of a Roman social caste system which was a brutal, statist departure from biblical law. Citizenship was very difficult to achieve and provided preferential treatment to those who were fortunate to have it. Paul was a citizen by birth because he happened to be born in the free city of Tarsus. Here we see that in order to advance the gospel of the kingdom at the local level, the Apostle Paul appealed to rights inequitably afforded to him by an evil empire. This was not the only instance. Paul repeatedly as a practice would appeal to these partialities in order to advance the Gospel.
By making these appeals, Paul was not engaging in sinful complicity with the forces of evil. He was wise as a serpent. He was using the system of the enemy to sow the seeds of it’s destruction. He wanted the freedom to engage in kingdom activities with as little harassment from Rome as possible. Paul was no novelty, he continued in the example of Joseph with Pharoah in Egypt and Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. They understood the times and were willing to operate within the beast to undermine the beast.
It’s pragmatic but it isn’t pragmatism. Just as pietism does not equal piety, pragmatism does not equal being pragmatic. In a Christian context, pragmatism is wise decision operating within the bounds of God’s law. By contrast, pragmatism, is a pagan philosophy for all of life where the meaning and purpose of any given scenario is to be found in the projected, subjective, practical consequences of accepting or rejecting a matter regardless of any transcendent moral standards. This antinomian philosophy is antithetical to Christian thought. The dividing line between where an emphasis on shrewd tactics crosses the line into sinful pragmatism is the law of God and his covenant with us.
Now take this mindset of Paul’s and apply it to voting. Some seem to argue like they would shake their finger at Paul for seeking the temporary protections of the centralized beast in the interests of local effectiveness. When we vote in a federal election, what are we saying? Are we drafting someone from among the people and asking God to make them our ruler? Are we seeking a new covenant with God under the banner of an apostate nation? That’s not what I’m doing. You could possibly make that argument about voting in a primary election. But at the point of a federal election in a two party system constructed such as it is, the cake at this point is already baked. We have to recognize it for what it is. Like Paul, we are willing to work within the evil system to give ourselves some breathing room locally to effect long term change for the kingdom as we seek to win individual hearts and minds and undermine the system. We must asses the situation realistically as Paul did.
Just as Paul taking pragmatic action to secure the protections of the Roman empire was not endorsement, neither does taking pragmatic action in the voting booth to secure the protections of the American empire signify endorsement. The kingdom must advance.
It is precisely for this reason that I will be voting for Trump. We need to flip our perspective. I’m not playing the long game with presidential politics at the federal level. This is the tactical blunder of my friends voting third party (who are still my friends!). Even if one day in the far distant future, we actually do get a third party candidate into office, so what? That’s still a top down strategy. All that would do is engender more complacency at the local level. And what about the meantime? I have no illusions of a Trump presidency turning things around but in the short run, the hassle that Trump presents to the pursuit of localized change is far less than the hassle that Biden presents.
There are some prominent reconstructionists who seem to operate as Donald Trump’s cheerleaders excusing away his every foolish act or statement. I won’t be joining in with that chorus, I find it repugnant. Trump is not praiseworthy nor is he the solution.
Would I have drafted Donald Trump to be a candidate for any civil office? Not in a bazillion years. Would I vote for him over someone worse if two options are presented to me? Where third options are sure to fail? Yes. I would- and I think you should too. Do not violate your conscience, but I do not think it’s wise to abstain from voting because contrary to Paul, you are not availing yourself of protections that you and your neighbor could otherwise have.
At the end of the day, this article is a little strange for me to write because other than the exhortation to get involved locally, it’s not a rallying cry. If you don’t vote for Trump, except for a tactical difference, I don’t blame you too much. I get it. It’s even possible (for all you 4D chess players out there) that voting in Biden will heat up the energies of local activists and that Trump being re-elected will cool that movement off. As I’m not an accelerationist, I think that strategy to be sorely wanting. But that’s for another article.
In any case, as I wrote earlier, it’s a sad state of affairs that we have these two ridiculous options to choose from. God help us! So let’s get to the poll (remember the local candidates!) and then with whatever portion of our energies we devote to politics, let’s remember the priority of local engagement.