For social conservatives, Senator Ted Cruz was the ideal candidate. He was an unapologetic convictional conservative who had demonstrated his commitment to fight for our shared values against all comers. But he’s out of the race. What happens now?
The GOP establishment will find a way to rally behind Trump immediately. Expect the rapprochement to be complete by this weekend. Why? Because despite all their fulminations, they will quickly come to see that Donald is one of them. He has the same love for big government that they do and the same distaste for social issues. And they have fiefdoms to protect and will join forces with Trump in the hopes that he will be their protector.
Here are the choices facing social conservatives.
- Vote for the lesser of two evils.
Evangelical voters will break one of two ways on this issue. Some will say a vote for the lesser of two evils is a vote for less evil. They say, “If I have a choice between more evil and less evil, then I’m going to choose less evil.” That’s where I myself tend to come out on this matter.
There is a compelling case to be made, in my view, that while we may have a tough time voting FOR either of the two major candidates, we may well be inclined to vote AGAINST one of them as totally and irredeemably unacceptable. And if the only effective way to vote against one candidate is to vote for the other guy, then we may realize that’s the thing we have to do.
Many evangelicals will see the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as something like being forced to choose between Ahab and Jezebel. Neither of them is ideal, but at least Ahab had some redeeming qualities. Jezebel had none.
- Don’t vote for “evil” at all.
Some will say, “A vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil, and I won’t do it.” They will find both candidates unacceptable from a moral and political standpoint and will not see their way clear to vote for either of them.
- Vote third party.
Others will decide to vote for a third party candidate. Registrations in the Libertarian Party have spiked this week, as more and more Republicans burn their registration cards and turn their back on the Grand Old Party, which may soon be neither grand nor even a party, just old.
- Write-in your candidate of choice.
Forty-three states allow write-in votes for president, although for the votes to count in 35 of them the candidate must file an affidavit of some kind at least a month before the election. A total of 494 electoral votes are available to write-in candidates.
Although it’s rare, presidential candidates such as Herbert Hoover, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, and JFK won primaries by going the write-in route. Lisa Murkowski actually won her Alaskan senate seat in 2010 as a write-in candidate.
From a pragmatic standpoint, a write-in vote is more of a protest vote than anything else. But write-in voters won’t consider it a throw-away vote. They’ll be inclined to think that a vote for the lesser of two evils is the vote that’s been thrown away, and it will be very difficult to persuade them to think of things in any other way.
- Stay home.
Four million conservative evangelical voters stayed home in 2012, handing a second term to Barack Obama. It’s likely, in my view, that even more of these voters will stay home this year (whether they should or not), thus giving a decided boost to Hillary Clinton. But the stay-home option should be the least acceptable option for those who believe that we as disciples of Jesus must be salt and light everywhere, including the world of politics.
Some folks might even be tempted to blame God for this mess. “We asked you for a godly president, and we’re not going to get one. You let us down!”
I’m reminded of the story about a man trapped on the roof of his house while the floodwaters rose about him. He prayed and asked God to save him. Shortly after his prayer, a man in a motor boat pulled up and asked him if he needed a lift. “No thanks,” he replied. “I’m trusting God to save me.” Then a helicopter descends, and a guy with a bullhorn asks him if he’d like to be airlifted to safety. “No thanks. I’m trusting God to save me.” Then a few minutes later, another guy in a motor boat pulls up and asks him if he’d like a ride to safety. “No thanks. I’m trusting God to save me.”
Shortly thereafter the floodwaters cover his house and he drowns. He finds himself standing before God and says, “Why didn’t you answer my prayer and save me?” “What do you mean?” God said. “I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”
So God says to America when we ask him why he didn’t give us a godly president, “What do you mean? I sent you Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee. Don’t be blaming me for the choices you made.”
So what do we do now? Elijah experienced a similar political disappointment when his hoped-for spiritual revival on Mt. Carmel fizzled and he had to run for his life from Jezebel. He ran until he collapsed under a broom tree, where God let him sleep and then fed him. Then God led Elijah to a secluded cave, where God met him and spoke to him in a quiet whisper rather than in thunder.
God’s counsel to Elijah was simple: ”Get your self-pity out of your system, and get back to work.” He sent him out to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as a prophet. In other words, he got busy doing the things that prophets are supposed to do.
And so this is what believers must do today. We may be disappointed in the choices that are left to us. We may have had hopes as high as those which filled Elijah when the fire of God fell on Mt. Carmel, and those hopes may have been dashed.
Well, let’s spend a little time under the broom tree, spend some time in the cave until we hear the quiet voice of God, and then let’s get back to work doing the things that Christian citizens are supposed to do. There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got a country to save.