The pretense of lesser evil voting

John C. Nugent

John C. Nugent
July 19, 2016

Christians voting for the "lesser of two evils" must ask themselves: would God authorize us to choose evil at all?

July 19, 2016

I agree with your statement: "If we as Christians consider one of these candidates 'evil,' let's not pretend that we are victims of circumstance, trapped to make choices we can't avoid." I do, however, somewhat disagree with the premise of this piece as a whole.

Specifically, I wonder whether evangelicals who defend the "lesser of two evils" approach intend us to understand the word "evil" in the comprehensive biblical sense of the word. I certainly can't speak for all of them out there, but the evangelical apologists for this approach that I've heard on talk radio who use the phrase "choosing the lesser of two evils" seem to be using a cliché expression to express something more like "choosing what, given the impossibility of voting for a perfect candidate, seems to the voter to have the potential effect of somewhat mitigating the expansion of consequences of a particular evil he or she especially cares about, especially in light of Christian priorities."

I think that, to the extent that an evangelical thinks that both candidates truly are evil, you're right. I support conscientious abstention from voting, and I don't think there's necessarily anything unpatriotic or unchristian about doing so. But I also think that, to the extent that an evangelical believes that voting for one or the other candidate can help mitigate evil--even if it means putting an otherwise unsavory candidate in office--it represents (at least to that person) not a vote FOR evil...but a vote AGAINST evil.

I also think that it's too simplistic for us to equate the civic casting of a vote with a wholesale moral endorsement of everything a particular candidate says and does. After all, if that's the case, I'm not sure you can make a plausible argument for why an evangelical should EVER vote.

July 19, 2016

How are politics different than any other area of life? If you've raised children, you've probably made a few "lesser evil" decisions. If you've had to work in any institution -- school, church, business -- even if you were incredibly principled, you probably faced moments when the thing you most wanted to do simply wasn't possible. So you thought about your employees, your students, your co-workers, your kids -- and chose what you thought was best for them, even if not ideal. Because the perfect wasn't possible. You saw a hungry person and while you might have wanted to feed him a low-sodium, low sugar, highly nutritious meal, you bought him lunch at McDonalds. You were balancing your need to get back to work, to pick up your kid-- whatever. To say it was healthy food would be an utter lie, to say it was the best you could do under the circumstances, but God willing, you'll hope to do better next time -- is simply honest and real.

By the way, I think this article by Thabiti Anyabwile over at The Gospel Coalition says something interesting about his own weighing of racism and his own pro-life views. https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/thabitianyabwile/2016/06/07/on-abortion-and-racism-why-there-is-a-greater-evil-in-this-election/

Personally, I find the use of the word "evil" almost never helpful. It is almost always something we locate in others rather than ourselves, and means what, exactly? Really, really bad? No human being is perfect, to call someone evil means they are in some other category than the rest of us. It makes us crusaders who generally lose all sense or concern for understanding and empathy. Call the one you disagree with "evil," and there is almost nowhere else to go.

John Nugent
July 20, 2016

In Reply to JKana (comment #28646)
I suspect you are right that evangelicals don't feel like they are choosing an actual "evil." But I doubt they are using the term "evil" in some sort of "comprehensive biblical way." As someone quite familiar with the Bible, I am not sure what such a "comprehensive biblical" view would entail. The Bible does not call God's people to tasks that require them to make peace with things that are a little less bad than other things. God does call the powers and principalities to do the best they can to keep evil in check in the world, while acknowledging that they too are evil and that they will likely do additional evil along the way. But I don't see anywhere in Scripture where God's people are given that responsibility, though we are able to carry out our mission because of the relative peace and stability that God provides through the powers.

John Nugent
July 20, 2016

In Reply to Guest (comment #28648)
You're right to highlight the problems with the word evil. But I am not sure I want to narrate Christian living in terms of constant choices between less bad options. I think it is possible in human history to seek first God's kingdom in all things, and when that is done we are not choosing evil but good. I think it further clouds issues to bring language of "perfect" into the conversation. That gives us the impression that anything less than perfect is somehow "evil." Then we are back in the game of choosing between lesser evils. But we can choose good. And when it appears that we are forced to choose evil, we should think hard about whether we have placed ourselves in a position to make choices we don't really need to be making--since God would not have us choose evil that good may come.

Doug Vande Griend
July 20, 2016

Respectfully, it is naive to assume a presidential race is always, if perhaps ever, between two people. Rather, it is more accurately between two parties (or more but that's a long discussion itself).

To do anything in a first term, or to get reelected for a second term, the president will need to work with at least the bulk of the members of one party in the house and senate. So a more meaning analysis for this presidental election is to understand it as voting for Dems or Repubs, not Trump or Clinton.

Framed that way, I then focus on the general theory of what government is and should be that each party has, as well as the party's perspective on particular issues.

Analyzed this way, I will easily vote for Trump, despite my extreme distaste for him and my uncertainty about him. Voting for the Democratic candidate is a vote for their idea of government.

As to just one issue, voting for Clinton would virtually assure having a Sup Ct in the future that regarded the Constitution as a set of rules that 5 people are permitted to change at will. With the Repubs (even with Trump as president), there is at least a fighting chance that the Constitution, as honestly read, will survive as a foundational set of rules for the American nation.

Bottom line is that I favor good government (and law) over a very high degree of centralized societal control by the holder of the power of the sword. So voting for Trump is an obvious decision for me, distasteful as that may otherwise be.

Earl Casas
July 20, 2016

I think I get what you are saying, John, however the reasoning here is based on the phrase, lesser of two evils”. Perhaps it wouldn’t seem as offensive to say, the better of the two choices” or perhaps even a virtuous endeavor if we said, we were going to choose “the one that we think will do the least amount of damage to our country’s future”. However we say it, a rose is still a rose and it seems to me that the alternative to picking one of these two roses is to neglect our Biblical mandate to “see well to our households” and to “provide for our families”.
While it’s true God has not called us to fix the world through electing a politician we can do something as simple, and dare I say responsible, as vote. The bottom line is, we are all evil. That’s why Jesus had to die for our sins. After that, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to determine who is and who isn’t evil not mine. So for me, I’ll use the reasoning ability God has allowed me to have and will vote for the available candidate who I reason to be the best or do the least harm or have the most potential or whatever you want to call it. It’s been said, “ all that’s needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. To do nothing, from my perspective would be to set my children up for more difficulty down the road that perhaps could be detoured in some way. To do less, I think would be evil of me.

Kirk Dickinson
July 20, 2016

God directly chooses to put Evil men into power. If we get Clinton, it is because God willed in and if we get Trump it is because God willed it. God is sovereign and in control.

Dan 2:21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

Pro 8:15 By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
Pro 8:16 By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.

Psa 75:6 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.
Psa 75:7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

Dan 4:17b ...to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

David Greenwell
July 20, 2016

Donald Trump certainly has some character flaws, but how many new Christians do and say things that leave you scratching your head? It's my understanding, based upon James Dobson's report, that Donald Trump has within the last couple years, become a Christian. Remember that new Christians are considered babes in Christ. A parent doesn't chastise a toddler for falling down as he learns to walk. Let's pray for him and let God train him up, if indeed Trump has made the decision to follow Jesus. It seems to me that his pick of Mike Pence as his running mate is an indication that he has indeed made that decision.

July 20, 2016

John - thank you for this challenge - it was convicting and is causing me to think deeply about the issue (and more prayerfully than before). I think back to the example of Daniel who served pagan kings with honor, but never in a way that compromised the clear calling of God for his life. Daniel did not succumb to a false distinction - perhaps I, too, can do better.

It takes courage to present a challenge like this in the public domain - thank you for your courage, and God bless your ministry.

July 20, 2016

For m it's more frustration for having to vote more against someone. I would much rather be voting for someone. Maybe this is a moot distinction, but it's one I've be wrestling with for several election cycles now...

Hope Fick
July 20, 2016

"We’ve duped ourselves into thinking God has called us to fix this world."

Perhaps you could elaborate on the word "fix" in this sentence.

Ryan Page
July 20, 2016

Anyone that is on the ballot, not named Jesus Christ, is always going to be a lesser of two evils situation. We simply do not live in a theocracy where God is our sole "candidate".

So we are left with two candidates. Trump or Hillary. The Christian then has the following choices: 1) Do not vote 2) Trump 3) Hillary or 4) Write-In vote. So, in essence, this election is a lesser of four evils, not two. Which choice of the four is the lesser of the evils? Which choice of the four will do the greater good? Put this way, my choice for Trump is the best, even though he was the least of my original candidates. To choose 1, 3, or 4 would actually bring about the most harm, in my opinion, for our nation.

David Greusel
July 20, 2016

A thought-provoking post, to be sure (and judging from the number of comments)! I tend to object to the main idea, which I gather to be that as Christians are to abstain from evil, perhaps when faced with an election between two candidates we perceive to be evil, we should therefore abstain (or vote for an obscure third-party candidate, which is nearly the same thing).

My objection is this: though deeply flawed (maybe very deeply), neither Clinton nor Trump is evil personified. Further, if Christians abstain from voting until a thoroughly virtuous candidate is offered, Christians will never participate in another election, ever. The democratic process, this election, and the candidates are all corrupted by the Fall, and they always will be. Jimmy Carter himself said as much. In this broken world, we have to make the best choices we can under the present circumstances, not hold out for perfect circumstances. In this election, that could mean voting for Clinton, Trump, "other," or not voting at all. I'm not sure what I'll do. But I am sure that I will participate. Not to participate suggests that I've given up on politics because it's too corrupt. In my reading of scripture, Jesus gave up on nothing, or he would have had to give up on everything. Thank God he didn't.

John Nugent
July 20, 2016

I like where this conversation is going. My goal was to move it out of the realm of a "choice between evils." The choice to vote for the party one thinks is the best option would then be a choice for a good.

I'm just not comfortable with Christians making peace with evil in any realm. I reject the notion of wearing different hats in different spheres. There is imperfection wherever we go, which is not the same as calling all things evil. I didn't raise my children to go out and choose the less worse thing throughout their day. Nor do I teach such notions to my students and church family.

Evil is strong language and it should stay that way. To use it for what is not evil and then employ theological gymnastics to justify participation in it seems problematic and sets bad precedent that we don't want to see played out in other areas of life.

I get why the world uses such language. It has made peace with evil. Christians should cultivate better speech habits.

As an aside, we should probably dispense with the idea that to do nothing when we could have done something is irresponsible or itself an evil. We all face countless opportunities daily to do things to make this world better. We simply prioritize based on our most central commitments. So to assert that abstaining from voting is irresponsible without having a serious conversation about core Christian commitments from a biblical perspective is just a cheap shot.

John Nugent
July 20, 2016

Great question Hope. Thanks for asking. The short answer is that you should read my book "Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church." But I will try to at least give you an idea of what I meant by "us being duped that God has called us to fix the world."

In short, many people assume that when God formed Israel to be his set apart people, their job was to fix the world. Sin so distorted creation that God had to flood it, but even after the flood things got bad again, so God created Israel to do something about it. Then, so the story goes, Israel failed to do so and became just like the world. So God sent Jesus to fix the world. His life, death, resurrection was part one; the church continues that work in part two, and Jesus will return to finish fixing the world in the third and final part. Our job, according to this line of thinking, as a part of part two, is to serve as Jesus' representatives to fix the world.

My thesis is that this gets the story all wrong. God never commissions Israel to fix the world, the prophets never critique Israel for failing to fix or attempt fixing the world, Jesus didn't focus on fixing the world or instruct his followers to, and none of the NT letter critique the church for not doing their part in fixing the world. There is simply no biblical mandate to fix the world.

As beings created in God's image, all humans are tasked with being good caretakers of the bits of this world that God has entrusted to us, and God's people should be exemplary in how we do that. Beyond that, the Scriptures make quite clear that God uses the powers and principalities to limit evil in this world and to promote and reward the good. But God's set apart people are never told that God brought us into existence in order to do the job of the powers for them or to help the powers do their job better. Rather, we are told that the old order and the powers that manage it is passing away.

What does God call us to do? Embrace, display, and proclaim the new order of God's kingdom. We seek it first. It is the rudder that guides all that we say and do. We must fill this world with communities that serve as demonstration plots of the order that has begun in Christ and will come in full when he returns. We welcome people into this new order. Paul calls us the new humanity, the new creation. God is building something new amid the ruins of the realm of the powers. We are ambassadors of his kingdom. In Christ, God has reconciled all things to himself and our job is to announce the good news of this accomplishment.

This is the church's primary responsibility. Everything else gets evaluated in light of it. No one is going to do this if we don't. On the contrary, there is a long line of people who want to join the powers in maintaining or fixing the old order. But we are the first fruits of God's new order.

In short, God has not called his set apart people to make this world a better place, but to be the better place that God has made in this world through Christ. If anyone is to call a Christian irresponsible it should be for not doing the job that God has assigned to us or, perhaps, for allowing the changing of the guards among the powers to so enthrall us that we lose track of our primary focus. What is perhaps most irresponsible is for us to demean one another for not being as involved in the changing of the guard as the powers would like us to be.

Michael Cobb
July 20, 2016

When the apostle Paul urged the Church to pray for leaders (in 1 Timothy 2:1-5), he did it toward the end that Christians would be able to live lives that were peaceful and quiet and that the gospel would go forth without hindrance.

In America, not only are we able to pray for our leaders to govern in this way, but we are given the opportunity to elect those officials who are most inclined to do so. In this case, that would be Trump. So Christians ought to vote for him.

July 20, 2016

Since Jesus Himself said that there is none good but God we'll always be voting the "lesser of two evils".

We KNOW the evil of Hillary Clinton. Trump is harder to determine - but he'd have to work hard to be as bad, let alone worse, than Clinton. I'll take my chances with him.

July 20, 2016

I liked your article but take exception with the comment about voting or not voting. I served 22 years in the U.S. Army to give every American the right to vote as their conscience allows them. There are people in this world who would love to be able to vote their conscience but are denied that right because of their sex or the politics of their country. If people don't vote then they have abdicated the right to complain about the government and how it is run.

July 21, 2016

There are third party options out there. All you have to do is research third political parties and see where they stand on political issues. I am now a member of the Constitution Party. I quit voting for the lesser of the two evils and I now vote for principle over politics. People tell me I throw my vote away, but there is nothing wrong for voting for principle and letting God take care of the rest. After all, it is God who appoints the kings.

Doug Vande Griend
July 21, 2016

Nicolas. You aren't throwing your vote away, even though I will vote for Trump with my nose tightly pinched, hoping it could make an unlikely difference in the vote tally in Oregon.

Voting for the candidate of a party like the Constitution Party makes a political statement that is valid and important. Change can't happen without an effort to change.

A good friend of mine, Herb Titus, was once the VP candidate of the Constitution Party.

Doug Vande Griend
July 21, 2016

In reply to John Nugent, #28665
I really liked this comment, John, much more even that the original article you wrote. :-)

July 21, 2016

I liked the phrase, "Heated elections like this one give Christians an opportunity to think..."

In the Trump vs. Clinton campaign, I think we need the benefit of a parent. Who should that be? We need morality. We don't need hurtful name calling. We need acceptance. We don't need a anything goes free-for-all. We need religion. We don't religious hate.

We need a parent to guide America.

Jesus comes along in John's gospel and tells his disciples (all of us), “I will not leave you as orphans." In essence, "I am your parent."

“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:21)

It's as if Jesus is saying ... where people act as I have acted; where people do what I have done; where people love as I have unconditionally loved; when you do unto others as I have done; when you treat all people with love and respect as I have done; you will finally be where I am and where God is; you will have found Me, your Spiritual Parent.

Ellen M.
July 21, 2016

II do not think that abstaining from voting is a good choice. There is clearly a difference in morality and judgement between the two candidates. If we were to look back on history at the election that Hitler won, were there people who didn't vote because they didn't like either candidate? What would we say to them looking back? This has the distinct possibility of being an absolute disaster, with lives at stake. When there is one candidate who wants to fundamentally change our laws and doesn't believe in the constitution, and has shown us she is not afraid of disregarding laws, and who knows what else once she gets in office, I am absolutely voting against her. No question.

Dave Maynard
July 22, 2016

In Reply to JKana (comment #28646)
This is the best explanation I have read concerning "the lesser of two evils" cliche. Thanks for saying it. You put into writing what I've felt but didn't know how to express.

John Nugent
July 22, 2016

I was planning to save this for a different time or forum, but I appreciate the kinds of things many of you are saying and I am curious what you might think. When we consider whom to vote for, we often evaluate candidates based on God's revelation of how his set apart people should live.

Earlier this year I thought it might be interesting to study what God holds pagan nations accountable for in the Old Testament. So I read through all of the oracles against the nations found among the OT prophets. Here are the top three indictments with over 25 references each (several other indictments got less than 10):

1. Pride in their accomplishments, wealth, and uniqueness
2. Violent military domination over other nations
3. Mistreatment of God’s people, land, and temple

Should these factors play a more significant role in our discernment? Should they be weighted more heavily than other factors that are also important?

Eric Van Dyken
July 22, 2016

Hi Ellen,

I think that many Christians (myself included) don't share your opinion that there is a clear difference in morality between the two candidates. You seem to weigh in on the side of Donald Trump being clearly more moral than Hillary Clinton. Would this be the same Donald Trump that bilks money from the poor and makes himself rich through the vice of gambling? Would this be the Donald Trump, family man that he is, that denigrates the looks of women, objectifies women, cavorts with purveyors of pornography, cheats on and divorces his wives (plural), and glories in his infidelities? Would this be the Donald Trump who has nothing about which to confess and seek God's forgiveness? Would this be the proud, arrogant, haughty man who mainly argues by denigrating others and has all of the maturity of a junior high student serving detention? Is this the Donald Trump who gives away almost nothing of his vast wealth? Is this the Donald Trump who contradicts himself (lies) daily? Is this the Donald Trump who has praised Planned Parenthood?

Now, mind you, I am no admirer of Hillary Clinton, but to say that Donald Trump has a clear moral advantage over Hillary Clinton is at best debatable, and at worst is...something much worse. There are defendable reasons to vote for Donald Trump, and I think Doug did a good job above of presenting one such view. I don't think that Trump as the moral stalwart of one of those positions.

And since you have triggered Godwin's law, I'll also mention that a convincing argument can be made that there are more parallels between Donald Trump and Hitler than there are between Hillary Clinton and Hitler.

This is not (I repeat: not) a defense of Hillary Clinton or Democratic policies. I intend more to say that Donald Trump is by an biblical standard nothing other than a fool and a despicable man. Vote for him if your conscience so dictates, but don't fool yourself into thinking he is any sort of savior or paragon of virtue.

I see this election as a Romans 1 type of scenario in that it seems that we are getting what we deserve as a decadent, deceitful, and immoral culture. It seems to me that God is giving us over to our worst desires and inclinations, and allowing us to reap what we have sown. The bright spots are threefold: God is still sovereign. Government is no savior. The darker the culture, the brighter the light of the church, should she remain (relatively) untarnished by the world.

July 24, 2016

One strong undertone that I am hearing throughout this article is this: the church bears a distinctive role from that of the political powers... Now there's a thought! How might we imagine the mission and function of Christians/the church as being different from the mission and function of governing authorities? What would it look like if the Christians whose citizenship is in heaven were actually called to bear witness to the gospel apart from electing an official that would make America great? What if the work of bearing the good news had little to do with who was in office? It's an intriguing concept to say the least, and one that seems to find biblical precedent. I think perhaps the "lessor of two evils" issue is only the tip of an iceberg in the greater issue of "should Christians put so much hope in the political structure to bear witness to the Kingdom of God?" Or are we called to a different set of standards; a different way of living. Perhaps then "submitting to governing authorities" does not mean seeking to control or have a swaying power in governing authorities...

Thank you for the thoughts and your boldness. I will be thinking about this concept more in the coming weeks.

July 26, 2016

Not to decide is to decide. In a democracy, our vote us our voice. Failing to vote is ceding to others. Examine the issues. Who will support religous liberty? That issue alone should make the choice clear.

Bill Wald
July 26, 2016

Sometimes the devil we know is so evil that I am willing to chance the devil I don't know. Sometimes I must something without knowing which way is the best.
Sometimes I feel compelled to do something that is technically (?) wrong and settle with God later.

David VanderWeele
July 26, 2016

In Reply to Doug Vande Griend (comment #28653)
Thank you, Doug for this thoughtful comment. I agree that a president has a difficult time passing his agenda through Congress, regardless of which party holds the majority.

And yours is one of the best explanations I’ve heard for why so many voters support Trump.

I think it’s naive, however, to think that who the president is matters so little. Among other things, the president interacts with other world leaders, is our commander in chief, must make grave decisions about using weapons with massive capacity, and is a role model for Americans.

Trump has demonstrated an inability to think of anyone but himself even when politically questionable; responds to even minor crises with blatant lies (fanning the crisis) or with anger, clouding his judgement; repeatedly says he admires numerous dictators, because they are dictators; uses everyone around him to promote himself; and has an inclination to fan the flame of racism, deny religious freedom, and insult women — so, policies aside, I can hardly think of a worse person to fill any of these roles.

And to think that for some people he could be the most prominent example of a Christian, well…

It is important to uphold the Constitution. But I don’t think we should have such high reverence for that document that we need to make this sacrifice. Over the past 200+ years there have even been some positive examples of it being updated.

Eric Van Dyken
July 27, 2016

Hi David,

As for a balancing argument on foreign policy and diplomacy, would you concede that Hillary Clinton had a poor record as Secretary of State, particularly as it relates to the Middle East (the most volatile region in the world)?

As for a balancing argument on self promotion, would you concede that Hillary Clinton's career in public life can best be characterized as one great exercise in self advancement and self promotion? Hard to imagine how she managed to become a centimillionaire simply through her largesse and public service.

As for a balancing argument on being a role model for Americans, would you concede that Hillary Clinton is a poor role model for Americans of any stripe as she boldly proclaims that unborn humans have no rights whatsoever and as she treats poorly those who have credibly accused her husband of rape and sexual assault?

It seems to me that Hillary Clinton bears all the same hallmarks as Donald Trump, she is just much more guarded in how she presents herself. I'm certainly not making an argument for Donald Trump, just providing a countering view on some of those specifics that you brought up.

David VanderWeele
July 27, 2016

Amen, brother. Hillary comes with her own faults, doesn’t she. There’s a lot not to like about her, including all the news stories breaking while the convention is trotting out everyone to talk about what a public servant she was when Bill was the only politician in the family. Regardless of her actions earlier in life, she left a lot to be desired as Secretary of State. Though I guess I’d have a harder time making a convincing argument that the Middle East was worse off 2008-2012 than the previous 8 years, or that we started fewer wars or lost more lives. And that was under the watch of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, two unusually outstanding citizens in public office.

I heard recently that the abortion rate peaked during the Reagan years, declined during Bill Clinton’s era, plateaued during George W. Bush, but is now the lowest its been since they started accurate records. If Hillary manages to beat out Trump, maybe Congress/the Supreme Court can keep the Obama trend going despite Hillary.

I guess we’re all fallen, and our role as Christians is to find that bit of Christ reflected in ourselves as well as each of our fallen neighbors. Most of our politicians seem determined to make it hard for us to do that. I find it most difficult with Trump. I guess it’s a little late for this, but why couldn’t Kasich get traction?

Eric Van Dyken
July 28, 2016

Hi David,

I think we share a lot of points of commonality, and likely differ in some specifics.

A few notes in response, starting from the back. I think perhaps the greatest reason that Kasich didn’t get much traction is that we live in a celebrity-obsessed culture. Few things will get you farther in this country than the mere fact of being a celebrity. And it doesn’t even matter why you are a celebrity – you can be famous for your public fornication, famous for your crude mouth, famous for your appearance on a TV program, you name it. Notice how both the RNC and DNC conventions trot out celebrities to endorse their particular candidate, as if celebrities are in some unique and informed position to opine on defense policy, economics, or domestic policy. Most of them have shown themselves to be relative ignoramuses on these topics, but as a culture we lap up everything they have to say as if it is meaningful. With the advent of such phenomena as Twitter, we hang on their every word. Donald Trump is essentially the inevitable result of a shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture. Shoot, where I live (Minnesota), we’ve already had Jesse “The Body” Ventura as our governor. And of course Reagan was a Hollywood product, which can’t be overlooked. I also think that in many ways Kasich lacked the charisma many people are looking for in a leader. Another contributing factor for Kasich’s lack of traction is the social, cultural, and political climate in which this election cycle is occurring. For better or worse, this cycle is the cycle of rebellion, even evidenced by Sanders’ strong showing despite the DNC’s best efforts to undercut him.

I think you will have a tough row to hoe if you intend to make the argument that Democratic policies lead to lower abortions. To begin with, let’s be absolutely clear about Mr. Obama: he has consistently argued for the right to kill children, including fighting against any limitation on killing children who are being birthed. Of course his position is entirely consistent with the Democratic platform and that of Mrs. Clinton who has said that no unborn child has human rights.

Let’s take a closer look at the actual number of abortions during presidential terms, but beginning with the understanding that correlation does not equal causation. What you conclude from the numbers depends in great part on how you want to spin the numbers. All the numbers I use will be from the Guttmacher Institute, which is the reporting arm of Planned Parenthood. I see you started with Reagan, but I will start with Carter. The Carter years (1977-1981) saw a rise of 260,640 abortions. The Reagan years (1981-1989) were mostly stable with numbers, seeing the reduction of only 10,440 from first to last year. The George H.W. Bush years (1989-1993) saw a reduction of 71,900. The Clinton years (1993-2001) saw a reduction of 204,000. The George W. Bush years (2001-2009) saw a reduction of 139,400. The Obama years (2009-2015) have seen a reduction of 93,110.

Several observations: The Obama years have a lower rate of reduction that either of the Bush terms. The Carter years were the only years of net gain in this dataset. (Here I cheated by not going back to Ford and including it in the dataset – see what I did there!). The Reagan years saw the end of the steady rise since 1973 and the beginning of the decline. The Clinton years saw the greatest total decline, but one could argue that substantial decline could easily have been the result of 12 years of Republican presidential policies leading up to those years. I’m not sure that I share your optimism about an “Obama trend” based on these numbers.

I think it is more accurate to conclude that there are many social, cultural, political and economic factors that contribute to the overall abortion rate trends. It is likely overly simplistic to slap a number next to a presidential term and assign negative or positive responsibility for any trend based on a tenuous correlation.

One thing that is unambiguous: The Democratic Party has codified its absolute adherence to the principle that an unborn human life has value and is worthy of protection based solely on the will of the mother. This can only mean that God is not the one who determines worth, but worth is assigned by people. If I stab a pregnant woman in the abdomen and cause her unborn child to die at any stage of pregnancy, I can and will be prosecuted for murder. However, that same child can be willfully killed in our society, given that the one whom God has charged with protecting and nurturing that child (the mother) decides that she does not value her child. That is the actual and lasting legacy of Democratic policy. The Republican response has often been less than perfect, but until reaches those depths, it is far preferable in my view.

David VanderWeele
July 28, 2016

As you said, many social, cultural, political, and economic factors contribute to abortion rate trends. It’s an important issue, but it’s not obvious the president’s party affects the rate greatly. If you look at rate, which accounts for changes in population size, the greatest declines were 93-00 and 09-current, but its been a steady decline since the mid-80s. A rapid reverse of the declining abortion rate doesn’t seem likely regardless the election outcome. It’s one of many issues to be concerned about regarding the two candidates we’re left with.

Tony Thomas
August 2, 2016

As Anericans we have a responsibility to vote. Beyond that was Christians we have a much higher responsibility to fight for the best possible culture for our posterity. We must choose the lesser of two evils. If Christians don't vote we are willingly handing over this country over to the ungodly secularists.
True we are just passing through. This is not our "home", but we ARE living here and by the grace of God, we have a RIGHT to vote change; and, to not vote is to lay down before satan without a fight.

October 13, 2016

Thank-you. I am fully rejecting the notion that not to vote for one is the equivalent of a vote for the other and voting for someone other than the major party candidates is a "wasted" vote. The only wasted vote is when you vote for someone you don't want to be president. I do not want either of the major party candidates to be president therefore I will not waste my vote on either of them.

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