Some Christian friends tell me they can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump because, when faced with a choice between "the lesser of two evils," the morally right thing is to choose neither one. They recommend voting for a third-party or write-in candidate.
As a professor who has taught Christian ethics for 39 years, I think their analysis is incorrect, for reasons that I will briefly mention here and that I have explained in greater detail elsewhere:
I did not support Trump in the primary season, but now that Trump has won the GOP nomination, I think voting for Trump is a morally good choice because he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. I do not think Trump is an "evil candidate," but rather a good candidate with flaws.
I agree that he is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people.
But he is not racist or anti-(legal) immigrant or anti-Semitic or misogynistic – these are unjust magnifications by a hostile press exaggerating some careless statements he has made. I think he is deeply patriotic and sincerely wants the best for the country. He has raised remarkable children. Many who have known him personally speak highly of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity. But the main reason I call him "a good candidate with flaws" is that I think most of the policies he supports will do the most good for the nation.
The nation under Clinton
If this election is close (which seems likely), then if someone votes for a write-in candidate instead of voting for Trump, this action will directly help Hillary Clinton, because she will need one less vote to win. Therefore the question that Christians should ask is this: Can I in good conscience act in a way that helps a liberal like Hillary Clinton win the presidency?
Clinton would quickly replace Justice Scalia with another liberal like Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. This would give liberals a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court even without Justice Kennedy, and 6-3 when he votes with them.
But that is not all. Justice Ginsburg is 83, and she has had colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and has a heart stent. Justice Kennedy is 80. Justice Breyer is 78. A President Clinton could possibly nominate three or four justices to the Supreme Court, locking in a far-left activist judiciary for perhaps 30 or more years.
Liberal Democrats are now within one Supreme Court justice of their highest goal: gaining permanent control of the nation with a five vote majority on the Supreme Court, and then systematically imposing every liberal policy on the nation not through winning elections but through a relentless parade of one Supreme Court decision after another. The nation would then no longer be ruled by the people and their elected representatives, but by unelected, unaccountable, activist judges
The nation under Trump
But if Trump would appoint a conservative replacement for Scalia (as he has promised), and probably one or two other Supreme Court justices, then we could see a 5-4 or even 6-3 majority of conservative justices on the Supreme Court. Such a Supreme Court would finally return control of the nation to the people and their elected representatives, removing it from dictatorial judges who repeatedly make law from the bench.
Unborn children would finally be protected from being killed, and our religious liberty would once again be protected rather than trampled.
In addition, Trump has pledged to reduce taxes and cancel onerous regulations on business, leading to a substantial expansion of businesses, more jobs, and higher pay. Finally our economy would snap out of its eight years of anemic growth. This would help the poor and the unemployed most of all.
Trump has promised to expand school choice in our inner cities, something badly needed by many minority children, but Hillary Clinton will bow to the teachers unions and oppose school choice at every turn.
Trump has promised to rapidly rebuild our depleted military forces, but Clinton would continue the liberal policy of weakening them through denying funding.
And Trump’s policies would bring far better results in rebuilding our military, securing our borders, defeating terrorism, standing up to China and Russia, protecting Israel, removing foolish restrictions on oil and coal energy supplies, and repealing the disaster of Obamacare and replacing it with a much better free-market-oriented system.
How can we know that Trump won’t change his mind?
"But Trump has changed his mind in the past," a politically-minded friend said to me. "How do you know that he will do what he has promised?’
In the history of American politics, candidates who have been elected president have occasionally changed their minds on one or another issue while in office, but no president has ever gone back on most of what he has promised to do, especially on issues that are crucially important in the election. In this election, it is reasonable to think that the most likely result is that both Trump and Clinton will do what they have promised to do. That is the basis on which we should decide how to vote.
Does character matter?
"But are you saying that character doesn’t matter?" someone might ask. I believe that character does matter, but I think Trump’s character is far better than what is portrayed by much current political mud-slinging, and far better than his opponent’s character.
In addition, if someone makes character the only factor to consider, that is a fallacy in ethical reasoning that I call "reductionism" – the mistake of reducing every argument to only one factor, when the situation requires that multiple factors be considered. In this election, an even larger factor is the future of the nation that would flow from a Clinton or a Trump presidency.
Consider instead the most likely results. The most likely result of voting for Trump is that he will govern the way he promises to do, bringing much good to the nation.
But the most likely result of not voting for Trump is that you will be abandoning thousands of unborn babies who will be put to death under Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court, thousands of Christians who will be excluded from their lifelong occupations such as having just, thousands of the poor who will never again be able to find high-paying jobs in an economy crushed by government hostility toward business, thousands of inner-city children who will never be able to get a good education, thousands of the sick and elderly who will never get adequate medical treatment when the government is the nation’s only healthcare provider, thousands of people who will be killed by an unchecked ISIS, and millions of Jews in Israel who will find themselves alone and surrounded by hostile enemies. And you will be contributing to a permanent loss of the American system of government due to a final victory of unaccountable judicial tyranny.
When I look at it this way, my conscience, and my considered moral judgment, tell me that I must vote for Donald Trump as the candidate who is most likely to do the most good for the United States of America.
Dr. Wayne A. Grudem is a celebrated theologian, seminary professor, and author. He has held the presidency of the Evangelical Theological Society and served as the general editor of the ESV Study Bible.
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