Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Random Rant on Election 2016, the Mormon vote, and Evan McMullin...

Making sense of the confusion and deception

The past few election cycles have featured a lot of hand wringing on the right over who our candidate for President should be and in the end left many claiming the final choice is merely "the lesser of two evils". Never has this attitude presented itself with such force as it has in this election cycle. The media has run with this concept and is promoting it in every possible way. Daily we are bombarded with yet another supposed reason to question our ability to get behind our party's candidate. Even Donald Trump's supporters often begin with "yeah, he's [insert character flaw here], or he [insert past allegation here], but look at Hilary!". Seriously? That's your argument? Geez! No wonder everyone is looking around for an alternative (and so was I... until I shut the noise off and thought about it for a bit).

As an aside... if you are only casting your vote in this election out of fear of what "that other guy/gal" will do if they get elected, please do the country a favor and pull the covers up over your face on election day and go back to sleep. Fear has no place in this process.

Remember Ross Perot? If not, read up on it. If not for Mr. Perot playing the spoiler card we would never have had a Bill Clinton presidency and probably never be facing the possibility of a Hilary Clinton presidency now.

Just like Perot, Evan McMullin has entered the presidential race for the expressed purpose of being a spoiler on the right. Don't believe me? Believe Him:

"Right now we’re either on the ballot or registered as a write-in in 34 states. By the time we get to November 8th it will be 40 to 45. And that’s plenty for our strategy which is not a conventional strategy. We’re not trying to win 270 votes. Of course that would be great but it’s just not going to happen, this is a three-month presidential campaign…we will be happy to have prevented someone who I believe is a true authoritarian from taking power in the United States and that’s Donald Trump".

"So what" you say "he won't get enough votes to make any difference"

Enter the "Mormon" vote.

Over the course of the general election cycle this year I have watched as my LDS (Mormon) Facebook friends have shared memes or posted quotes from our church leaders related to the topic of politics and elections. Most have been general in nature and encourage us, as always, to carefully weigh the candidates and issues and choose wisely. No big deal right? Well lately the memes are getting more specific and the postings are accompanied with statements attempting to make me think that in order to follow my Church Leader's council I cannot possibly vote for Trump, or alternatively, that as a Mormon I must go for the Mormon candidate (McMullin).

The most blatant of these coercive memes features LDS Church President (former) Ezra Taft Benson and the quote: "If you vote for the lesser of two evils you are still voting for evil and you will be judged for it."

[note: in preparing this blog I was unable to locate this meme to show, it has been removed from FB]
Now when, or possibly even if, (a quick search online cannot find any verification this quote is valid) He said this I am confident that he did not have any particular candidate in mind because our church leaders do not endorse (or condemn) individual candidates. Whether this quote is accurate or not is beside the point. It is most often prefaced with something along the lines of "you should consider McMullin", as though Trump is presumed to be evil and therefore not worthy of my vote.

The end result of this campaign is that McMullin has a shot at actually winning Utah outright. It's a wild long shot, but still not impossible. At the very least he threatens to split the Republican vote enough to allow Hilary to take the Electoral votes for the state. And there are a couple of other states where he may be a spoiler on an Electoral level. All for a campaign which is a lie, never having had any intention of being elected. Just playing the spoiler right from the start. All the while his Facebook page continues the false choice "the lesser of two evils".

Now let me throw my own Mormon meme into the ring just to mix things up and get you thinking for yourself again.

In May 1968 during one of the most chaotic presidential election cycles in any ones memory, Hugh B. Brown, then a councilor to LDS Church President David O. McKay gave a speech to the faculty and student body at Brigham Young University. In the preamble to his speech he spoke about the election as follows:

"Beware of those who are so lacking in humility that they cannot come within the framework of one of our two great parties. Our nation has avoided chaos like that which is gripping France today because men have been able to temper their own desires sufficiently to seek broad agreement within one of the two major parties, rather than forming splinter groups around one radical idea. Our two-party system has served us well and should not be lightly discarded."

Wait, What?

So where does all this leave us? Simple, the actual problem here is not Trump, or Hilary, even McMullin. The problem is not whether Mormons do or should vote in a block like little Christian lemmings. The problem is allowing the same media that we have all been complaining about ad nausium for nearly twenty years to convince us that our party's candidate is "evil". Or even that the other party's candidate is "evil". The same media that has painted us as racist, sexist, white supremacist', homophobes? We are seriously going to let them tell us who our own candidate is?

Moreover is this or that candidate being "evil" even a valid argument? Is that the way we are going to decide elections now? How convenient... once you label the other guy as being evil there is no more need to waste any time on those pesky issues... or facts... "evil is bad, I can't support bad!" Worse yet when we reduce the entire election to "your guy is evil" it is only a short walk down this road to "if you support that guy you must be evil too!". Unproductive, to say the least. And un-Christian, and just plain mean.

Let me hit you with another Hugh B. Brown quote to put this in perspective (also from the 1968 speech):

"Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit that will enable you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy a variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent."

Wow, have I got some repenting to do! I am one of the worst offenders at calling Obama, and Bill, and Hilary evil... time to do it right, for a change.

So is Donald Trump evil? Is Hilary? Don't know, don't care. Issues... it's long past time to look at this, and every other, race on where these candidates stand on the issues that motivate us. Enough labeling and name calling.

Looking at the 2016 presidential race in these terms, is it still a crucial election in terms of the future of our country? Absolutely! Will the policy decisions of the next President be critical in shaping the course of our country's future? Of course! They always have been, and always will be. And that is what we must talk about. Not some subjective nonsense about who is and is not evil. God will sort all of that out for us later on. For right now lets sit down, discuss and debate what our candidates actually propose to do as President, and maybe... with a little luck (and a Christian attitude) we can still be friends even when we end up agreeing to disagree.

Spoiler finish... I will happily (even proudly) vote for Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States. Will I agree with everything he says or proposes? Probably not, but be careful of someone who always says exactly what you want to hear, they are probably lying. I have followed Trumps career since the early 80s. He was at once a "character" and a genius. At times everything he touched seemed to turn to gold, and at others nothing seemed to go right (sounds a bit like my own life). He has always been outspoken. He has always been a bit over the top as a showman. Is that really bad? He has experienced real world failure, and real world success. he has gone through the process of maturing and discovery that lead him to realize where his opinions were wrong and where they were right ("But he changed his position on..." they whine!). Tell me this has never happened to you in your own life and I will call you a liar. We change, and we grow, and our opinions do the same. I have listened to what he proposes now and his opinion on issues and I agree with enough of it that I am comfortable in voting for him. And that is all we can really ask of a candidate.