I’m a lifelong conservative who has voted Republican as long as I can remember. Growing up, I watched President Reagan swing Georgia from a state where a Republican couldn’t get elected dogcatcher to a state that was almost totally red. A defining moment of my political life was when I saw President Reagan live at a campaign rally in Atlanta. I started listening to Rush Limbaugh on talk radio in the 1990s and have been writing my conservative Christian blog since 2007.
This makes it all the more surprising for people when they find out that I’m not voting for Donald Trump. In fact, I voted early last week and cast my ballot for Evan McMullin, the independent conservative.
Why I voted for McMullin and why I didn’t vote for Trump are closely intertwined. The bottom line for me is that I don’t believe that either Trump or Hillary should be president. In fact, I don’t believe that either Trump or Hillary should be allowed anywhere near the White House. Not even on a tour group.
People say that if I don’t want Hillary to be president, I should support Donald Trump. The truth is that I oppose Trump for many of the same reasons that I oppose Hillary Clinton. The two candidates are evenly matched in many areas. Trump and Hillary both have deep character flaws. Both are chronic liars. Both are dishonest. Both are corrupt.
I had always said that I would vote Republican as long as the party supported my beliefs and values. Under Donald Trump, it no longer does.
Hillary’s corruption is well known, but when I looked into Trump’s background, I found a seemingly endless list of scandals even before the revelation of his sexual harassment problem. Not paying workers, using eminent domain to take the homes of less wealthy and connected Americans, and openly bragging about bribing elected officials are only the icing on the cake. His unsatisfied clients say Trump was literally a con man who stole tens of thousands of dollars from hardworking real estate investors through Trump University and then allegedly paid off state attorneys general like Pam Bondi in Florida to cover his tracks.
I’ve been told that Trump’s corruption is less damning because he was in the private sector or that the amounts of money involved were less than the Clinton Foundation payoffs. In truth, corruption is a matter of the heart. If Trump would steal from a guy who has to max out his credit card to pay Trump University tuition, why would he not steal from the taxpayers of the United States or use his position to line his own pockets?
If Christian conservatives like me put aside our ethical problems with Trump to defeat Hillary, what have we won? Trump is a New York liberal who, until he started planning to run for president, held traditional liberal views. Even while running as a Republican he has advocated universal government healthcare and raising the minimum wage, supported federal money for Planned Parenthood, and has even adopted Democrat positions on gun control. You would be hard pressed to find any of Donald Trump’s positions which involve shrinking government or making it less powerful. If we elect Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, we will only have succeeded in electing a different liberal.
Trump is even worse than Hillary on some issues. Trump bragged that his trade policy was “very similar” to that of Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders. An analysis of Trump’s tariffs and rejection of trade deals found that they would probably cause a recession that might cost as many as 5 million American jobs.
He is no less of an isolationist when it comes to military alliances. He has threatened not to defend NATO allies and called NATO itself “obsolete,” even as Vladimir Putin’s forces carve off pieces of the Ukraine. Trump has said that he is open to proliferation of nuclear weapons and threatened to withdraw American troops from South Korea and Japan where they have stabilized East Asia for the past 60 years.
It was not being too strong that caused the last world war, it was being too deferential to expansionist dictatorships. This is a problem for Trump as well. Trump seems to have a fascination with dictators, but his admiration for Vladimir Putin is particularly troubling, from their bromance last fall to the growing body of evidence that Russia is interfering with the election in a way that benefits Trump. Russia’s investment in Trump may have already paid off. This year’s Republican Party platform dropped a proposal to arm Ukraine against the Russian invaders. The change reportedly came from the Trump campaign. Trump also seems ready to yield America’s role in the Middle East to Russia.
I can find no evidence that Trump is the America-loving conservative that he claims to be. There seems to be no Emmaus road moment that he can point to that led him to change his mind on so many issues. I can find no evidence that he is anything other than an actor playing a role. He is a liberal playing a conservative and occasionally he lapses into his true beliefs or cynically changes positions where he sees a potential benefit.
The character problems, liberal ideology and erratic behavior are red flags that warn about Trump’s lack of judgment. Just as Hillary Clinton’s use of an unapproved private email server and solicitation of donations in exchange for access while Secretary of State are disqualifying, Trump’s many scandals are a warning to voters that he is not to be trusted either.
In fact, almost everything about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seems to resonate as a warning against making them president. I cannot think of two people that I believe are less equipped to handle presidential authority and responsibility than the Terrible Two.
Some argue that Trump would surround himself with good people who would keep him in line. I think the reverse is true. One need only watch Mike Pence’s debate performance to see the corrupting influence of Trump on the Republican Party. Pence made excuses for Donald Trump and transparently denied that Trump said things that everyone has seen him say on video. What would four years with Trump as leader of the GOP do to the America’s conservative party?
Just when I was considering voting for Gary Johnson as protest or even not voting at all since Johnson showed himself to be a nut, Evan McMullin announced his candidacy.
After watching several interviews of McMullin, I boarded the “Evan Express.” McMullin is essentially a traditional Republican. He is a pro-life, free trade, strong defense, small government conservative. After working for the Republicans in the House of Representatives as a policy advisor, McMullin knows his stuff. He seems to be more knowledgeable than any other candidate, including Hillary Clinton. It is unfortunate that he was not included in the debates.
What really sold me on McMullin was not his policy chops though. What sold me on McMullin was simply the fact that, in a race dominated by two people who are, to use Hillary’s word, deplorable, he was an honest, decent man. He is the sort of person who tries to bring people together, rather than drive wedges between demographics to glom onto a few more votes.
I know that McMullin is a long shot. On the other hand, McMullin’s odds of becoming president are far greater than the odds of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becoming a president that I can be proud of. Given the choice between sacrificing my beliefs to elect an untrustworthy, liberal Republican who I believe would be a disaster for the country or supporting a candidate that who shares my beliefs, I decided to vote my conscience.
David Thornton is a contributor to The Resurgent