Donald Trump is the GOP nominee, and with no significant third party candidate running, the choice Americans will face in November appears to be between him and Hillary Clinton. While many voters are content with one of these options, others — particularly conservative evangelicals — find themselves in an unprecedented position. Americans have long described presidential elections as voting for the “lesser of two evils,” but this choice is something entirely new.

Since many others have already thoroughly outlined the problems with Donald Trump, I won’t repeat them here. Suffice to say, whatever qualms the religious right had with Mitt Romney seem comical compared to the SNL caricature of conservative juvenile authoritarianism found in Trump. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has been seen as the exemplar of the most corrupt, anti-life liberalism since Bill Clinton’s first presidency.

If they’re our two choices, what are we supposed to do? Not voting dishonors those who fought and died for our freedoms, and not voting for Trump is the same as voting for Clinton. Therefore, aren’t we conservatives obligated to hold our nose, vote for Trump, and work to keep him committed to conservative values? What’s a conservative supposed to do in an election that’s stacked against them?

The moral pragmatism which says that we must vote for Trump because anything else is a vote for the completely unacceptable Clinton is a false choice.

In light of the serious problems represented by both Trump and Clinton’s presidencies, it would be wise for conservative evangelicals to vote for a third party candidate, write in a name, or vote for no presidential candidate at all.

Many conservatives are uncomfortable with these options because they believe them all to be equivalent to voting for Clinton — a candidate who will almost certainly work to harm the unborn and curtail our freedoms. This is mistaken, however. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton want to coerce you into choosing between them but we have other options.

The defining feature of Trump’s candidacy has been his ability to coerce his opponents on the right into submission, be they politicians, pundits, or regular voters. Trump’s success in the primaries was largely (though not wholly) the result of appealing to the largest demographic in an extremely divided field of candidates. His very high disapproval ratings reveal that he was never really the choice of a majority (or even close to a majority) of conservatives. But the inability of the field to coalesce around a stronger candidate allowed Trump’s devotees to win the day. And as others slowly dropped out, he’s been able to press many of them (e.g., Christie, Carson, and now Rubio) into his service.

Even though most conservatives are repulsed by the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, there’s little we can do about it, so we might as well learn to accept it or we’ll get stuck with the even worse Clinton — or so the thinking goes. Trump knows this and he understands that he doesn’t have to be “conservative” — he doesn’t have to be a good candidate or please conservative voters. All he has to do at this point is not be worse than Clinton in the eyes of most voters.

In this position, Trump can do what he does best: bully. What are you going to do if you don’t like him? Nothing, because you’re too afraid of Clinton — and Trump knows it. After eight years of right-wing media telling us that Obama is literally trying to destroy America, Christians, and freedom, many on the right are ready to vote for anyone with an “R” next to their name. This is exactly why Trump is terrified of a third party run by Ben Sasse or Mitt Romney. They give people an option.

The most distressing aspect of Trump’s bullying has been the way Christians and conservative pundits — pundits who once made their name denouncing the Democrats’ lack of character — have now become Trump’s unofficial stormtroopers, going house to house condemning anyone who refuses to vote for Trump. These followers, themselves having been bullied into support, have turned on their neighbors, warning them of the spiritual and moral obligation to vote, and specifically to vote for Trump.

The moral pragmatism which says that we must vote for Trump because anything else is a vote for the completely unacceptable Clinton is a false choice. Most of us did not choose either of these candidates. That choice was taken out of our hands. And we have no obligation to kowtow to either corrupt, inept, dangerous candidate. Furthermore, we forget that the president is not the only political voice we have; we each also have tremendous power to shape our communities and the nation through congressional, state, and local politics.

But if we submit to this false choice and support Trump, we’ll lose the power to keep him in check in Congress. If Trump knows that he can act this way before he has been elected, why on earth should we imagine that he’ll become wise and just after he’s given more power? Resistance now, in force and united and unrelenting, would lay the groundwork for a principled and effective opposition to a Trump or Clinton presidency. Submission to Trump out of fear of a Clinton presidency will deeply damage our ability to prophetically challenge either of them.

If either one of them is elected, then the goal must be to restrain their overreach through Congress and state governments. Granted, this will be easier to do if Hillary Clinton is the president because there will be no cross pressure to simply fall in line. We’ve already seen how Donald Trump has used the GOP machine to force otherwise level-headed politicians to support him; it’s politically costly to challenge your own party’s leadership. While it’s certainly possible for politicians to offer internal opposition within their party, it’s harder because they have incentives to support the party leader. Conversely, if Clinton is elected, the GOP will be able to easily unite to oppose her when it becomes necessary.

In addition, opposing Trump will set the party up for a healthy future, so long as we clearly articulate an alternative political vision. It will allow us to support GOP politicians who can challenge Trump or Hillary and will position us better for the next election, when voters will be looking for a robust alternative. However, if we support Trump and he wins, we will see (and have already seen) other Republican politicians adopting his policies and rhetoric. To some extent, Trump’s success will initiate a movement in the party towards nationalism, vacuous policies, right-wing identity politics, ambivalence or opposition to social conservatism, and authoritarianism — a move that could effectively kill the party within a decade.

The future of the party are minorities and the young, two groups that tend to have a very deep disgust for Trump’s persona and policies. He is openly antagonistic towards minorities and their political concerns, and his misogyny and arrogance are offensive to most young evangelicals (at least those who have not bought into right-wing identity politics and victimhood). Handing the GOP to Trump will alienate the very people who will be its future. And in that way, a short-term GOP “victory” would lead to a long-term GOP collapse. Strategically, then, if you desire to see the GOP continue long-term as a conservative party, you must not vote for Donald Trump.

There still remains a moral objection: By not voting for Donald Trump, I am effectively voting for Hillary Clinton. This argument is mistaken, however. Not voting for a presidential candidate does not mean you are not voting. You are voting, but just for the offices who have candidates you can support in good conscience. And it will be these offices that can help restrain evil, regardless of who becomes president. To abstain from voting for president in this situation does not mean that you’re aiding the other side. Through the division of powers, you’re still working to prevent evil and injustice in our government; you’re just choosing to do so in a way that does not directly aid that evil and injustice. You’re still fulfilling a civic and moral duty to your neighbor without capitulating to the coercive influence of unjust rulers.

The best option for conservative evangelicals is still to push for a third party candidate and support congressmen and women and governors who will offer a more responsible, just, and hopeful vision of conservatism.

Specifically, we need leaders who will not oppose liberals merely for the sake of signaling their opposition. They must oppose what is unjust and wrong while supporting the true and good, regardless of party. They must be committed to principled pluralism, creating space in the public square for secular and religious citizens to flourish with the minimum of conflicts. In other words, rather than see the cultural war as a battle, they should see it as a negotiation that’s trying to answer the question, “How may we live at peace?” They must listen to and advocate for minorities in our country and defend the sanctity of all life. And they should advocate and support efforts to strengthen local communities as the essential unit of democracy.

This vision of conservatism has the great potential to win over young people and minorities, but more importantly, it will help our country heal. Voting for Donald Trump just to prevent Hillary Clinton from being president will hand over the party to a movement that is toxic to democracy, antithetical to conservatism, and will ultimately do more harm than not voting for president at all. Regrouping, standing firm, and speaking prophetically against Trumpism is not only morally right; it will be the more meaningful victory.


  1. Great word here. This is a much more thorough handling of some of my recent thoughts. If not voting for Trump is a vote for Clinton, I still can’t shake the fact that a vote for Trump is indeed a vote for Trump. Both are gross. Third party conservatism, I’d be much obliged if you start making some moves!

  2. Whether to vote for Trump is not decision I have to make. My commander says I must not support the anti-Christ. I do not know what the worldly consequences will be, but regardless of the consequences, I must obey His orders.

  3. This is extremely well written.

    But don’t worry, the 2020 election campaign will start in late 2017, and Trump will have an opponent in the primary.

  4. Conservatives should do everything possible to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president. She will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will sit on the bench for more than 25 years. Say goodbye to a supreme court that represents Justice and morality.

    1. Why do you assume her appointees would be anti-justice and anti-morality? I understand the Bible’s take on homosexuality and life, but I think too many take it way too far, reading far too much into it.

      I don’t understand the whole “war on Christianity” as I see no evidence of it, but I also don’t watch Fox News. We still live in a country that promotes freedom of religion, not freedom of religion as long as it’s of the Christian kind.

      Far too many so-called Christians automatically vilify and demonize the left, I think mostly because of the abortion and gay thing. Fair enough, but if you take a step back and look at party fundamentals, I’d argue the left has more in common with the teachings of Jesus than today’s GOP does.

      I see promotion of women, minorities, non-judgement, inclusion and a tendency toward balancing out wealth. I see hate, division, fear and obstruction on the Right, and from what I know of the Bible, those things aren’t promoted.

      So again, I ask you, why would her appointees not be for morality and justice? If you take away abortion from the discussion, what then?

  5. I like what the author has to say. However, there seems no viable option. Gary Johnson is a big government Republican is very Bernie like. There is no small government constitutionalist to vote for.

  6. This is a sour grapes article. Voting for anyone but Trump will elect Clinton. Trump is not perfect But the fact is there is no “conservative option” what ever that means. I get upset at so called conservative voices who hold that if you do not agree 100% with their positions you are not conservative. Cruz, their choice, was unelectable, not because of his views but the way he presented them. Plus I have problem with his reconstructionist eschatology.

    It appears that what cause conservatives distaste for Trump is more his demeanor than his policies. Go to his website and read his positions – they are conservative positions.

    But last I rest in this truth: God is in control. The election and the results will not change that fact.

  7. Alan Noble wrote: “Hillary Clinton has been seen as the exemplar of the most corrupt, anti-life liberalism”
    The majority of Republican politicians are pro-embryo but not pro-life. They support tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the poor (cutting support of programs for those living in poverty – the many messages of Jesus deplored greed but praised compassion for the less fortunate – 25% of the children in our country live in poverty – the highest percentage of all developed countries). Tax cuts for the wealthy do not create demand for products or jobs. Support of programs for the less fortunate does increase demand and jobs.
    Republicans politicians oppose universal health care (the US is unique among the developed countries as not providing universal health care for its citizens). People that lack of health insurance live sicker and die sooner (i.e., the lives of the poor are not important).
    Republicans politicians have passed or attempted to pass laws that permit businesses to discriminate based on the “sincerely held” beliefs of the owner. Taken to its logical conclusion, such a law could be construed to allow a federally supported food bank organization to allow a family to starve, an emergency room physician to allow a patient to bleed to death or person A to legally kill person B if person B is judged to be “sinful”. Do you really believe that the owners of a commercial endeavor should have the right to judge and punish people that hold different beliefs?

  8. Ohhhh good grief and more . . .

    do stop using Christ as an excuse for the state of party. The reason the party is in trouble rests in its failures to actually function with any level of integrity on its party’s platform. In other words,, a democrat by any other name is still a democrat and Republicans who behave as democrats are democrats and aligned with whatever policies they espouse unless otherwise stated.

    First, anyone in leadership who supported going to war in Iraq – you essentially tossed any credibility of the fairly and accurately assessing data into the drain.

    Second a party leadership that ignored the real impact of the economic shifts that have been happening for the last thirty or so years, on middle class, labour populations, while at the same time defending the carelessly structured derivative formulas, and processes that pushes the gap and fairness for the few up and everyone down cannot make claims about being a credible voice of the political content of the party, again behaving as democrats.

    A leadership actively undermining the economic fortunes of its own citizens – has no credibility at all == something the Republican leadership has been doing for more than sixteen years — again behaving like democrats and liberals.

    There were some 17 candidates, and the one chosen thus far remains Mr. Trump. If among all of those candidates none suited you — well, there’s not much point in calling for a third party among evangelicals. If you were really concerned about overgeneralizing muslims then you should have exercised better judgment before supporting the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. You wanted a candidate who stood on some more sound moral ethic — and I am unconvinced that Mr. trump doesn’t fit such a bill — then perhaps, having some moral backbone on what constitutes a sane standard for marriage and why it need to remain might have been a wise choice. But that was nearly impossible for political christians because they had lost any credibility on the invasions. How about the supposed scandal in the churches concerning abuse — maybe you could have mounted a defense as simple as there was no scandal. There were lots of accusations, all of which added to less than 0.0001 of the church going christians and that includes the incidences within the Catholic church, that number drops significantly when one weighs the actual instances that occurred. And despite how tragic said cases are — they were less than 0.05% far less than the national average. But i you jumped on that band wagon — well, you have done a mighty work in crushing one of the most powerful voices on traditional marriage — good job.

    But according to you, I am supposed to consider Mr. Trumps past as present — ok, if that is the game — feel free to put yours up on display as well. I don’t buy the contentions about Mr. Trump and his place in light of Christ. I think there is a lot of gamesmanship from his opponents. But most importantly, its relevance is limited and risky, because the last Republican representative in the WH was an avowed evangelical and his leadership was costly in ways the party has yet to recover from. If you support the PA and the subsequent security protocols of the Congress and the WH — you have embraced and fostered the very weapon that will be used to round christians up prior to the second coming. Might I say a little short sighted on the evangelical view of scripture. Any contention that breaking the immigration laws of the US is ethical and christian is a slap in the face of Christ.

    As for abrasive political speak — snore and snore, apparently, you haven’t been atuned to the reality of the language amongst our politically privileged. And the ethical tactics have been in full display against Mr. Trump and yet you call for a rejection by the behavior you and those akin to you use — hypocrisy is not an ethic of Christ.

    There is not a single solitary reason for any evangelical to reject Mr. Trump, unless Mr. Trump begins advocating that which Christ does not and international border regulations and tightening them — just don’t qualify as unchristian, in any manner. Even Jesus paid his taxes.

    At least Mr. trump acknowledges that killing children in the womb is an error.

  9. By the time I got through half of this extremely long dissertation (I was not surprised to see it was written by a Ph.D.), I was struck by the error in thinking of the author.

    First, he postulates a dream candidate — a conservative that Christians could enthusiastically support. He even goes so far as to suggest that David French would have been fine. The fact that David French may be known to perhaps 0.01% of the populace is seen as no real problem. His recent notoriety may briefly have gotten him to 0.1%, but that fifteen minutes of fame is gone and forgotten. There is NO conservative candidate able to win an election against Trump, Clinton and the respective apparatuses of the two powerful established parties. Dream on.

    Second, he fails to notice that not supporting Trump — without supplying a viable, electable third candidate — is supporting Hillary. Trump has an astonishing number of flaws, but Hillary has been a life-long liar, corrupt, incompetent in the few jobs she has held. If she claimed to be a sincere Christian and accepted all those positions many Christians (not all) wish her to accept, she could not be trusted for a moment.

    So, we are left with the reality.

    If it is a two-party race, holding your nose and voting for Trump is better than closing your eyes and allowing Hillary to win by promising what people want to hear.

    And to be wise in politics, one should be neither conservative nor progressive — but both. It is wise to conserve those things which are precious, but not everything we may wish to conserve is so precious. It is wise to be progressive — to advance the cause of all humans — but not all causes are progressive.

    Most of all, in my view, it is best to be nonpartisan — as George Washington was. He warned of the dangers of partisanship. We see just how dangerous our nation has become as people attack each other for having differing opinions of right and wrong.

    Turn the other cheek, love your neighbor, and relax.

    As Henry Thoreau put it, “Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.” — (“Resistance to Civil Government”, 1849)

    1. Fredric Dennis Williams wrote “Hillary has been a life-long liar”

      Sorry Fredric, but the numbers seem to indicate that Hillary is much more honest than Trump (see Poliltifact)
      Trump Clinton
      True -> Half True 24% 60%
      False-> Mostly False 57% 37%
      Pants on Fire 19% 1%

    2. Not relevant. It doesn’t change the fact that Hillary is a life-long liar (fired from the Watergate investigation for lying). And there is a great distinction. Trump is an admitted huckster. He exaggerates, overpromises, and does all the things that a salesman does to sell the product.

      As Francis Bacon observed four centuries ago, fiction in art and advantage in commerce are clear reasons for lying (as is lying these days in politics).

      Hillary, on the other hand, does not admit to lying as Trump does, she merely compounds the lies. And the lies that concern me are not those of a politician, lying to get elected (as they all do), they are lies to avoid responsibility for her misdeeds and to protect her ambition. She is untrustworthy — and her record in her 12 years of “public service” is worse than abysmal.

      Obama’s endorsement calling her the most qualified person in history is perhaps the most outrageous hyperbole I can recall in my very long life.

      Neither of these candidates is suitable for the office of president, but if it really comes down to just these two, she is less competent and less to be trusted.

      Sanders would have been a better choice than either — even for Christian conservatives. Let us hope a better alternative appears, by the grace of God.

    3. Perhaps you should take a moment to consider the source of your calculation regarding honesty. Politifact isn’t a reliable independent source. Here is a report on a study of the source you quote:

      “A majority of Democratic statements (54 percent) were rated as mostly or entirely true, compared to only 18 percent of Republican statements,” probably has more to do with how the statements were picked and the subjective bias of the fact checker involved than anything remotely empirical.”

    4. Nothing to do with Republican honesty – just the terribly biased liberal press again? Grand conspiracy, just like the liberals and press worldwide promoting the hoax of climate change?
      The misrepresentations and false claims on climate change by the Republican hierarchy are transparent attempts to hold on to their base, their contributors (e.g., the fossil fuel industry), and the immoral profits that are based on a policy that will cause a great deal of suffering (mostly for those with the least ability to adapt).
      How important do you believe it would be to Jesus to enrich the wealthy with tax cuts and immoral profits at the expense of the poor?
      Would Jesus look more kindly on Hillary or Trump:
      Hillary has put the welfare of children above that of maximizing her wealth. She has done a lot of pro-bono work, has worked at organizations concerned with child welfare, has worked on preschool education programs, and focused on child welfare at the Clinton Foundation.
      Trump has done no equivalent humanitarian work. Compared to other billionaires, Trump has donated little to charity. On the other hand, he did look forward to the real estate collapse as an opportunity to enrich himself even though the collapse destroyed the life savings of many families.
      Who is the real Christian?

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