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Same Ol’ Same Ol’

Now that the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary have passed, it seems reasonable to say that we are in the heart of election season in the US. If anything seems clear, it is that we are heading towards a rematch of the previous election. Trump has won the first two events by significant margins and there is now only one other serious competitor running against him. As the incumbent, President Biden has no serious challengers, and won the New Hampshire primary despite the fact that he was not officially on the ballot.

Despite the stranglehold that each candidate seems to have over their respective nominations, there also seems to be significant apathy and disaffection across the political spectrum, with our choices come November. Even some Republicans are concerned that any number of issues surround Trump. There are his several criminal indictments and other legal concerns which simultaneously raise his profile with his most ardent supporters, while also raising serious concerns amongst rank and file Republicans and independents. There is also a concern that Trump’s affect, a strength for him when he was a political outsider in 2016, has worn thin on the general public. Finally, Trump will be the same age President Biden was in 2020, when Trump strongly criticized Biden for being too old to run for office.

Biden of course, now four years older, is also seen as too old, with even some Democrats saying he should make way for someone younger. Biden’s domestic agenda is described as largely good but not great, and the perception is that his handling of the economy has been bad, despite the economic indicators. Moreover, Biden is increasingly losing support amongst the most progressive wings of the Democratic coalition, largely due to America’s unwavering and noncritical support of Israel during the War in Gaza.

This is where our political system also works against those who are turned off by both candidates. Our rigid two-party system leaves many voters with nothing but bad choices. They can either vote for someone they don’t really want to support, or they can vote for a third-party candidate more in line with their beliefs, and potentially watch in horror as the person they liked even less becomes president. Now more than ever it seems that the electorate, almost en masse, is asking whether this is all our presidential (and even our entire) election system has to offer.[1]

So, what do we do in this age of equally frustrating choices? How do we express our political will when there seem to be no good options? How does our spirituality influence the decisions we make in this area? With the obvious basis that each person must follow their own conscience, there seem to be some ideas we can rest on as we go throughout this season. First, once we decide whether we will vote or not (I begrudge no one who wants to stay home this November because neither choice is acceptable), we can do a serious analysis of character. We should ask ourselves about the nature of the particular candidate and whether we think that is the type of person we would want to represent us. Second, we can be proportional in our analysis. I think it is fair to ask which candidate would do the greatest good for the greatest number, both here and abroad. Finally, if the Christian ethos is anything, it is concern for the well-being of the least among us. I think it is reasonable to decide which candidate will be concerned for those who have the least, and whether anything will be done to alleviate their suffering. While it is true that these are incomplete measures, they also seem to be the most reasonable way forward for those who want to live their beliefs and overcome their apathy in this same old election season.

[1] I don’t think I have to spend actual column space with my opinions on Donal Trump. The archive here is available to anyone. But I will say that I have never been an ardent supporter of President Biden either. He was my least favorite candidate on the Democratic side in 2020.

Image Credit: Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

About the author

Jason Hines is an assistant professor in the Department of Healthcare Administration at AdventHealth University. He has a PhD in religion, politics, and society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, an MA in religion from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, a JD from Harvard Law School, and a BA in political science from the University of Connecticut. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at More from Jason Hines.
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