Is There a Way Forward? Reflections on the 2016 Election

In case you missed it, there was an election. In a surprising turn, Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. I must admit, I was surprised. I’ve been very critical of Trump’s rhetoric and policies throughout this process. And his win hasn’t changed that. I still think he is thoroughly unqualified for office. He is a loose cannon, and I don’t see how peace and safety can result from a presidency built on fear and conflict (though I could have said the same about a Hillary Clinton presidency had she won). This election cycle has left us all with much to consider. I want to take some time to look at its implications, both to our government and to us as individuals.

Federal Government is a Problem, Not a Solution

Of course, the most bitter and vitriolic election cycle in American history would not be complete without a controversial result. Trump did not win the popular vote. This has resurrected the discussion that began after the 2000 election of abolishing the Electoral College. I do not think this is the right conversation to be having. There is a faulty assumption in play. Suppose the President was chosen by a popular vote. This would change the way that candidates campaign. Candidates would divert their resources elsewhere, and people would be influenced differently. We don’t know what that outcome of a popular vote election would be, because the candidates would not approach it the same. Therefore, the assumption that going by popular vote would result in a Clinton win is nothing but speculation. Trump won fair and square within the rules that were set forth. He is the president-elect.

The Electoral College itself is a protective mechanism. America is a union of diverse and unlike people and places. The college student in California and the coal miner in Wyoming share a common identity as Americans. In a popular vote system, the preferred candidates of the urban centers will win every time, resulting in policies that have no regard for rural America. The founders of American knew this. That’s why each state has two U.S. Senators as opposed to the population distribution in the House of Representatives. Part of what makes America work is that one population/demographic group cannot oppress another simply because they are larger.

I would argue that the best way to fix this system is not to change the way we elect our federal leaders, but to rethink where the power in government belongs in the first place. Power would be better kept near the people–in local and state government. Since California college students outnumber Wyoming coal miners by a substantial number, does that mean that the miners should be subject to those students’ demands? How is that not discrimination and injustice like any other kind? If I were going to guess, I would say most Californians would love to put the mines in Wyoming out of business. However, lots of lives and families in Wyoming depend on those jobs in the coal mines. If the federal government is trying to develop a one-size-fits-all approach that is going to make the Californians and the Wyomingites happy, it will fail. But if California can make its laws and Wyoming can make its laws, and the federal government only needs to be involved in situations of how Wyoming and California relate to each other, then maybe, just maybe, we can still make this thing work.

The presidential administrations of recent decades (in both parties) have moved away from this principle, insisting instead upon an empowered behemoth of a federal government. As my generation has grown up in this context, we are used to federal government being the seat of power that should be leveraged to solve our problems and push our agendas. Powers once left to states and their legislatures are now controlled by the federal executive and judiciary. It is a fundamental shift in how the country operates, and it results in far less cooperation and unity as the majority on a certain issue leverages federal power against various minorities. If this does not change, it will lead to inevitable tyranny.

It has often been said that “power corrupts”. In America, since the power is vested in the people, people have become corrupted. Not only do the people want to self-govern, they want to govern others. The millennials in major cities who have hit the streets to protest Trump’s victory are upset because they will no longer be able to impose their worldviews upon conservatives like they have vicariously through the Obama administration. Already, since Trump’s win, conservatives have already expressed their desire to push back. A few months ago, Texas wanted to secede because it felt that it was not being represented. Now, California wants out. Maybe the solution is to let Texas do Texas and California do California. There is not enough that unifies the broad spectrum of Americans for a strong, centralized federal government to function as it has. Attempting to make it so will only lead to more discontent and instability.

But It’s Not The Biggest Problem

Of course, while discussions on philosophy of government are important, none of them can adequately address the real issue–the wickedness in the heart of man, and man’s need for salvation. That we had two candidates surrounded by legal issues and allegations of corruption representing our major parties exemplifies that problem perfectly.

As I pointed out multiple times before, Christians who sold out for Trump are now going to have to find a way to heal the wounds that they have dealt to their brothers and sisters in Christ who, because of race, nationality, or other considerations found themselves as objects of derision to Trump and his supporters. Also, there is now an issue of credibility. As Christians, our first priority is to spread the truth about Christ to a world that is dead in its sin. Trump alienated a lot of people in the way he did his campaign, and the Christians who went all-in to elect Trump: those who put his signs in their yards, who shared the rude and crude Facebook posts, those who were loud and proud, have likely alienated a lot of people by doing so. This was one of the reasons I could not in good conscience support Trump. As bad as a Hillary presidency would be, I could not do harm to my Christian family as well as alienate myself from those whom God has called me to reach out to by standing up for a man who is so contrary to the values that we as God’s people should represent. But I know a lot of people who did. Polls show that around 80% of professing evangelicals voted for Trump. Healing will need to happen in our churches and communities.

There’s more. Since Trump’s win, a lot of Christians, including those who did not support Trump, have been embracing their new leader and policies with open arms. That pesky political idolatry issue that I have written about before just got a fresh adrenaline shot to the heart. Let me be frank: even if Trump is a stalwart for the pro-life movement, religious liberty, and the constitution (and I’m still very skeptical), if major repentance and cultural shift do not happen in America, Trump will be no more than a band-aid fix. The majority of people in our society not only do not know God, but they stand in open rebellion against Him.

As Christians, our first citizenship is in heaven, and our first priority is the gospel. We should not for a second think that a good day for conservativism means that we can sit back and be apathetic as we have been. If we get a merciful reprieve for the next few years to continue to openly speak truth without fear of repercussions, then we need to use it. One day, all people, whether Democrat or Republican, white or black, man or woman, will stand before their King. That is more important than any election or the implications thereof. ♦

 

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