I tried to vote for Hillary Clinton. I really did. As Election Day drew near, though, I realized that a vote for Clinton would be interpreted as an endorsement. It did not matter that my vote for her was meant simply as a vote against Trump, it would not be catalogued that way.
And so, in the end, I voted for independent Evan McMullin. I understood that I was voting for someone who could not possibly win, but I also understood that votes are interpreted as endorsements, and we need to be very careful with them.
I wish my friends who voted for Trump had been more careful. I understand that many of them intended their votes simply to be votes against Clinton. Perhaps they couldn’t abide her extreme abortion views. Maybe they were tired of progressives’ condescending finger-wagging. They may believe the Obama economic policies have failed to serve the country, and they are fearful of insurance premiums rising even higher.
All of these are reasonable objections in my view. Unfortunately, in the service of these beliefs, my friends also endorsed dangerous and racist views. The intent of their votes does nothing to mitigate their impact.
Just ask the KKK—who are planning a parade in North Carolina to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory. Or the hundreds of Americans of color who have faced graffiti swastikas or been told to “go back to your country” in the last week. Or the young girl in my own town whose behind was grabbed by a man who declared, “This will be mine. I’ve seen you around before. This is a free country now, bitch.”
Friends who voted for Trump — all these people who are harassing, grabbing, and threatening your fellow Americans understood your vote to be a vote for white nationalism and sexual degradation of women.
President-elect Trump’s very brief statement on 60 Minutes does little to counter that impression, especially since it was quickly followed by his appointment of Stephen Bannon as his new “Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor.” Until a few months ago, Bannon was the chairman of Breitbart News which he happily declared was the platform for the alt-right, a group relentlessly pursuing white supremacist nationalism. Or as National Review described it yesterday,
The alt-right is a hodgepodge of philosophies that, at their heart, reject the fundamental principle that “all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” The alt-right embraces an ethno-nationalism that has its counterparts in the worst of the European far-right: Golden Dawn in Greece, or Hungary’s Jobbik.
So, what are you, my friends who voted for Donald Trump to do? You yourselves are not white nationalists or racist bullies, but now what? It is too late to retract your vote, but I do not think it is too late to mitigate some of its impact. I actually think the answer is quite simple—you could consider repenting.
If you are open to repenting, you could start by listening deeply to the pain your votes caused. If you do not have friends of color (perhaps an underlying problem), I recommend these articles: I want to help you understand my lament, What I wish my white friends and family understood about our election grief, and Open letter to conservatives.
You well-intentioned Trump voters may need to admit (perhaps first to yourselves) that you did not understand the impact of your vote, you did not foresee its consequences. You may need to examine why you did not believe Americans of color when they explained the danger a Trump presidency would put them in. Then you need to speak, loudly and publicly, to denounce the racism and hate that is being spewed in your name. And you should be ready to race to the sides of Americans of color who are being threatened and harassed in your presence.
I personally am repenting that I did not use my own platform to make a case for a third way, that I did not outline a way to vote that endorsed neither Clinton nor Trump. I failed to understand how troubled my friends were by Clinton and did not think to suggest there was a way to vote against her without voting for Trump. I neglected to do one important thing I could have done because I underestimated fellow Christians’ discomfort with Clinton and overestimated their discomfort with Trump.
Christian friends who voted for Trump, can you acknowledge your vote has lent support to dangerous, evil impulses in our society? Can you join the public lament that is grieved to see the KKK parading and an alt-right supporter preparing an office in the White House? It may be too late to repair all the damage, but it is not too late to do what is right. It never is.