David Hegg: How to vote your conscience

David Hegg
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. "Ethically Speaking" runs Saturdays in The Signal.
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After what feels like the longest and most vitriolic campaign season in history, Election Day is just around the corner. In three days the battle will be waged, and I’m not speaking only about the face-off between our candidates for president.

The bigger battle by far for many sober-minded voters will be between their political competitiveness and their consciences.

Yes, I am presupposing a large percentage of American voters still have a conscience anchored – to some extent – to fundamental convictions about honesty, morality, civility, humility and common sense.

For these people, voting for president will pose a monumental challenge. No voting option is problem-free. They are simply being forced to choose the option that offers the fewest regrets.

As I see it, there are six options open to us regarding the vote for president. My goal here is simply to show the pros and cons, and allow us all to find the option that best aligns with a clear conscience on Nov. 9.

Voting for a candidate: Some voters just vote the candidates themselves. For some, voting for a female is all that matters. For others, their vote is cast for someone who “tells it like it is” and doesn’t care about political correctness.

The negatives of this option have been played out incessantly on the national stage for the past several months. Each candidate has enough black marks on his or her character to make any thinking person nauseated at the thought of endorsing such blatant dishonesty and narcissism.

Explaining your vote on this basis alone would demand a conscience that is both blind and asphalt-hard.

Voting for a party: I suspect many are simply voting their tribe. Tribalism, by which my team is always right and yours is always wrong, has turned national politics into a better slugfest than the Super Bowl.

Given our national addiction to competition, it is fair to say many will vote, not for the candidate per se, but for the party that will gain the power of the White House.

The problem here is simple. Only the terminally naïve can remain blind to the fact neither political party can be trusted. All we have to do is look at the two candidates the party system has produced.

All the world is laughing at America over the fact these two are offered as the best our nation can produce.

Voting a party platform: Some, recognizing the monumental weaknesses in the two presidential candidates, have called on voters to “vote the platform.”

Having read both the Democratic and Republican platforms I can tell you they are both well-written, pointed and filled with promises. But, as we all know, after the election the platform becomes a dead document.

It has no teeth, holds no one accountable, and anyone who believes the newly elected president is bound or even concerned with the ink on the platform pages is playing with a closed mind and no sense of history.

Voting a specific issue: Perhaps the most popular “conscience-preserving” option is to vote along the lines of a specific issue. It could be the Supreme Court appointments, abortion, Obamacare, immigration, or any of a number of controversial social issues.

I have heard so many say “I can’t stand either candidate, but I’m voting for the one who will do something about. …”

The sad truth is recent history is filled with examples of presidents failing to act as we hoped they might. Conservative presidents have appointed Supreme Court justices who ended up voting with the liberals. Most of all, we all, know the president rarely can make his or her promises come true. And perhaps that’s just as well. Maybe our best outcome is gridlock.

Voting for a write-in candidate: While this may look like a “clear conscience” alternative, it actually is a misuse of the election process. While the process does give a “write-in” option, it has always been meant to provide a path to victory for a populist candidate who actually has a reasonable chance of winning.

To use this option for other purposes is to go against the purpose of the option itself.

Not voting for president: For many this becomes the only option that leaves their conscience clear. Yet, what does it say about being an invested citizen? And how can non-voters feel good about future criticism of the nation’s direction if they determined not to be part of the political mechanism?

No voting option can leave you without regret. We simply have to choose the one that leaves the least regret and possibly accomplishes the greatest good. And when it is all over, be realistic.

Our nation is heading in the wrong direction, and our broken political system that is so easily manipulated by the rich and raunchy is only partly to blame. Perhaps the greatest blame falls on the selfishness of the American soul that has largely forgotten we are “one nation, under God” and we will only be great to the extent that – as individuals – we are good.

May God move America to a place where we deserve his blessing.

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. “Ethically Speaking” runs Saturdays in The Signal.

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