One Sunday after church, I was chatting with T.K., a pastor visiting us from Africa. This was his first trip to the U.S. and I asked him about the biggest difference he’d noticed so far. His one-word answer surprised me: “Options.” T.K. went on to explain how he had visited a Walmart and was shocked by the fact that he could, in essence, get any product he wanted in any color he wanted and any size he wanted. And if Walmart didn’t have it, he knew he could go to any number of other retailers to find it.
“Where I am from in Africa, we have one store and it’s a long drive away,” he explained. “If the store doesn’t have what we need, we do without it. There is no other choice.”
That’s something we take for granted in America. Imagine going out to buy a new car and when you step onto the lot at the dealership, there are only two vehicles to choose from. That’s it. No other dealerships, no online options, nothing. This is exactly what our modern U.S. Presidential elections are like. We are asked to choose which car we want to drive for the next four years and we only have two choices. No matter what we think about the two cars in front of us, we are going to end up riding in one of them for the next four years. And if we refuse to make a choice, we’ll just end up riding in the car everyone else picked.
This is not a palatable scenario for Americans used to copious options at every turn. In almost every other area of life, we are drowning in choices: food, clothes, footwear, places to live, ways to get our music, and so on. But when it comes to choosing the Commander in Chief of the United State of America, it’s Car A or Car B.
After watching the first presidential debate, I think we can all agree that neither of the two cars on the lot is ideal. What I saw last night was an embarrassing display from both candidates. Neither man is anywhere near what I want in a leader for my country. Where is the nobility, the statesmanship, the vision, the class, the character? Apparently, those features don’t come standard with either model on the lot. But these are our only two options. It’s just these two old clunkers.
“But I’m not a fan of either car.” I get it.
“Both of these cars have features I really dislike.” I hear you.
How do we make a decision in a situation like this? The first thing I would say is that we have to make a choice. If we don’t cast a vote, we forfeit the moral right to complain when we end up riding in the wrong car. Secondly, we need to make our decision based on where each car is headed. We’ve already established that, no matter what happens, for the next four years we will all be riding in a car that none of us consider ideal. What matters now is where each car is going to take us. Since our vote cannot be based on the vehicle, we will need to base it on the destination. In other words, vote for the platform, not the person. And because we cast a vote for a candidate, it does not mean that we endorse everything that person does or says. Remember, we only have two choices and neither option is perfect.
As for me, before I am an American, I am a follower of Jesus. So I have to choose the political platform I believe will foster conditions in our country that benefit the poor and working-class, that foster the protection and promotion of life (from unborn to the grave) and religious freedoms, promote safe communities for our families, foster a strong economy, support equality of opportunity for every citizen, support allowing families into our melting pot legally, is pro-God and pro-Israel, and demonstrates a firm foreign policy.
As I see it, this means I have to vote for the same brash, bold, often embarrassing, always confident, occasionally petty, sometimes humorous vehicle we’ve been riding in for the past four years. Of the two cars on the lot, it’s the clunker I believe is most headed in the right direction. And, while it’s been a bumpy and sometimes uncomfortable ride, I have to admit that this old clunker has managed to bring us a good distance in the right direction so far.
That said, let’s all remember that our ultimate hope—for this life and the next—is not found in any human leader, only in God Himself. And for that reason, we can all still love and respect those around us who happen to choose the “other guy.” Life is bigger than politics. God’s got this. Now, go vote for your clunker!