#NeverTrump,  Christianity,  Politics

“Go ahead, throw your vote away!” Lessons from the Simpsons for Election 2016

Twenty years ago, “The Simpsons” satirized the 1996 presidential election. In “The Simpsons” version, the candidates running for office were actually alien monsters disguised as Senator Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton. Voters did not realize that their only alternatives for president were actually committed to destroying the world. Voters would be forced to choose one alien monster or the other. That’s just the breaks of a two-party system.

The episode is eerily prescient of our current moment and the questions we are facing in 2016. What should people of conscience do when the two-party system renders two completely unacceptable candidates? Is it possible that conscientious voters might find both candidates unqualified for their support? What if both candidates threaten to undermine our constitutional order–one just promises to do so a little slower than the other?

What “The Simpsons” satire illustrates is that it is possible to refuse to vote for either of two bad options. Candidates can be so beyond the pale that it is absurd to try and figure out which one is the “least worst” alternative. In a widely-read essay for Christianity Today, Russell Moore put it this way:

Given these moral convictions, there have been times when I’ve faced two candidates, both of whom were morally disqualified. In one case, one candidate was pro-life but a race-baiter, running against a candidate who was pro-choice. I could not in good conscience put my name on either candidate. I wrote in the name of another leader. Other times, I’ve voted for a minor party candidate…

In the cases when I’ve voted for an independent or written in a candidate, I didn’t necessarily expect that candidate to win—my main objective was to participate in the process without endorsing moral evil. As Christians, we are not responsible for the reality of our two-party system or for the way others exercise their citizenship, but we will give an account for how we delegate our authority. Our primary concern is not the election night victory party, but the Judgment Seat of Christ.

When Christians face two clearly immoral options, we cannot rationalize a vote for immorality or injustice just because we deem the alternative to be worse. The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).

That is where many people are finding themselves this cycle, and it is why many social conservatives and Christians will abstain or vote for a third party candidate if Trump is the nominee. When these voters do split, you can expect to hear the major party candidates yelling, “Go ahead, throw your vote away!” And when they do, it will be just as absurd and self-serving as when the alien monsters yelled the same.


  • Ike Lentz

    In most instances I would agree with you on this point. However, a Clinton/Trump contest wouldn’t be a normal “both candidates stink” scenario. You might not agree with Clinton on important issues, but she’s not a racist, hateful, demagogue who incites violence and publicly threatens those who oppose her.

    I’m tired of conservatives equivocating the two sides. If it isn’t obvious that Trump is a once in a lifetime threat to democracy, perhaps you’re too invested in party politics.

    • Denny Burk

      I agree that Trump is a unique menace.

      I disagree, however, with those who don’t see the uniquely grave evil represented by legal abortion-on-demand. One candidate will support the continuation of a regime that has presided over the legal killing of over 57 million human beings since 1973. Also, there is a slow-motion subversion of our constitutional order taking place at the Supreme Court. It is a slower threat to constitutional order, but a threat nonetheless. And one candidate will pack the court with justices who will continue that subversion. I cannot support that.

    • Ian shaw

      She may not be those things you mentions, but let’s not forget some of the other character issues and potential crimes-

      -She stokes racism on her own, including while she was here in my state using a water environmental crisis for her own political gain and to claim that if this were to happen in cities predominately white (she named a few suburban Detroit areas), it wouldn’t have happened. This is race baiting.
      -Supporting on demand homicide of children
      -Private server “wiped” with classified information including above “top-secret” classification. The Justice Dept’s own inspector general found evidence of this and she should be in jail. Especially after the precedent set with General Patreaus.
      -And the fact that she hasn’t driven a car for herself in over 20 years.

  • Christiane Smith

    I wonder if a ‘race baiter’ could also be ‘pro life’ when you think of all the parameters of what ‘pro life’ includes. Race baiting, once empowered, cannot be called back or controlled. It is not an activity of someone who cares about the God-given human dignity of all living persons, no.

  • Derek Taylor

    Some people do that in EVERY election. Remember those who were convinced that Ronald Wilson Reagan’s name stood for 666? Last election, I know of evangelicals who sat out the election because Romney was a Mormon. So this wouldn’t be anything particularly new. We all have a line in the sand somewhere, we just draw it in different places.

    I’m personally hoping for a 3rd candidate to emerge. But if these are the only two candidates available, my decision will have less to do with the candidate’s personal ethics and lack thereof, and more to do with who they would likely nominate to the Supreme Court.

  • Brendan

    A couple of weeks ago you tweeted a link to a D.A. Carson video, where he noted that Christians staying home and not voting will give an advantage to one side over another. It’s not too much of a stretch to move intellectually from not voting at all to voting for a third-party candidate that has no chance.

    My takeaway from that clip was that you shouldn’t ‘throw your vote away’ to a third party, but such a sentiment seems to stand in contrast to the Russell Moore article.

    This is a serious question that I would like to read more about. This could very well be a false dilemma, but which is worse: Voting for the “least bad” candidate and thus shouldering partial responsibility for that person if he wins, or voting third party, enabling a candidate to win as a result, and thus shouldering responsibility for that person when he wins?

  • Robyn Base

    I respectfully disagree with Ike, and I would urge him to do some more research on Hillary and evaluate the way she shouts and riles up the crowd. She has become an increasingly racist, hateful demagogue, and she and her husband have a history of dealing badly with people who challenge their immoral acts.
    If it’s Clinton v. Trump, I won’t vote for either. It’s not a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils because they are equally evil.
    As for the criticism of a two-party system, people should take a look at countries with multiple parties. Those systems are a disastrous mess, with factions fighting against each other and trying to drown out each other’s voices. Allowing multiple parties opens the door for corrupt socialist and communist parties, too. In the midst of that, you can’t hear the voice of the majority, just a cacophony of factions and representatives of every interest group imaginable. Mexico is an example of this system, and Spain (although they have a democratic monarchy, they have a multitude of political parties). That’s why the two-party system is the best option. The real problem is the GOP is not a true conservative party that we need to represent us.

    • Ike Lentz

      I think it comes down to how bad you think Trump is. If you feel he’s just another garden variety “bad politician” then he’s no different than Clinton, and the Simpsons analogy stands. If you think, as I do, that he’s much, much worse than a garden variety “bad politician”, than a “lesser of two evils” is valid.

      • Brian Holland

        I can’t vote for either, but I am still convinced that Hillary would be worse. Trump is unpredictable, whereas she is certain to put the final nail in the coffin on freedom, and the Constitution. Again, thank God for Ted Cruz, and for the likelihood of a contested convention.

        • Matt Martin

          I can hear an eagle scream in the background. Mmmcccaaawwww! I love hilariously over-the-top partisan political comments like this one. This is good entertainment.

          • Brian Holland

            And how exactly am I being “overtly partisan” when I said I can’t vote for either the Democratic nominee, or the Republican nominee (assuming it’s Trump), but instead want the guy who’s hated by establishment of both parties? My allegiance is ultimately not even to Cruz, but to the Bible, and the Constitution. Please explain that to me?

  • Ray DeFreese

    If Trump and Clinton are the nominees, I don’t plan to vote for either. And I’ve voted for the Republican candidate in every election since 1984.

  • pauldreed2

    If America elects an especially wicked president in 2016, there will be a silver lining: it will end this sanctimonious show of people not voting for either candidate. There’s nothing like ruinous policies on part of a future president to make people regret saying, ” I think I’m going to remain above the fray on this election and not vote for either”.

  • Gus Nelson

    Denny: I understand your stance against Donald Trump. I don’t want him to be the nominee, either, because I’m tired of voting “against” the other guy, which is what I’ve done except for 1984, and 2000 when I voted FOR the Republican nominee. Yet, I keep coming back to your big issue: abortion. Trump will be campaigning on a pro-life platform (whatever his personal view may be) versus Hillary, who no longer even worries about saying “safe, legal and rare.” The Democrat platform will be abortion for all under all circumstances. Moreover, Trump has indicated he will nominate a Scalia clone versus Hillary who will absolutely not and has even floated out one of the most ominous suggestions I’ve heard in years – Barack Obama as a Supreme Court justice. (SHIVERS UP AND DOWN MY SPINE). How does voting third party or not voting justify allowing abortion to continue unabated for at least another generation and perhaps longer? Dr. Moore’s quote from Romans cuts both ways: The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). How are we not “giving approval” to Hillary when we stand back and allow her to be elected, knowing it was potentially within our power to stop her? Do we really soothe ourselves with “I didn’t vote FOR her, so it’s not my fault?”

    • Denny Burk

      Hey, Gus. I’m really sympathetic to this argument. For me, it’s the strongest argument in favor of voting for Trump. It goes like this:

      “We know Clinton will appoint justices to extend the murderous regime of Roe v. Wade. Trump would appoint conservative justices to end it. Whatever his other shortcomings are, he must be the candidate because of the moral priority of ending the regime of Roe v. Wade.”

      This was very compelling to me for a very long time. For me, however, the argument breaks down for several reasons:

      1. It is not at all clear what kind of justices Trump would appoint. He has named some conservative justices that would be acceptable to me. But he’s also named his own sister. Of course he won’t actually appoint his own sister, but what does it say about his judicial philosophy that he thinks a partial birth abortion supporting judge would be a good fit for the Supreme Court?

      2. Trump’s pro-life credentials are suspect. Just last Fall he told CNN that he supports the “health” exception–apparently unaware that the “health” exception of Doe v. Bolton is precisely the reason that we have legal abortion-on-demand today! He has also been a staunch defender of Planned Parenthood. Yes, he wants to defund PP as long as they perform abortions. But just last year he took the position that the U.S. should fund their women’s health services while not funding abortion. That’s precisely what we have now, but again he seems unaware of that. I’m all for converts to the pro-life cause. But his conversion looks like a counterfeit in order to win the GOP nomination.

      3. Trump is a pathological liar. Even though he promises to appoint conservative justices, how can we trust him? How do we even know that he understands what constitutes a sound judicial philosophy and what does not?

      4. I am a single-issue voter when it comes to the abortion issue. That means that while being right on the abortion issue doesn’t qualify a candidate for my vote, being wrong on abortion certainly disqualifies a candidate from my vote. Even if all his other views are great, that single issue alone would disqualify a candidate from my vote. But as I have argued above, his views on this single issue are anything but certain.

      5. There are other issues that fall into the “singularly disqualifiying” category. Even if Trump were right on the issue of abortion, there are other “single issue” grounds that disqualify him–racism, advocating violence against protestors, support for war crimes, etc.

      6. There are a host of characteristics that render him not merely a flawed candidate but a real threat to our constitutional order. Look at how he orders his supporters to perpetrate violence against protestors. Look at how he promises to direct the U.S. military to commit war crimes when he is commander-in-chief. If he is willing to defend those gross violations publicly, how do you think he will use (or abuse) the powers of his office if he were to become President? Do you think he might use his powers to punish dissent? I think he would. I am privy to private threats to that effect already against certain religious leaders who oppose him. Even if he were solid on the abortion issue, these other items disqualify him. I am not joking or being hyperbolic when I say that he is a Mussolini-in-waiting. He must never be allowed near the Oval Office. Ever.

      I hope I’m wrong about the menace that I think he presents to our country. I really do. But I think there is more than enough evidence that I am exactly right about who this man is and what kinds of things he would do. And the uncertain chance that he might accidentally appoint good justices doesn’t overcome these other disqualifying concerns. That is why I will never support him.

      • Ike Lentz

        “I am not joking or being hyperbolic when I say that he is a Mussolini-in-waiting. He must never be allowed near the Oval Office. Ever.”

        This is where it gets confusing for me. If Trump really is the next Mussolini, shouldn’t we be doing everything possible- even voting for a pro-choice candidate- in order to stop him?

        • Brian Holland

          Whether Trump or Hillary gets elected, we’re finished. We need to keep in mind that a true Christian conservative is still in the race. We need to unite around Ted Cruz. Frankly more pastors and theologians should have endorsed him already, but I’ve given up on expecting real courage from our pulpits.

          • Matt Martin

            You’ll be fine Brian. The American People have survived every President, regardless of political affiliation, and have managed to keep their freedoms in the process. Settle down bud. It will be ok.

          • Ian Shaw

            I don’t see how “we’re” finished. Our hope is found in and only in Christ. Personally, I don’t believe pastors/theologians should be endorsing any political candidate. If a church/pastor is grounded in scripture, there’s no reason to every bring up politics in the pulpit.

            I’m not sure if you meant it like this or not, but when pastors/theologians start endorsing politicians, it brings up a thought process like America is the new Israel, which is completely false. A Christian can, in good conscience and faith, abstain from voting if he or she chooses (at least in this instance if it’s Hillary or Trump). I think Russell Moore’s point validates that (in addition to voting for a 3rd party with no chance).

            It is idolatrous to presuppose that this country’s fate and policies must coincide with God’s plans. He is in control of everything and uses all people of all nations for his free gift of Grace. The country/covenant God used with Israel has been wiped away with our new covenantal relationship we have with Christ.

            To act or presume (not you but in general) that America is God’s new chosen people/nation and that by abstaining from voting, we (Christians) somehow not living out our faith/doing our covenantal duty is dangerous thinking at worst and a poor presupposition at best.

          • Christiane Smith

            Hi Brian,
            maybe there are valid reasons why more pastors and theologians have not endorsed him already . . .

            quite frankly, I think endorsement of political leaders from the pulpit is a mistake . . . for so many reasons

      • Gus Nelson

        Denny: Thanks for your response. In light of your statement you are aware of religious leaders whom Trump has threatened (whatever that might mean), I cannot support him. It is inconceivable to me that any candidate for office would threaten anyone, in any way, as a means of coercing votes. That is intolerable. It speaks volumes about his approach, which up until now, I assumed was mere posturing so that he could “tone down” once he got the nomination in order to broaden his appeal. Apparently not. Appreciate your sharing that insight.

  • Christiane Smith

    DENNY, this is terrifying:

    ” Do you think he might use his powers to punish dissent? I think he would. I am privy to private threats to that effect already against certain religious leaders who oppose him.”

  • Ian Shaw


    I have to add to your Simpsons reference. In an episode in 2000, they predicted Trump would be President.

    In an episode titled, “Bart to the Future”, the children are now adults, Lisa has become President. “As you know, we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump,” Lisa says to her staff, who inform her the country is broke due to her predecessor.

    Life imitating art, eh?

Leave a Reply to Christiane SmithCancel reply