Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ben Sasse is Not Happy with his Choices

From a long Times magazine article about the contemporary GOP, a bit on Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who says he will not vote for Trump or Clinton:
“There are Dumpster fires in my town more popular than these two ‘leaders,’ ” he wrote in a Facebook post in which he predicted the imminent breakup of both parties. He was harsher on Trump. Everywhere he goes in Nebraska, Sasse told me, people ask him for advice. “People say: ‘I’m distraught. I’m opposed to everything Hillary Clinton stands for, and yet I think I have to vote for her. How do you make sense of this? What should I do?’ ” he said. “These are young evangelical women, teary sometimes. They say, ‘I can never tell my kids I voted for that man.’ ”
I have also been thinking about evangelical women. During the last election I read a fascinating article about evangelical women, many of them stay-at-home moms, who threw themselves into volunteering for Romney and were devastated when he lost. They seemed to be supporting Romney mainly as a way of standing up for their own choices in life, and his defeat wounded them because the nation seemed to be passing judgment on those choices. But what will such a person do this time? Nobody could consider a Trump victory as an endorsement of putting religion and morality first, or a Hillary victory as an endorsement of godly motherhood.

I see two options: despair, or accept that maybe national politics really doesn't have much to do with the choices any of us make in life. I think it is a mistake to rely on a nationwide vote to validate your own identity. Other people just don't see the election the way you do, and their votes don't say anything one way or another about your own issues; you may think the election is a referendum on the place of Christianity in American life, but maybe I see it mainly as a matter of economic policy. If I were Ben Sasse, I would tell his worried constituents that it is ok to leave the presidential line blank if they can't support either candidate, but to show up anyway and vote for candidates they do support, and remember meanwhile that their spiritual lives should not depend so much on who happens to be president.

8 comments:

David said...

But isn't there a problem with your recommendation, which is that, as you have pointed out many times, people in fact do vote their identities, or vote against identities they don't like. This means that, in some sense, these women are right, that the country as a whole really has rejected their identity, at least as a determinative voice in national policy. And, as far as I can tell, this seems to be sort of true; again mainly at the national level, there seems to be a level of (very large) minority beyond which the evangelicals are unable to go.

Perhaps better advice would be for these women to accept their status as an embattled minority--a status for which all three Abrahamic faiths provide a rich tradition of discursive support. That, and vote what they can get at any level they think they can get it--which may not be so different from your own recommendation, but seems to come at it from a slightly different perspective.

Shadow Flutter said...

And maybe it is not just their evangelical identity being rejected but their housewife identity too (a larger group)?

John said...

Absolutely; national elections are contests in identity, about how the nation sees itself. As I posted earlier, Hillary is explicitly making her contest with Trump about competing visions of America. (White, aging and grouchy vs. diverse, tolerant, and optimistic, I guess.)

But when it comes to one's own personal identity, especially one's own spiritual identity, it is vitally important to cordon off the key parts from the voice of the crowd. This is, after all, one of the oldest pieces of philosophical advice; you have to have the strength of your convictions, regardless of what the majority thinks. If staying at home with your children and centering your life around your church are the right decisions for you, they remain the right decisions regardless of how the election turns out.

This is hard. It hurts to be reminded that millions of people despise you. This drives a huge amount of our politics and probably all democratic politics. As we have discussed here many times, this is the essential trade-off of life in a huge, diverse society: we are free to make our own lives, but we do not receive the support for our decisions that citizens of a more narrow and traditional society do. No matter what sort of life we choose, there are millions of Americans who will despise us for it.

You may have heard of the "Benedict Option," which is a movement among devout Christians to somehow separate themselves from a society that, they feel, no longer offers any support for their beliefs and way of life. I understand. It is just much easier to keep up a strongly religious outlook when those around you support what you are doing instead of rolling their eyes.

But that is the world we live in. We have to practice tolerance, because the only alternative is civil war. And we have to learn to hold fast to our own values regardless of what the majority says.

David said...

I agree with everything you say. It's just that in your original post, you seemed to be saying that evangelical moms were wrong to see previous election defeats as defeats for their identity, because other voters don't care about identity issues.

G. Verloren said...

The part that baffles me is when someone says they're "opposed to everything Hillary Clinton stands for".

I can understand people faulting her for being too moderate in her politics, as I often hear from liberals who wish she was more leftward-leaning, as well as from certain Republicans who wish she was more rightward-leaning, because then the argument is "I agree with them in some ways, but want them to do things different in other places". I may find that argument infuriating, and consider it to be the product of stubborn partisanship and an unreasonable unwillingness to compromise, but I can at least understand it.

But doesn't that sort of middle ground problem automatically largely preclude the other problem, of opposing everything someone stands for? If a moderate, middle of the road politician is utterly objectionable to you, doesn't that require your own position to be absolutely slanted toward one extreme, and for you to be unreasonably stubborn in demanding exactly what you want?

And what exactly do these people think Hilary stands for that's so objectionable? I have trouble imagining myself, and for some reason I never actually hear anyone specificy what precisely they dislike about Clinton, aside from bizarre (to my ears, at least) complaints about her not being matronly enough.

And then there's the issue of the things Hilary stands for which I can imagine - and I have trouble coping with someone saying they oppose those things. For instance, Hilary represents the potential for the first female president in US history, something I consider long overdue. Do these women object to the notion of a female president? I suppose it's possible they actually might, given their evangelical views, but that would just make it even harder to understand or sympathize with any of their other views if it proves true.

pithom said...

"And what exactly do these people think Hilary stands for that's so objectionable? I have trouble imagining myself, and for some reason I never actually hear anyone specificy what precisely they dislike about Clinton, aside from bizarre (to my ears, at least) complaints about her not being matronly enough."

-Abortion. Amnesty. Acid. Female ascent via dynasty. Willful disregard for Federal rules and family values. Acceptance of infidelity. Failing the DC bar exam, which most applicants passed.

"For instance, Hilary represents the potential for the first female president in US history, something I consider long overdue.

Do these women object to the notion of a female president?"

-No. They object to the notion of female ascent entirely through dynastic politics. Do you support political dynasties, Verloren? I don't, except in the case of exceptional politicians like Ron Paul. And Bush I and Bill Clinton were no exceptional politicians. Isn't supporting dynastic politics mediated through the political establishment (Bush 2000, Clinton 2016) distinctly un-American?

Gee, Verloren, what kind of insane media bubble do you live in, to believe Hillary Clinton is some kind of moderate? Do you read anything to the right of the Washington Post?

"I may find that argument infuriating, and consider it to be the product of stubborn partisanship and an unreasonable unwillingness to compromise, but I can at least understand it."

-Collins/Manchin 2016!

"If a moderate, middle of the road politician is utterly objectionable to you, doesn't that require your own position to be absolutely slanted toward one extreme, and for you to be unreasonably stubborn in demanding exactly what you want?"

-Hillary, like Obama and Kerry and unlike Sanders, was a moderate Democrat. Not a "moderate" like Collins/Manchin 2016!

G. Verloren said...

So far as I know Clinton has no specific intentions to really alter anything regarding abortion as it already stands and as it has stood in this country for several decades. How is her position of not changing things any different than that of someone like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan?

Amnesty? What, just the basic concept? Amnesty is granted all the time, to lots of different people, for lots of different reasons, by lots of different presidents and other leaders. Again, how is Clinton any different than anyone else?

Ascent via dynasty? What universe do you inhabit where being voted into office is tantamount to dynastic inheritance? Or is the nature of the complaint simply that she is related to other people who have also been democratically elected? Because if the latter is the problem, then what differentiates her from any other families with multiple members in politics? Like the Bushes? Or the Kennedies? Or the Roosevelts? Or the Rockefellers? Or some of our nation's earliest presidents like the Adamses? And more importantly, what's wrong with any of these figures? Do you honestly think they somehow won public elections purely because of their familial ties? If they can do their jobs and can win their elections, what do their family ties matter?

As for Clinton being a moderate, she absolutely is. Her biggest detractors among liberals are those who feel she's too much of a centrist, and won't do enough to help progressive liberal agendas. And among liberals, she's pretty much the single person most likely to be willing to work with and seek compromises with the conservative elements of the government, in large part because she's a diplomat and she understands that more good gets done when you give people a reason to work with you, rather than against you.

She couldn't really be much more of a moderate without running the risk of ceasing to be a liberal, and instead becoming some sort of independent, or even slipping into being a centrist conversative. She's definitely a liberal, but she could be a hell of a lot more of one in the eyes of many in the democratic party.

pithom said...

"How is her position of not changing things any different than that of someone like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan?"

-Bush and Reagan didn't say they'd fight state abortion laws. Clinton does. They did appoint anti-abortion Catholic justices. Clinton will appoint pro-abortion race-baiting Catholic (or Jewish) justices like Sotomayor.

Again, Kerry, Obama, and Clinton had basically the same Senate voting records. They are "moderate" as Democrats, but are by no means the same as Collins/Manchin 2016!

Again, you seem to live in a left-wing media bubble. I read everyone from Communists to Nazis and from Libertarians to SJWs.

"Again, how is Clinton any different than anyone else?"

-Really? How Clinton is different from Cruz? Regarding amnesty? I'm sure you don't need to look it up.

"What universe do you inhabit where being voted into office is tantamount to dynastic inheritance?"

-Sure, procedurally, Clinton won by being the Black candidate. But the Dem establishment was behind her from the beginning, just as it was behind Bush 2000 from the beginning. She (this year) is exactly the kind of candidate "The Party Decides" was written to describe.

"Or some of our nation's earliest presidents like the Adamses?"

-There's a reason that after one term of each of them, they were both voted out of office with 60%+ of the popular vote, to be replaced by genuine friends of the people Jefferson and Jackson.

"Or the Kennedies? Or the Roosevelts?"

-Both popular, both terrible for liberty.

If I wanted to live in a country based on political dynasties and an ancient female head of state, I'd move to England.

"Do you honestly think they somehow won public elections purely because of their familial ties?"

-As Jeb! discovered, a modicum of popular support is required to win elections. But do you seriously think membership in a political dynasty has less impact on what a candidate does in office than his sex? Family ties matter hugely. Just look around you.

"she's pretty much the single person most likely to be willing to work with and seek compromises with the conservative elements of the government"

-Obama had the same voting record while in the Senate. How much was he willing to work with Congress?

"She couldn't really be much more of a moderate without running the risk of ceasing to be a liberal"

-John Edwards? Or, even more conservative, Bill Nelson?

Come on. There are plenty of reasons women who supported Rick Santorum oppose everything Hillary stands for.