Jesus is not running—has never run—for president of the USA. Always, in every presidential election, the two major candidates have both strengths and weaknesses. So this year we must ponder and pray about both the policies and character of Donald Trump and Joe Biden in order to decide which person, on balance, will be better (or at least less harmful) as president.
There are some policy issues where I prefer Trump (more of that later). But there are vastly more areas where I think Biden is closer to what biblical principles demand. (This year, incredibly, the Republican party did not even formally adopt any policy platform so we must simply go on what Trump has done and said.)
Health Care. Universal health insurance is a pro-life issue because people without it are sicker and die younger. Obama’s Affordable Care Act extended coverage to an additional 20 million Americans and prevented insurance companies from refusing coverage because a person had a medical pre-condition. Trump and the Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal “Obamacare” without offering any concrete alternative.
Biden wants to cover every American. But he does not support a “Medicare for All” approach that would (as in Bernie Sanders’ plan) replace all private insurance with a single payer government program. People may keep their private insurance but everyone will have health insurance.
Tax policy. Trump promoted and signed a major tax cut bill that gave at least 80% of its benefits to the richest 20%. The gap between the rich and the rest of Americans is as vast today as just before the great depression in 1929. The top one percent of Americans own more wealth than the bottom 80%. And the gap keeps increasing. Trump’s tax cut made that problem worse (and also increased the national debt by another trillion plus dollars at a time when the economy was strong).
Biden wants to increase taxes somewhat on the richest Americans so they pay their fair share, and so that we can afford effective programs for the rest of us.
Empowering poor people. Poverty is a pro-life issue. Millions around the world die every year of poverty and diseases we know how to prevent. But repeatedly, Trump has proposed national budgets that slash effective US programs that help people in developing nations overcome poverty. He has also proposed cutting funding for food stamps (SNAP) that annually lift millions of Americans out of poverty; cutting programs that help kids from poor families afford college; cutting affordable housing; cutting Medicaid (health insurance for poor Americans).
Biden plans to continue effective American programs to combat poverty in developing countries. He plans to make sure food stamps are available to all who need them, and to increase support for poor kids going to college. Today, the national minimum wage is so low it does not even lift someone who works responsibly, full-time, up to the poverty level. Unlike Trump, Biden wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour so that anyone who works full-time escapes poverty.
Creation care. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that we must drastically reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane) if we are to avoid devastating climate change that will kill millions and devastate the world our grandchildren will inherit. Donald Trump denies the science of climate change and has enacted numerous policies that make things much worse. He withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement where the nations of the world promised to act together to make crucial changes. He reversed Obama’s mileage standards that would have made our cars and trucks much more efficient.
Biden accepts rather than denies the scientific consensus on this issue. He therefore plans to return to the Paris Climate Agreement and again lead the world in struggling against devastating climate change. Biden intends to greatly expand the production of renewable energy (wind, solar, etc) and work toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050.
Racial justice. The massive national (and global) response to the murder of George Floyd by a white policeman in Minneapolis has led to a moment of unprecedented opportunity for major movement toward racial justice. Significant numbers of white Americans are seeing more clearly the reality of structural racism: the lingering effects of slavery; 100 years of lynching; decades of restrictive zoning policies that prevented black home ownership in white communities; poorly funded, segregated inner-city school systems where minority children receive vastly inferior education compared to white suburban kids; many police departments that failed to end the regular, repeated murder of black men by white policeman; and the evidence that African-Americans have been twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as white Americans.
Instead of seizing this opportunity to unite the nation to combat racial injustice, Donald Trump has continued stoking racism, seeking to divide the nation for short term political advantage. Biden appeals to the nation with policies (and the first African-American vice-presidential candidate of a major party) that will move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of the beloved community. Biden explicitly rejects “defunding the police” but calls for concrete new policies that will combat the problems that so clearly still exist. Clearly the struggle against racism is in play in 2020 in an unusually prominent way.
Strengthening democracy. Respecting and facilitating every citizen’s right to vote is central to a successful democracy. In the middle of COVID-19, more voting by mail is clearly the safe way to go. But Trump frequently claims (contrary to all the evidence available) that voting by mail involves massive electoral fraud. And a number of Republican state officials are reducing rather than expanding the opportunities for early voting and making other decisions that will probably reduce minority participation.
The Supreme Court’s decision (Citizens United) allowing unlimited financial contributions for political campaigns clearly undermines the basic democratic principle of one person one vote. (Bloomberg could legally spend [waste!] $1 billion trying to buy the Democratic presidential nomination.) Trump supports unlimited funds from billionaires. Biden has concrete proposals to restrict that.
Covid-19. As the pandemic expanded rapidly in the US, Trump kept denying for about two months that there was a problem. He wanted to open up the country by Easter! He failed to mobilize adequate federal resources in a national effort for widespread, rapid testing. Repeatedly, he ignored the best scientific advice, even refusing to wear a mask. His failure prompted the conservative magazine, The National Review, to sharply condemn Trump, claiming that he “has obviously failed to rise to the challenge of leadership.”
Biden has demanded that we follow the best scientific advice and he plans to vigorously combat COVID-19, including making free, convenient, quick tests available to everyone.
Immigration. Trump has labeled Mexicans seeking to come to the US as “criminals” and “rapists”. To discourage people from seeking to immigrate to the US, Trump has purposely separated children from their parents and put children in cages. He tried to end the protected status of Dreamers. He also drastically reduced the number who may apply for refugee status, thus abandoning a long history of American generosity toward desperate people suffering severe persecution in their native countries.
Biden reminds us that “immigrants are us.” Almost everyone in the US today is a descendent of immigrants. Biden will protect Dreamers, make family unity a central concern of immigration policy, and provide a roadmap to citizenship for the millions of undocumented people who are a central part of our economy.
International Leadership. We live in a time of growing dictatorship and totalitarianism. Freedom – – political and religious--is under severe threat in many parts of the world. China’s growing totalitarianism, combined with its rapidly expanding economic and military might, pose a clear growing danger to freedom and democracy.
The way to combat that danger is to bring together all the free democratic societies of the world. The US is still the most powerful, most wealthy, democratic society in the world. It ought to lead in uniting democracies in Europe, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan and Latin America to stand together to oppose dictatorial policies and regimes.
Instead, Trump has acted to undermine the European Union and NATO. He has picked fights with democratic friends – – even imposing a tax on Canadian aluminum, claiming that was a threat to American national security! And he has befriended dictators in Turkey, the Philippines, Russia and elsewhere. Global respect for the US has dropped dramatically in the last four years.
Biden has vast global experience. He knows personally many of the leaders around the world and he promises to unite rather than divide the world’s democracies. Biden plans to revitalize American diplomacy as our “tool of first resort” and strengthen democratic alliances. He will help recover global respect for this nation.
America first? Trump has championed the idea that our all-consuming concern as a nation should be the self-interest of Americans. The National Association of Evangelicals (the largest evangelical network in the country) rejects an “America first” agenda, insisting that “we must advocate for policies that offer the most potential for creating the conditions of human flourishing, not only for Americans, but also for all those in the human community.”
Probably no candidate for president embraces the fullness of that evangelical statement. But Biden promotes global cooperation and generous US economic assistance for developing countries.
On a long list of issues, I believe Joe Biden offers better policies than Donald Trump.
That does not mean I support everything Biden and the Democrats endorse. I am concerned about their position on religious freedom and abortion.
The Democrats are right that national legislation should guarantee civil rights for LGBTQ people. But national legislation should likewise guarantee the religious freedom of religious institutions and faith-based organizations that seek to live out their traditional view of marriage. Unlike the Equality Act passed by the Democratic House in early 2019, the proposed Fairness for All act would do both.
I am also unhappy with the Democrats’ position on abortion. They could at least say (as they used to) that they want abortion to be “legal, safe and rare”. Knowing that the most common reason given by women getting an abortion is that they cannot afford another child, Democrats could emphasize how Democratic economic policies speak to that problem: universal health insurance, affordable Day care, food stamps, and paid maternal leave all provide financial assistance that make the decision to abort less likely.
But it is also true that abortion is not in play in 2020 in nearly as substantial a way as many claim. Even if Trump wins this fall and appoints one or 2 more Supreme Court judges who overturn Roe v. Wade, the power to write legislation on abortion will simply return to the states. And Gallup Poll after Gallup Poll for decades has shown that the vast majority of Americans want abortion to be legal. 29% want it to be legal in every circumstance. 50% want it to be legal with some restrictions. That 79% of the American people who want abortion to be legal in at least some circumstances will guarantee that not a lot will change even if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Furthermore, the official public policy document of the National Association of Evangelicals says clearly: “Faithful evangelical civic engagement and witness must champion a biblically balanced agenda.” And that document goes on to highlight eight crucial areas including economic justice, overcoming racism, care for creation, and peacemaking, as well as the sanctity of human life and marriage. All are important. No one issue overrides all the others.
If all these issues were not reason enough, there is the bedrock issue of character.
Donald Trump is a twice-divorced, thrice-married, man who has boasted of adulterous sexual affairs, and repeatedly uttered sexist, misogynist statements about women that reduce them to little more than sex objects. Trump lies almost constantly. He bullies, disrespects, belittles, and slanders anyone who disagrees with him. He boasts constantly, making ridiculous claims about knowing more than anyone else about many, many things. He said he has never asked God for forgiveness. He repeatedly ignores the advice of wise advisors. And he regularly chooses to divide, rather than unite, the country.
Joe Biden has never divorced. He remarried only after his first wife was killed in a tragic car accident. For decades, he prioritized family by daily commuting home from Washington to be with his children and wife. Biden acts respectfully toward political opponents even as he disagrees with them. He listens carefully to experts. And he seeks to unite, not divide the nation.
The president of the country provides a model for our children and grandchildren. Do you want their marriages, family life, attitude toward and treatment of others and basic character to be modeled on Donald Trump or Joe Biden?
On balance, I believe Joe Biden’s agenda more closely corresponds to a “biblically balanced agenda” than does that of Donald Trump. And Biden comes much closer to modeling the personal character that I desire for my grandchildren than does Trump. So I will vote for Joe Biden on November 3. And if he wins, I will continue to object to some of his positions and do all I can to urge him to modify his stance.
Voting for a candidate does not mean you endorse all their policies. It means you answer the question: “On balance, which person will do more good (and less harm)?”.
The answer to that question is very clear to me this year. I will vote for Biden and urge all Americans, especially other evangelicals, to do the same.
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