Isn't it funny how feelings progress? Over the course of the past year I've gone from disbelief to determination to disgust to despair to hope to happiness to anger to doubt to sadness. I am, of course, referring to my feelings about the progression of the US presidential campaign. I did my part in the primaries to nominate someone I thought could do the job. My Republican choice did not end up as the nominee.
Over the course of a couple of months I delved into all the candidates I knew about so I could see whose platform most closely matched my ideals. The results were not encouraging. I switched back and forth between Gary Johnson and Donald Trump, as those two platforms came closest to what I'd like to see. The problem was that I wasn't really happy with either choice. Aside from my disagreement with several of their policies, I also found myself feeling uneasy about the characters of the candidates I had narrowed down. With Trump the moral deficiencies were well-publicized and easy to point to. My reservations about Johnson were a little more hard to place but I eventually found what it was that bothered me. I could go into more detail about both but in the end it comes down to being worried about which direction either would lead the people of my country if they were to become our next commander in chief. Choices influence policies and policies influence people.
At this point I was feeling the despair I mentioned earlier. How does one choose who to vote for when all the options feel unsavory? Enter independent candidate Evan McMullin. I happened upon an article that introduced him a day or two before he officially launched his campaign. After going to his website I began to feel some hope that there was someone I could stand behind. His policies matched up with my ideals and he seemed like a strong person. On top of that, I didn't feel the same queasiness about his character that I did with the others. I had found my candidate. I had found peace.
After making that choice we had ward conference at church. One of the things our stake president (local church leader of several congregations) spoke to us about is the dangerous situation we find ourselves in with the constitution. He encouraged us to pray that the constitution be preserved and that we study and pray to know which candidate would best do that. There was no encouragement for any candidate, just a request that we make the best decision we could and use Divine inspiration. With that request in mind, I looked at the candidates yet again. I prayed that as I studied and considered that I would find the way to vote that would best uphold the constitution even if that meant voting for someone I didn't want to vote for. A week later, after study, thought, prayer, and general Conference, my answer was still Evan McMullin, along with the impression that I needed to get the word out about him.
So what does the post title "Being a Sheep" have to do with what I've written up to now? It has to do with the feelings I wrote in the second sentence. The anger, doubt, and sadness all came after making the final decision for Evan McMullin. Now that his name is getting more attention, he and his supporters are catching more heat. It's easier when there are no detractors. The hardest thing to hear has been that I and others who support McMullin are simply sheep following after a candidate who shares our religion. I outlined my process for choosing my candidate to show that it was not a flippant choice made as soon as I heard there was a Mormon on the ballot. It was a choice made with deliberation, one that I came back to more than once. I made this decision with knowledge of the possible ramifications, particularly what may happen to the Supreme Court. I've seen many suggestions that Utah is blindly following McMullin because he's Mormon. What I have not seen is the consideration that maybe, just maybe, our shared religion means we also share ideals and that those of us who plan on voting for McMullin are doing so because we believe in the preservation of those ideals. I expected to hear sheep declarations from people not of my faith because we heard it when Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee. Now that I'm hearing it from some who do share my faith...it saddens me. Deeply. I had hoped we could all (Mormon or not) give each other credit for greater objectivity than that.
My choice in a presidential candidate is both pragmatic and intuitive. Both those sides of me deserve to be heard. The logic according to what is important to me says that the current two party system we have is broken. I find both major party candidates equally unappealing, but for different reasons. If both of those choices are terrifying and unacceptable to me, then I have nothing to lose by voting for someone else. Because I see the two party system as broken, I cannot vote in a way that will support it. Casting a third party vote is a message that something has to change. To vote for a candidate I don't support so that I can help keep the other out of office is like putting a bandaid over a compound fracture. It may cover the wound up a bit, but at some point the problem has to be fixed. And it will hurt. If McMullin does manage to block Trump and Clinton from getting 270 electoral votes, thereby sending the vote to the House of Representatives, then so much the better. I would love to see that happen. He has a range of professional experience that would work in his favor AND he's not a career politician. Those are both points in his favor. The call for a new conservative movement is one I support.
My intuitive side says it just feels right to put my vote where I can believe in it. But the bottom line for me is that this decision was made after careful thought and prayer. For me...that's the last word. I know what I felt and I'm experienced enough in feeling it that I trust it. I would hope that my brothers and sisters in faith would respect that, and most do. I acknowledge that my answer may not be the same for others, particularly others living elsewhere. Perhaps my answer about who to vote for would be different if I lived in Hawaii or Missouri or New York; I can only know that answer for me.
After so much study and thought, Evan McMullin is the logical choice that fits in with the direction I think our country needs to take. It comforts me that, no matter the outcome of the election, I will have acted on personal revelation. If that makes me a sheep, then I'm glad I'm following the voice of my Shepherd.