You love Bernie Sanders. I get it. How could you not really? I mean, if you care about the poor as something more than just a sociological abstraction, or if you think college education for everyone should be made available, or if you believe that healthcare ought to be universally available through a system not motivated first and always by profit, what’s not to like? No seriously, I get it. I love him, for crying out loud!
Furthermore, you hate Hillary Clinton with a hatred so pure that it can scratch diamonds. I get that too. She has … well, let’s just say … baggage. A dubious relationship to Wall Street. A certain malleability in the evolution of her political commitments (e.g., same sex marriage, international trade deals, Keystone pipeline, etc.). She’s boring–or at least boring-er than Bernie … and Donald Trump … and your eleventh grade chemistry teacher who wore the same pants for an entire semester. I absolutely understand. I don’t necessarily agree, but I understand.
Moreover, I also understand your commitment to the noble purity of ideals, to your longing for a revolution that rebalances the scales that have for too long swung in the favor of the rich and powerful. Understand it? Hell, I’m totally on board. (I’m a follower of Jesus, after all; and all that stuff is at the heart of what I believe to be the nature of the unfolding reign of God.) Of course.
But here’s a tiny twist on the Democratic civil war between Bernie’s rebel forces and the Clinton Death Star: I’ve heard too many good progressives take one step too far. I’ve actually heard people I love and respect say, “There isn’t any difference between Hillary and Trump.”
Now, I’m not sure if that’s just a rhetorical backhand meant to draw firm idealogical distinctions between Bernie and Hillary, or if the people who say that actually mean it. Again, I understand (I think) the sentiment that energizes such passion: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both lackeys in a system that’s bought and paid for by the monied interests. Totally grok the disgust. I’m outraged too.
But the same thing? Seriously? You really want to try to convince me that Hillary and The Donald are basically different shades of the same color when you step behind the curtain to cast your vote for the people who will win and who will lose in this country?
I love you, but that won’t fly. In fact, not only won’t it fly, I’m not sure if you hear how that sounds to the people who always tend to find themselves on the losing end in many of the battles you care most about.
Let me ask you this: How am I supposed to link arms in solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers who love this country as much as I do and then try to persuade them that a vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton amounts to the same thing?
How am I supposed to go to my Mexican aunts and uncles, to my Mexican cousins, and try to put their minds at ease that really there’s no difference who’s elected? Donald or Hillary? It doesn’t matter. Mexicans should be fine either way.
How do I look my daughter, or my wife, or any of the other women in my life in the eye and tell them that, well, Trump treats women in shameful and demeaning ways, but maybe our culture could stand to have women reminded just who’s boss? Having the commander-in-chief constantly putting out messages that women should be judged primarily by their bodies parts will be a good thing, right? I mean, holding the door open for a lucky lady and telling her how much you love women ought to answer any lingering questions about your commitment to giving the weaker sex a seat at the table, shouldn’t it?
How do I convince my African American friends that just because the KKK hums the Horst Wessel lied and adjusts their Confederate flag underwear every time Donald Trump promises to “Make America Great Again” that Hillary Clinton would be just as bad when it comes to the things they care about? Quit being so sensitive.
How do I reassure some of my evangelical friends that jumping into bed with a greedy, philandering, prevaricating bully is totally cool with Jesus? All that forgiving your enemies and sacrifice and mercy and defending the vulnerable and humility? Just Jesus thinking out loud. He didn’t intend for anyone to take that seriously.
How do I look at the folks who too often live with the boot of people like Donald Trump on their necks and tell them this presidential election doesn’t make a difference?
Answer: I can’t.
If you want to try to make the argument that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are essentially the same, go ahead … I guess. But just remember the faces of those you’re going to have to convince. And without complicating things too much, I actually think Jesus is one of them.
The Mainliner’s Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World
by Derek Penwell
From Each Brave Eye: Reflections on the Arts, Ministry, and Holy Imagination
by Timothy W. Ross, Michael Sares, Debra Dean Murphy, Derek L. Penwell, Erik W. Dailey, Meredith A. Holladay, Tom M. Trinidad, Todd Edmondson, Katie Mulligan