Some evangelicals will never vote for Hillary Clinton. She is connected to Barack Obama. She supports a women’s right to choose. She promises to appoint Supreme Court justices that will undermine religious liberty. She is married to Bill Clinton, a man who cheated on her in the White House and was impeached. She lied about the e-mail server.
In any other election, most evangelicals would vote for the GOP candidate. Never Hillary.
But this election is different. In this election a significant portion of evangelicals believe that the GOP candidate is not qualified to be president.
We don’t really know the size of the never-Trump evangelical coalition. One survey has found that 65% of white evangelicals are voting for Trump and 16% back Clinton. That leaves about 20% of white evangelicals who have either not yet made up their mind, will vote for a third-party candidate, or will not vote in the presidential election. This 20% is led by group of outspoken evangelicals such as Southern Baptist Russell Moore and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse.
Can these anti-Trump evangelical conservatives be convinced to vote for Clinton?
If Clinton were to make an appeal to this demographic she would need to address two main issues: abortion and religious liberty.
On abortion, it goes without saying that President Hillary Clinton is not going to be working to overthrow Roe v. Wade. Nor will she appoint Supreme Court justices who will do so. But what if she would propose, policy wonk that she is, a systematic plan to limit the number of abortion in the United States? I am not talking about returning to the old pro-choice Democratic mantra of “safe, legal, and rare.” Evangelicals will need more than a catchphrase. They will need to hear Clinton connect her public policy pronouncements with a specific a plan to reduce the number of abortions in the United States.
Some evangelicals would possibly vote for Clinton if she spoke out more forcefully about the controversial Planned Parenthood videos released in 2015. When these videos appeared she called them “disturbing.” Since then her comments about Planned Parenthood have been nothing but positive. Actually, Trump has been more nuanced on this issue than Clinton.
We know, for example, that Clinton has worked hard in her career to reduce teenage pregnancies. She might get more evangelical votes from the never-Trump crowd if she would connect this work more directly to the reduction of abortions. This might also bring her closer to the position of her own church.
Clinton has said very little about abortion on the trail. When asked about abortion at the third debate she defended a traditional pro-choice position and seemed to dodge Chris Wallace’s question about her support for late-term abortions. Many evangelicals were turned off by this.
Clinton has also been very quiet on matters of religious liberty. Yes, she pays lip service to religious liberty when Trump makes comments about barring Muslims from coming into the country, but she has not addressed some of the religious issues facing many evangelicals. This is especially the case with marriage.
Granted, evangelicals should not expect Clinton to defend traditional marriage or set out to overturn Obergfell v. Hodges. (I might add here that evangelicals should not expect this from Trump either). But is she willing to support some form of principled or “confident” pluralism? Some evangelicals of the never-Trump variety would be very happy to live in a society in which those who believe marriage is only between a man and a woman, and those who do not believe this, can live together despite their differences.
The recent attempts in California to cut financial aid for students at faith-based colleges that uphold traditional views of marriage is one example of a threat to religious liberty that has many evangelicals concerned. So does the earlier Gordon College case and the recent news about the Society of Biblical Literature considering banning InterVarsity Press from their national conference book exhibit.
Or perhaps none of this matters. Why would Hillary Clinton address these issues when she probably doesn’t need the votes of the anti-Trump evangelicals to win the election?