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At this point, it’s hard to argue that Donald Trump is qualified for any political office other than Lord Mayor of Babylon. Last weekend, in an unprecedented editorial, the Deseret News called for his withdrawal from the presidential race and eloquently articulated why Americans should run — not walk — from his candidacy.
Opposition to Donald Trump has been particularly pronounced among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon Republicans led the most recent revolt against his campaign, and prominent members of the church from Mitt Romney on down have issued warnings of why Trump’s election would be a catastrophe for the country and the principle of religious freedom. Utah voters are paying attention. Recent polling in the state shows the race in a dead heat.
Some denunciations of Donald Trump, including those of this paper, have stopped short of endorsing Secretary Clinton. Many LDS voters are still debating whether to vote for her or back others with no chance of winning the presidency. For those among the undecided, I offer two points of consideration:
First, the only vote that will prevent Donald Trump from assuming the presidency is a vote for Hillary Clinton. If she does not get enough votes, the man one respected conservative has called the most dangerous threat to American democracy since the Civil War will win the election. Many prominent Republicans that differ with her on policy recognize this and are supporting her.
Second, if she is elected, you may end up liking Hillary Clinton a lot more than you expect. I did.
Like many of you reading this, I have five kids, am married to a Republican BYU grad, and cherish my faith in the church. In 2009, I received an unexpected offer to serve as speechwriter and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton at the State Department. I had never worked with her, but I had certainly heard a lot of rumors. In the four years that followed, we collaborated on over 200 speeches, traveled to dozens of countries, and had deep discussions about faith and family.
The Hillary Clinton I worked with bears no resemblance to the caricature I had heard described on talk radio. She is a woman of sincere faith. After I joined her staff, one of her confidants took me aside. “If you’re ever unsure how she would approach an issue, remember that Hillary Clinton is, at her core, a Midwestern Methodist.” In virtually every speech, she had us reiterate that her goal is to help build a world in which every boy and girl has the opportunity to realize their God-given potential. Once, when rushing to deliver a draft, I left out the phrase “God-given.” She pointedly wrote the words back in.
She proved to be a champion for religious freedom. Under her direction, we established a groundbreaking 70-member task force on religion in foreign policy that included members of the church. Its work led to major reforms at the State Department and the creation of a new office dedicated to the issue. She spoke out often about the persecution of religious minorities, even when doing so was politically unpopular. I saw her bring together faith leaders in places ranging from Abuja to Tatarstan and advocate for the principle that people should be able to worship how, where, and what they may.
She is also very familiar with the church. Once, over boiled meat in a Mongolian yurt, we spent an entire evening discussing the gospel, the church’s welfare system, and her visits to church historical sites. Long before that, as a young mother, she adopted the practice of family home evening and credited the church with the idea in her memoirs.
I do not want to suggest that she hasn’t made mistakes. She has. But so have a lot of other decent people that have run for president. And after years watching her away from the cameras, I can tell you she’s a very decent human being — someone you would want as a friend and neighbor. When my grandfather passed away, she was among the first to call and ask how she could help our family. After the line dropped, she called back. She would show up with soup or at hospital rooms when colleagues fell ill. She was a great boss and, though it may shock you, a lot of fun around the office. The notion that she is cold, uncaring or disinterested in others couldn’t be further from the truth.
Even before last week’s meltdown, Utah had become a coveted electoral prize. The state’s LDS voters offer, as one national observer noted, a chance at redemption in a moment of American self-disgust. Even if you think Secretary Clinton’s only redeeming quality is her ability to prevent a Trump presidency, that’s ample reason to vote for her. However, if your experience is anything like mine, after four years, you may be surprised by how much you admire her commitment to help our country realize its God-given potential.
Tomicah Tillemann served as a speechwriter and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton during her four years as secretary of state.