The Right Side of History? A Christian Votes Obama & Thanks President Bush

Well, I voted. There are all kinds of good things about casting my vote today:

  • I added my contribution to the political process.
  • Lines were short.
  • NO MORE POORLY WRITTEN POLITICAL ADS.
  • No more abuse for my unorthodox political perspectives.
  • One less thing for which to be called an argumentative person.
  • Almost all my political predictions are going to come true (I thought Guiliani would do better, but otherwise I nailed most of them).

But that said, I did it with a bit of wistfulness. I voted for George W. Bush both times he ran, and am glad I did so. I will miss him. I think he was an excellent President in many respects.

I believe he sought to lead in a morally consistent way. He sought to limit stem cell research on embryos, but expanded AIDS relief in Africa. He did more to fight the sex slave trade than any other president, and chose excellent judges who do not view abortion as a right. His tenure was marked by thoughtfulness and character rather than responsiveness to opinion polls.

I believe he made courageous decisions, such as propping up an economy on the edge of disaster even though his own party was against it. He wanted the nation to be stable, and acted accordingly even though it seemed to go against his own supporters. He did so in spite of opinion polls.

I believe he understood his role as a figurehead in times of crisis. His ability to deliver hope and strength exactly when we needed it were remarkable. He helped the nation heal quickly after September 11, and carried out justice as best he understood it. He only delivered a few great speeches, but those were truly great. Rather than focus on himself and his ability to fix problems, he guided us to faith in something higher as the source of hope. And he did not give speeches designed to respond to opinion polls.

I believe he was right to invade Iraq. I think the justification for the Iraq war was badly communicated, but I think it was the strategically correct move and I believe our nation will reap the rewards (not primarily financial) for generations to come. I think Iraq and indeed the Middle East are significantly better off because President Bush saw a larger need for significant change in that region, and he followed through in a way that UN always has and likely always will be too weak to emulate. And he did not capitulate because of opinion polls.

I believe he truly cared about us. But he cared too much to try to give us everything we asked for, because George W. Bush is not beholden to opinion polls.

I think these things make him a great man and president, as opposed to his predecessor, who DID build most of his actions around opinion polls.

You may disagree (in fact, you almost certainly do!) with some of my assessments. They mostly flow from my personal understanding of governance and statesmanship. I would not try to argue that a Christian has to see things the way I do.

However, I hope as Christians we can all agree on the importance of thanking people for their service, whether they do exactly what we wanted or not. This is true of everyone from the the landscaper at church who messed up the geraniums to the President who never could control spending the way he thought he would at the beginning. Here at Christ and Pop Culture, let it not be said that we are ungrateful, unable to remember, or always looking forward for some utopian society which cannot exist before Christ’s return.

So today I cast my vote for Barack Obama, because I believe he is the best option on the whole for executing the office of president and setting vision for the people. But I also heave a sigh, because I will miss that brief period when we had a President too stubborn to listen to anything but his own moral clarity.

Thank you, Mr. President.

About Ben Bartlett

Ben Bartlett lives in Louisville, Ky., with his wife and two terrific kids. His degree is in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from Michigan State University, and he has a bunch of education from a bunch of other places with nothing official to show for it. He has taught high school speech and debate, worked for a congressman in Washington DC, and worked in the health and energy industries. He is interested in how pop culture, history, politics, and theology interact with the inner and community lives of individuals... which is weird because he now works as a business analyst. Few things make him happier than reading, discussing, and recommending books.

  • http://alman.tumblr.com Alex H

    I agree with just about everything you’re saying Ben, except Barrack Obama. Obama may be charismatic and seem “good for change”, but I can’t feel like I’m being patriotic and doing my civic duty by going into a voting booth and checking the name for a man who won’t recognize the American flag.

    Plus, having a president who wants to “spread the wealth” and was raised in the background, of Marxism, Black Liberation Theology, and racism, is not something that sits well with me. A socialistic president it the last thing this country needs.

    With all this war on terrorism over seas and American soldiers dying for our freedom, it feels like a dis-service to them to vote in “President Barrack Hussein Obama”.

    I believe Obama sets a vision, just a terribly incorrect one.

    Alex Hs last blog post..marco:

    The real final projection by FiveThirtyEight.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    I appreciate your interest, Alex! We’ll see what happens. Let me address a couple of your concerns.

    Socialism: It’s really not fair to say this about Obama. Did you know that if Obama was in England, he would not be liberal enough to be in the Liberal Party? He’d be either a conservative Labour leader or a Conservative. He definitely is no great advocate for free markets, but he’s no socialist.

    Black Liberation: It may be true that this is the theological tradition he is part of, but there’s no reason to say a person from that group can’t be president. We’ve had a Catholic president, and that didn’t turn out so bad. And the Republicans almost nominated a Mormon!

    Racism: Barack Obama is not a racist.

    Don’t worry too much! The presidency historically always moderates any extreme views that a candidate holds. You’ll get through this.

    Ben Bartletts last blog post..A Wistful Vote

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  • David Dunham

    Good response to Alex’s concerns Ben. I think this is where I am at too. I didn’t vote for Obama, but I do think he’s going to do a good job and will largely govern from a centrist position, and not his extreme leftist ideals. You’re are right on track to say that the Presidency has a way of moderating extreme views…I think history has proven this to be true.

  • David Dunham

    Oh, BTW another fantastic picture…good selection!

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Heh. Your title made me think you were blaming Bush for causing you to vote Obama—which is actually why I think Obama got as many votes as he did, even if it wasn’t your own reason.

    The Danes last blog post..20081104.Pumpkins

  • David Dunham

    Agreed Dane! I heard some RNC guy say something like “no matter how many people want to suggest that this election was about President Bush it was not!” and I just had to laugh.

    But I do have a question for you, Ben. I think I wanted to vote for Obama, but at the end of the day I had so much trouble with his stance on abortion. I know you’ll want to use the “one-issue voter” argument, and indeed I understand it. But how did you, as a Christian, handle that subject. This is an honest inquiry from one who probably secretly wanted to vote Obama…share your thinking process with me on how you decided to vote Obama. Thanks.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Hey David,

    Thanks for the question. I’ve written fairly extensively on my own blog about this topic, so I’ll outline and link so that you can read my thoughts along the way. Summary at the end!

    First, I argued that Christians need to seek a new political paradigm… and that my pursuit of this paradigm led me away from single-issue voting.

    http://benbartlett.blogspot.com/2007/12/new-political-paradigm-for-christians.html

    Next, I argued that I will vote for Obama… both because of the “for” Obama reasons and the “against” Republicans and especially McCain.

    http://benbartlett.blogspot.com/2008/02/voting-for-obama.html

    I followed this up with some answers to comments I got in response to the article.

    http://benbartlett.blogspot.com/2008/02/obama-comments-criticisms-and-further.html

    Later the Rev. Wright controversy came up, and I attempted to argue that we should respond with care and understanding of the roots of Black Liberation Theology… even Mike Huckabee was in agreement with me on this one!

    http://benbartlett.blogspot.com/2008/04/obamas-pastor-rev-wright-in-context.html

    I got a long comment in response to this last post, which I highlighted as generally healthy type of interaction about Obama in contrast to much of what I was seeing in the Christian blogging world. I then responded to the comment.

    http://benbartlett.blogspot.com/2008/04/healthy-interaction-about-obama.html

    I took a long break from political writing after that (my son was born, I turned to writing more theologically oriented stuff for a while). Recently I wrote an article challenging the way we think about economics, both because I think President Bush gets an unfairly bad rap and because I don’t think Obama will be as destructive as Christians say.

    http://benbartlett.blogspot.com/2008/11/economic-grapes-of-wrath.html

    I then posted this article (the one here our comments are on).

    Finally, I responded to Owen Strachan’s call for a new Wilberforce by suggesting that Christian tactics in the political sphere need to change if we want to see a new Wilberforce.

    http://benbartlett.blogspot.com/2008/11/where-will-new-wilberforce-come-from.html

    I know that’s a lot! The short story is that:

    a)I don’t think a Christian acting as a political citizen is morally required to choose one candidate over another on the basis of a single issue,

    b)I think there are certain qualities that are the most important ones for a good President to have, rather than their stance on issues being the most important, and

    c)I think Obama is a much better person for the highest office in the land than McCain would have been.

    Ben Bartletts last blog post..Where will the new Wilberforce come from?

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Hm… I posted a long comment, but I think it was moderated because of the links. Hopefully that will be fixed soon.

    Ben Bartletts last blog post..Where will the new Wilberforce come from?

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    It’s there now.

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