I think it is nice in a political discussion for a person to lay out their political cards for me. In this day of spin, spin, spin, I find it somewhat refreshing when a person admits their biases up front, and then makes an articulate case for their ‘team’. This makes me feel less aggravated when the bias begins to appear in the article, and generally, I find it makes me listen to an argument that I might disagree with more favorably. So here is a quick political sketch of where I come from, and how I have viewed this race from my corner of the political universe. I am a angst-filled conservative who often displays libertarian tendencies. The issue of abortion looms large on my political landscape, coloring everything I hear a politician say. But I am often embarrassed of the nominees of the Republican party; they strike me as ham-handed and nearly always tactless. I liked Ron Paul, and I thought it was helpful to have him on the Republican platform.
I admit that as the Republican primaries wore on, I felt a sense of impending doom. The debates were a fiasco for me; there was too little time and too many candidates, and each of them looked like a kid in class grunting and raising their hand in the hopes the teacher would call on them. I tuned out and comforted myself in the gospel being the only real hope for the world, which is both true and what every good evangelical does when when he or she realizes their party is bombing this year. I felt that Romney was marching toward and inevitable victory, and all I could think was, “This is the guy who couldn’t beat John McCain, people!” (I did not like John McCain. At all.)
Flash forward to three weeks ago. I pretty much thought that President Obama had it in the bag. It upset me a little as a fiscal conservative, more as a pro-life pastor, but not much considering I really didn’t think there was much difference between the President and Mitt Romney. I am convinced that, in reality, there is very little difference between the two in the ‘social values’ arena. But it was enough, combined with the official party platforms, to make me swing Republican. (Though I did seriously consider casting a third party protest vote, but it that ultimately seemed to be a vanity to me, and as helpful as spitting in the wind.)
Before the first debate, I had decided to watch to see how bad it was going to be. President Obama was always the more personally likable candidate. If it were a personality contest, I would have voted for him hands down. But as the debate began, I could not believe my eyes and ears. Romney seemed to have a personality that wasn’t on loan from Al Gore. And the President looked tired to me, ground down. It was as if someone along the way had poked a hole in him and all the hope he had four years ago had leaked out onto the floor. He seemed aggravated, stilted, and a man just going through the motions. I was stunned. I thought maybe it was some strange form of confirmation bias, but that was hard to believe because I really didn’t like Romney that much. I had already consigned myself to voting for him, heroically, whilst holding my nose and praying for Obama to do a good job. After that first debate, I thought Romney had a real chance.
The second and third debates were sort of a draw for me. I don’t know who “won” on content, but I think Romney won them where it counted. He demonstrated to a lot of people that he wasn’t the robot people made him out to be. You may despise Romney, but I think perhaps most would admit that he is more charming than they thought, especially if you watched the Al Smith Dinner. (If you haven’t, you should! It is truly hilarious.)
I do not know who is going to win this election, but the shock of Romney having a personality is wearing off of me now, and I have major concerns for the country. One is that the crushing debt load is so large that I am worried that no one can help it. Second, I am aggravated, nay, I am downright frightened that both candidates are happy to have the power to send drones anywhere, at any time, to blow up anyone they think is a “legitimate target” with no accountability. I am gobsmacked that we can arrest people in the United States of America and stick them in a prison camp and never give them a trial and hold them forever. Can you believe that? Isn’t that sort of what we started the United States for? To get away from that kind of tyranny? I’m not saying those detainees aren’t dangerous, I’m saying they have a right to trial. Can we still agree on that?
I’m afraid that if Romney wins, evangelicals are going to be so giddy that they will forget these things. Worse, I am afraid that people don’t even see the concerns I have listed as a problem. Maybe we could get Ron Paul a TV show since he has retired from politics. He could talk about serious issues like drone bombing and imprisoning people forever and the horror that is the TSA. And then he could riff on why heroine should be legalized and we could all groan. (Well, most of us, anyway.) Something needs to happen, I’m sure of that. But we are so focused on the debt right now we can’t even talk about the important principles this country was founded on. Hopefully, we will remember to bring these things up once the election is over, no matter who wins, these discussions need to happen.