Today is election day. Mostly up for grabs are local and state races. Voting has been called a “civic sacrament.” The analogy is an imperfect one, and it applies only to democratic systems. Some say that voting “doesn’t do any good,” which even if it were true is not the point. We have a vocation of citizenship. For those of us blessed enough to have been called to citizenship in a country in which we govern ourselves by choosing our own leaders, voting is one of the duties of our vocation.
Todd Wilkens, host of Issues, Etc., has a provocative post on voting like a Christian. He is applying to this work of the calling of citizenship what Luther taught is the purpose of all vocations: To love and serve one’s neighbor.
Why does a Christian vote? A Christian doesn’t vote for the same reason the unbeliever votes.
A Christian doesn’t vote because it’s his right. That’s why the unbeliever votes. For the Christian, his own rights have nothing to do with it.
A Christian doesn’t vote to get his way. That’s also why the unbeliever votes. For the Christian, getting his way has nothing to do with it.
A Christian doesn’t vote to protect his own interests. For the Christian, his own interests have nothing to do with it.
A Christian votes to serve his neighbor —-period.
A Christian votes because he is called to do so by the needs of his neighbor. This means that a Christian will sometimes vote against his own rights, his own way and his own self-interest; but always in favor of his neighbor and his needs. At the ballot box, the neighbor comes first.
On election day, don’t vote like an unbeliever. Make you vote count …for your neighbor.
So what difference would this neighbor-centered ethic make? Which, in your opinion, would be a better neighbor-centered vote, for Obama or for Romney? Is there only one answer, or might vocation lead different people to different decisions? If the latter, does that mean that God calls people to contrary actions? How can that be?
Where I live, we are just voting today for local elections. We just have a state senator to pick and a number of county offices. But for the last several months we have been subject to getting multiple automated phone calls a day conducting polls, demonizing opponents, and scaring us into voting for particular candidates. Opposition research, negative campaigning, and hyperbolic rhetoric have trickled down into local elections. (The last robocall I answered insinuated that one candidate’s support of the 2nd Amendment made him liable for the shootings at Virginia Tech.) Apparently, local candidates are hiring out of state firms to provide these political services. (I answered an automated call from Olympia, Washington, telling us who to vote for in a race for county sheriff!)
The theory is that local government is closer and more responsive to individual citizens, who elect their neighbors to represent them in public office. National government, by contrast, is more remote. Reformers are calling for a smaller central government with more power devolving to state and local governments.
But what if state and local governments are likewise dysfunctional, bound just as much to special interests and oblivious to the civic virtues?
It is true that local issues often finesse the liberal/conservative polarization that has paralyzed the national government. The divisions in many local governments are on the order of “pro-development” (uniting free-market pro-business conservatives and pro-jobs liberals) vs. “anti-development” (uniting conservatives who want to preserve the pristine character of the community and anti-capitalist environmentalists). Although I don’t see a civic consensus being possible with that kind of polarization either.
Perhaps this kind of political strife is intrinsic to democracy. Still, having lived in a number of communities not all that different from where I live today, I don’t remember local elections being like this.
When Americans have to pay $60 to fill their cars up with gas, they usually aren’t going to vote for the incumbent president. And yet, who is there to run against him?
Mitt Romney? Newt Gingrich? Donald Trump? I can’t see Christian conservatives rallying behind any of those guys.
Ron Paul, the libertarian?
Mitch Daniels, who is calling for a truce on cultural issues to focus exclusively on the economy?
Sarah Palin, who for better or worse has been turned into a punchline?
Mike Huckabee, who may be happier as a pundit on Fox News?
Rick Santorum or Tim Pawlenty, but are they too obscure to win?
And do any of these individuals have the gravitas to seem presidential enough (which I’m convinced is a major factor in this era of image over substance) to compete successfully against the actual president?
Are there any potential candidates who might ride in on a dark horse to win this thing?
Today Americans go to the polls to vote. In our ongoing discussion of those forbidden topics of religion and politics, I want to underscore that the two are, literally, different realms; that is to say, different Kingdoms. Christianity is not about politics. It is possible for two Christians to agree in the faith and yet disagree politically, and the former is far more important than the latter. And yet we do have vocations as citizens, so participating in the deliberations of civil government has great value.
Anyway, today we will attend to politics and what looks to be a very interesting and potentially significant election. In this post, feel free to comment upon the election as it unfolds: your predictions, your local issues, what you see happening where you live, the key races, the final results.
Don’t get so caught up in online discussions that you forget to vote!
From a piece about Harry Reid’s difficult re-election campaign:
Reid has what some political strategists refer to as an “Al Gore problem.” It is widely believed that Gore would have won the 2000 campaign if he would have just stayed out of public view for the last two weeks of the campaign. But every time Gore would emerge into the spotlight, George W. Bush’s numbers would improve.
For an incumbent (or in Gore’s case, quasi-incumbent) who is not well-liked, visibility is the enemy.
Would that more candidates would try that strategy of not making public appearances! I suppose it would only work for incumbents, but still, not being visible would make many politicians more likable. In the early days of our republic, presidential candidates would make a point of not campaigning, allowing their surrogates to do that for them. It was considered undignified to appear in public asking people for their votes. And it is undignified!
Can you think of other politicians, past or present, who might have “an Al Gore problem”? I don’t want to bash them. Let’s limit this to politicians who actually might be pretty good at their job, but simply don’t come across all that well.