Voter: Registration or Manipulation at Wal-Mart?

The other day my wife and I went to Wal-Mart to fill a prescription. We have recently moved to a new apartment. When we saw the booth at the front of the store to register to vote, we knew we better take care of it soon so we didn’t miss out on the election.

When we registered prior to the primaries, we both felt that as followers of Jesus we didn’t fit under the hub of either ‘republican’ or ‘democrat;’ so we both felt that it was right to become registered ‘independents.’ We respect people, who for their own reasons choose to identify themselves with a party, but for us, we wanted to make sure that we had a voice that would not be categorized by the ‘box’ of either major label.

So, we went the booth where we were greeted by two kind men. Each of them took us as their project to make sure that we would fill out the paper work correctly (side note: we had done this about four months prior so we basically knew how to breeze through). As we were filling stuff out, we learned from the more vocal of the two (the man who was ‘helping’ my wife) that he was a church going man. We obviously have great respect for this as we are both followers of Jesus.

When it came time to identify a political party I immediately made clear that I wanted to be an ‘independent.’ My wife said that she would like to do the same thing, but was a bit less direct than myself (I didn’t want to get into another wasted political conversation about two issues…). On the table my wife noticed that there was an informative sheet of paper that gave the “FACTS” about Republicans in the first column and the Democrats in the second. She asked the man if it would be ok for her to take one, and that is when it got a bit ridiculous…

“Sure you can” he said. “But I can walk you though it really quick. Let me start out by asking you this… How do you feel about killing babies?!!!!!!!

“I am not a big fan of it…” my wife answered.

“Well, the democrats sure are. How about gay marriage. Do you like that?”

“I’m fairly traditional.”

“How about guns, do you think the government should tell us that we can’t have guns. The democrats don’t allow people to own guns even though the constitution clearly gives us this right.”

“I am not a big fan of guns”

It was at this point I was really offended at how ignorantly he was treating my wife and about how he was using his post to manipulate her into being a republican (I know that this would have been to no avail because my wife is not going to be so easily persuaded).

So, I finally turned over to her to show her the line where she needed to write in “independent.” It was at this time that the man got upset and said…

“I am a trained professional! Sir, let me do my job and stay out of this!”

At this point my blood is boiling…

“And I am just trying to look out for my wife!”

“Ok… Ok.”

With this, she finished the form and we left.

It got me to thinking… How pathetic is it that many Christians will resort to utter manipulation to ‘win.’ If someone that is not part of a faith community were to be in the same situation as my wife and I, how sad would it be if that put them over the edge about whether or not they would give Church a chance? I guess I am just sick of Christians acting like greasy car salesmen with toupee’s and polyester suits! What are your thoughts?…

  • jason

    Kurt,I agree that that is manipulation. It is reducing sides to oversimplistic exagerations considering many republicans are pro-choice (Guliani, tom Ridge, and every first lady since Roe v Wade) and pro gay marriage (check out log cabin republicans)… at the same time there are pro-life democrats (democrats for life) and vice versa. With that being said, oversimplification goes both ways. Many democrats paint republicans as narrow-minded minority-hating, rednecks. Oversimplification of the “other” is in every conflict. It makes it easier to justify hating the other side. When in reality there are intelligent people on each side. That is not to say that each side is right. There is diversity on each side. Also… I have a problem with reducing every argument to a democrat v republican or conservative v liberal. It reduces conflicts to an us v them or that there is only two options when many times the bible offers a third way. thats enough of me…

  • Derek

    Kurt,Great blog post brother. I could see how that situation could be beyond frustrating. You did a great job of being calm, I don’t know if I would have. Ha.That situation was total manipulation. I don’t see how you can sit and register individuals to vote with having an underlying motive as these men did to clearly register people for the republican party. How ignorant they were…democrats are baby killers, anti weapons, and pro gay marriage…basically taking our country into the depth of hell, right? So stereotypical! Gosh people like this make my blood boil. Those are the only things important right? NOT! What about social responsibility? How do those guys feel about the sick who don’t have insurance, the homeless, those losing their homes in the financial crisis, children who are in a failing education system, the loss of lives for a pointless war? All Jesus cared about was abortion, gay marriage, and guns, right? I feel like people in general, not targeting one political party or the other, have lost focus of what is important; the least of these. Why can’t we stop fighting, stop pointing fingers, and do something to make a difference?Okay, I have rambled on for long enough. Thanks for sharing that experience with us. Although it got me worked up, it’s good to process these situations in community. I love you man!D~

  • Stephanie

    Well…I think that we all know that both (or maybe I should say all) parties tend to reduce the other party(ies) to oversimplified generalizations…the more interesting part of this story to me is the part about your wife. I am wondering what she was thinking and feeling through this whole experience. Was she as mad and angry as you were? Did she feel manipulated? Did it bother her at all? I only wonder this because you were saying that she was not as forthright about declaring “independent” as you were. Is she sold on declaring this? Does she care as much about politics as you do? Was part of this experience frustrating to you because you want her to be on your side of the political fence? I only say this because I can do the same thing with Jeff. I just hope that in our (me too) attempt to find the middle ground and not do what the “rights” and the “lefts” do, that we don’t become the same thing just a different label. Let us be careful how we are affected by the actions and reactions of others politically because our responses show our character and how important these issues are to us…(even if we say they aren’t important!)…no doubt this situation was manipulative…but what are you (or we) going to do with it now?I don’t know where your wife stands on all of this because we don’t talk together as much about politics…I don’t want to speak for her…these are just my thoughts…P.S. Jeff just read this and said, “definetly written by a feminist”…and to that I say thanks Kurt for including me in this conversation

  • Kurt Willems

    Jason…All I can say is as a good fan of Rush Limbaugh “Dido!” HA :-)Derek…Your passion for justice for those who are pushed in the margins is what motivates most of my political perspective. Your rant was a worthy read.Now on to Stephanie!Steph, I love your feminist jargon :-) I want you to know that I have in no way tried to manipulate my wife, but we have grown together over the past couple of years. She is a free-thinker… for instance, she hates guns and thinks that it would be better if people generally didn’t have access to them. I personally have a different view because I like them for sport, but am finding myself more and more leaning towards her position. We have been influenced in various ways through various experiences (some together and some apart) and have come to much common ground. Would it bother me if she thought extremely different than I… well, ya it would a bit; but that would not be my choice, it is completely hers. I attempted to make clear that she is a free thinker in the post, and the only difference from my perspective about the story was that she was not as blunt or vocal initially… not because of her uncertainty, but because of her personality. The first thing that she told him was that she had been registered an “independent” and that she wanted to remain as such. This was separate from any influence that I had on her. She will respond to this I am sure. Also, she is not as interested in politics as I, but she does have a passion for social justice because of her love for Jesus and her conviction that he looked after the ‘least of these.’Finally my good friend… I would add that I intentionally am an independent because I don’t want to be bound to any particular label… but I understand that this is almost impossible. Everyone is and should be defined by something, and if others want to label me… that is there prerogative. With that said, I am mostly concerned about not allowing people to be free thinkers. In this particular scenario, I feel as though it is an example about how this damages Christian witness. In a postmodern culture, which is characterized by ‘incredulity’ and ‘suspicion,’ this kind of manipulative action is an example about how Christianity has often been about ‘boxing’ a person up to become part of a system (metanarrative). This, in my opinion is the worst part of what happened at Wal-Mart.PS– When is the great and awesome Stephanie going to get a blog?!!!!! glad to have your input, and I am greatful for the so called ‘feminine’ voice that has often been silenced!

  • Lo

    Steph, I thought that I would let you know about it all from my perspective. First of all what frustrated me was that he treated me like I didn’t know how to fill out a freakin’ form! He pointed at each section and told me what I was supposed to put starting with my last name… I felt like he thought that I was a stupid ignorant girl! Its not hard to write down my address where the form tells me to! So needless to say, I was frustrated with him from the very beginning. Now on to the politics of it all…Kurt is right when he says that I am not very interested in politics, like he is. I was at one time a registered republican (only because my mom was when I was growing up), but decided to change when I began learning more about democratic views. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t fully agree with either one of the parties. Therefore I feel more comfortable being a registered independent. When we were registering and I saw the sheet that had outlined the views of each of the parties, I thought that the form might give me an opportunity to further educate myself. At this moment I wasn’t going to change my political identification, but wanted a resource to learn more. I never even got to see the sheet, because he started asking me all those questions instead of simply giving me a copy of the paper like he had offered! I was reluctant to answer his questions but felt obligated in this uncomfortable situation. Kurt thinks that the form (he read it from off the table) was not fair to the democratic view and was very biased; however I never actually saw the form and can’t verify this.The bottom line of this all is I was frustrated with the man and have solely chosen to become an independent. Kurt may be more extreme than I am about some things, but overall we seem to agree. Yes Kurt and I have discussed politics and party affiliation, but it is a choice that I have made “independently.” HA HA!

  • Tim Neufeld

    Hmm, kind of reminds me of how we “do” evangelism. The salesman metaphor is appropriate for both voter registration and evangelistic efforts….

  • RT

    I am always a little dubious of people who are encouraging me to use a service they provide by saying “I know Jesus”. I guess if you are going to drop names, you should go right to the top.I cannot count the number of times I have encountered this. I cannot look into their hearts, so I am never sure if they truly are Christians, “Church Goers”, or simply using it as an end to a means. For those of us who are followers of Christ, we must realize that our actions can either promote the word of Christ or diminish it. What message is sent when we hold the banner of Christ above our heads like some magic medallion that flashes “Trust Me” ? I do not believe it is a positive one.

  • John Wiens

    I find it a little humorous that you all are so shocked and outraged at this “voter manipulation.” What do you expect? These booths aren’t set up because good hearted people simple want everyone registered to vote, they’re set up to try to register people for a particular party. I would fully expect a democrat to try to register me as a democrat, that’s why they set up the booth. Personally, I wish those booths weren’t around period, If you’re too lazy or inept to go to the post office to register to vote, I don’t want you voting.Now let’s look at the oversimplifications. “Democrats are for killing babies.” Put differently, democrats support the right of a woman to choose whether or not to end her pregnancy (which results in the death of a baby). I don’t think you can disagree with this. Yes, there are pro-life democrats and pro-choice republicans, but look at the party as a whole. As a party, democrats support abortion rights. As a party, republicans affirm the value of life, and are pro-life. The same could be said of the gay marriage issue. This is important due to the way our political system is set up. In a sense, you are never just voting for a candidate, you’re voting for a party. Although a democrat may be pro-life, when elected he gives power to his party (by forming a majority) to control most of the legislative process. Therefore, since he is the exception, and not the norm, abortion rights gain influence. I know the current trend, among the more liberal evangelicals, is to minimize the abortion debate, saying there are more important issues. I, however, cannot agree with this. To reduce a child, created in the image of God, to an inconvenience is morally reprehensible, and I cannot in good conscience vote for someone who is unwilling to take a strong stance on such a simple matter. You will reply that there are other issues at stake, however, none are as clear cut as this.I, in no way believe that the Republican party is perfect. However, in a two party system, they seem to take the moral high ground on the important issues. Until the two party system is done away with, or the Republicans change their stance on moral issues, I will remain a Republican.Finally, in what way do Christians act like greasy car salesmen? I would like to hear you elaborate on this some more.

  • Pingback: Voter Registration or Manipulation @ Walmart? (Repost, 10/08) « groans from within


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