The Immorality of Not Voting

This is a very unusual presidential election. In many ways it seems as if the candidates are the least likely individuals that each party could possibly find.

One individual brings a long stream of controversial episodes to the table. The most recent of these is the handling of classified information in such a way that made it more accessible to the Russians and Chinese than the US government officials who subpoenaed it.

The other is a brash attention seeking businessman who also has a history that generally would not be called suitable for politics.  This candidate subjects the American people to an outlandish set of promises as to what will be changed under their guidance, and how fast.

For many Christians, the question has become, how can I vote for either candidate in good conscience? I am bothered by how many of my friends in ministry have decided that there is no way to cast a moral vote this election year.

To these individuals I ask this question, have you considered the immorality of not voting? Not voting strikes me as the equivalent of folding your arms, sitting back in your chairs, and saying to the secular society around us – you made this mess, now you fix it.  Lowering that to a more common denominator, it is Christianity packing up their toys and going home.

I believe that a part of our Christian living is to be responsible citizens in our society. In this society that means praying for our president. In this society that means casting a vote to try and bring in the best possible candidate.  In the current election, as in all recent elections this includes two primary parties with opposing views as to how the country should move forward.

I disagree with the platform of one of those parties in several major ways.  I agree with the platform of the other in several major ways.  I will vote.  I will vote for a candidate whom I do not totally trust fulfill their promises, or even to keep the priorities spelled out in the platform.  I will cast this vote because voting for the other would support someone guaranteed to go in the wrong direction. And I will not abstain from voting because to me, that is the most immoral choice.

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Trump as Primaries Approach

One bit of news, I have found hopeful in the presidential race, has been that Trump is no longer leading republicans in Iowa.

I don’t want Donald Trump to be president because I believe a man’s character is more important than his policies. As it happens I seldom disagree with his policies, but I strongly disagree with his way of operating.

(See my blogpost on why I don’t want Donald Trump for President here.)

The best thing that could happen in America would be for us to learn from the success of the Trump campaign, but have someone else come forward to win the republican nomination and then the presidency. I have long expected that most of the Trump supporters know he would not make a good president, and will switch their allegiance as push comes to shove.

Learning the lessons means admitting that a great deal of people in this country, and especially those who are voting republican, want to see us return to a constitutional, conservative, and common sense approach to governing. Throw political correctness out the window, and let’s set about fixing the mess we are in—bring back jobs, secure our borders, and return to constitutional checks and balances.

The worst thing that could happen in America would be for Donald Trump to lose the not, turn independent and then hand the election to the democrats.

Political Caricatures

Politicians have a difficult road to travel. The average voter wants assurances from the candidate that they will behave in office in certain ways. For example, a prolife voter wants him to vote in opposition to abortion. A Second Amendment voter will want him to vote against gun control.

This causes the candidate to affirm his position for them, generally in strong terms. The stronger the better, and without reference to any specifics that might muddy the water. Pretty soon the candidate begins to look like a caricature.

Just like a cartoonist might draw Richard Nixon as having a big nose, or Barack Obama as having large ears, a politician’s platform begins to look like a caricature. Bernie Sanders appears to be a caricature of a socialist giving away your property to the less fortunate and Donald Trump embodies a caricature of conservative politics sitting atop his border fence with a shotgun on his hip, keeping out illegals but bringing back jobs.

These strong characterizations might be useful on Election Day, but it will always create disappointment after the election. Politicians must become real people sooner or later. Real people must negotiate, compromise, and choose when and where to draw the line on compromise. Without these skills we will continue to have deadlock in government.

I suggest voters take the first steps to break these stalemates by refusing to be aligned with the unwavering inhumanity of the political caricatures.

Presidential Divisiveness

One of the current political questions is, who will run for president in 2016? We are in that awkward stage, where even though we basically know who will run, they are not yet officially committed.

Looking over the field, I notice something horrible. But let me explain some current history from my perspective for clarity sake first. Six years ago we elected a president who promised to bring the country together. We even reelected him two years ago, when he was promising that he would bring the country together as soon as his opponents decided to do everything his way.

For conservative minded people, like myself, this president has created an ever widening chasm between the two viewpoints, namely by refusing to compromise on anything, and then having his buddies in the media, blame the division on his opponents. This tactic has so alienated conservative America, that we now can’t hear the president’s name without bristling. Now we are aiming at another election. I suspect most voters believe an ability to work together should be the first qualification.

Now look at the candidates. Whether we like it or not there are some names in politics that introduce rancor merely by their mention. For the party of Lincoln, we will have our teeth set on edge by anyone named Clinton. For the Democrats a similar reaction is evoked by the name Bush.

So it seems to me that voters should consider, not just the normal priorities, but also whether they really want to elect someone their opponents are already unable to work with. I am quite sure some want to continue the gridlock. Some are so fixated on dominating policy and elections that they only believe they are winning when their opponents are demonized and demoralized. These individuals would be too blind to realize they could win the election, but lose the country.

Political Ads

I am an Arizona voter. Like voters in other parts of the country, I am being subjected to political ads. Mostly I see them on the TV, but they are also on other outlets.

Based on these ads, I know what political campaigners believe will get someone elected. This is apparent to me because the ads have some very consistent themes.

These themes can be divided into two categories: mudslinging and image building.

In the first category, you want to paint your opponents as supporting Obama Care if you are a Republican. You should also associate your opponent with the president and it never hurts to bring up our spiraling national debt or the border crisis and how it affects Arizona. If you are a Democrat you will want to accuse your opponent of being a corrupt millionaire, who wants to cut taxes. If possible, associate the failures of Arizona government with tax cuts for the rich.

In the image building category, you should point out how you courageously stand for your principles. Show pictures of yourself with disabled veterans or foster kids. Show yourself empathizing with the victims of crime, or walking the border with law enforcement officers. Or if you can’t figure out which party you want to be a part of, just say they are both wrong.

The one thing that you apparently should never do is publicize your principles, or discuss the issues of the election, unless of course it is one of these lightening rod issues.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t want to cast my vote based on who throws the best mud or who polishes themselves up best. I want to know how the person is going to handle key challenges faced by Arizona.

What are they saying about Arizona, or America as a whole, if the voters they try to reach are unthinking ones who can’t see beyond these shallow facades?

Primary Election Day

There are times in the life of a pastor when I get a sudden rush of urgent activity that crowds out all other priorities for a time. This past week was one of those times. Being in a smaller church, I do not preach a lot of funerals. Last week I had two. I mention this as way of explanation for those of you who noticed that several posts I usually make were skipped.  I want to apologize if you were disappointed. I will get back on track as soon as possible. But since I am a working pastor I can almost guarantee it will happen again sooner or later. As long as we are both (both being me the writer and you the reader) willing to accept the realities of an unpredictable life, it will work out alright.

Having said that I want to pretend its yesterday, sort of, and post what might have been yesterday’s post if I had not been otherwise occupied.

 

Voting in the Primary

Today is Election Day here in Arizona. Today we vote in the primary so that the people of Arizona can choose which candidate they want to represent each party. Now in some other places they hold the primary to determine which candidate each party wants to put forth, but that is not how it works here. What is the difference between these two?

In some places only members of the party get to vote for that parties candidates, but here in Arizona, we allow independent voters to vote in the primary. I personally don’t think this is the best idea.

Since this is the case, there is a lot less incentive to be registered with a particular party. In fact, I think it might be preferable for people to not be affiliated and therefore when it comes time to vote they can either vote for the best qualified candidate within the party they most closely align with, or if they prefer they can vote for the least qualified candidate within the party they oppose.

I am pretty sure the law was not put into place with this idea in mind, but it does open up the possibility. In fact, this year I have seen a number of ads emphasizing independent voters can vote in the primary. After listening to the ad I have in mind, for the millionth time, I began to think they were implying this strategy.

So here is my advice. Get out and vote. But first educate yourself on the candidates and their positions. I also want to suggest you vote for candidates you actually want, and not use the vote as means of weakening the opposing party as described above. I don’t think it should be a legal option, and I don’t think it is a morally correct option.

My Hope for the Cantor Loss

One of the more mysterious things to happen in politics this past week was the defeat of House majority Leader, Eric Cantor by relatively unknown, Dave Brat. When the votes were counted, neither Cantor nor Brat were quick to believe the results.

They had been told by polls how the election was going to go. Only this time it didn’t.

They had expected the difference in money spent campaigning to rule the day. Only this time Brat, spent less than $123,000 while Cantor spent almost $5,000,000.

The media believed it had relegated Brat to extinction by marginalizing him as a part of the tea party. But that apparently didn’t have the expected effect.

 

I cannot tell you what really happened in Virginia. But I can choose to see it as a positive.

I find it hopeful that the polls were wrong. Polls have been thoroughly misused, to not only inform the public, but also to shape public opinion. This event may reshape the power of the pollster.

I also find it hopeful that dollars did not rule the day. Dollars winning elections should be an abhorrent thought to all Americans, the idea that we are bought.

I find it hopeful that the public bucked the negative labeling of the press. I believe a media which was doing its job would inform the voting public of the positions of each candidate. Then they could vote, accordingly. Perhaps they will again begin reporting the public opinion instead of trying to shape it.

 

Note on that last point, America and politicians have been told the way to win election is to stay aligned with your political base while winning votes from the moderate middle. But perhaps at some point it can once again be about public service, leadership and maintaining American values and virtues.