Thursday, October 30, 2008

Final Thoughts on the Election

Well, election time is upon us, and I have never thought as much about the candidates for President as I have this year.  A year ago I would have thought a McCain/Obama election matchup would have brought us excellent debate on issues from two thoughtful candidates.  What we've endured instead has been a media-frenzied and highly partisan election season.

Part One: Questions linger.  

What does the gospel say that can inform our choice?  How does the gospel speak to the issues that have been driving the debate this year?  Heath care.  The war in Iraq.  A growing gap between rich and poor.  Energy independence.  The economy.  It is very frustrating to hear voices (often on the radio) stating that Christians should only vote for Republicans as if it were possible for a political party to contain all that the gospel speaks to (to the exclusivity of another party).  

The gospel condemns our greed, our selfishness, our lack of humility.  It condemns our contempt for those who are not like us.  It condemns even our religiosity.

Summary criticisms of Republican candidate this year are:
  • The war in Iraq (arguably unjust)
  • Horrible track record on the environment (I prefer to say Republicans suck at conservation- ironic for a party claiming to be conservative).
  • Economic policies have benefited the wealth and hurt the poor.
  • Candidate associations with President Bush.
  • Will grow the government with new programs.
  • Too much experience.
  • Voted for the "Wall Street Bailout" (otherwise known as printing lots of monopoly money).
  • Lack of a detailed plan.

Summary criticisms of Democrat candidate this year are:
  • Socialism: spreading the wealth to benefit the have-nots (arguably rewarding lazy citizens with something-for-nothing).
  • Supporting liberal lifestyle choices.
  • Candidate associations with questionable individuals (ex-terrorists, racist preachers).
  • Lack of experience.
  • Will grow the government with expansive new programs.
  • Voted for the "Wall Street Bailout" (otherwise known as printing lots of monopoly money).
  • Lack of a detailed plan.
Lesser of two evils anyone?

Part Two.

The theme of the proposals this year are an even further extension of the role of government than we have ever seen before.  What is driving this?  We are not governing ourselves well.  I think that we have basically become a democracy devoid of virtue.

I wrote last week about the issue of abortion and how a candidate's policy on that issue weighs into my decision about how to vote.  I recognize that it is only one issue.  A friend (whose father is a former state representative in Alabama) agreed with my concern of the issue but noted that much of the effect of policy on this issue is impacted at the state level - much like education - and not so much at the federal level.  Yet is the role of the Supreme Court out of balance in regards to state autonomy on such issues?  The next President will select as many as two new Justices.

We have seen what trickle-down economics does.  In theory it works (creating jobs) but it thrives on consumerism and debt and spreads the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom.  If anything will help our country at this point in history, it will be from the bottom-up, and it will take a long time.  Here's what I mean. We must govern ourselves well.  Democracy cannot work if its citizens live apart from virtue.  I'll quote here from Patrick Deneen's blog:  
Montesquieu belived that democracy was a viable regime, but only, and above all, if its central feature was virture.  The inculcation of virture, he argued, was only likely in a small state, one in which self-government was a practical possibility, and in which prospects for material aboundance and luxury were limited.  Large nations, of great wealth and power, were more inclined, and ultimately tempted, to become empires.  Looking at the historical example - Rome being prominent among them - Montesquieu argued that the greatest threat to democracy was always internal, and particularly the imperial temptation.  Without virtue of moderation, thrift, and self-governance, democracy was an ideal whose reality was always in question.
Virtue is hard to find these days.  It isn't in Washington, it isn't on Wall Street, it isn't in our schools and it isn't present in our homes.  It is essential that we work hard, live fairly, put others ahead of ourselves.  If we hoard our money - if we live immorally - if we are lazy - if we do not care for the poor - if we do not take steps to educate ourselves - if we do not raise our children well - then the argument for government intervention will be loudly raised and we won't be able to stop it.  When we rely on the government to do these things for us, we forfeit our freedoms.  And if we don't reel-in our appetites, we certainly can't expect our government to.

I don't believe that our government has grown because of an error of the Presidency (past or future) but in response to who we have become as a nation.  And who we are now unfortunately demands that we have a big government.


Friday, October 17, 2008

The Unscalable Wall

The other night I was talking with a couple of friends regarding our feeling that abortion rights was "the issue" that created the biggest obstacle for our votes going to democratic candidates particularly for executive offices. We wondered aloud how many moderate voters (who aren't party affiliates) would likely shift toward democratic candidates who were pro-life en masse - perhaps more than the numbers of pro-choice voters who would shift away from such candidates for the same reason. I find my self in agreement with the positions of many candidates (most often my own Congressman Artur Davis  who has potential to win many of these moderate voters in a run at the Alabama governor's office in the next term), but in reading positions, their positions on abortion policy give me pause.

That same night we also discussed the party line contradictions that exist and within which abortion rights is an element.  One party is pro-life when it comes to abortion, but will never consider elimination of the death penalty.  The other is pro-choice on abortion rights but against allowing choice in primary/secondary education.  These are to me examples of why I may never be able to die on the hill of any particular party (aside from the fact that any party may be in agreement with something clearly taught in scripture while at the same time be opposed to another teaching).

In light of our our current election dillema, consider this article by a Princeton law professor who writes in an attempt to shed light on the scope of Senator Obama's record and positions. Well worth reading...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Can democracy survive without virtue?

Well, I just watched as our Representatives voted in majority for the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" and with this muddy, pork-filled concoction handed over more power to the Executive Branch, more spending and who knows what else (because you know none of these members actually read all 450 pages).  As the commentators on the news just noted, "we may know in a month or so if this thing worked."


If it didn't work, can we get our freedom back?  Nope.  We dodged this critical self-correction and will take the credit-laden novocaine and continue on our merry way.

Deneen posted this yesterday in wondering where our democracy was headed:  What I Saw in America: Democracy in America.  What do you think?