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.


1 comment:

Under The Mountain said...

Your friend's comment about abortion issues being state-oriented more than federal seems to miss the forest for the trees. While it's true that there is more legislative activity at the state level than the federal level, all of that activity is within the exceedingly narrow range of restrictions on abortion permitted by the Roe and Casey cases and their progeny. In other words, all that state legislative activity is just nipping at the edges of abortion; the REAL action is in the U.S. Supreme Court, and the only way for anyone other than full-time legal scholars to influence the court (and it's debatable how much influence even full-time legal scholars have) is to control the selection of new justices as existing ones die or retire. And the one person with final authority over who can be a new justice is -- the President. Currently, there are 4 pretty solid votes for overturning Roe and sending abortion back to the states, where it belongs. There is at least a 50/50 chance that McCain would make that into a 5- or 6-vote majority. There is 0 chance that Obama would appoint anyone other than a diehard Roe supporter, and our 4 votes could shrink to 3, or 2, or even 1 if deaths and retirements don't fall our way.

The election of Obama as President will guaranty that the abortion debate remains essentially stagnant for at least another 20 years, probably 25 or 30. The election of McCain would mean there is at least an even chance that Roe could fall within 10 years, and this country could finally have a true political debate about abortion for the first time since 1973.