Tomorrow is an exceedingly important election day. Because of absentee and early voting possibilities, some of you may have already voted. But I assume most of you, like me, will be voting sometime tomorrow. So I am writing this to make some suggestions about how to vote. (Note: this is different from telling you who to vote for—although I could do that, too, if you want me to!)
Here are some suggestions to consider:
(1) Vote on the basis of the political position of the candidates. I once thought that consideration of the personal qualities of a candidate was the most important factor and that one should always vote for who they thought was the best person. But I now consider that way of thinking to be misguided.
It is a candidate’s, and his or her party’s, policies that are of most importance. That may not be the case in county elections, and maybe not even for some state elections. But it is certainly true, I think, in national elections.
For a long time now I have said that the personal life of public officials is nobody’s business. Rather, it’s a politician’s official policies and decisions that are of greatest importance. For example, I am happy that former President George W. Bush is a faithful husband and doesn’t cheat on Laura. But his personal morality is of little concern in comparison with, say, his wrongheaded decision to launch a preemptive war on Iraq—a decision that cost the lives of many U.S. servicemen/women and of many, many Iraqi soldiers and even more civilians.
(2) Vote with full consideration of the totality of a candidate’s (and his/her party’s) political positions, not just his or her stance on one or two issues. People should vote on the basis of their cherished values, of course. And those of us who are Christians should vote on the basis of our Christian convictions. But we should consider a wide range of values/convictions and not just focus on a few, high-profile issues.
The Value Voter Summit, for example, is heavily skewed toward opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. But not only are there other understandings of those issues, universal healthcare, programs providing necessities for those locked in poverty, opposition to a view of American exceptionalism that tends towards military conflict, etc. are much more important values to consider.
(3) Vote for one of the major party candidates for President (and for the U.S. Congress). Neither might be “best,” but one is certainly going to win. And surely one is better than the other. You might as well vote for the better of the two, for no “best” third-party candidate is going to win the election (at least this year).
Some people are tempted not to vote at all as a protest against not having better candidates. But not voting doesn’t have any positive effects. Again, even if you don’t like either candidate, surely it is preferable to vote for the better one than not to vote at all.
(4) Finally, vote with the recognition that the world as we know it will not end if “your” candidates or “your” party does not win the election. The matters you are most interested in may get worse because of the election—but a “course correction” is possible in two years and especially in four years. That’s one very good thing about democracy in the U.S.!