Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Vote on November 6

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.!


  1. Brother Leroy,

    I have read many of your post with great interest. I could not agree more with your assements in this post. Though you should know that in consideration of these points I will be lead to a totally different conclusion as to who I should vote for. The old idea that we should vote for the person and not consider the party can no longer hold true. Now more than ever the candidates once in office are expected to follow the principles and party leaders desires. If they do not they suffer the consequences. I do not agree with some of the things my chosen party promotes but I have more trust for them, based on what they do believe than I do for the other party. I beleive that Mr. Romney is much more prepared to moderate and to listen to the ideas of others and come to practical decisions than is Mr. Obama. I do not like his religous convictions but I do like his values and his pragmatic spirit. We will see what happens. But like you I believe in the resilience of this nation and whatever happens will wake up knowing that in two years and four years from now we will all have the chance to vote again.

  2. I agree that, regardless of who wins, the nation will not collapse and the sun will rise on Wednesday. On the other hand that isn't to imply I have no preference. My decisions follow these guides:

    1. Stewardship of Creation (Gen 2:15ff). I find the term "Real 1st Commandment" for "dress and keep the earth" - as the rationale for our being here - very congenial. ("Keep" connotes nurturing, husbanding, tending - so the earth can fulfill it purpose of being fruitful and multiplying life.)

    If we fail too badly here - all other issues will be of non-issues.

    I just learned this morning on NPR that while both Parties were about even-up 20ish years ago the figures are now: Environmental concerns for GOP is 44% and for Dems is 93%.

    2. My next influence is economic justice. I find the Far Righ (NeoCons) to be absolutely out of step with God's intent for keeping humanity free from domination by "mammon" or my "P$W$R" as is found in His directions for Jubilee (Lev 25-26). He knew how dangerous accumulation of P$W$R is to us mere mortals.

    I do not hold to wealth being evil! But, all through history, only a very few of those with vast wealth actually used that wealth for the common good. A sign of this is in U.S. demographics: The poor give a larger percentage of their meager means to help others than do the rest. And the higher income gets - the smaller that percentage gets.

    The intent of Jubilee also flies in the face of the popular heresy among some evangelical leaders called The Gospel of Wealth.

    3. While I agree with most of the moral issues that are campaigned about by the cultural conservatives - I know all too well from history that in this area Libertarians are essentially correct: You cannot legislate morality.

    Why? Civil authority has always had great trouble punishing, suppressing, regulating behaviors that can be easily hidden, "don't wake the neighbors," and include that ever vexing "he said/she said" aspect.

    Two major issues drove the Roe v Wade decision:

    1. Morality should not be effected by which side of a state line one is standing on. The states' abortion laws were a very ill fitting mosaic.

    2. The laws, for the most part, only impacted women who did not have the means to travel to where abortion was medically safe and legal.

    The Court said, if effect, until economically, and juridically, fair laws are crafted - there will be no laws.

    That is not all but gets at my essentials.

    Hope that helps!

  3. The consequences of voting for a third party presidential candidate varies depending whether a person lives in a "swing state" or not. Obviously, a person voting for a third party in a "swing state" is indeed throwing their vote away, and if they perceive a better/worse difference between the two major parties they are actually voting for the "worse" of the two major candidates.

    However, votes in the national race for people living in "non-swing states" are not so important because of the Electoral College system. Voting for a third party in a "non-swing" state does little harm and communicates a certain level of protest.

    I have considered advertising on the internet that I'm willing to trade my vote with somebody living in Ohio who wants to vote for the Green Party presidential candidate. The logic would be that I would promise to vote for the Green Party candidate on their behalf in Kansas and they would vote for Obama in Ohio on my behalf. That way they would cause a vote to be cast for the Green Party, but at the same time I would cause a vote to be case for Obama in Ohio where it will do some good. I live in Kansas and a vote for Obama in Kansas is a vote in vain.

    Actually, I agree with everything you said in your blog. I'm just offering a contrarian view to remind ourselves of the short comings of the Electoral College.

  4. Making "character" an issue just opens the door to what has been called "the politics of personal destruction." Indeed, much public political discourse is just a distraction from the real issues. Unfortunately, as long as it works, it will be practiced. The American public has long made it clear that it wants an expensive government, and that it does not want to pay for it. The politicians have listened, and then tried various dances as they try to square the circle. On top of that, we have perhaps the most error-prone and fraud-inviting system on earth. David Frumm just discussed that in "America's voting system is a disgrace"--and he is a former Bush administration official! See

    Another level of the distraction is the "horse race" analysis that so dominates the news. Very little effort goes into identifying good policy ideas or even who is telling the truth. But if want to hear five different polls viewed seven different ways, the American news media is for you!

  5. Excellent thoughts, Leroy. I'm still not exactly sure how I will cast my vote, but these are some good, clarifying remarks.