On Tuesday, Barack Obama was re-elected as president of the United States. Congratulations to him. However, he has a huge challenge before him, with the budget, the “fiscal cliff” and what to do about the war in Afghanistan.
Mitt Romney’s loss has likely caused the Republicans to re-evaluate their strategies, and standpoints. His loss reflected shifting demographics, and the increased role of ethnic minorities in our democratic process, as well as, in all likelihood, the gay community. With several states approving same-sex marriage, our culture is probably headed towards a post-Christian era, and I doubt there’s all that much we can do about it.
I decided not to vote for either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. In the case of Barack Obama, I feel that he is pursuing policies detrimental to religious freedom (i.e. the contraception mandate), that he very well may be causing us to go the route of state-provided abortions, and does not seem to truly understand that deficit spending is a dangerous thing (though neither does Romney, arguably).
Romney, on the other hand, was the ultimate political chameleon, with his actual opinions being extremely difficult to determine. I came to the point where I completely and utterly could not stand his tendency to take a good idea that Obama had, and claim it as his own, then turn around and oppose it. And many of his ideas were truly preposterous, such as balancing the budget, but with an increase in defense spending and an enormous decrease in taxes, some putting it at $6 trillion. He was antagonistic, particularly towards Iran, Russia, and China, even though he had benefitted from China through his previous business.
With these complaints made clear, I reveal here that I voted for neither of these men. I wrote in Jon Huntsman, one of the Republicans who dropped out of the primaries fairly early. While I fully realize that our ideal candidates will almost never be available, and that we must often be realistic, I felt that the ways in which both candidates ran contrary to my ideals as a Christian could not be overlooked. As stated, the Obama administration’s views on limiting religious freedom, while FAR from being persecution, are nonetheless cause for concern, as is his apparent belief that taking the life of an unborn infant is a fundamental right. But conversely, I have a hard time seeing how a Christian can support someone who has no apparent regard for the needs of society’s needy (note the 47% comments), and seems to prioritize economic success over care for God’s creation, and human welfare in general.
I wrote in Huntsman because he combined a moderately conservative approach with a willingness to work with the other side. His foreign service in the Obama administration was impressive, and also proved he was knowledgeable about foreign policy. And this right here shows he is willing to compromise and work out differences, a skill almost lost from the Republican party. In short, a conservative pragmatist.
What do I ultimately want in a candidate? That requires a fairly long answer. The best way to say it is that as a Christian, I want a president who supports the protection of human life in all ways. I certainly tend to agree with the Republican position that abortion is the taking of an unborn life, and that it is justifiable to impose reasonable legal restrictions on it. I find it horrifying that this is viewed as part of the fundamental rights of women. However, I also want a candidate to think realistically about how contraception would in some ways solve the problem.
I’m tired of opposition to legal abortion going hand-in-hand with opposition to making life easier for women, on issues such as equal pay, maternal leave, domestic abuse, etc. I feel that Republicans have a history of opposing initiatives that bring about these things. Women have a history of suffering discrimination in this country, and when we don’t advocate for help for them with such things, it’s hard for people to believe that being pro-life isn’t really just a cover for the desire to oppress women.
But “pro=life” doesn’t stop with abortion. What about the wars our nation has involved itself in, in the name of “freedom”? The war in Iraq has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, as well as thousands of our own soldiers. At some point, “freedom isn’t free” becomes an empty platitude that gives license to the worst kinds of barbarism that somehow becomes OK because “we’re America, and this is the price of freedom.”
I’m not a full-scale pacifist, so I want this understanding coupled with a comprehensive understanding about how other countries in the world function. I would want him to show wisdom about the use of the world’s strongest military. I would want him to use force against other countries only when it is TRULY the only remaining option, and he has exhausted diplomacy (how Augustine intended his just war doctrine to be used). Drone strikes that continue to kill civilians are unacceptable, and weapons must be made more and more precise to be sure innocent bystanders’ deaths are virtually non-existent. We must use non-violent means to fight terrorism whenever possible, while reserving the worst for heinous circumstances.
On the domestic front, I believe that fiscal responsibility is a biblical value, and that we must avoid the habit of spending money we don’t have (largely impossible now). I generally favor lower taxes, but this must be viewed realistically in terms of fiscal realities. I don’t like high government spending, but I also feel that caring for society’s downtrodden means that there ought to be some safety nets. The church is always the one that does such things best, but there are sometimes limited resources in the church. The Scriptures are very clear that society must care for the elderly, the poor, the homeless, etc. For this reason I believe it is important to invest in good education, and try to reform the healthcare system so that it does not discriminate against poor people. How about programs for cancer, AIDS, and other terrible illnesses? Again, private compassion is the best route, but sometimes this has limited resources.
The environment must also be protected, as God provided it for us to be its stewards. I feel it is extremely naive to assume that the private, profit-driven market will self-monitor its own ecological footprint. Reasonable environmental protection must be balanced with economic innovation.
I recognize that these are vague, generalized ideas. But I also believe that our first priority as Christians involved in the civic process, should be a commitment to a pro-life attitude, but a multidimensional pro-life, not the one-dimensional type so prevalent in conservative politics. Achieving this in politics would be very difficult. But the life Jesus calls us to is difficult, and I am, at least at this time, completely and utterly dissatisfied with the use of Realpolitik, or conservative or liberal dogma to justify some of our country’s domestic and foreign policies. Yet, I simultaneously, perhaps paradoxically, value compromise, particularly on economic and fiscal issues, and the means by which to achieve them. However, once it becomes clear that certain policies contribute to human suffering and/or death, that is where I draw the line in the sand, and contend that Christians must stand firm.
Thus, in summation, I felt that there were certain issues important to Christians that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took positions on that made me uncomfortable voting for them. I felt that Barack Obama adheres to ideas on the definition of religious liberty, though themselves rather insignificant, that could have significant implications for the future of the concept, as well as some of his social views, and his being a terrible tactician. Mitt Romney, in contrast, had absolutely NO apparent sense of what life is like for the poor, the low-wage workers, minorities, the elderly, and other groups. I don’t find that very Christlike. He also pandered to popular Republican ideas on the budget and the economy that are completely out of touch with 2012 realities. Yet, I did not feel these problems were comprehensively answered by Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Virgil Goode, or Gary Johnson.
Call me naive. Lecture me about “throwing away my vote.” But on Tuesday, my conscience felt too bothered to be complicit in a choice of two candidates that I felt was completely at odds with certain aspects of my Christian faith. I felt Jon Huntsman was the best candidate I could think of who espoused the things I was talking about. Is he perfect? Far from it. But I hope that dissatisfaction will continue, and gradually persuade more people that they don’t have only two choices, which is often framed that way thanks to corporate donations, media manipulation, and the propagation of a false realism.
I hope to have better choices in 2016.