OK, let’s face it. All election years are important. Determining who will be our leaders for the next four years is probably one of the most important things we, collectively as Americans, do though most of us don’t seem to realize it And we are electing our leaders, not simply a single person, when we elect a president. From that one choice, many decisions are made; a philosophy of governance for the next four years, who will be chosen to head many important non-elected government positions such as cabinet heads, ambassadors, and federal judges, and who is to be chosen as the person to take over if something should happen to the president.
Cabinet leaders make major policy decisions for the departments they head. These decisions can have major impact on the lives of millions of Americans. And cabinet heads are selected by the president. Unlike cabinet leaders, who serve for an indefinite period, but usually no longer than the president who appointed them is in power, judges are appointed for life, and cannot be removed save by the power of impeachment. Imagine how rarely that happens. One has only to look at some of the far-ranging decisions made recently by activist judges to realize the sort of power they can wield. And although traditionally, vice-presidents have little to do on the world stage, one must always remember that they stand a heart-beat away from becoming president themselves.
So every election is important. It is my belief that this one is more important than most others have been, and that, for the foreseeable future, all elections will fall into this same category.
We stand today at a major cultural turning point in the history of our nation. One where we can choose to return to the system of ideals established by our founding fathers, with an emphasis on individual rights, freedoms, and self-determination or we can choose to continue on down the path of state-determination, with emphasis on collective benefits for special interests, freedoms determined by those in power, and elastic, ever-changing definitions of “rights” determined by current fashion, whim, and politics de jure.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we have been told by the Prophet Joseph Smith that one day the Constitution of the United States would hang by a thread, and that it would be up to the Elders of Zion to save it from destruction. Of course, it would help if the Elders of Zion understood what was going on; many seem unaware that the Constitution is in any danger at all. The threat to the Constitution isn’t so blatant as its imminent suspension; the real threat now is its’ total disregard or misinterpretation.
Like the story of boiling the frog, we are being lulled into a false sense of security, whereby the definitions we live by are manipulated, ever so slowly, insomuch that we, in our busy lives don’t notice until it is too late. We are lulled by words, spoken with gilded tongue, that make us promises that can’t be kept. We are bespelled with the assurances that our individual circumstances will be made better without realizing or caring that this will be done (if it is actually done at all), at the expense of others. We are asked to believe a plethora of impossible things all at once, and do so because we want to believe, and because we don’t have the time (or can’t be bothered) to do the research and think things through to determine that, once again, they are blowing smoke at us and we are buying it. Instead of using the brain God gave us to analyze what we are being told, we are buying the party line, and not thinking it through. We are letting others, who are only too willing to do so, make our decisions for us.
In the case of both the candidates this November, there is plenty of information available on where they stand and what they have done, all of which can be found in public sources. Each candidate is all too willing to tell you what they have done (with appropriate spin), and how bad the other guy is. Don’t take what they say, or what others say about them, at face value. Most politicians will say just about anything to get elected. Look at what they have done instead; actions speak louder than words. Words tell you what they say they are going to do, or have done in the past. Actions tell you what they really did. Often times, the two are not the same.
It can be a hard choice. Neither candidate is perfect. Neither will completely represent everything you believe in or hold dear. But serious consideration must be given to what each represents, and where you see the country going on various issues depending on who gets into power. And you must balance this with your own personal beliefs and values as well.
We all tend to hang around with people who think as we do, and sometimes we can be a bit shocked to find that there are people we expect will think the same as we, who do not. My ward has a very high percentage of military families. While the military does not vote as a block, it is true that, predominately, it votes Republican; which is why, during the 2000 elections in Florida, there was a well-orchestrated attempt on the part of Democrat operatives to have many military absentee ballots thrown out on the technicality that they had no postmark (despite the also well-known fact that military absentee ballots, particularly those cast from ships at sea, don’t always have postmarks). Mormons don’t vote as a block either, although Utah is predominately a Republican bastion, so many folks think we do.
Recently, a friend of ours moved out of our ward into another ward more on the south side of San Antonio. The demographics of their new ward are very different from ours. Military families are a minority, while the majority of the ward is made up of low-income Hispanic families, many of whom do not speak English. It makes for interesting Sundays, and sometimes for even more interesting political discussions. One day, this sister (whom I shall refer to as “Sister Alice”) was talking with another sister in the ward who was taken aback when she suddenly discovered that Sister Alice was not only not planning to vote for Mr. Kerry, but was, in actuality, a Republican! Sister Alice was somewhat surprised to discover that the majority of people in her ward were Democrats, and planning to vote for Mr. Kerry as well! When she asked how this could be, the reply was “but Sister Alice, of course we are voting Democrat. We’re poor!”
Sister Alice was surprised, because she didn’t see how people who followed and believed in the values and beliefs espoused by the LDS church could possibly vote Democrat. But the other good sister didn’t view things that way at all. To her, it was simply a matter of economics. The Democrats were the “party of the people”. The Republicans were the “party of the rich”. She and her friends were poor. Therefore, they voted Democrat.
Many people think this way. My father, for example, is a Democrat. He was raised Democrat, and will most likely die Democrat. His relatives in Kentucky are Democrats as well. Between elections, he could care less about either party. At election time he votes Democrat because, well, he’s a Democrat. One of the biggest mistakes he ever made, he claims, was voting for Reagan the first time around, a mistake he didn’t make the second time. Originally, Mr. Reagan was a Democrat also. Had he been a Democrat when he ran for president, my dad would most likely have voted for him both times, no question. Mr. Reagan once said, “I didn’t leave the Democrat party, the Democrat party left me.” Somewhere along the line, if my dad was a Democrat because he believed in the values the Democrat party espoused, the Democrat party had to have left him as well. If it did, unlike Mr. Reagan, he never noticed.
Many people have noticed, at least to a certain extent, but continue to vote the same regardless. Typically, they salve their conscience by saying “well, they’re all the same anyhow, so what difference does it make”, as they pull that well-worn party-line voting lever. A large number, from both parties, have just quit, not even bothering to vote at all. They think that by opting out they are making a statement. All they are really doing is letting someone else make their decisions for them. Someone still gets elected, and they still end up having to live with the decisions that elected official makes.
I don’t think we have the luxury any longer to avoid paying attention to the details. I don’t think we can afford to vote for a party because they are the “party poor folks are supposed to vote for”, or because they might give us some monetary benefit while ignoring their stand on moral or social issues. We need to look at the total package. Not just what a party or candidate says they are going to do, but what their track record says they have been doing.
Personally, I could not at this time, vote Democrat in a national election. It’s not that I think the Republicans are so great (they have their problems too), it’s just that I can’t swallow what I would have to be endorsing in order to pull the Democrat lever.
Just taking a look at three highly-charged moral issues, were I to vote Democrat, I would of necessity be supporting the following:
1) Abortion. Call it “a woman’s right to choose” or whatever other fancy language you want, what it boils down to is still abortion on demand. And not just “if the mother’s life is in danger”, but anytime, anywhere, by any method, and under any circumstances. Killing babies is simply wrong. To pretend that they aren’t babies by calling them something else (to dehumanize them), or pretending that they are on par with a tonsil or a tumor is disingenuous at best, and embracing evil at worse. There are alternatives to most of the abortions being performed today. With the state of birth control being what it is today, there is no excuse for most women to have a pregnancy they don’t want. And if they do, by mischance, or because of a case of rape or incest, there is always adoption. For those rare cases where the mother’s life is truly in danger, then abortion is an option. But to justify wholesale slaughter on the basis of a small percentage of cases is a rationalization of evil based on convenience.
I would also have to support the candidacy of a man who now says he believes that life begins at conception, but also believes that he has to respect a person’s “right” to take that life if they wish. This would be akin to telling Adolph Hitler that he believes Jews are actually human beings, and that killing them is wrong, but that he respects Hitler’s “right” to kill them anyway if he so chooses.
2) Gay Marriage. I can’t support this. I firmly believe in the principle that marriage is between a man and a woman. If the civil authorities want to set up some sort of legal arrangement that accords gay partners the legal “privileges” of marriage, that’s their business. I still don’t approve of the lifestyle, but that’s a civil matter. What it isn’t, is a “marriage”. What’s more, my church’s position on the issue is emphatically in line with my own. (see The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
3) Fetal tissue research. This includes fetal stem cell research. Creating an industry based upon killing unborn children is wrong. This goes hand-in-glove with the abortion issue. We are presented in glowing terms how this research might cure this disease, or that disorder. What we don’t have is any proof that this is so. And even if it were true, how many kids do you want to kill just to keep yourself alive a bit longer? Would you kill your unborn son or daughter? Or is it OK as long as it is someone else’s son or daughter? Or as long as it doesn’t look like a son or daughter, say a collection of cells only a few days old? Then we can pretend that it would really grow up to be a frog or a toad, or maybe a tonsil. Note that being against fetal stem cell research is not the same thing as being against stem cell research. Most of the advances being made in this arena are being done with adult stem cells anyway. There simply is no need to build an industry based on the killing of our unborn.
I can’t support the Democrat party and not be supporting these things, as they are major portions of what the National Democrat Party and its left-wing ideologs support. Democrat leaders across the board have publicly endorsed these stances. The people running for office have embraced them. If these things are counter to my ethical basis (and the ethical basis of my church), how then can I vote Democrat?
Latter-day Saints (and others) need to look at more than where the payola is coming from. We really need to start taking a look at the moral issues that underlie each party’s platform. What’s more, we need to pay more attention to what each party’s candidates are actually doing, not just what they are saying.
If you don’t like where your party is headed, then get out there and work to change it. There are good, moral people in both parties; their voices need to be heard. Write letters to your congresscritters and elected officials at all levels of government. Become active in your party’s politics. (Take a look at some of my early articles for ideas; I will put links at the bottom of this one to make it easy.) But if you just keep holding your nose and pulling the lever (or opt out entirely), then you are just playing their game. They will never change, because they don’t need to. They are getting your vote. (Or, if you have opted out, from their point of view, at least you aren’t voting against them.)
These things are not necessarily easy. They take time, and you may take some heat from others in your party. (For example, being pro-life is not an easy position to take in the Democrat party, so if you go to a convention with the idea of changing that particular plank, you will need some hefty support, and don’t be surprised if you get called all sorts of names in the process.) Change can be difficult, and it can take a while. It took several decades to get us to the position we are in now. It will probably take a while to swing the pendulum back. But it won’t even begin to start until folks make it start. Wishful thinking won’t do the trick.
So this November 2nd is important. Whom will you support? A man who, though not perfect by any stretch, supports Christian values, pretty much lets you know where he stands on issues, and does what he says he will do? Or another politician who is on all sides of every issue, who tells you what you want to hear and then does something else, and whose idea of governance is to take a poll and see which way the wind is blowing before making a decision? Is it easier to hold your nose on the moral issues and vote for someone who purports to provide you more social benefits, or to hold your nose on some of the social issues and vote for someone who more closely fits your moral stance. Which is more important to you, the spiritual or physical? Do you follow God or mammon?
I would stipulate that a man of good moral character is to be preferred. They may make mistakes, but you know at least that their heart is in the right place. They can learn from those mistakes and go on to be a good leader. On the other hand, a man without good moral character is a snake who cannot be trusted. They make their decisions based on their own personal needs without regard to the greater good, concerned mainly with their own wants and desires. They will smile in your face and stab you in the back. They blame others for their failings, instead of accepting responsibility for their own actions.
I would choose the imperfect man of good moral character any day of the week. And despite his flaws, I believe that man to be George W. Bush, not John F. Kerry.