Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Is election season good for us?

Like many people, I suppose, I get disgusted by the personal attacks and bragging that goes with electioneering.

And as a Christian, I view the pretensions of any political program to change us from the inside out; only the God we meet in Jesus Christ can do that.

But is election season good for us, despite its limitations and frequent unsavoriness?

Writing for Christianity Today's online edition, writer Chris Horst offers three ways he thinks election seasons are good for us.

First, Horst says that "election season propels the economy." He writes:
Dollars invested in elections don’t evaporate. They are investments in democracy. When we hear about candidates raising hundreds of millions of dollars, our shock comes largely from what we believe is “lost money.” What if we had spent that on education, green energy, or . . . [insert your favorite cause]?  
Election coffers aren’t a black hole, though. Ask restaurateurs and hoteliers in Iowa and New Hampshire how they feel about election season. Or bumper sticker and button makers. Or junior staffers and canvassers working with campaigns. Or television stations selling airtime or newspapers selling subscriptions and clicks. Elections are big business. They employ thousands of people directly, fuel the businesses of thousands more indirectly, and create serious economic value, no matter our affection for politics.
This is all true, but of course, one of the big concerns we have about all the money that campaigns get is if the cash buys other things, putting those who give less at a disadvantage, things like influence, policies that favor particular interests, the subversion of democracy or fairness, even illegalities. But Horst has a point: elections are good for many businesses and the economy generally.

The second good thing election season does, says Horst, is "remind us of the beauty of democracy." 
In places like Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, and Zimbabwe, voters have little to no voice in determining the future of their countries. In many instances, dissent is not only forbidden, but squelched. The global political landscape is often unrelentingly bleak… 
…The freedom to vote should not be taken for granted. It is a gift enjoyed only by a small percentage of our planet’s residents—past and present. In a country like the United States, our founders quite literally entrusted the power to the people. We can complain about our system’s effectiveness—about powerful people wielding too much influence or about the unhealthy marriage between faith and politics. But despite its flaws, our system stands in contrast to countries where all the power is controlled by a handful of self-appointed tyrants. 
And it’s not all bad news. Often because of the work of Christian missionaries, many developing countries feature thriving democracies. Nations like Botswana, Ghana, Chile, Uruguay, and the Philippines have proven the merits of democratic rule, even with its shortcomings.
Excellent point. Elections are beautiful: Just think of the sight being shown by live cameras at New Hampshire polling stations right now. They show long lines of people and traffic jams composed of people waiting to vote. That's a beautiful thing. Each voter is making a beautiful statement, whatever their party: "I care about the future my country, community, state, and world. I love America. I believe in us and what we can do together."

Finally, Horst says that election season is good because it "generates meaningful discussion." He writes:
Many of us have been instructed to avoid discussing politics and religion in order to remain polite and amicable. Broadly speaking, this is terrible counsel. To be sure, we should avoid becoming petty, coercive, and disingenuous while talking about religion and politics. But to heal our deepest divides, we need more honest conversation, not less, about what matters most.
Election season often brings out the worst in people. But election seasons also bring things to the surface that might otherwise be left to simmer. 

Elections offer the opportunity for all of us to discuss and settle political issues amicably, in an environment in which the majority rules and the minority is protected.

Politics is imperfect. But it's not a bad word. 

Despite the fact that there are dirty politicians, just as there are dirty doctors, preachers, plumbers, teachers, and other human beings, politics isn't inherently dirty. 

Simply put, politics is the means by which people in an open society work, argue, compromise, and vote their way to fulfilling the mission statement that prefaces the United States Constitution: "...to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..."

On balance, I think that Horst is right, election seasons are beautiful things.

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