Votations

I know, the word is supposed to be vocations, like what you do for a living, or your calling to ministry.

Or better yet, vacation, which is way more fun, anyway.

But votations is where we are at (yes, I made it up), in the middle of all this ugly political drama.

I want to share some notes that I made last spring, before the primaries, to talk with my children about the political process.  I wanted them to learn and to know because we are called to be “responsible citizens in the country in which we live” (Family Proclamation).  Regardless of politics, and no matter who wins the election, the next President is the one who will grow up my children into adulthood.

That’s big to me, bigger than the next supreme court justices.

So I want them to know, and I want them paying attention, and I want them to understand what is happening as best we can so that they start to get an idea of things as they grow up and learn for themselves.

Originally, I had been prepared to talk to them about the main political parties in our country:  Republicans and Democrats.  It’s not that I want them to be Republicans or need them to be Democrats, but I do want them to understand the differences and why people choose one or the other.  I want them to start understanding not just the issues, but the implications of different parties and why it matters. We explained to them that people feel very strongly about their political parties, sometimes to the point of no longer thinking about the implications of what they are choosing, while others don’t even try to understand.  Some people vote only for a particular party just because they always have, without thinking about the actual candidate or how the platforms have changed over the years.

So Nathan helped me simplify things for us to teach the children:

Our two party system is complicated because they both contain pieces that are not necessarily inherently related.

In the role of government, Republicans tend to prefer independence and self-regulation. Take to extremes this becomes abandonment of those in need of support from the community. Democrats tend to believe that government has an important role in making our society better. Taken to extremes, this results in bloat and massive reliance on tax revenue.

In our capitalist society, both Republicans and Democrats believe in business. But Republicans tend to want to create the most free, favorable environment for business possible, while Democrats tend to see unlimited business as a threat to the public good, using regulation to rein it in.

Morally, Republicans tend to support issues like traditional definitions of marriage and preserving life for unborn children. Taken to extremes, this can become bigotry and tyranny. Democrats tend to support issues like the continuing expansion of civil liberties to all. Taken to extremes, this can become bigotry and tyranny.

Both sides contain great virtue and the potential for great harm.

Then I was going to explain to them about “Independents” (Libertarians, Green Party, and others) and the controversy over whether or not that is a wasted vote.  Many have said that to vote third party “wastes” your vote because you are not using it on one of the two major candidates.  Others say that voting third party causes problems by splitting the vote of those who would normally vote for a particular party, causing that party to lose without the third party actually making any progress, which results in the “enemy party” to both win instead of either of the other two.  They say a third party never wins, and so just don’t.

Except that’s how Abraham Lincoln won, did you know that?

And in this particular election, “a swing of even 1-2 percent of third party voters to Trump or Clinton may decide the election.”  So people who really want Trump or who really want Clinton are begging people not to vote third party, because those votes really may make a difference.  On the other hand, people who are upset with our choices think that voting third party will help make a statement that we as a nation are upset with how things are going, even if the third party doesn’t actually win.

The Fiscal Times said:

Voting is best understood as a statement of preference. The totals send signals to elected officials and future candidates about public attitudes. And this is why voting for a third party candidate can be useful.

If a third party candidate receives a large number of votes, or enough votes to change the outcome of an election, political leaders receive a signal that the ideas advanced by the third candidate are worth considering. Over the long term, policies advocated by the major parties may be affected by third party election results.

That’s the idea.  The Green Party doesn’t think Clinton is progressive enough, and so offers an alternative to get attention and hold the Democrats accountable and moves them further left.  The Libertarian party doesn’t like Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric because it interferes with the free market in business, so they offer an alternative that keeps the aggressive foreign policy but is more socially liberal until the Republicans are forced a little more to the right.

In this way, many people argue that even though a third party candidate may not actually be able to win, it is critical to vote third party to send the message that the American public needs policies to improve.   That’s even how FDR got the New Deal, actually, after the socialist party lost during his election.  The difference, though, is that your voice is active and heard when you vote, rather than the passivity of not voting at all just because there are not any good choices:

I still wish to participate in the electoral process. Choosing not to vote is always an option. But I prefer to express my opinion in a less passive manner. Not voting certainly provides the satisfaction of knowing that I did not sanction or legitimize the offerings of the two major parties. But that satisfaction is only personal and private. I want to more actively make my views known.

Then this article was published about the math of how much your vote is worth, and here is a line that I love and have shared:

The value of your vote is what you give it. Should you spend it on a candidate you don’t believe in? Should it be an exercise in fear? It’s up to you. It is my hope that these mathematical calculations will bring you freedom from the idea that only majority party votes matter. A vote is a statement, a vote is personal, a vote is an expression of your citizenship in this country. If enough people vote their conscience and vote for what they believe in, things can change.

If you are already a staunch supporter of a major party, then you should vote that way. This paper is not against the major parties at all – but rather against the concept that votes somehow “belong” to only Democrats or Republicans. Votes belong to the voter. There has never been a more important time to vote your conscience.

I don’t think we should vote in fear.

I personally don’t want to vote for someone I am afraid of or with whom I do not feel safe.

On the other hand, I also agree with Mike Rowe, of all people, in that we shouldn’t be telling people to go vote just for the sake of voting.  We need to take it seriously, and study it out in our minds, and do our best.  That’s not the same as showing up to vote and just guessing.  He said:

“Look at our current candidates. No one appears to like either one of them. Their approval ratings are at record lows. It’s not about who you like more, it’s about who you hate less. Sure, we can blame the media, the system, and the candidates themselves, but let’s be honest – Donald and Hillary are there because we put them there. The electorate has tolerated the intolerable. We’ve treated this entire process like the final episode of American Idol. What did we expect?”

That’s exactly what I told Nathan about the debates!  The debates have not been educated, philosophical debating of issues and policy.  They have been ugly, and argumentative.  The candidates were interrupting each other, not answering questions, and evasive on actual substance at times.  That was some low class entertainment for people without brains to think, not a political debate in preparation for running the country that my children will grow up in.

Christianity Today released a fascinating article unexpectedly this week, said something powerful:

Just because we are neutral, however, does not mean we are indifferent.

The article acknowledged the recent inappropriate comments Trump has made, but also focused on Clinton’s shady email drama.  My friend Steve Kapp Perry pointed out, however, that the faith-based article did not at all mention her Methodist upbringing or the good she has done as part of her faith, so that seems a little biased.

The primary focus, however, was to discuss the many evangelical leaders who had endorsed Trump prior to his comments about sexual assault, who now are jumping ship because of what was caught on tape.  In critique of this, many others say that this was too little too late, that while this is super important to stand up for the safety of women, no one stood up for Muslims or Hispanics or those with disabilities when they were attacked earlier in his campaign.  However, it does go so far as to say that evangelical church leaders should have said something earlier:

Alas, many Christian leaders who could have spoken such prophetic confrontation to him personally have failed to do so.

That’s a serious problem.  And people will remember that.

Sometimes part of testifying of truth is saying hard things.

Nathan said:

It is shocking to me that both presidential candidates could have such low ratings. But I think the reason why that is is because things have become increasingly polarized. So many people have clambered so far to the edges of the spectrum that even someone in the middle can’t represent them because there is no overlap on that Venn diagram. The government’s a mess and our country may be doomed, but I think our only hope for salvation will come in the form of increased civility, compassion and willingness to be inconvenienced in the service of others. I guess that’s what I mean when I say progressive values are a part of my Christianity.

Sometimes part of testifying of truth is being able to recognize it, and most always being able to recognize it is tied to how well we live it.

The Christianity Today article concludes:

The US political system has never been free of idolatry, and politics always requires compromise. Our country is flawed, but it is also resilient. And God is not only just, but also merciful, as he judges the nations. In these closing weeks before the election, all American Christians should repent, fast, and pray—no matter how we vote.

And vote we must.

Our church published a letter this week stating:

Participation in the political process affects our communities and nation today and in the future. We urge Latter-day Saints to be active citizens by registering, exercising their right to vote, and engaging in civic affairs….

Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties, and members should seek candidates who best embody those principles.

And so there it is: no easy out.

We have to vote.  We must vote.

Oklahoma, specifically, is in the midst of the confusion as none of who we voted for are on the primaries.  Our stated voted for Bernie Sanders for Democrats and Ted Cruz for Republicans, but neither of them won the nomination.  We have seven of the 538 electoral votes, which means our state will be easy points for one of the major parties, or could go third party just to take points away from one of the major parties.

Our choices are (click each name for more information on their stance on issues):

Hillary Clinton (Democrat) or Donald Trump (Republican)

For third party voters, Oklahoma does have Gary Johnson (Libertarian) on the ballot, but not McMullin, and Oklahoma will not permit write-ins.  Johnson’s platform is like the tax plan and anti-Obamacare of the republicans, but socially liberal like the democrats (pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, etc.) so some conservatives are not willing to protest against Trump and Clinton by voting for him.  McMullin is starting to pull of Johnson, but was such a late comer that Oklahoma is one of the states where he is not an option on the ballot or for write-ins.  So if you want to vote third party, it would have to be Johnson, who seems to have some serious gaps in knowledge about presidential things and keeps catching bad press for it.  He also wants severe cuts to Medicaid, which impacts my family significantly, although wanting good Medicaid coverage is a practical conflict with the philosophical idea of wanting a smaller government.  It’s so complicated, you guys, when you really are brave enough and honest enough and open enough to get down to the implications of everything.

Oklahoma also has seven other measures that we will be voting on this November ballot:

  • 776 – to permit any method of execution to be allowed
  • 777 – the big farm question (which some say is bad for local farms and only good for brand name corporations)
  • 779 – tax increase for education
  • 780 – reclassifying drug misdimeanors
  • 781 – to use the money saved by 780 to fund rehab programs
  • 790 – a repeal of a law prohibiting public money from being used for religious purposes
    (wait, what?)
  • 792 – to allow Oklahoma to sell full-strength alcoholic beverages

Further, 788, is an appeal process and may still appear on the ballot (to legalize marijuana).

So vote.

But don’t just show up.

Look up those issues, study these people and what they have to say.

Vote educated-ly.

Don’t vote for the least-evil.

“Seek candidates who best embody those [gospel] principles.”

Not the party that you wish it was like it once was.

Not the party that is most like what you prefer.

The candidate who most embodies the gospel principles.  That’s what the First Presidency said.

So what are the gospel principles?

According to our articles of faith, it starts with “The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance…”

We know all the candidates, of the three on the ballot in Oklahoma, have made mistakes, because they are human.

But which one has a history of demonstrating faith?

Which one can at least be called to repentance?

If we agree the system is broken, and the nation needs help, and policies need serious work, then which leader is the most receptive to receiving help to do something about it?

Those might be some of the questions we have to consider, when we can no longer vote simply by party or by issue like we sometimes could historically.

But still, it’s hard to know which person to vote for when we as a society have permitted the creation of characters instead.

So what, or who, is real?

And, for that matter, qualified to be our President?

Or, maybe, those are questions for us: are we being real?  Are we qualifying ourselves as good citizens?  Are we still a people of faith?  Can we be called to repentance?  Instead of being angry at what our choices are, can we accept responsibility for having chosen these as choices and then do something about it?

Because my kids have enough battles they inherited from choices other people made.

What they need are grown-ups who are safe, adults who are wise, and people in their lives who set good examples by acting in faith and growing from mistakes through repentance and restitution.

November is coming.  What are you going to do about it?

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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