Political Decompression

The election was yesterday. After a day to decompress, I feel compelled to summarize a few of my thoughts in no particular order or theme regarding the political season just ending (and none too soon). Fingernails on a chalkboard are the bulk of the political ads that I saw. I voted against one person I might normally vote for just because I thought the ads were in bad taste. A negative ad smearing the other candidate is a good way to get your message across, said no one ever. There is an old adage about slinging mud that comes to mind: it cannot be done without getting dirty. Dirty is not very attractive.

We now have a two term black president. Some people embraced and resonated with his message. Some people believe in his politics and worldview. Some people embraced him because he is black. That is not just true of blacks; it is true of other minorities. It is also true of many people in the majority. I think people want to get over the racial divide. It should not be the color of the skin that determines the outcome of a political race. I say that not without irony, in that I believe Barack Obama was able to attain the victory in 2008 and again in 2012 with the help of people in the majority who chose to embrace a black president just because he is black.

I say that not as a good or a bad thing. I think it was fairly inevitable in a country where we value, as a whole, fairness, freedom and opportunity. Embracing a black candidate because he is black is a way to get past the sins of the past and move on. To be sure, I doubt that most people who voted for Barack Obama voted for him just because he is black, but I suspect that those who did made the difference.

There will always be a segment of society who is racist and discriminatory, just as there will always be people who lie, cheat and steal. Laws cannot change the human heart. The way our society is evolving, however, minorities will likely become the majority in my lifetime. Will we lose those labels along the way? Will we no longer vote for people in the future for the color of their skin? The cynical side of me says, “No, we will not.” My idealistic self longs for the day. My 27 year old once said at the age of 2 when he noticed the difference between “black” people and “white” people for the first time: “Those are my favorite colors!”

Aside from that, I do not believe that most of us are better off than we were four years ago. Whether one believes it is due to lasting effects of the Bush administration or the failures of the Obama administration, I do not think it is deniable. The insurance that I offer my employees and that I and they pay for has gone up 80%-90% in four years. CNN reported that the price of gas had fallen for the 70th consecutive day on November 26, 2008, to $1.87 a gallon. The US Department of Energy now reports gas prices between $3.45 and $4.25 a gallon. I have made approximately 12% less (give or take) in each of the last four years then I did previously, and I have four, almost five, college age kids. I have more debt. My house is worth 25% less than it was. There are more people on unemployment, more people out of work, more people receiving other forms of governmental aid then four years ago. I am not optimistic about where we are heading.

I do not have all the answers, but the problems need to be faced squarely. I strongly dislike the two party system. Neither party speaks to me completely, but we only have two viable choices. Politics is big business, and the two party system perpetuates that big business. Until we find a way to curb special interest group spending (and campaign spending in general) and impose term limits, I do not see anything changing. I recognize the challenges to that (not the least of which is the very freedom that allows spending as people desire). Labels polarize, platforms limit, negative campaigns erode confidence and produce a strong cynical undercurrent. Show me the candidate who has a positive message and will not stoop to castigate the opposing candidates; show me the candidate who has strong principals but recognizes the need to build strong relationships and to compromise sometimes to get things done that must be done; show me the candidate who is not a career politician, who is more focused on the business of doing what is right for the country and not the business of politics; show me a candidate who works to bring people together and not to minimalize and divide; and I will vote for that candidate and feel good about it.

The way our system works, there is no incentive to tackle the hard issues. Taking on the hard issues goes directly against the self-interest of staying in office. Term limits are the only way I see that changing, but it will take a constitutional amendment to impose them. What politicians are going to champion a cause that is sure to shorten their terms in office and, therefore, their business? Make no mistake, politics is not just business, it is big business! Sometimes big business needs regulation, and that is no less true of politics in my opinion.

In the end, I have no faith in politics, and less as time goes on, but I do believe in the sovereignty of God. I take comfort in the knowledge that His ways are not my ways, that the authority of government is established by God and that I should “give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” and give to God that which is God’s. I think there is danger in aligning one’s faith too closely with a political party or political ideal. Politics is man’s platform. I will seek God’s kingdom and let the rest fall into place. My allegiance will not be dictated by a party but by my understanding of God and His kingdom. May it come, and none too soon.

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