The Ten-Issue Vote


_ I’ve been a political junkie since junior high. I was the geeky one debating the Bosnian conflict and signing up for extemporaneous speaking competitions while my classmates were busy watching Saved by the Bell and collecting slap bracelets. It only got worse when I went off to college. No sex, drugs, or alcohol here, I was into heavier stuff--conservative politics. I canvassed neighborhoods, dabbled in referendums, constructed signage, and explored the political process via intercollegiate student government.

But the highs of youthful experimentation quickly led to the need for bigger and bigger hits, and while many of my friends headed off to Washington to pursue successful careers, I found myself bottoming out and becoming more and more apolitical. Today it’s really hard for me to get excited and invested in the process. Yet ironically--and probably dangerously--I’ve never been more directly affected by the actual outcome. Unlike in my reckless youth, today I’m a member of the workforce, wade through government bureaucracy on a daily basis, and have children who will inherit the choices we make.

Now more than ever, government is not an abstraction. And despite my best efforts at disaffection, it simply won’t go away.

So while I may not be manning the picket lines anymore, I’m realizing that I can’t be neutral. And as easy as it was to be a one-issue voter, I’m realizing I've got to become more. So I’ve decided, it’s time to become a ten-issue voter. As in, The Ten” --you know--“Commandments.”

Now before you get all squirrelly on me, let me assure you that I’m not a reconstructionist and I really believe that we’ve got to move past using faith as a political talisman. But instead of simply fighting to keep God’s Law hanging on a wall in an Alabama courtroom, I’ve decided to actually start using it.

So this year I’ll be looking for a candidate who honors God in his private life as well as makes room for him in public discourse. I’ll be looking for a candidate who knows how to rest and doesn’t conduct his campaign like he’s the next messiah. I’ll be looking for a candidate who cares for the elderly, respects their wisdom, and doesn’t pander to the youth vote. I’ll be looking for a candidate that values human life and protects it from destruction whether that means opposing abortion or torture. I’ll be looking for a candidate who is committed to a proper understanding of sexuality both publicly and privately.  I’ll be looking for a candidate who is honest in his use of public funds and other people’s wealth. I’ll be looking for a candidate who doesn’t spin, twist or manipulate the facts about his own record or his opponents. And finally I’ll be looking for a candidate who doesn’t encourage a culture of materialistic envy whether it’s in the name of Occupy Wall Street or capitalism.

And honestly, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll find one.

So what’s a girl to do--especially one already as disillusioned as I am? Part of me still holds out hope that if we demand better choices, we’ll get them. It’s been amazing to watch the historic ground swells from the Tea Party to the Arab Spring to the backlash against SOPA/PIPA. If there were ever a time for the little guy to be heard, it’s now. And so as we find our voice, we need to use it to hold campaigns, parties, and candidates to a higher standard. It’s our responsibility to do away with business as usual.

Another part of me tries to remember that despite the sound bytes, Teleprompters, and spectacularly coiffed hair, candidates are people too. People with the same sinful bent that I have; people who have made mistakes; people who will continue make mistakes. It’s simply hypocritical to think otherwise. Especially when we’ve created a context that almost necessitates cover-ups by pulverizing public figures when the truth finally comes out. So instead of a perfect candidate, I’ll happily settle for one who takes responsibility for his own failings, humbly seeks forgiveness, but is resolved to pursue a just society even as he plods along on his own feet of clay.

Even then, sorting through the mess of the next ten months isn’t going to be pretty. And often we’ll disagree who best embodies these values. All we can ask of each other is that we allow ourselves to be guided by something greater than our own fears. All we can ask is that as we vote our consciences, we’ll make sure that they are informed by truth. And ultimately, all we can ask of each other is that we won’t be pragmatic, political, one issue voters.

We’re not kingmakers after all--only instruments in the hands of One.