Our Political Reality: Is This As Bad As It Gets?
Don’t get me wrong. I love politics, but the recent elections had me wishing I was an apathetic, post-pubescent teenager, completely clueless (and perfectly happy to be so) to the implications of these events. I don’t care what side of the political fence you’re on, this election was just painful. Here are just a few reasons why (and I guarantee whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you’ve thought the same things):
The elections cost a fortune.
First, the elections consumed a significant, even embarrassing, amount of US dollars. Most analysts agree that the Presidential race cost around $2.5 billion, with the costs of congressional elections bringing the total to about $6 billion (take a look at this article for more information). While this number pales in comparison to the vastness of the overall US budget, I still can’t help feeling this has been a tremendous waste of resources—especially given that all of this money was spent to return the government to virtually the same results as the previous four years.
Christians are divided.
Second, the elections revealed just how divided the Christian population in the US really is in regards to our political opinions. For example, among Protestant Christians, 42% voted for Obama and 57% for Romney—a fairly equivalent division. Among Catholics, about 50% voted for Obama and 48% for Romney. Of course, as you continue to parse through this data (much more data is available here), unsurprisingly trends emerge, such as ethnic Christians tended to vote for Obama (about 90%), while born-again evangelicals tended to vote for Romney (about 80%). But even so, these numbers are a simplistic indicator of the prevailing political division within the Christian church. Perhaps this isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t necessarily correlate to overall division within the church. If nothing else, however, these numbers do show that as believers, we can’t seem to agree how our faith should inform our voting behavior.
The United States is divided.
Third, the elections clearly illustrated how divided the United States as a whole is. True, this isn’t new information. We’ve been dealing with two-party divides since our initial founding more than two hundred years ago. But I think we’ve hit new lows in the hardening of our party lines, and new highs in the level of animosity therein. How would I justify this? One word: secession. Most of us are painfully aware of the growing number of petitions that are flooding the ether of the White House as more than 20 states call for the right to secede from the union and form their own country. These petitions are largely laughable in reality, but relatively sobering as an indicator of the larger social trends. It will be interesting to see if the White House responds to these petitions (according to their site, once a petition reaches 25,000 signatures the White House will respond. Texas has easily passed this mark).
The President lacks a mandate from the people.
Finally, and most obviously, our President Obama lacks a mandate from his people. I agree with last week’s article by Anthony that we as believers all owe President Obama our support, but the fact still remains that he is not leading with confidence that his people are behind him. The exact same would have been true for Mitt Romney, had he been elected.
So What’s Next?
What are we left with? Is this as bad as it gets? To that I resoundingly say, No! We still live in one of the most incredible countries on this glorious earth. We got to vote. We were able to contribute to these political decisions. We witnessed another peaceful democratic transition. And none of us were shot during this process. These are all things worth celebrating.
Even so, I’m intentionally not going to put a positive spin on this. I believe that we are at a critical juncture in our country’s narrative, and it is time that we rethink our current political paradigm. All the best countries do. Every society must continually evaluate and improve itself, or it will go into decline. It is time that we, the American people, evaluate our prevailing political norms, our electoral processes, and our two-party divide to determine if and how we may improve.