Sunday, November 02, 2008

A New King

Ok, so I'm jumping back in to the blog with a doozy tonight. I really can't believe it's been since April that I posted something here. I feel awful about that. However, it should be known that I have continued to write since then and was even published in a small, almost never read magazine.

Regardless, I am ready to detail the long process that has led me up to election day, just a mere thirty-six hours away. For those of you who know me well this will come as no surprise, but I'm a bit of a political junkie. This is one of the more serious veins of an obsession with competition. My father has been laughing about it since I was pretty young. If there is a way for someone to win something, I will be interested - dog shows, beauty pagents, jai alai - whatever it is, I'll not only watch, but research and keep track of numbers. We used to have one of these plastic marble trough sets. You could construct these elaborate obstacle courses for marbles to run through; I remember spending hours with this thing and a stop watch, timing marbles, running little marble tournament races, and constatly re-constructing the thing to produce the fastest possible times.

Political races have about as much numerical data and opportunities for prediction than just about anything in the world. They also give ample opportunity for spirited debate. (Those close to me will also know that I rarely hide from a good-natured argument, even if I actually agree with the other person involved.) The US Presidential race is like heroine for me. The analogy even holds up beyond face value as I still complain that debates, primaries, and polls come too infrequently. I know, I'm a hopeless case.

This particular Presidential contest has been quite unique for me. You see I've been old enough to vote in US elections since 2000. I've twice written in Senator John McCain for the highest elected office in the land. I appreciated his bi-partisan, rebellious politics in 2000 and did not yet understand the political machines that colluded to his demise. By 2004 I had yet to find another figure I thought could handle the job and wrote McCain in again, almost by default. In neither election did I have much concern for who actually won; it seems we've had a string of losers nominated from both major parties for a while now.

Coincidently, in 2004 I, like a lot of human beings, were introduced to Barack Obama via his major speech at the Democratic National Convention. I had heard his name previously, mostly because of the press surrounding three opponents of his for the US Senate from Illinois dropping out of the race for bizarre reasons. I followed up with Obama, purchasing his first book, Dreams from My Father, which was written long before he had any political aspirations and was, therefore, the closest to the truth we were ever going to get out of him.

I was impressed, not only with his speaking and writing abilities, but with his attempt to frame politics with a new vocabulary. Here was the emergence, on a national stage, of a substantative politician from a new generation. It was quite intriguing - even more so when I viewed his speech from the Call to Renewal Conference, sponsored by Sojourners in 2006. This man is clearly a follower of Christ and open to speaking with religious language often ignored or feared by politicians.

Once it became clear that these two men would be vying for the Presidency, I was more than excited to see how things would progress. To my dismay, neither candidate kept to the high-brow and polite campaign they promised; McCain's personal and character attacks on Obama made me regret the previous votes I had cast for him. As I began to understand the issues and each candidate's perspective on them, I realized that I, in good conscience, could not vote for either man.

Now, to set the record straight, I am supportive of Obama. The US election system realistically gives the nation a choice between two people. Given that choice, I would much rather have a President Obama than a President McCain. However, our electoral system does not limit us to the two "big nominees." Every natural born, non-felon, US citizen over the age of thirty-five is elligible to be President of the United States.

Not too long ago, I decided I would write-in Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) for President. I found myself resonating with Kucinich in the Democratic Presidential debates of 2004. I took several of those online candidate surveys to match my views with a Presidential candidate. Both in 2004 and in 2008 my results would invariably point to Kucinich. I will not make a long apology for the man, but regardless, I think his political philosophy is among the best of any person currently serving elective office anywhere.

However, over the course of this long campaign, I have come to admire the calm and comfortable attitude of Senator Obama. He has handled a tumultuous two year span with many crises and problems and yet barely registered any reaction. His plans have remained stable from the beginning and his faith in those plans undeterred. He certainly has a more desireable demeanor than Kucinich and I could just no longer convince myself that Kucinich was the "best" person for the job.

In the past few days, I have spent a good deal of time searching and thinking about how I will cast my vote on Tuesday. I've consulted books and mentors; I've thought and prayed. I have tried to allign my beliefs with voting practice and mostly came up short. As of yesterday afternoon, I was resigned to a write-in ticket including the names of two pastor friends of mine. Both are smart and honorable people whom I would trust with the grave decisions of governance (even if I would not wish the situation upon any person).

However, also yesterday, I was informed that Kansas, much like many states, moves all ballots including write-in votes to the category of "provisional," which drastically reduces the chances of said ballot ever being counted. While I have little desire to vote for the President of the United States, I do want my votes for other contests on the ballot to have some effect.

Early this morning I read the final pages of Jesus for President, a book about the Christian life in relation to the systems of the world around us. It is a fantastic book for anyone who wrestles with the call of God and the demands of life; I highly recommend it. I was impressed that this book avoided any mention of elections until the final few pages and spent perhaps four or five on the topic at all. One of the stories the authors recounted was of a group of US Christians who could no longer reconcile their beliefs against voting with the billions of people who lacked opportunity to vote and the thousands who have given their lives specifically in the struggle to win voting rights. Their solution was to seek out those without a voice and vote in their stead.

Tomorrow morning I will make an off duty visit to the dry cleaners I work with for my job. Their employees are mostly resident aliens from across Latin America. These women live in the US (some have been here for quite some time) and they work incredibly hard to support themselves and their families. They are among the bottom rungs of US society, socially, economically, and practically. They have no voice in matters that affect them, perhaps more than even these matters affect us. I am going to ask which candidate they would like to vote for and I will use my rights as a citizen of the United States to cast a vote for these voiceless friends.