Friday, November 10, 2006

No Monopoly on Morality

I heard a report that polling indicated that 47% of those who voted last Tuesday were self-described moderates (sorry I can't cite the reference with a link but it certainly sounds reasonable). Assuming that is correct, I believe that the important issue in this, or any recent election, is "the vast middle." Clinton was elected because a group of Democrats formed the Democratic Leadership Council and intentionally targeted the center. This frustrated liberals, politically it worked. Clinton remained true to his centrist "leanings" (I suppose that is an oxymoron) and won reelection. Bush and the neocons seemed to have visited the center to get elected and then moved back to the right. They had the war to campaign on for reelection. With the war no longer a selling point it would appear that Rove's mojo has run out.

While we have been shown maps of red states and blue states indicating a divided electorate, I think all the recent elections point to a very balanced electorate. So many elections have been very close so the "swing" voters make the difference. This election it seems that a lot of them swung blue. That is, assuming that one can draw such conclusions. The number of issues influencing voters and the personal characteristics of candidates make deconstructing the mind of the voter nigh impossible if you ask me.

Still, I think that these are days in which we would be wise to listen to one another. If we only view issues through the lens of polarization (would that be a polarized lens? :-) ) then we will miss the point that all of us, left, right and middle, as well as religious and secular, are making ethical decisions when we vote. Jim Wallis (whose father died suddenly this week, please remember him in your prayers if you are so inclined) has said "religion has no monopoly on morality." As a theological conservative with a liberal social agenda, he is in a prime position to speak to the current political climate. He is doing just that at God's Politics Blog

One interesting statistic about Christianity in America is that liberal Christians outnumber Evangelicals, although you wouldn't know it from the influence of the "talking heads" in the media. Here is a report from the United Church News:

A Pew Research Center poll, released on Aug. 24, shows 32 percent of Americans think of themselves as “liberal or progressive Christians,” while 24 percent self-identify as evangelical Christians.
Yet, when asked to identify religious-political leanings, only 7 percent said they were part of the “religious left,” compared to 11 percent who identified as being part of the “religious right.”
Evangelicals remain more cohesive, pollsters said, because members “share core religious beliefs as well as crystalized and consistently conservative political attitudes.”

The amount of influence for any group often has more to do with agitation than with the actual size of the group. Too often there is more heat than light. Fear has also too often been the quickest way to victory. Democracy is a tricky business, there is no distinction between winning with 50% plus one and winning on a unanimous vote. All of us would be happier to have those with whom we agree have all the power, but in this country we typically only have two candidates from whom to choose, so our vote often requires compromise...or choosing the "lesser evil." Unless we were to change our representative democracy to a parliamentary system, we won't have all voices heard. This will mean that voters who choose (as I do) third parties to represent their principles will be told they are wasting their votes.

Is it possible to find common ground instead of just accepting compromises? I would hope so. What I'm suggesting is taking divisive issues and work on whatever it is that all sides can agree on. A prime example is the abortion issue. Pro-choice groups don't call for an increase in abortions and Pro-life politicians have not been able to reduce abortions or to get them outlawed. In the midst of the deadlock over this wedge issue, much could be done to change the conditions that lead to abortions. Providing financial, psychological and other types of support to pregnant women and single mothers would be a good start. Making adoption easier would be another. Aren't these issues that both sides could support?

1 comment:

David J said...

To answer your question Ian, yes. But liberals should be speaking out on abortion with the same ease that I've heard on issues like genocide in Sudan. I think the two are highly relational.