I’m a Mormon. And I try to vote like one.
Politics and religion. Now there’s an interesting mix. They are the two subjects that were never introduced into polite conversation a generation ago. I’m all for that kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy most of the time, but when an important election comes around, the political activist in me demands just a little bit of air time. I promise not to do this very often, but I’m going to talk politics. And religion.
The United States of America does not have a political party that exactly matches my values. That is not a very surprising thing for an American to say, I know. But it’s true; my ideas and America’s two political parties intersect at weird angles. Bits and pieces coincide, but there is no singular answer when I look for representation. It’s far too common a complaint and none of us know how to change that fact.
Let’s take a look. I will list some of my values and color them red if I think they are a Republican ideal and blue if I think they are better represented by the Democratic party. (Purple if both have claimed them.)
I’m generally anti-abortion but think that government should go no farther than that to regulate a woman’s health options. I want jobs to stay local. I would like to see universal health care. I care about policies that support education and the arts. I think defense and intelligence-gathering should be well-funded. I support policies that adequately care for the poor. I care about deficit reduction. I support morally conservative policies. And I care deeply about thoughtful diplomacy and intelligent foreign policy. See? What’s a voter like me supposed to do?
My religion influences my values, of course. I believe in protecting children and helping people who are below the poverty line. These ideas were expounded upon by Scott Daniels in the Salt Lake Tribune in September. He argues that prophets of the Book of Mormon support caring for the poor as a society. Not just individual charity but societal charity and that kind of thinking is only preached by one US political party. I have traditional family values… the kind that are only preached by the other US political party.
Voting gets tough when things like that clash.
What’s the solution? I’m not sure what the ideal solution is but I know that the practical solution is to pick one top value and vote that way. My parents each had one issue that directed their votes to a certain political party even though I know they had other values that lurked in the background. In the end, I think we all prioritize one or a few ideals and try hard not to think about the consequences of voting against politicians who would support the other values we hold. As we do so, we leave the voting booth with some degree of nagging guilt at having been untrue to ourselves, even if we were fairly certain of our vote. We can feel easily disillusioned by the process because it is so imperfect. Two choices, but what if you just want parts of both? Spread your votes evenly between the parties? Is there any other way?
The Economist magazine has a website where world citizens can “vote” for who they would like to see become the next US president. Unfortunately, the sample is not representative because it only includes those who have internet access, speak English, and either read The Economist or get tipped off by someone who does. At the time of this writing, Obama was winning 79% to 21% with 2477 total votes from maybe 2/3 of the countries of the world (nationality is self-reported by voters). I wonder how much of the result is due to residual mistrust of Republican candidates after G.W. Bush’s attempts at global… uh…
diplomacy interference dominance swashbuckling. Can any part of that imbalanced tally be due to Obama’s inclusive foreign policy stance? I hope so.
Foreign policy matters to me because I like being nice. I like nice people. I think you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. I like Secretary Clinton because she is good at being reasonable and I like President Obama because he is good at diplomacy. (I am reminded here of an obscure song by The Department of Homeboy Security which is 2:45 of Donald Rumsfeld proudly saying he doesn’t do diplomacy. And, boy, he didn’t.)
If I had to choose one issue on which to vote in this election, it would probably be the issue of Middle East policy. My reasons for choosing that issue are several. For full disclosure I have to say that I am married to a professor of Comparative Middle East Politics who researches Islamic political parties and seeks to understand how they work within a democratic framework and when and why they sometimes become involved in violence. He has also worked for the Department of State under Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration on Middle East and religious policies. As for the other reasons, I believe that seeking to understand differences and finding common ground creates a global environment which is more likely to sustain trust between nations and thus peaceful negotiations and interactions. Idealistic, I know, but that’s what I believe.
It’s not what everyone believes, apparently. I’ve been trying to pinpoint Mitt Romney’s policy on the Middle East and I have to say that what I find scares me. The statements and ideas laid out on his campaign page are full of contradictions and logical holes, not to mention the fact that they reveal a simplistic understanding of how the Middle East operates… much like Bush had. His statements feel very Bush-like with strong language about “our interests” and “our gains” in the region and how he would force other countries to do things our way. Yikes, man. Did you not learn anything between 2004 and 2008? I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised about his foreign policies. If this report is to be believed, 17 out of 24 of his foreign policy advisers are from the Bush administration and I simply cannot vote for that kind of team no matter how nice an individual Mitt Romney might be.
Can Romney keep his promises about the economy? No. Neither can Obama. No president ever can. They have Congress to contend with and they just don’t win all the fights- plus it takes about 5 years for things to improve once economic policies are in place. But foreign policy begins to take effect immediately. Global security can disintegrate quickly, especially when the trust between nations vanishes.
I want to live in a peaceful world where people are kind, take care of each other, and share. I plan to vote for the candidate who wants that, too. Unfortunately, it’s not the Mormon.
Post Script: I respect all differing opinions. You can disagree and I’ll still like you. If you have a comment, please make sure it is also respectful. Thanks.