Sunday, November 18, 2012

Post Election Indigestion

Two of these won't do the trick.
Don't call me in the morning.
I am not a hyper political person.

I am not strongly aligned with one party over another. Generally I find myself voting for a particular political party, but often with a degree of reluctance. My political ideologies are such a potpourri of stances that no political party, let alone a candidate ever seems to truly satisfy me.

In my state, like many, there were nearly a dozen people on the ballot. I sincerely would have been open to voting for a third party candidate if one had echoed my beliefs. But no such viable candidate exist.

And so, almost two weeks after the election I find myself feeling compelled to right about the election in retrospect. Sure, it would have been more timely to do so immediately following, but at that point, I was still digesting and it seems that on many occasions the elections are still being regularly discussed, and I find it still relevant to discuss it in this space.

I think in many ways the 2012 elections will be a defining political election - one for the history books for sure. And for those of us who experienced them, I have a feeling that in most cases they will leave a tinge of bitter taste in our mouths for years to come. Even if you were a passionate Obama supporter, and your local candidates won, and you were excited about the issue-based legislation that passed at local levels, I still believe people find themselves in this place.

The rhetoric is so strong -- from both sides. And for those who lived in swing states, they saw some nasty games played out in the TV commercials and news media, and even in the debates. And the irony is, that despite the differences in these candidates, they also share a remarkable amount of similarities (as I think most would have particularly observed in the third debate over foreign policy). And yet, the fighting in this sphere lead us to believe otherwise.

But more so even than the advertisements (which most people cite) I think where rhetoric was the worst and most unfortunate was in social media. People in defense of their cause(s) found it appropriate to tweet and write things that I find simply shameful and unproductive. There was radical rumors on both sides of the fence and pure illogical and unproductive division played out in real time.

And after all that talk, banter, and certainly money, we find ourselves in the same place. And here is where some of the bitterness lies (again both parties) is the felling that asks "was really all that worth it?"

Sure some of the "was really all that worth it?" questions directed to the Republican National Convention who's gobs of money did not impact the elections in way that should have been expected (i.e. the hot topic for the election was the economy, which was Mitt Romney's strong suit in which he polled better than Obama and still did not win, the Republican's were largely expected early on to win back the Senate which they did not, etc.). And the result of the "was it worth it" talk largely focuses on a little bit of identify-crisis (or potential identity crisis) in the Republican Party. That's a topic for another time, and while a valuable topic, I think the "was it worth it?" discussion extends beyond that one topic.

It seems clear to me that the United States is divided and I don't know where that rhetoric goes. I certainly don't expect to see succession of certain states or regions but I do expect that in those states and regions people where exercise their first amendment right to bare arms in record numbers. I find this somewhat disturbing (not a gun man, myself), but certainly don't think based on our laws that these people are doing anything wrong, although I'm saddened that certain regions of the country have this type of prolonged anxiety.

And on the other hand, in certain parts of the country or households the progressiveness of our country at this time is viewed as a "finally we're moving in the right direction" and they view those who hold any other belief as backwards, racist, prejudice, and uneducated. This mindset is not productive.

Regardless of the party lines, regardless of your political persuasion most people know where to find news and media you agree with from the most radical perspectives on either side. These news outlets (blogs, cable shows, radio shows, magazines) speak so directly to one audience that absorbed in these outlets, the failure of other people to share your ideas makes them seem like ignoramuses -- and we talk about people from the context of this mindset.

I don't know about you, but I feel the division of the United States. It makes me shutter. I don't lose sleep over it, but I watch it around me. Where I avoid political discourse in most situations, I see others embrace it.

And for me, the most scary thing is that in reality there was nothing remarkable about this past election. The candidates, the messages, or the proposals. It makes me fearful for the future, because if this is the division we see over the reelection of our current president, what will the election four years from now have for America, but more fear, uncertainty and division.

I would expect that things get worse. I'd expect the political parties to become increasingly polarized in this climate. I'd expect that the continuation of current election practices, namely the use of the electoral colleges, creates such a high degree of strategy behind the campaigns that efforts are not built on winning hearts & minds of America, but hearts and minds of key American counties (in Ohio and Florida primarily).

And so, I sit back as an American, with this post election indigestion, feeling helpless, and in a place of disconnection with my fellow Americans, not because my beliefs are so radical or diametrically opposed to others, but rather because there seems to be little common ground and safe space for political discourse. There is no common goal. Even shared goals like "creating more jobs" can become loaded topics that lead to dissension on tax policy, environmental policy, and energy policy.

This disagreement is not always bad, but it is most useful when it is productive, and yet I struggle to see any productivity in any conversation whether on the floor of the senate or at the water cooler.


Grete said...

Your blog post reminded me of this quotation my husband showed me recently:

Loren Eaton said...

Meh. Keller forgets that justice matters. So does suffering.

Jon said...

Loren - What does Justice mean in relation to the Keller post? Seems to me his point is about idolatry of politics and power.

Loren Eaton said...

Uh-oh, what have I gotten myself into? ;-)

In his article, Keller seems to want to correct those who "respond to U.S. political trends in such an extreme way" by intimating that they've fallen into idolatry. However, there were important issues of justice (by which I mean "right doing") at stake in this past election, issues such as violations of religious liberty. An "extreme" response is not necessarily an indication of political idolatry. As Owen Strachan writes in the linked article:

God is sovereign, my friends. Absolutely and totally. But even as Jeremiah wept for Israel, so we weep for what America–historically a Protestant-influenced nation, a carefully chosen characterization–is becoming. This is not wrong. It is not falling captive to politics. It is not losing sight of the spheric control of the Trinitarian God. It is, I think, driven by a love for the image of God, mankind, and by a clear-eyed appraisal of real human suffering.

I don't want to beat up on Keller. He's a good guy. I attend a church in his denomination, and our congregation directly supports Redeemer's missions efforts. I just think he missed the boat on this one.