Friday, March 30, 2012

Independently Speaking

I am a tenacious independent when it comes to politics.  I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. Consequently, I do not try to tell Church members how to vote.  I did not say I believe in the separation of faith and politics because I feel strongly that our Christian faith should inform our attitudes towards how we vote.  Unlike many of my Episcopal Church clergy colleagues, I do not believe that one of our political parties is more “Christian” than the others.  In over 40 years of ordained ministry, I have known godly Democrats and godly Republicans.   However, saying that I am an Independent does not mean that I do not have opinions about politics and the present election. 

The first opinion is that I am jaded when it comes to “spin” and political rhetoric.  I see outrageous partisan posts on Facebook, for example, and I mainly ignore them.   I prefer my politics served up with reasonableness.  I also believe that in the U.S. there is a big difference between running for office and governing.  Candidates and their followers make all sorts of outspoken claims about themselves and outrageous claims about what other candidates are supposed to believe.  I take it all with a grain of salt. 

Second, I have some observations about the Republican primaries.  Like Barbara Bush, I think this year’s primaries have been particularly nasty affairs.  Granted, there is a lot at stake in a nomination, but aren’t these are folks in the same party?  I think our media adds to this by playing at the sensational and the news-bites in a kind of feeding frenzy.

Third, I am watching with interest who the Republicans will nominate to face off with President Obama.  (It is, in the long run, we Independents who will determine how this election will turn out.)  I think that I have sorted this out for myself.
1.       If the Republicans nominate Mitt Romney, the old guard and East coast Republicans will have prevailed and their party believes the President is vulnerable over the economy and can be beaten.  After Super Tuesday, Romney seemed to be the guy. 
2.      Ron Paul is on a Libertarian Crusader, as he has been for years, and he would be stunned to be nominated. 
3.      Rick Santorum represents a different Crusade.  If he is nominated, this means that mainstream Republicans have abandoned the idea that President Obama can be unseated.  So, elements of the Republican Party who are social conservatives have decided to “make a statement” and not win an election. 
4.      A genuine question left open at this point is who Romney will choose as a running mate.  My advice is that he should chose with us Independents in mind and not the Tea Party. 

Once the nomination process is over, the election process will begin. When this happens, the focus will return to the economy and who is best suited to lead the current recovery.  For us Independents, this will be the primary question.  It may not, however, be the most critical one.  If 9/11 taught us anything, it is that events outside of our control can suddenly thrust us into a crisis not of our own making.  The tension between Israel and Iran, or demands for attention by North Korea, or any other number of scenarios would suddenly thrust us from economic concerns to international ones.    

My opinion is this.  If the economy is the concern, then the election will be close.  If it is close, it will come down to the Electoral College.  In other words, the person elected may not get the popular vote.  If war, or the fear of war, is the primary issue, then it will not be close.  President Obama will win hands down.

One last word on this election business; I would like to see the candidates for President sign a mutual agreement that they will debate the issues before us and commit to refraining from personal attacks by either themselves or Super PACs representing them.  I can hear many of my friends cracking, “Where’s the fun in that?!”  But, this allows me to say what concerns me the most in this year’s election and that is the distortion of the democratic process by the power of unlimited financial contributions through Super PACs.  I would hate to admit that the office of President of the United States can be bought.  If that is the case, let’s eliminate democracy and give the Presidency every four years to the highest bidder.  The proceeds of the auction can be used to reduce the deficit.     

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