Tomorrow is election day in my state. I vote in every election and consider this a civic duty. When I first began voting 40 years ago, it was exciting for me. I studied the ballots, paid attention to the issues, and attempted to use my vote wisely.
In recent years, my enthusiasm has waned. I have been trying to pinpoint the reason for this in my own soul, and last week I had an epiphany that helps me understand why I lack any passion for the elections and the electoral process. The reason is that I am ashamed. Let me explain in three ways.
1. The ads I see on television are hugely negative. There is little attempt to tout the credentials, agenda, or abilities of a candidate and massive attempts to discredit the candidate’s opponent. Both parties are guilty of this, although in my congressional district, one party in particular has no shame in what it will say. I am ashamed of candidates who would condone or endorse these adds. I know that the worst ones are paid for by third-party PACS, but the candidates are silent regarding the distortions and outright untruths of these third party ads. We should all be ashamed of this situation.
2. If both candidates are complicit in these shameful tactics, I am forced to vote for someone for whom I am ashamed. This means that no matter who wins the election to be my Congressman, I will be ashamed of that person. Should I forget this and move on after the election? Sorry, I can’t turn that feeling of shame on/off so easily. This, I think, contributes to the historic low opinion the American people have of their elected Congress. The approval rating for Congress is 14%.
3. It has been years since I read Niccolò Machiavelli, the 16th century Florentine politician and philosopher, but I do remember that he taught that the art of governing consists of two things:
- Gaining power
- Retaining power
In the end, gaining and retaining power is all that matters. In Macchiavellian terms, anything is justified in an election for me to be elected. Once I am elected, anything is justified to keep me in office or allow me to advance to a higher office. There are no absolute ethics or morals.
Contrast this with the last words of David: “He who ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” (2 Sam 23:3). God’s king knew he was answerable to God himself and I don’t think he wanted to be ashamed of his performance.
So yes, I will vote tomorrow, and I hope you do, too. I will cast my ballot with sadness and with shame in some cases. Then I will go to Starbucks and have a latte to cheer myself up.
Nebraska Christian College