2/22/2008

I Will Vote For Obama

I will vote for Barack Obama.

I realize this post will not be popular. I realize it flies in the face of some strongly held beliefs, and many will feel I am doing something questionable, even wrong. However, I believe I am making the best choice I can, and that I am being as God-honoring as possible.

Let me also throw in a few disclaimers. I am a registered Republican. I currently am and have always been politically conservative. I attended a mostly liberal college within my university and remained conservative. I have worked for a Republican running for Congress (Tom Hickey), a Republican state senator (Loren Bennett), a Republican congressman (Mike Rogers from Michigan), and have voted for Republicans almost exclusively. I have credentials that would prevent me from being hired by nearly any liberal organization. Furthermore, I am a big fan of George W. Bush and some (though not all) of the hard decisions he has made in his presidency. If this race were him against Obama, I would vote Bush.

And yet I am voting for Obama. Why?

Now, this post is long. Here is my request. If you are skimming, feel free to skim away. However, if you want to criticize or respond to my post, that’s fine, but PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THING FIRST. I have spent lots of time reading the many blogs and commentators supporting or disparaging Huckabee, Romney, McCain, Paul, Thompson, Clinton, Edwards, and Obama. I do look at the major issues, the candidate biographies, and the ins and outs of the campaign. Please respect me enough to hear me out before rebuking me. If you REALLY want to be fair, I suggest you even take a few minutes to check out the things I link to.

I will first highlight some (though not all) of the reasons I find Obama to be an attractive candidate. I will then list some (though not all) of the reasons why I am willing to vote against John McCain and the Republican party in this election cycle. I will close by briefly referring to other statements I have made in the past regarding politics.

First, some of why I am for Obama.

Obama articulates a common hopeful vision.
Throughout American history, the greatest presidents have articulated a unifying vision for the country. This has been key to our sense of togetherness and accomplishment in facing various problems. More than any other candidate, Obama is thoughtful and intelligent in assessing, considering, and articulating the various struggles we face as people, and then guiding us into a sense of commonality as we deal with those things.

Obama is connected to society.
None of the other candidates has been so closely and intimately invested in the problems of local government as he. His work in inner city Chicago will, I think, help him to be more thoughtful about the effect national policies have on local communities than the other candidates. This speech illustrates my point about these last two paragraphs.

Obama has the most Christian worldview of the remaining (viable) candidates.
Though one could argue that Huckabee deserves to win this category, he is pretty much out of the race. Barack Obama has articulated a conversion experience, and has faithfully and consistently lived out his faith. You may have some theological disagreements with the African-American church, as I do, but there is no denying that his faith is much more clear and authentic than any claimed by McCain or Clinton.

Obama’s character and approach to problem solving will, I believe, be more constructive on the world stage.
He reminds me of Tony Blair in his thoughtful and articulate approach, willing to acknowledge faults and mistakes but always looking for a positive way forward. I look forward to seeing his talents on display at the international level, whereas the thought of being represented by the maverick McCain or the pandering Clinton just scares me.

Obama is by far the most thoughtful and reflective candidate regarding the role of faith in politics.
If one is to be fair to him, you really must listen to his Call for Renewal speech (you can READ IT too, but seeing and hearing it is more effective). Though you may disagree with the conclusions he has come to, he has clearly put much consideration into the way he approaches such a large and contentious issue.


Now, here is why I am prepared to vote against the Republican party.

The Republican party has squandered its opportunity.
Though there is much I like about George W. Bush, the party on the whole has been given every advantage in the world and they cannot seem to get anything worthwhile done. They have not found ways to create good policy, they have not found ways to work helpfully with Democrats, and they have done more to hurt the nation’s view of conservative political policy than they have to help it.

The Republican party is no longer listening to Christians.
We have become a voting bloc for them, a monolithic single-issue creature that will support ANYONE so long as they agree in one key area. I have worked in the United States Congress, heard their conversations, seen the way they make decisions, seen how they talk about evangelicals, and seen the results. I tell you plainly; for the most part, the party is not listening to us. They pay us verbal respect because we are large, but they are not responding to our desires so long as we guarantee them our votes in exchange for the lip-service of being against abortion.

Since when is coming down hard on illegal immigration something for Christians to get fired up about? What has happened to our compassion for the foreigner, the outcast, the exile? And yet we allow the party to tell us how we should think about that and many other topics… so long as they, “are pro-life,” an issue which most politicians can’t influence anyways. (note: I speak generally here- I realize some Christians do have good reasons for wanting a tougher stance on the problems of illegal immigration. However, I do think it’s an area many Christians just follow the party line on, rather than researching it carefully)

John McCain is an immoral man.
Do you remember when the big Republican argument for supporting Bob Dole was, “Bill Clinton is immoral and unrepentant”? McCain is very much in the same vein. He has had multiple affairs. The most recent led to his divorcing his wife and remarrying less than a month later. Any, “repentance,” he has displayed was over hurt feelings, but not over the sin itself. Does this disqualify him from the Presidency? No. However, Christians who argued that morality was reason to vote for Dole and against Clinton should check themselves carefully in this race.

John McCain is a bad policy maker.
The laws he has helped write are mixed up gobblygook; they were not thought through clearly, they were not written well, and they are not making our country a better place. Nothing about his career suggests that he will ably handle the highest administrative office in the land. This is a big problem to me, as you’ll see in THIS POST on this topic.

John McCain is not a leader or a consensus builder.
For his entire career, he has played the part of maverick. He revels in challenging convention, and rather than work with others he takes his case public to wedge his opponents into a rhetorical corner. The whole campaign finance fiasco, for instance, was a case in point. He made a big moral issue out of campaign finance, made his party look bad, and then wrote a bad law to the sound of thunderous applause from the public and meek acquiescence from the rest of the Senate. The result? There’s even MORE money in campaign finances, it’s even EASIER to get support from questionable sources, and individuals have even LESS influence than they used to as compared to larger lobbying organizations. Why should I trust him as a leader? HERE is an article describing some of the problems of McCain's signature legislation.



Overall, I believe my role as a Christian voter is to vote for the person I feel will best lead the country, so that the name of Christ can most easily be proclaimed to everyone. To me, that candidate is Barack Obama.

Of course, it is fine that many (if not most) Christians disagree with me. I understand and appreciate the case made by most evangelicals regarding abortion, just as I understand and appreciate the arguments made by most African-American churches regarding social justice (by the way, they really DO have some helpful things to say that we evangelicals should consider carefully).

I certainly would never say that to vote for John McCain because of a single issue is wrong- I know that we are all just trying to work out faithfulness as best we can. If you want to see the other side of this question from a man much more intelligent and articulate than I, check out Owen’s post HERE. For my own thoughts on that particular issue, you can look HERE.

But this is the place I’ve come to. I’ve been into politics since I was in high school, and in all that time I have never before supported a Democrat for president. However, I believe that this is the best possible time for Christians to declare to the world that we will not be pigeon-holed, that we are not an automatic voting bloc for the secular leaders in the Republican party, and that our aim and goal is of a much higher and more lasting importance than the advancement of the conservative party agenda.

For me, this means I am voting for Barack Obama. My hope and prayer is that we evangelicals can continue to carefully consider and discuss these things as the campaign continues, without disparaging each other for taking one side or the other.

14 comments:

Matt Privett said...

If you want to make a statement that evangelicals are not a monolithic voting bloc for the Republican Party, voting for the Democrats is not the answer.

I'm not voting for any of the major party candidates, McCain included, and since been told that I'm essentially voting for killing babies. That logical fallacy notwithstanding, I would say that any claim of conservatism you may make is betrayed by a willingness to vote for perhaps the most liberal senator in our Congress.

You have obviously taken the time to listen to Sen. Obama, so you have no doubt realized that his answer for everything is government, certainly not what I or any conservative or Christian would consider a hopeful vision. He's got a government answer for every demographic you can think of, and that is his message of hope. That's not "change we can believe in," but the same thing every liberal politician has been saying for at least 66 years now.

If he is a believer (an issue about which I personally am very skeptical) I would hope his "Call for Renewal" would have more to do with faith than political answers.

Brother, I'm with you on McCain. Everything you wrote about him I agree with. I'm with you on not voting for the GOP candidate this year. They have squandered their opportunity and do not deserve our votes (in my opinion). However, I humbly submit to you that voting the other way is not the answer.

Just my two cents.

Benjamin said...

Hey Matt,

Thanks for your thoughts. I do see the value in what you are saying. However, I would ask this... why is it necessary for a Christian to demand smaller government? As far as I can tell, there is no guidance on that specific aspect of political philosophy in the Bible.

Although I agree that generally a conservative is for smaller government, I don't think a person who is a little further to the left (and on the grand political scale, it really isn't that significant a difference) will be able to make overly harmful changes in that area in the course of 4-8 years... at least, not much worse than what conservative leaders have done in the past 8!

I guess my big thing in this election has been trying to reject all the normal things that I vote for simply because, "it's what conservatives do" and tried to make decisions based on how I best understand my role as a Christian in a, "foreign land." To say that a certain category is a "Christian" voting category merely because it is, "conservative," is to me both false and dangerous.

If your intent is to merely interact with me as a conservative (rather than as Christians) then you make an excellent point, but I think my arguments in the blog answer that question.

Thanks for stopping by!

Matthew Wireman said...

Ben, Have you read Joe Carter's thoughts recently on why it is important to have a pro-life president? I read your post some time ago re: not being a 'one-issue' voter, but I am not convinced of your position. I am sympathetic to it, but not convinced. Convince me.

Here is the link to Carter's post: http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com/archives/004245.html

noneuclidean said...

Thanks for this Ben, I've been wrestling with whether or not to vote for Obama myself, and I've still got a lot of research to do.

As for as not being a "one-issue" voter, I'm with you. The only thing that really concerns me is who he might appoint as a Supreme Court Justice. Although the past few presidents did little-to-nothing on the issue of abortion, new Supreme Court Justices could impact that issue, and many others, for decades to come. What are your thoughts on new judges?

Alex Fear said...

Ben,

A Brit here who has an interest in American politics and an understanding that America currently pwns the UK so the next President will affect us.

Me and my wife are Christians, born again, charismatic, pentecostal, whatever label you want to use we're in that sphere.

We're also totally for Obama. Clinton has shown herself to sell out to the highest bidder, McCain is just a flip-flopper and will say whatever his audience (whoever they are) want to hear.

Many Brits are also apathetic to politics seeing the whole political process through a cynical eye. However I would say they are wrong and I would say that it's a shame Matt feels the same way they do.

You are right to assert that none of the previous Republican candidates have done sod all about it, and that evangelicals have been duped (it's worth reading God's Politics by Jim Wallis for a good insight on this).

What is it about the abortion issue anyway? Don't get me wrong, check out my previous posts on abortion on my blog to see where I stand. I see the battle over abortion being won on a personal level rather than a political one (which will never succeed).

We are so concerned about the first 9 months of a persons life, but what happens when they've left the womb?

The church should be offering the answer through adoption and education, not campaigning and expecting a politician to solve what is a moral, spiritual and social issue.

Here's a question. How many "pro-lifers" favour the death penalty?

I don't see many verses in the bible that reference abortion but there are plenty about the poor and forgiveness.

Luis Carlos Reyes said...

Ben! I can't - well, actually, I can - believe what I'm reading! You, a hopemongerer? There is joy in heaven!

Seriously, though, I think it is a wise choice. If I may speak for myself and other non-American evangelicals (and I know quite a few), the unquestioning support given by American Christians to the Republican party is tremendously, utterly puzzling to many (probably most) of us.

Not that there aren't some understandable reasons why this has been so in the past. But what you say about Republicans being able to enlist evangelicals for almost any cause, however unchristian, as long as the party paid lip service to the cause of outlawing abortion, has been evident to me since I came to the US a few years ago.

It would be wonderful if this changed, especially given the political unfeasibility of banning abortion outright, and how much can be done to prevent it by other means. Why don't Christians lobby for giving better opportunities to low income teenage girls, improving adoption programs, giving support to single mothers in the form of education, training, access to decent health care for them and their children, and so on? (I won't mention sex education that leads to less unwanted pregnancies, because I see reasons why Christians could disagree, but mostly because then your suspicions that I must be the most liberal of your friends would be confirmed, and I would have to beg for your compassionate understanding...)

Friend, I still owe you an email, which will be coming soon, once I'm done with some school work that has been consuming my time.

In Christ,

Luis

Bill Reichart said...

Good post,

I have felt the same way, I am a pastor of an evangelical church and yet I am mostly likely going to vote for Obama. I think your inclination to vote for a Democrat is becoming more common for evangelicals. I even posted on the trend of evangelicals not a reliable Republican voting block anymore.

http://www.provocativechurch.com/2008/02/god-is-not-republicanor-democrat.html

bill

grace said...

ben this may be the only thing we ever agree about. i love barack obamaaaaa. i think he's an immature politican with so much God-given potential to reach new heights.

I believe he's the more pragmatic of the two democratic candidates. I am a democrat. McCain is a moderate moron. Clinton's failed health care plan is showing her lack of intelligence as she is biting at something that's already been done with. Obama plans to pay for his child health care plan the same way but clearly his plan is going to be more effective.

I completely agree about connecting with society. He worked for the worst neighborhoods of Chicago and fought against gerrymandering and other social issues. As he grew up in a variety of places, Indonesia and Hawaii namely, he experienced different lifestyles and I really think that has shaped him into who he is. His brief drug battles have helped mold him into who he is. I find no use at picking at his past. He's not perfect.

I truly do believe his maturity level has a long way to go. Of all the candidates, he may be one of the less experienced candidates, however he has proven that he has the ability to give America the change it needs. He has the experience of being the first as he was the first African American president of the harvard law review. He has the iron clad determination to make the most of what he has.

On another note to the above about pro-life. I honestly do not believe that America can ever be pro-life. America is country where on in seven girls lose their virginity BEFORE they turn 15. stupidity, immorality and corruption are part of America and no matter how much Christians argue that America needs to turn around, it's not going to. America isn't going to go back to women that lived in the house till they were married and never got an education. We are moving forward and with that comes the negatives and we have to accept those. They are wrong but they come with the package deal of progressivism. Abortion is wrong but I am pro-choice. I believe that it is not my business nor yours to make a decision for an independent female.

I really think Obama is the best candidate because he is level-headed, reasonable, and connected.

Anonymous said...

Bad choice.

Alex Fear said...

Hi, Hillary.


(@7.16pm)

Kievas said...

You're probably harsher with McCain than I would be (and I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican) but I find your post refreshing. It gives me hope that there are Christians who are willing to examine all the issues that are relevant to a cmpaign, and not be swayed by just one.

James Pate said...

How about the judges issue? At least there's some chance that McCain will appoint conservative, pro-life judges. I doubt that Obama will.

BTW, feel free to check out my blog. I wrote a recent post on my vote on October 4 and offered some thoughts on Obama.

Sarah Cooper said...

Thanks Ben, I appreciate your thoughts. I also wanted to let you know that I check up on your blog when I get chance. Sorry I've been lurking and not leaving comments. I hope you and Sam are doing well. Just heard your dad preach last week. Miss you.

Anonymous said...

Ben,
Luis just pointed me to your blog. I see you wrote it in Feb. I'm curious, now that much more has developed, if you hold the same views, and conclusions.
-Brian Hossink