Saturday, November 17, 2007

election: voting as an expression of the common will

Elections are a curious process. Through the process, the conflicting wills of individuals, partisans, and power brokers are transmuted into a single 'choice' - a mandate of 'the people.'

It's not that far from the process described in Acts, used to replace Judas:
it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection."

So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.

Then they prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place."

Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:21-25)

In the example above, the two candidates are equal, so the election [choice] is left to God through the mechanism of chance. In the elections of our American republic, the candidates are ideally NOT equal, but the winner becomes the common leader of all.

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Democracy is about a lot more than voting. Voting is a ritual that expresses the culmination of all of the democratic processes and makes for a smooth transition. The quality of a campaign and election depends upon a lifetime of political education, which begins with mothers and fathers and is lived every day in the workplace.

The pageant of political campaigns is like paying the check at a restaurant. The decision of how to pay is consequent upon a host of previous decisions: where one goes and what one eats and drinks. When the bill comes, it's a bit late to start thinking of how to pay it. So too with elections. If the choices at this point are too narrow, it's because the groundwork has already been laid - by others.

I realized years ago that the abortion issue goes beyond the positions of President and Supreme Court judges. When abortion became the law of the land, Democrats made a cynical decision to gain a strategic advantage over Republicans by allying themselves with this judicial fait accompli. And Republicans, almost as cynically, cast their position as one of passive regret for something that they consider just as settled.

It's true enough that Democrats tend to expand abortion access and Republicans tend to limit it. Beyond this political truth, it is folly to trust in voting alone to advance the political and civil right to live.

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