I do not know about the rest of you but I am weary of campaign 2008. I am tired of hearing from one side more about what the other side supposedly believes than what they themselves believe. I am tired of the obvious biases of various news (and I use that word politely) commentators. And I am frustrated by how little is actually said about what we should do to solve the problems we face–including what it will cost and how we should pay for it.
I did not see all of the first presidential debate but what I did left me screaming at my television. When the senators were discussing how to restore America’s standing in the world and how they would deal with foreign leaders both were saying they would do the same thing (begin with low level talks, establish the parameters of the discussion, and build from there to higher diplomatic relationships). At the same time each insisted the other side was (Obama about McCain) too stubborn to negotiate or (McCain about Obama) too willing to talk with lunatics at a presidential level. I wanted to throw something at both the candidates and wake up the moderator. No one was listening to anyone else.
This election boils down to the same issues that have separated Republicans from Democrats for as long as I can remember–taxes, the size of the government, and the military. Economically Democrats tend to favor more government regulations and wealth redistribution type taxation. Republicans favor taxes when the monies are allocated to rebuilding infrastructure and the military, but they are against taxation to support the social programs advocated by Democrats. Obama is angry about the war in Iraq and wants to pull our troops out ASAP. McCain insists that the surge is working and we need to remain as long as it takes to stabilize the region. McCain will not concede that the war was wrong to begin with and Obama does not believe we are accomplishing anything now. Furthermore, the money would be better spent elsewhere.
In this election other issues have gotten some play. Both candidates have talked about the environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Both agree we need to secure our borders and solve the immigration problem. Both have talked about reaching across party lines (though McCain’s record on that score is considerably better than Obama’s). Obama’s education policies focus on funding early education and guaranteeing a college education for everyone while McCain pushes for school choice and merit pay for teachers. Obama’s pet issue is some form of universal healthcare. McCain champions getting rid of pork barrel spending.
So what is the real difference between these two candidates? Basically they disagree on what the role of government should be in our lives. Senator Obama believes government should rescue us from both the situations we inherit via birth and those we create for ourselves. Senator McCain believes government neither does a good job trying to solve those problem nor should it take on that role.
For a number of years the moral majority, or religious right (pick your favorite moniker) fell lock step behind the republican party, mostly due to the party’s social conservative stance on the issues of abortion and gay marriage. Today, many in the Christian community are marching to a different drum beat. These new voices would argue that as a Christian nation we have an obligation to the poor, down trodden, and marginalized. We need to be advocates for peace and justice, not war and domination. Earlier this week I commented on the Parchment and Pen post, “Redistributing Wealth Will Fundamentally Change the American Workforce”. Adding a couple of my comments together and expanding on a couple points, this is what I said:
To say that America is a Christian nation is false. It insults every American Jew, American Muslim, American Buddhist, etc. who lives here. Our government may support principles that Christianity also supports but to say that makes it Christian just is not true. Therefore to suggest that our government must or should or has the right to or even can practice Christian charity or compassion is also wrong. Only individuals can practice Godly behavior. Only individuals can be selflessly motivated. It is proven, at least in the US, that monies that are first filtered through the government are less efficiently utilized than monies that go through the Church or a para-church organization. Obviously we (the Church) have not done enough. We have fallen down on our job but turning that job over to the government has not worked. Food stamps and welfare type programs, at least in the US, have promoted a welfare class with multiple generations of recipients, an entitlement mentality, and have allowed prejudice, greed and arrogance to prosper.
The degree to which government can truly care for those it governs is limited (and should be). Government functions best as a protector and defender against those entities bigger than the individual. This includes both foreign and domestic aggressors. Corporations and industry (which by the way are also heartless) need to be held in check by the government but these regulations must find a balance between holding companies accountable and limiting their abilities to grow and operate.
Part of our mandate as the Church is to serve the poor, down trodden, rejected, and marginalized. I do not think expecting the “government” to do it for us fulfills that expectation even when it is accomplished with our tax dollars. In my opinion, government’s greatest roles are to protect our borders, provide infrastructure, maintain order, and promote the better good. It is the Church who needs to step up to the plate with regard to social justice and care of the individual.