The first national election in which I was eligible to vote was 1964. As I recall I didn’t care much for either candidate: Johnson or Goldwater–and LBJ was so far ahead in the polls that voting either way would have been meaningless. However, I followed the campaign fairly closely. Goldwater was a “conservative” and we hadn’t seen one of those running for president since the 1920s. There were some things in his conservative ideology that were appealing but he was running against the grain of recent U.S. history. I’ve always tended to root for underdogs and Goldwater was that. For me it was sort of like a football match. I remember sitting in a bar with my friend John Doggett drinking big shoupers of Coors, with a bowl of pretzels on the side, while we watched the returns on election night. The result was a foregone conclusion but still I was interested.
I had varying degrees of interest in all of the subsequent presidential elections–but never enough to register and vote. I was too much of a cynic and pessimist to ever invest myself emotionally in the democratic process. Democrat–Republican, did it really make any difference? Back in the 1960s and 70s there were southern Democrats who were far more conservative than northern Republicans. Also, the polls often showed that the results were not going to be close and so I felt, “why bother.” Apparently, many other Americans felt the same, as usually only about 45-50% of those eligible bothered to vote.
The mask I wore for public consumption was that I was above it all. In truth, I was so absorbed with my own emotional neediness that I had no energy left to invest in caring about a candidate, our nation or its future. And so election after election I was a bystander. Going right along with my above-it-all attitude about politics was my agnosticism. I wasn’t quite willing to invest completely in beliefs about life’s big questions either. Then, quite unexpectedly, in 1979, I had a born-again experience. In 1993, I began attending Northland Community Church and listening very closely to the sermons of its pastor, Dr. Joel Hunter.
Pastor Joel believed very strongly that it was a Christian’s duty to vote, and whereas he didn’t endorse candidates, he made it clear that he felt that we were obligated to educate ourselves on the candidates, and the issues, and vote as our conscience led us. And so in 2000, to celebrate the new millennium, I registered. I registered a Democrat for no better reason than I thought Al Gore would be a better choice than George W. Bush. Gore had two terms as VP, and even though I didn’t particularly like Clinton we were tremendously prosperous under his administration. Also, having spent much of my youth in New Mexico, I found Bush’s fake southwestern drawl a real turn-off.
On election day 2000, I had an interesting experience. I was standing in line waiting to get my ballot. A woman wearing a Muslim headscarf was standing near me. I welled-up when I noticed her and I felt ashamed. Here was a woman, very likely a recent citizen, voting, and I who had grown up here in the “land of the free” had never bothered. I knew that I was finally doing the right thing, and I have voted in every election since.
That brings us to time present–2012. I had another born-again experience about three months ago. My spirituality got a much needed boost, and I did several things to change my life. One change I made was that I stopped listening to talk radio and I stopped watching the TV news. I found that what I was hearing was poisonous to my spirit. Of course, I read some about politics and the current election on-line and occasionally in a newspaper. However, I found that the big political issues of the day were more or less irrelevant as far as my life–and my salvation were concerned. In the big picture, it just didn’t matter to me so much which lyin’ narcissist got elected.
And that brings us to 2012. I seriously considered not voting. I find both candidates to be appalling. And, oddly enough, I don’t find my decision to vote 12 years ago incompatible with not voting this year. However, I will vote tomorrow, albeit without much enthusiasm. My blogger friend Jim Wright wrote a very persuasive piece on why we as Christians “as an act of love and an affirmation of Christ’s Lordship” should vote.
And so I’ll vote: it’s the Wright thing to do. And oh, btw, I’ll vote for the Mitt-ster and I just know that my endorsement will sway a few of you.