Friday, February 08, 2008

Sitting on our Hands

Tuesday night I did something I've never done in my 40-plus years of living - I went to a caucus. I didn't even know until about two weeks ago that Colorado HAD caucuses, and I had no idea how they worked. Apparently I wasn't the only one - we had record turnout that night, and the vast majority of the people there had no idea what was going on because they'd never been to one, either.

Waiting in line to get into the caucus meeting, though, I discovered something I hadn't known before, something that really disturbed me: there were a number of people there who swore that if John McCain were the Republican candidate for president, they would simply not vote. "We have to teach the Republican establishment a lesson," seemed to be their line of reasoning. "They don't listen to our values, so they'll just have to lose." I disagreed with that reasoning, but putting into words why it was so troubling to me has turned out to be extraordinarily difficult.

So I was please to discover that Dave Burchett had an excellent blog post yesterday entitled, "Should Christians Sit This Election Out?" His answer was no, for several reasons. The whole post is well worth reading, but the best portion I think is right here:

If there are two choices I assume that one choice has to be better than the other. I will prayerfully decide which choice comes closer to my values and beliefs. And I will vote for that candidate even if he or she represents only a part of what I value. Something, in this case, is far better than nothing.

You know, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have risked death for the right to be part of helping choose their leadership, even though their leadership was certainly far from perfect. Our founding fathers also risked their lives for the privilege of voting. And our soldiers in other countries put their lives at risk every day in order to preserve our right to make these kinds of choices.

None of the candidates (in either party) has been perfect. In fact, none this year, in my opinion, has been anywhere near perfect. But as long as I have a choice, I will continue to choose the person who comes closest to my values and beliefs. The privilege of participating in electing our leaders is priceless. And if, through our own refusal to participate in the process, we end up with leadership that is dead set against what's most important to us, we have only ourselves to blame.


Shawna said...

I have to agree that choosing who comes closest is much better than saying nothing at all... I never have really understood that thinking. And good for you attending a caucus!

However, regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, they may be fighting for democracy... but our founding fathers and the first half of our country's history stood firm on the belief of neutrality in foreign affairs. I think that is a pretty good policy and have to admit that I am sorry we have moved away from that.

Marcy Muser said...


I totally understand your position on foreign neutrality, and generally speaking I agree with you. I don't like the idea of U.S. being the world's policeman - it saps us of our military strength for the times we need it. I see no reason why we are involved in ethnic disputes in Bosnia or in other civil conflicts.

However, I can't endorse neutrality when we are the ones who have been attacked, especially in the case of Afghanistan, where their government, for all practical purposes, was involved in supporting the terrorists who attacked us. And I think there's a case to be made for the Iraq situation as well, though I wish we'd gone about it much differently.

I also struggle with the question of whether we ought to sit on our hands while one nation invades and slaughters another nation's population. I don't have a good answer; I just have a hard time with the idea.

(Oh, and one more thing about neutrality - I wonder where we'd be today if the French had chosen to remain neutral in the Revolutionary War?)

Shawna said...

Good point! But the French helped us and then left us to do what we wished. They did not nation build nor stick around to help us set up our government nor tell us how and who to appoint as leaders.

Marcy Muser said...


"The French did not stick around . . . ." This is an excellent point. And quite frankly, America didn't stick around and spend billions of dollars nation-building either until we had a national income tax to fund that. In the 1800's the government had no real way to fund that kind of expense. I find it interesting that it's only since we've had a way to pay for this kind of costs that we have become involved in dozens of expensive wars around the globe. We are saddling our children with massive debt because our politicians (from both parties) have the ability to raise taxes to pay for it.

In terms of the French, though, they didn't really have a framework to be able to help us. In the days before the French Revolution, they were still ruled by a monarchy - I think an absolute monarchy at the time. They had no understanding of the kind of government we were trying to develop. At the same time, they didn't really have the ability to stick around, as it was only a few years after our own revolution that they were overwhelmed by their own.

I think we nation-build for a couple of reasons: 1) Because we were the ones who toppled their original governments due to their hostile actions toward us; 2)Because given where these nations are, we face the very real possibility that forces both hostile and dangerous to us will take over these fledgling governments by force if we don't stay and help; and 3) Because we have a form of government these folks want to imitate (unlike the French/American comparison). The problem I see is that we don't do all that great a job of running our own republic these days; how can we teach them to do what was done by our founding fathers 200 years ago? Maybe we ought to just leave them some reading material (the kind of thing our founding fathers read) and pull out.

Wish I had a good answer - but then, not many people would listen to me if I did! ;)