I, of course, do not know who is going to win the election on November 6. But one thing I do know: No matter who wins I am going to be depressed. Neither candidate reflects what I see as an approach to today’s crucial public policy issues that is consistently in keeping with the principles we commentators in this series are agreed upon, including justice for all, the common good as a goal, and civil society as a part of God’s ordering of society.
If President Obama is reelected our nation faces the prospect of four more years of a White House that favors abortion-on-demand and government-recognized same-sex marriages and largely ignores religiously-based educational, health and social service organizations that have religious objections to providing certain services. On so-called social issues it is hard to see any daylight between President Obama and the more extreme gay-rights and prochoice groups. His judicial appointments are likely to reflect this perspective.
If President Obama wins November 6 my depression will be deepened by his offering few new, creative ideas on how to deal with a stagnating economy or closing the nation’s gigantic deficits. His campaign has barely mentioned how we can and should do better in helping the poor emerge from the poverty in which they are trapped. He has shown little skill or inclination to engage in the flattery, cajoling, and negotiation needed to move initiatives through Congress or the federal bureaucracy. He is no Lyndon Johnson!
But if Mitt Romney wins I will be equally depressed. Then we as a nation will be faced with the prospect of a president who has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), an act that for the first time has the promise of providing health care insurance for nearly all, and at least begins the process of controlling health care costs. Romney has promised to replace it by creating more competition in the health insurance field, an approach that has not worked in the past.
I will be further depressed by a newly elected President Romney because of his commitment to a tax plan whose figures simply do not add up. He has promised to cut income tax rates by 20 percent and to make up the different by closing unspecified deductions and loopholes. Will contributions to churches, faith-based organizations, and other civil society organizations be on the chopping block? Will deductions for interest paid on home mortgages, which helps families to own their own homes, be eliminated? He will increase spending on defense, even though the US already comes close to spending as much on defense as all the other countries of the world combined (41 percent versus 59 percent).
On social issues Romney is now taking a prolife position on abortion, although earlier in his career he took a prochoice position. He has not clearly defended a consistent position on protecting the religious freedom rights of faith-based organizations. Which Mitt Romney will emerge in the Oval Office when it comes to appointing federal judges? There will be strong pressures on him to appoint the-less-regulation-of-business-the-better judges without regard to their thinking on social issues. Does he possess the internalized values that will insist his appointees hold to traditional values regarding marriage and life in all its stages?
But maybe I’m being too pessimistic and my election-night depression may be lifted by subsequent events. President Obama has been willing to defy the liberal establishment by protecting the rights of faith-based organizations to take religion into account in their hiring decisions. He has made some efforts to protect faith-based organizations from having to provide services their faith condemns. He will work to protect his signature accomplishment of his first term: Obamacare. If he succeeds in closing the deficit in federal spending by some cuts in spending (especially in the Medicare and Medicaid areas) and by some tax increases, the common good will be advanced. In foreign policy his balance between forceful action and measured responses, as seen in the Middle East and its threats and eruptions, would be a good omen for a second Obama term.
And if Mitt Romney becomes President Romney, perhaps the Mitt Romney of the first presidential debate will win out over the Romney of the primary season. The Romney of the first presidential debate promised not to cut the taxes of the wealthy, to recognize the importance of government regulation in a complex, interdependent economy, and to bring to the Oval Office a sense of compassion for the poor and dispossessed of our society. These give me hope.
So which presidential candidate more closely reflects the basic Christian principles to which we as commentators in this series have agreed? And which one more closely reflects the positions I personally have taken in my essays? For whom am I going to vote? I cannot say for I do not know.
I keep hoping that before I leave this earth for a better world, I will be able to vote in a presidential election for a candidate who upholds traditional values of family and marriage, sees faith-based service organizations as being genuinely religious in nature and cares about protecting their religious liberties even when they partner with government in providing public services, values human life in all of its stages, and advocates public policies in support of these values; and, at the same time, cares passionately about protecting God’s creation with appropriate regulation, seeks through government regulation to control the excesses of an unbridled free enterprise system, and cares deeply about assuring all—rich and poor alike—have access to decent health care and opportunities for the training and work opportunities needed for them to be all that God intends them to be.
Unfortunately, 2012 is not the election year when I will have an opportunity to vote for such a candidate.
MODERATOR NOTE: A few years ago, I used a 2008 book written by Steve Monsma in an Adult Discipleship class at my home church, and it was very well received. Titled Healing for a Broken World: Christian Perspectives on Public Policy, this book is Steve’s attempt to answer some of the extreme positions and angry rhetoric of the religious left and especially the religious right. It seeks to broaden the common ground on which all Christian can agree. It is written for a general audience of nonexperts who wish to cut through the fog of political debate and learn how to think in a biblical, Christian manner about today’s public policy issues and debates.
For those many of you who have appreciated Steve’s very thoughtful and insightful APC postings, I am pleased to inform you that his book is now available as an iBook. It can be downloaded and read on iPads. It is available for $9.95, can be found at the Apple iStore, and can be accessed at the following site: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/healing-for-broken-world-expanded/id562129796?mt=11&uo=4.
This book is a marvelous companion to our Alternative Political Conversation. Therefore, I strongly encourage those of you who have been following our APC to consider purchasing this new iBook.