At the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010 the United States experienced one of the most polarizing political debates of my lifetime. The question was should the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) be passed or not? More than once I shared my opinion on Facebook, and more than once I had people belittle me. What could have been polite discussion or even lively debate quickly devolved into name-calling argument. It turned me off to the idea of getting involved in the political process.
Here we are, almost 7 years later, and once again the political world occupies a majority of news and discussion. This time, it’s a Presidential race that occupies most minds and it’s been even more heated and divisive than Obamacare was. For my part I’ve done my best to participate in the process by casting my vote, but I’ve tried to avoid most discussion about politics with other people.
As much as I would love to remain a silent observer, I don’t feel like I can any more. I’m still not interested in discussion about the merits of one candidate or another and will not be commenting on any of them in any way. Instead, let me share some of my thoughts and beliefs on the process itself.
Why I’m writing this post
I believe that God speaks to us through the Holy Ghost. Often we are prompted to do or say things without fully understanding why. This is one of those moments. I can’t say why I was led to share the things I am going to share, but I know that the prompting came from God. Because of that, I pray that I will be guided to include the words that need to be included for whatever benefit they are intended to have.
From the Scriptures
Mosiah was both a religious leader and a king in the Book of Mormon. After his sons all declined to become king he sent out a proclamation to his people outlining a system where they would be led by judges. He told the people that “if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, … if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.” He reminded the people of the destruction that can come from having a wicked king. He encouraged the people to choose liberty.
It often feels like we are part of a never-ending political cycle where a person is elected and then we spend the entire time they are in office analyzing what they do, comparing it to how everyone else who wants the position says they would have handled it. As they reach the end of their term it doesn’t matter how much good they accomplished, because any opponents will pull out even the tiniest of bad things they did to prove why they are unfit to remain in that position. Campaigns seem to be fueled on attacking the character of other candidates as well as their political positions. As we get closer to an election the bid for attention from candidates becomes more desperate and you we are inundated with emails, social media posts, phone calls, news stories, flyers in the mail, and any other method a candidate can find to try and convince us to vote for them. We elect a new leader (or return the old one to office) and the process starts all over again.
While we go through this cycle we run across all sorts of people who want to be our political leaders. Some are what Mosiah would consider just men, but I frequently get the impression that a large portion of them are not. I do my best to spend time researching the candidates and then praying about who to vote for. In past elections I have felt a strong distrust for certain candidates that I can only attribute to the Holy Ghost witnessing to me that they are not just men. I have also felt a strong support for a few rare candidates that I feel was a witness of their character. Right now, I am definitely feeling a lot of distrust. I have listened to interviews where a candidate would say all the right things, where I would actually agree with most if not all of the points that they made, but I was still left with that pit in my stomach feeling that tells me this is not a good person. The candidate I felt was the best option is no longer in the race, and I’m not feeling good about voting for any remaining candidates.
So, here I am, knowing that it is important to vote and participate in this process, but not having any idea who I should vote for. I will continue to pray about who the best candidate is. I will continue to research the candidates and their positions on a variety of topics. And, if it comes right down to it and I can’t support any of the candidates on the ballot, I will leave that section blank. I will not choose from the lesser of two evils, and I will not choose someone based on their ability to win.
While I will not actively participate in discussions/debates/arguments that revolve around political issues and candidates, I will continue to encourage people to participate in the process. If there is an issue or candidate that you feel strongly about, then by all means advocate for your side. If you are unsure where you stand on an issue, then do some research about the pros and cons of all sides so you can make a decision informed by more than the opinions of your peers. When it comes time to vote, choose the best candidate for the job.
And, last of all, I will participate in the process myself.