Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reflecting on the presidential debate

Did you watch the presidential debate last night?  I caught about half of it, partly on the radio as I drove home from Confirmation Class at church, and partly on television.

It is no secret that I have been disheartened by the political process throughout this election season.  Last night did nothing to perk up my natural optimism.  Both candidates were articulate and forceful, though I think Romney won by a nose on both counts.  Both did their best to hold the other accountable for the details of past performance and future proposals.  That's not bad, not bad at all.

What makes me sad is this: these two are so close to each other on their positions.  Romney criticizes Obama's health care plan and says he would repeal it.  Yet the plan is essentially modeled after a plan Romney's government in Massachusetts put through on a state level.  Obama, by his own consistent account, holds a deep faith in God; yet it is Romney who pledged himself last night to keep God in the public square.  Obama talked about the importance of our military and how seriously he takes his role as commander-in-chief.  Romney waxed eloquent about how he would not cut any military spending.  Yet in spite of the fact that they're so close on what they're recommending and what they've done in the past (yes, I recognize that there are legitimate differences as well, especially in their work histories) these two vilify and berate each other.  They carefully paint the other as the problem.

What makes me sad is that at this point, as is increasingly the case in American politics, it's NOT about what is good for the country.  It's about my side winning.

If we could sit these two men down in a closed room without cameras and audiences and tell them they had to come to a compromise, it wouldn't take an hour.  They're just not that far apart.  But these two will never have the opportunity to compromise, because they will constantly be in front of the cameras, in front of the Tea Party, in front of Nancy Pelosi's cabal, in front of the extremists in both parties who can't stand the thought of giving in.  It's about my side winning.

Jesus' followers must not imitate the world.  We can't begin to think that it's about my side winning.  Instead, we must keep firmly in mind that we belong to the One who is already victorious.  We are called, as I've said before in this blog, to live as exiles in this world, working for the good of this place.  We work for the good of this place not because we want to win, but because we know that Jesus is already Lord here.  The world's systems -- the extremists, the party loyalists, the manipulators and the schemers and the power-brokers -- will continue their self-destructive quest to win.  But Jesus is Lord.

We live here recognizing that God's call to us means we serve Jesus in this place by working for the good of this city, this neighborhood, this country.  We don't have to worry about my side winning or losing, because Jesus has already conquered.


  1. Jeff,
    I agree with your analysis. Our current political system forces two good men to essentially tell lies during the debate. Take a look at this website:

    I wish such information could be displayed live during the debates. Thanks again.


  2. My thought last night was, what if these two worked together.

  3. Bruce, the fact-checking industry needs to find a way to do exactly what you said. Wouldn't it be great if, during the debates, a loud buzzer went off if a candidate told lies? I love the image!

    Barbara, if I remember correctly the first few presidential elections required that the individual getting the most votes became president, and the one with the second most votes became vice president. Might be time to bring that back, what do you think? That might be one way to get past gridlock.

    Thanks to both of you for your comments!