I’ve been trying to write this post for a while, but not been able to quite find the words I’m looking for. As today is polling day in the States, and I want to write this before the results are announced, my hand is forced. This *will* come out wrong.
Back in 2008, if I was a US citizen I would have voted for Obama. McCain to me never seemed to grasp that there was something seriously wrong with the way Bush had done things on multiple fronts (pun intended). Obama at least seemed to grasp the basic issue that *something* was wrong. I was glad when he was elected, but I had a worry. I worried about all the people who had voted for or against Obama simply because he was black (I remember seeing several interviews of the former from the public on election night and I think we’ve all seen examples of the latter). I worried that Obama had a lot of expectation riding on him, and I wasn’t sure that while he saw that something was wrong, that he actually knew what to do about it. I worried that an ineffectual or deleterious presidency from Obama would give fuel to the fire of those who think a black man should not be president.
On that latter worry I will let history judge, but I have to say Obama has to me been a great disappointment. He had a chance to challenge the prevailing economic establishment. He didn’t take it. He had a chance to stop treating the office of the president as a cathedra, he didn’t take it (ironically he has at times just made it look impotent, which is not the same thing). Guantanamo remains the symbol of the US ‘Do as I say’ approach to foreign policy and human rights. Bush’s most egregious discardments of the principles of a free society remain intact in law, and in some cases expanded. It’s curious to me the fuss that’s made by his opponents over Obamacare of all things. Seriously, it’s small fry.
And that’s the real problem. That people focus on the fripperies suggests that they’re swallowing the camels. The Republican party still strikes me as group of people who, deep down, don’t think there was a problem before Obama. Romney’s 47% comment is a case in point. (Incidentally, I think the fuss that kicked off over that one was entirely manufactured – inasmuch as you had to really be listening dishonestly to say that it meant what people were claiming it meant – that Romney didn’t actually care about the *welfare* of those 47%)
The problem is not the ‘47% of people are so dependent they can’t see what’s good for them’ claim. The problem is that he never seems to question ‘how did this come about?’ Does he seriously believe this state of affairs (assuming it’s accuracy) appeared in the last 4 years? That Obama somehow magically turned a huge swathe of the US citizenry to vapid acquiescence in a single term? The follies of right and left are symbiotic. They cannot be explained in isolation, and so long as people try, the folly will remain.
The truth is I don’t really see a good choice in this election. Both left and right would see victory as a vindication of their fundamental political assumptions, which they show no sign of questioning.
As for Romney, who knows what he would really do if elected. I hold the same fear for him though as I did 4 years ago, that numerous people will cast their vote (for or against) purely on the basis of his religion, and that a bad Romney presidency would further marginalise us Mormons in a way we can barely dream of now, but then maybe I’m just too cynical these days and should just hope more…
My reading of the Book of Mormon during this time has of course been coloured by my environment. I’ve paid much more attention to the political setup of the Nephites and noticed a couple of things:
1) The elected leaders referred to as ‘Chief Judges’ never seem to have to face re-election and the people seem very keen to elect one of their sons when they die. It’s as if culturally they still wanted a king, despite Mosiah’s warnings.
2) There are 3 instances when the Chief Judge is also the High Priest of the church. In the case of Helaman, son of Helaman, his short reign passed without incident, but his son Nephi and prior to that his grandfather Alma (the younger), were faced with ministering to both a church and a nation that were spiralling into iniquity. When faced with this challenge, they both made the same decision: to relinquish the judgement seat in order to spend more time preaching the gospel, as is recorded of Alma:
And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.
and of Nephi:
For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.
Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.
I don’t pretend to know if having Romney in the White House would ultimately be a good thing or not. What strikes me however, is that the prophets who *had* political power gave it up because they believed that:
…the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.
The true revolution, I believe, will not be televised.