I’ve experienced a lot of elections during my fifty-plus years in this country, and have voted in almost all of them. This list includes ten presidential elections, nine “off year” national elections, and countless other local, statewide, primary, and special elections.
And through all of that, I sense more anxiety over the one currently underway than I ever remember experiencing before.
I know many of you have good reason to feel considerable anxiety over this election. Over the past few years, it seems to many that almost every day there’s some previously widely held standard of noble civic behavior that gets crossed by one politician or another. We’ve been experiencing a rise – for perhaps the first time in decades – of overt, blatant, and often hurtful expressions of racism, sexism, and xenophobia employed by politicians in order to increase their political power. This mid-term election is seen by many – again, with good reason – to be a referendum of sorts on this kind of political demagoguery. As people of faith – especially people of liberal faith who affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person – we feel called by our faith to take a stand against such bigotry and help build a world where all people are valued as worthy equals.
So, there are many good reasons for this anxiety – just as there are many good reasons (probably many more!) for all people of faith to vote in this election. Voting is a precious right and responsibility in our fragile democracy and may be the most important defense we have against tyranny. It should never be taken lightly.
None of us know, of course, how the election will turn out. There obviously are many predictions, and for many races the outcome may be something of a foregone conclusion. But with so many offices on the ballot across the country, and initiatives in Washington and many other states, the outcome of this national “referendum” will not be known or understood until after most of the votes are counted. And even then, I imagine it will be at least a little ambiguous. This election may provide a much-needed correction to the current hemorrhaging of civility and respect for truth, but it is not going to solve all our problems, even if it goes the way you hope. And of course, if it doesn’t go the way you hope, of course, it probably won’t solve any problems at all, and may make many worse.
Like I said, there are good reasons for anxiety.
But we also must keep in mind that this is only one election. The work of building and maintaining a stable, healthy democracy that values all people and encourages compassion for the powerless is work that is never done. This is what we do in our day-to-day lives; it is what we’ll do on the day after Election Day, and every day henceforth. It is about showing up, being authentic, and being present with your neighbors and your community. No election is going to stop us for doing that, for that is why we are here. To be neighbors, to be companions, and to show compassion for the hurting among us.
There is no doubt that we will continue doing this so long as we walk this Earth, no matter what the polls say.