Barack Obama is now the President-elect. The question is why? Well, of course, we all know why he got elected--he got the most electoral college votes. But, why did he get the most electoral college votes? I want to suggest that he won because Americans live under a form of tyranny. It's a tyranny that has actually been dominating the political scene for many years. It is the tyranny of the spineless and the ignorant. Let me explain.
In the past, tyranny has been that of the evil monarch or the elite oligarchy. When the American Republic was established, the founders built into our system of government some safeguards to avoid a form of tyranny peculiar to democracies, namely, the tyranny of the majority. All citizens were recognized to have "certain unalienable rights," thus guaranteeing that every individual and every minority would have their most basic liberties protected against a potentially tyrannical majority. But, now we face a new and frustrating form of tyranny for which there may be no easy cure. It is the tyranny imposed by two groups of people in our society, two groups that probably overlap significantly (i.e., it's mostly one group with two characteristics). These groups are, as I have suggested, the spineless and the ignorant.
It is common knowledge that about 40% of Americans are more or less liberal in their political views. It is also the case that about 40-45% are conservative. But that means that about 15-20% of Americans are committed to neither liberal nor conservative principles. This small minority in the middle of the American political spectrum--often referred to as moderates or independents--actually control the outcome of national elections. These so-called "moderates", in my humble opinion, are spineless. That is, they have no political backbone. They are not committed to, nor do they stand for, any significant moral or political principles. The spineless middle ground folks vote on the basis of pure self-interest; they vote their "pocket books." They are the ones who constantly remind us, "It's the economy stupid." For them, economics is the only thing that really matters. They do not or cannot see beyond themselves and their small personal world. They do not live for anything bigger than themselves.
I strongly disagree with liberals politically, but at least I can respect that they, like conservatives, have principles that they beleive in and are willing to stand for; principles that reflect values bigger than themselves. But, here's the problem that both liberals and conservatives face: neither side can win national elections without the help of the spineless. Which means that both sides find themselves having to compromise, weaken, or downplay their most cherished principles in order to gain the support of the spineless. The recent presidential campaigns show ample evidence of this. Consider the fact that Republicans felt the need to nominate John McCain, widely recognized as no friend of true conservatives, in order to reach out and gain the support of the spineless. And, of course, McCain's campaign was largely aimed at garnering their support.
Obama did not escape the tyranny of the spineless either. I'm convinced that he is a true blue liberal. His record shows him to be the MOST liberal senator, and if he truly had his way, he would turn this into a near-socialist state. In his primary campaign, he presented himself as he actually is, a liberal. This of course was the appropriate strategy for getting the liberal base behind him. But, after he got the DNC nomination, he presented himself as a moderate. Why? Because he had to win the support of the spineless. He won the election b/c his appeal to the spineless was more convincing to them than McCain's.
Many of the new tyrants also suffer from the malady of ignorance, and they are joined by a large number of others from both sides of the political spectrum who suffer from this malady as well. Howard Stern's man-on-the-street interviews a few weeks ago proved that a lot of African-Americans were horribly ignorant of the moral, political, and ecomomic issues facing our country. They voted for Obama solely because he is black. Many other Americans of of various ethnic backgrounds are likewise ignorant and voted for him because they liked the way he looked and talked--style over substance. No doubt at least a few voted for McCain simply because of subjective impressions of his personality and style and not because of his policies. These, the ignorant, are also tyrants with whom we have to do.
So, what can we do to throw off the yoke of these tyrants and allow elections to be won and the nation governed by principle rather than a catering to this worthless minority of Americans who have no vision or concern for the common good? I have no idea how to accomplish it, but it seems to me that the following things have to happen:
1. We need a complete overhaul of how national elections are conducted so as to make it possible for a candidate to win with only 34-40% of the popular vote. This probably means constructing some way to allow for real, meaningful 3-party elections in which all three candidates have a reasonable chance of winning. I'm not sure how such a thing could be done, but I'm thinking about it.
2. We need to require that in order to be eligible to vote a person has to have some modicum of familiarity with the issues of the day. A legal vote must be an informed vote. It is no secret to political philosophers that a great weakness in democracy is the ever-present danger of the nation being ruled by ignoramuses. We'll that danger is not a danger anymore--it is a reality. And we need some way to alter this reality. An educational requirement of some sort may sound elitist to many ears, but I think it is a necessity if we truly care about the common good.
Nov 2, 2008
Take a listen to the sermon I preached today on Matt. 22:15-22, where Jesus gives his famous command, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God." I lay out what Jesus' words say to us about the relationship between church and state, our obligations both to God and to country, and I make some important applications relevant to the upcoming election. Here is the link:
You gotta see this video from a black conservative urging other black Americans to vote for McCain. He also takes a great stab at those conservatives who won't vote for McCain because he isn't conservatve enough. It's a bit raw in places, but worth it. Check it out here.