Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

On a recent Stand to Reason broadcast, Greg Koukl discussed some bad reasons to vote for, or not vote for a presidential candidate. His insights are worth passing on here.

In this presidential race, some of the candidates stand out. On the Democratic side we have a woman, and an African-American. On the Republican side we have a Mormon and an Evangelical former pastor. Some people are basing their vote largely, if not entirely, on these distinctions. But is this a good way to determine who we will vote for?

Let’s take the Democrats. Is it acceptable for a woman to vote for Hillary Clinton simply because Hillary is a woman? You might think this is acceptable. But let me ask you this: Is it acceptable for someone to not vote for Hillary simply because she is a woman? I imagine you would say no–that such is sexist. What about Barack Obama? Is it acceptable for an African-American to vote for Obama simply because he is black? You might think this is acceptable. But let me ask you this: Is is acceptable for someone to not vote for Obama simply because he is black? I imagine you would say no–that such is racist. Greg asked, if it is sexist to refuse to vote for Hillary on the basis of her gender, is it not equally sexist to base one’s vote for Hillary on her gender? And likewise, if it is racist to refuse to vote for Obama on the basis of his race, is it not equally racist to vote for Obama on the basis of his race? I think a reasonable conclusion is that it is equally sexist, and equally racist. To vote for a candidate simply because of their gender or race is not a good basis for voting.

What about the Republicans? Can the same thing be said for a vote for or against Romney, or for or against Huckabee? Yes and no. Unlike race and gender, religion is ideological in nature. Race and gender are ideologically neutral. Because religion is ideological in nature, it affects the way people view the world, and the decisions they make. Romney’s religious views and Huckabee’s religious views may cause them to make decisions that would differ from the other, as well as from the other candidates. As such, one’s religious persuasions can play a legitimate factor in who we cast our vote for.

But in another sense, basing one’s vote on a candidate’s religion is just as misguided as basing one’s vote on a candidate’s gender or race. We must ask ourselves how–on a practical level–
one’s religious views might affect their ability to perform the function of an executive and commander-in-chief. What matters is their ability to perform their job, and that job is not that of a spiritual adviser. When we elect a president we are not electing a national pastor. We are electing someone to command the army, enforce the Constitution, pass/deny legislation into law, nominate federal justices, and be our diplomatic representative to the nations. So the real question is how one’s theological persuasions will have a bearing on those particular job functions. In most cases, I think it has very little to do with it.

Many Evangelicals are tempted to vote for Huckabee because of his religious beliefs, and against Romney because he is a Mormon, even though they prefer the policies of Romney over Huckabee. They reason that they cannot vote for Romney because he is part of a Christian cult. I think this is terribly misguided. Again, we are not electing a national pastor. We are electing an executive. How would Romney’s Mormonism affect his ability to do the job of the president of the U.S.? The only area one’s religious views might have a bearing on their job as president would be on issues of morality and social justice. Does s/he believe abortion, same-sex marriage, and embryonic stem cell research is wrong. What is s/he willing to do to fight those moral evils? And just because one is of a particular religion does not mean that they will automatically hold the same moral values as us. Think Jimmy Carter. And just because they hold the same moral values as us does not mean they will fight for those values. Think of the many politicians who claim they are personally opposed to abortion, but do not believe abortion should be made illegal. Think Giuliani. What matters is the candidate’s position on the issues that are pertinent to the job of the president; not their religious beliefs or religious affiliation. Remember that when you cast your vote in the primaries, and in the general election in November.

What a relief! After a dismal finish in Florida, Giuliani is going to withdraw from the presidential race. Thankfully this election will not come down to a choice between to pro-abortion candidates, and thankfully, the Republican party was not “forced” to nominate a pro-abortion candidate for the Republican ticket, which could have proved disastrous to the pro-life influence in the future of the party.

Why did Rudy fall? A year ago he was the clear front-runner in all the polls. Maybe the pro-lifers in the party stuck to their principles in the end. Maybe they saw there were better candidates. Maybe Rudy’s strategy of betting it all on Florida doomed him. Whatever it was, he is out, and I am happy!