Politics Is Personal: How Then Should a Christian Vote?

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I have learned from my years as a GOP campaign manager and county chairman that people indeed are willing to vote for someone that they loathe in proportion to the personal negative impact of the policies pursued by the other side. Tip O’Neill said famously that all politics is local. I would add that all politics is personal.

As a case in point, I remember when I worked as a campaign manager for state legislative races in Silicon Valley. Since I worked for Republicans in a 2 to 1 Democrat majority area, my candidates for partisan offices always lost. They also tended not to be the most qualified. In Silicon Valley, the most qualified in terms of education, experience, and just plain poise gravitated toward the party that actually could win elections. When you truly have talent, why squander it on a losing bid for office?

On my side were the misfits, the extremists, and the perennial losers. One of the perennial losers was a large, loud, boorish contractor named Dan Dumm (real name, not a joke). He always liked to say in public forums that “My name is Dan. That’s Dan with a D.” He thought that was really funny. No one else did, though the local press recorded this same joke every election cycle because the joke made Republicans look stupid. Dan Dumm’s campaign slogan every election cycle was “Dan Can.” One would find “Dan Can” bumper stickers on construction sites scattered around the county.

One year, Dan Dumm changes his normal losing game plan. He decides he would rather lose an uphill battle against an incumbent Congressman than an uphill battle against an incumbent State Senator. This means taking a stance on federal issues, like illegal immigration. Ironically, given his work as a contractor, he joins the campaign trail as an anti-illegal immigrant zealot. He sports an enormous ten gallon cowboy hat better suited to Texas than Silicon Valley so as to showcase his patriotism in defense of what he called “country pride.” He loses the support of his fellow building contractors, of course, who rely on illegal labor. No more “Dan Can” bumper stickers on various construction lots. Instead, he puts up illegally on public spaces his new slogan: “Dan does country pride.” Whenever the city pulls down his illegally placed signs, he claims loudly that “Santa Clara Commies are out to silence his country pride.”

Anyway, during this election cycle, I spoke with a laid off engineer who started to show up at local GOP events. He was a condescending jerk leftist who had loathed Dan Dumm for many years. He would have remained a proud Democrat but for the fact that he lost his job through the common misapplication of the H1-B Visa program, had not found a successor job in two years at that point, and heard that Dan Dumm was the only political voice in town against the misuse of H1-B Visas. This lefty, four-eyed, condescending ass became one of the more earnest disciples of Dan Dumm’s Country Pride campaign. I would see him once in a while holding up Dan Dumm signs on busy city street corners. Often, he was out there by himself.

Dan Dumm naturally never broke the Republican Party share of voter registration in his district. For all his hoopla, the local press ignored him; and his incumbent opponent won twice as many votes as he did. Still, he found a loyal disciple in that lefty engineer; and as an observer, I learned a lesson: We shall pull the lever for a candidate we loathe, maybe even regard as unfit for any political office, if the issues at stake are personal enough to us.

My sense is that the Never Trump conservatives willing to lose the Supreme Court for a generation deep down do not really believe that their lives in fact will be changed all that much, if at all, if the majority of jurists consists of younger Ruth Bader Ginsburgs. They do not see themselves losing their livelihoods, their homes, their investments, etc. just because the Supreme Court becomes even more LGBT or abortion friendly than it is at the moment.

Moreover, when people like myself talk about the eradication of our rights by leftist fascist jurists, the Never Trump folks shrug it off as just alarmist language about at best a “theoretical issue.” Now, issues are always “theoretical” until they hit home. My guess is that the lefty engineer did not give a rip about the H1-B Visas, until he had to train his replacement. Similarly, Bill Kristol will not really care about the continuing leftist attacks upon the First Amendment until someday the government figures out a way to shut down his column. Or to be more precise, he will not care enough to vote for a hyena if that is what it takes to keep a center right majority on the Supreme Court.

The question was whether or not Trump deserves to win. I point to predecessor candidates to make the point that he deserves to win neither more nor less them. This is not a matter of condoning or of not condoning behavior. As such, we may decide that we do not condone a man’s behavior but still insist that he deserves to win as much as most of his predecessors. The reason is that politics is not waged within the walls of a monastery, and we are not electing “Philosopher King” Presidents for an idealized Republic. Instead, we seek leaders from among a coterie of fallen men, most of whom will reflect the coarseness or the erudition of their own times (our times being more coarse than erudite), and most of whom exhibit some degree of selfish and irresponsible behavior to get to the top. Sure, pulling the lever for Lincoln is best; but most often we are forced to choose between the Chester A. Arthurs and the Warren G. Hardings of the world.

You may contend that I think too little of man and am thus too willing to accept leaders who are too obviously lacking in virtue. I would respond that I acknowledge man’s fallenness. This is a tenet of my Christian faith and so separates how we view this matter. It is not that I condone wickedness so much as I view it as the normal state of affairs in a fallen world. God may rise up a prophet from time to time. Our American Prophet was Lincoln, and I contend we remain blessed to have had his great example. Nevertheless, as a Christian. I believe we must choose usually from among selfish and boorish “Caesars” for our civic governance. It is one of our prices to be paid for our having fallen so far from the grace of God. To paraphrase the line from Scripture, I then shall render perfection unto God, and imperfection unto Caesar.

Now, I have offered a Christian response. This is appropriate in our political discourse because in a truly pluralistic society Christians are allowed to offer up their worldview as much as atheists and agnostics. In summary, I would say that because of my religious understanding of the fallenness of the world, I do not seek in my leaders examples of personal virtue, though I prefer virtue over lack of virtue. For me, the exemplar of proper behavior is the One Man without sin and, to a lesser extent, God’s chosen prophets, including our very own Abraham Lincoln. Given how little I expect from my civic leaders thus, I focus on what principles and policies they espouse in making my decision for whom to cast my vote.

Michael Sean Erickson is a political consultant, film producer, an essayist, an Anglican Catholic Priest, a stage actor, and a husband, He is also the author of The Lost Sombrero, Beautiful Catrina, and Dream Time. Originally from San Jose, California, he had lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, before moving more recently to Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, Sharon, and their Shih Tzu, Shansi.