Wednesday, July 20, 2016

fundamentalism and the voting booth

I know about fundamentalists.  I'm a Baptist pastor and if any groups is known for harboring fundamentalists it is us.  (It isn't fair or accurate to label all Baptists as fundamentalists... duh look at me... but there is something about this movement that at least allows room for them to develop).

This post is not about religious fundamentalists and their politics (though it may be).  Instead it is about a new brand of political fundamentalists.

Back when Gore vs. Bush happened and Ralph Nader stuck his head into the fray, he spoke at my church in upstate NY.  As I remember it, one of the things Nader said was that voters should choose a candidate purely from their ideas.  If the candidate had no chance of winning... irrelevant.  Idealogical purity was/is the only criteria.  When pressed whether his candidacy might cause Bush to win, Nader refused to even consider any culpability.  Indeed, when after the election Nader was presented with the numbers... if only 30% of those who had voted for him in Florida had gone for Gore, the questions that eventually took the election to the SCOTUS would never have materialized and Gore would have been the clear winner, Nader basically responded that had the Dems presented a better candidate, that would not have been an issue.  Of course, if everyone voted simply on ideological purity, nobody would ever get enough votes to be elected.  Had the Dems presented Nader, Bush still would have won and likely by a much, much wider margin.

This year, we're presented with an interesting political quandary.  Neither of the major candidates is generating a lot of love from their prospective parties.  I can't tell you how many leftist folk I've encountered who have said that it doesn't matter that HRC and Bernie come out the same on about 93% of the issues... it is the other 7% that they cannot abide by and so will never vote for HRC.  (OK the percentages were pulled out of thin air, but HRC and Bernie aren't very far apart on most issues.)   It is easier for me to understand a real conservative saying that he/she would never vote for Trump as at best he has been amazingly inconsistent regarding his stand on just about everything other than the size of his... hands.  On that side of the isle I'm fascinated at the number of folk who are willing to overlook basically everything about him in order to vote Republican.

So the question is at what point does one step away from fundamentalism... and ideological purity?  Anyone who knows me knows that I was a Bernie supporter although he was not my perfect candidate.  I've long ago abandoned any semblance of political fundamentalism as my perfect candidate wouldn't have a snowball's chance in Phoenix of ever getting elected so I have long wrestled with the questions of incremental change and the possibility of winning vs. losing because I backed a horse without a chance and getting nothing I hope for.