Why I changed my party affiliation

I realize this post may raise some eyebrows, even frustrate or anger some people, but I wanted to write about it– in part, to force myself to think through the issue of politics and faith logically, rather than emotionally; and in part to compel others who may read this to think deeply and ask some questions of themselves. So, here it goes:

I have been a registered Independent since I moved to Pennsylvania ten years ago.  I have refused to align myself with any party because there are, in my view, serious problems with marrying my Christian faith to either the Republican party or the Democratic party. I understand that political parties aren’t perfect, like most things in life, but I could not come to peace with the decision– except to say, I’m an Independent.  Let me explain my perspective on each party:

I appreciate the Republican perspective on economics, although I sometimes wonder how well “personal responsibility” or a completely free-market system works for those who have suffered unjustly in our society (through racism, sexism, a broken criminal justice system, or simply through tragedy and poverty).  I realize, however, that there are non-governmental organizations that can help with these issues.  I also understand, being married to a small-business owner, that labor unions can create major problems (meaning, strikes often hurt innocent bystanders more than the employers themselves); and Republicans seem to recognize that and have separated themselves from labor unions.  There are areas where I have problems with the Republican party, however.  The emphasis on military power and outright aggression would be one.  It seems that they don’t want to spend tax dollars on assistance programs, but they do ramp up the spending when it comes to missiles and tanks.  I’m also uncomfortable with their ties to the NRA.  I’m not anti-all-guns-everywhere; but I am a strong advocate of very tight controls on guns, given that they are made specifically to take the life of another.  Then there is the issue of respect for life: the pro-life stance on abortion I understand and personally agree with. Republicans, however, have traditionally been strongly for capital punishment.  To me, life is life, whether you are an infant, a murderer, a drug-dealer, a Palestinian or a muslim from Afghanistan or Iraq.

Most of my problem here is that I am a Christian pacifist. Some people would say that this belief makes it impossible for me to live in the real world, which has real problems with the presence of evil… evil people, evil governments, even evil ideologies.  Are we supposed to just stand by and let evil happen, not do anything to protect the innocent?  No, we are not supposed to just stand by and do nothing.  When I look at history, however, I see a distrubing pattern: violence breeds violence, between groups, individuals and nations.  I would hope that people who claim to follow Jesus would search for other options, creative and non-violent means to combat evil (in the tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr.).  Loving our neighbors and loving our enemies– yes, even those who would abuse us and threaten our rights and our freedoms– is a clear calling from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I take that call seriously.

Back to the discussion of political affiliation, I turn to the Democratic party.  I appreciate that the Democrats work hard to offer assistance to people in need.  I appreciate their work on regulating hand guns and semi-automatic and automatic weapons. I like their proposed solutions for the health-care crisis and their work to preserve the earth for future generations.  These issues are very high on my list of concerns for our country.  I also stand behind the Democratic party’s emphasis on international diplomacy FIRST, over military action.  I believe we need more diplomacy in this era of terrorism, as opposed to more military posturing and agression.  There are problems for me with the Democrats, though–  they tend to be in the pocket of the labor unions, and they are strongly pro-choice, sometimes to the point of not recognizing the life of the unborn as LIFE. In the past, they have also been the “high taxes” party, which can hurt working-class families.

So this was my dilemma.  Not happy with either party, I chose to opt out of the Pennsylvania Primary process.  It was partly my idealism– in the absense of any ideal party or ideal candidate, I rejected them all.  This year felt different to me, however. I kept an eye on the Pennsylvania deadline for voter registration, and as the date approached, I finally decided to print off the required pages.  I mailed them in by March 24th because I wanted to vote in this year’s primary election… as a Democrat.

As you can probably guess, it is because of Barak Obama’s candidacy.  I have read through his articles on the issues.  I have read or listened to many of his speeches.  No, he isn’t perfect.  He will be new to the international stage.  He is still very new to Washington.  But I think our country needs the kind of change he will bring.  I am stunned by the way he has built his campaign as a grass-roots movement, funded by millions of ordinary citizens.  He knows how to work with people of diverse backgrounds, which I believe to be crucial for America right now.  He has spent his life advocating for people, which is another crucial skill for anyone holding the office of President.  He also knows how to listen.  He’s not a hot-head but he also doesn’t shrink from a fight.  He believes our country can be a better partner in the world and a better home for her own citizens.  He sees the problems in America and has a vision for solutions that include more than one voice at the table.  That is what I think has been missing in Washington for far too long. That is why I am voting as a Democrat this year.

I know some people don’t trust him and don’t think he’s being straight-forward about who he is or what he believes.  I know some people don’t think he’s experienced enough, especially when it comes to foreign policy.  And it is entirely possible that I’m wrong about Barak Obama… but I’m going with my gut on this one.  It’s the first time since I’ve been of voting age that I have felt so strongly that a candidate has the personal qualities and values that we need in a President.  I am now a Democrat, for better or worse.  I plan to keep my eyes and ears open.  Feel free to push back with your own perspective on politics.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paul
    Mar 29, 2008 @ 16:49:30

    It is exactly because I do NOT believe that Obama can work with people with different backgrounds and/or beliefs that I will NOT vote for him. He spins a good angle, does a pretty speech, but his actions are contrary do that. And you know what they say, actions speak louder than words. Obama is just a media and PR creation, but then again in these times when any person can become a celebrity I am not suprised at all.

    Reply

  2. krisanneswartley
    Mar 29, 2008 @ 17:23:55

    Well, Paul, I tried to reply to you personally, but your email address came back to me as invalid, so I will have to reply here: If you could, please, explain to me which actions Obama has taken that have proved to you that he does not know how or cannot work with diverse groups of people, I would appreciate that. Thank you.

    Reply

  3. Julie
    Apr 01, 2008 @ 15:51:33

    A friend shared this with me and I’m just passing it on. Glad you are processing this so thoroughly – when, oh when do you have the time to?! 🙂

    Obama’s opinion on abortion from a speech given on 3/29/08 (talking about AIDS and contraception at a forum):

    “But it should also include — it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I’ve got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old,” he added.

    “I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby,” Obama said.

    Is this “Change We Can Believe In”?

    Reply

  4. Mike
    Apr 02, 2008 @ 21:44:24

    4.

    Is it possible that Mr. Obama was talking about contraception in that quote. It was, after all, the purpose of the forum, and could–just as easily–be what he’s referring to here. And contraception is the word he used here, not abortion.

    And remember that contraceptives, used properly, not only prevent unwanted pregnancy, but they also in a very real sense prevent abortions.

    Just a thought (from someone who’s been a McCain supporter from the beginning).

    Reply

  5. Robert Martin
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 11:58:47

    Ah, the dangers of bringing faith-based morals into the political decision making process.

    I respect, Kris, your decision process for choosing Obama over McCain. But, through the same thoughts, I am currently leaning the opposite.

    I do not like McCain’s “warmongering” but then I also don’t like either of the Democratic candidates’ position on abortion. So, instead, it comes down to the role of government for me, not a faith decision.

    Government has the responsibility for protecting their citizenry from harm, at least as per the US Constitution. In light of that, it is perfectly valid for a secular government to use military might in the international arena to protect their citizens. I don’t always agree with the specific instances of the exercise of this power of government, but it is part of the power of the secular organization.

    On the reverse side, it is also the responsibility and power of the government to protect the lives of the people living here using the rule of law. I consider the unborn child to be a citizen of this country and therefore inheriting the right to not have their life taken without just cause. Taking faith and such out of the picture, preventing abortions is again just another exercise of the secular authority protecting a portion of its citizenry.

    We can debate back and forth “is it a baby” and that’s where we get more metaphysical. But, if there is doubt, I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt and protect what appears to be a living being.

    For this reason, I choose to vote for McCain simply because I’m electing a secular authority to exercise secular power.

    Honestly? I don’t like ANY of the current candidates 100% and would rather not vote at all. But, to exercise my civic duty and let my voice be heard, I choose to vote for the choice I think is best suited for a secular role.

    If I had my druthers, I’d be voting for Huckabee…but since he’s no longer running, my choices are limited.

    Reply

  6. krisanneswartley
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 12:24:18

    Hi, Robert!

    Yes, I’ve heard these arguments before, and as I have said in my piece, I am pro-life… and my pro-life stand propels me to be pro-life across the board… innocent or not. No one life is any more precious than another (infant, criminal, non-American).

    I refuse to become a one-issue voter, however. If the government’s role to protect its citizens, that should carry over into economics and education as well. That is why I value Barak Obama’s politics. His track-record proves (from
    inner-city Chicago pro-bono work to state senator to Illinois senator) that he strives to be a voice for the voiceless… and that he can work with people from both parties to help Americans survive and thrive.

    What is McCain’s goal? Simply to protect America from terrorism? I am not clear on what he wants for America’s future, especially America’s poor.

    (And I’m not accusing you of being a one-issue voter… just raising the point that elections are about more than abortion or war)

    Thanks for your comments!

    Reply

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