The Real Romney

Michael Kranish and Scott Helman  (Harper: 2012)

Every four years America conducts a slightly troubling, but almost always peaceful, national process that we call a general election. We choose all 435 members of the House of Representatives, approximately one third of the 100 members of the Senate and, of course, a president to a four-year term. The results of these elections are what millions of us talk about for months, sometimes even years. From as far back as I can remember this process has been contentious and highly partisan. This is what you would expect in a democracy, especially a democracy with a two-party system. Our first president, George Washington, warned that a two-party system could undo us. So far he has been wrong but it does make you wonder doesn’t it? The major difference in the last decade or so seems to be that we hear about this general election, and the ideas that come from the respective campaigns, almost nonstop. This news cycle is virtually 24/7. We will read about President Obama and Governor Romney until early November. We will watch them discussed and talked about on television and listen to talk show programs about this election until we have finally had enough. Or will we have had enough? Some Americans, a growing number it seems to me, are so preoccupied with these elections that it stirs their emotions to the boiling point and creates deep fear and loathing. This emotion, and these debates, are particularly acidic to the life of Christian churches and their people. I believe this particular kind of emotion, and the way we deal with it, rises to the level of what the ancients called “the passions and desires.” These passions are being expressed well beyond the healthy norm of what Christians should engage in as people of faith who live by the Spirit.

I confess that I’ve always been interested in elections, especially the national one that occurs every four years. I once got deeply involved in an election (1964) at the ripe age of 15. I remembering weeping because President Johnson won a landslide victory over Senator Barry Goldwater, the candidate I openly worked for in my hometown, a town that was deeply and traditionally Democratic. As my call to the gospel ministry became more evident, and as I understood politics much better by studying the history of America and the U. S. Constitution in excellent college courses taught by real Christian scholars, I had less and less interest in aligning myself with a candidate (at least publicly). Eventually I became completely disinterested in identifying myself with either major political party and would now describe my position as centrist and politically independent. The truth is that there are positions embraced by both parties that I agree with and there are some political positions that I hold that, at least in my estimation, which neither party gets right.

I vote in the Illinois primary every two and four years by taking a party ballot. I have taken a ballot from one party one year and another from the other party on a different year. I do this only because an independent has no real say in the nomination process. By taking the ballot of one party you are not saying you are married to that party forever, just that you choose to vote in that party at this particular primary. I have voted for candidates from both parties and from no party. I really am not easy to tag on this point because I try to listen carefully and weigh arguments case-by-case.

Let me give you two specific examples of what I mean. I hold views about reforming immigration that would not be the standard Republican view. But I am also pro-life to my core and there are very few Democrats who are pro-life, which deeply disappoints me since the best political solution to changing our present laws on abortion can only come when both parties align with a position reached through some form of happy compromise. So I am divided when I hear candidates address these particular types of issues. The same goes for my views about the environment, which are closer to the views of moderate Democrats, while my views about tax reform and unnecessary government regulations are closer to those of moderate, or mainstream, Republicans. So every four years I undertake a routine that I find interesting and, as far as I can tell, a bit unusual. I try to read as many non-partisan accounts of the two major candidates as possible. In the election of four years ago, for example, I read both of Barack Obama’s memoirs. I also read the two excellent memoirs written by John McCain. I even had the privilege, by complete accident, of bumping into Senator McCain in the stair well of the U.S. Senate about two years before the election of 2008 and told him how much I enjoyed his book, Faith of My Fathers. In 2008 I read a book about each candidate that was written by someone who was not a rabid partisan. I had a pretty good feel for both of these men and found myself liking things about both of them and disagreeing with them, quite fundamentally, on other points.

Tomorrow: More on Mitt Romney and the excellent new book, The Real Romney.

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