The Wall Street Journal recently compiled an extremely useful series of charts that deal with the major ideological and political positions articulated by the two major candidates for the presidency. In an attempt to promote non-partisan discovery of the actual positions of both candidates I encourage you to look at these charts. You will learn a lot if you haven’t studied the views of the two men.
I am never surprised to find I agree with one candidate at a certain point that I would not have expected, at least based on stereotypes, while at another I am radically opposed to his views. Neither one, in this race, lines up my views on several issues but there are striking differences between them that anyone can see if they bother to look
at the candidates carefully. I would predict that very little you now see in their views will change significantly before November 4. While the rhetoric
will heat up, and the debates will take place, these views are likely to
remain the positions of the two men. Rather than get caught up in
election hype I look at issues carefully, and at the character and perceived
ability to lead the nation in some depth, and then cast my vote. Then I go home and watch
TV and get on with seeking to be a faithful Christian under whoever lead
us for the next four years. Since the kingdom of God will not arrive, as I’ve said before, on Air Force One little for me will personally change on November 5th. My goals and purpose will be the same: live well personally and continue to call the church to renewal in its mission shaped by and in an ecumenical context.
It is highly unlikely that I would change how I plan to vote between now and November 4 since I have already done my reading on both men. In fact I have read both of their autobiographies.
Dreams from My Father is Barack Obama’s story and takes you up until the time he left for Harvard Law School. The Audacity of Hope brings you almost to the present. Faith of My Fathers, John McCain’s autobiography, tells of his rebellious years at the Naval Academy followed by his five and a half years in a Hanoi prison where his faith and character were shaped profoundly. I liked both books a great deal but must confess that McCain’s book moved me deeply in a way I cannot explain easily. I read it back in 1999 and became profoundly interest in John McCain as a result. I suppose I would say that I was "proud to be an American" after reading his story. (I know this language troubles some younger readers but I love what my country stands for even when I disagree with her and see her numerous inconsistencies. Her ideals are good and worth defending. I see inconsistencies in myself for sure. And I see them in all my friends and family, but I remain committed to them.)
I do find it more than interesting that both men write of their lives in terms of the impact their father had upon them. In Barack Obama’s case it was a father he hardly knew, and who abandoned the family when he was a small child, while in McCain’s case (Note: fathers is plural in the title) it was his grandfather and father who shaped him, both of whom were Navy admirals.
I once met Senator John McCain, by sheer human accident, in the Senate stairwell. I told him how much I loved his book. He looked into my eyes (I am not making this up) and shook my hand and then thanked me quite warmly. (That might be my closest personal encounter with a person who could have great political power that I will ever have since I have no ambition to gain access to any of these leaders.) Anyway, I frankly urge serious readers to read both of these books in order to see some striking differences in the formation of the lives and character of these two men. Both books are easy to read, written fairly well and both are quite revealing. Both gave me a deep appreciation for these two men, but in different ways. I actually like them both but I will not vote based on "liking" a candidate. I will vote based on my political philosophy and how I think the country should be led. That makes me a rare voter, or at least an endangered species in many circles.
One thing I am quite sure about. Whoever is elected will inherit a significant mess politically and socially. He will be able to only do so much to change things. Politicians do not change cultures, people do. Christians, of all people, should know this but every four years we seem to forget it near November.