General election day will be May 9th, which is this coming Tuesday. Already, many British Columbians have participated in advanced voting. Still, there are many who are still undecided. Some lament the lack of credible choices. Others simply want change. Who should I vote for? Should I vote on the basis of party or personality? What if I dislike the leader of the party but prefer the candidate running in my riding? Should provincial concerns be more important than local neighbourhood matters? When push comes to shove, should I opt for policies over personality?
1) Person: There is no perfect candidate
No matter how we see it, every candidate is flawed in some way. Whichever party the person comes from is not going to change this basic fact at all. Some promises will be fulfilled while others would be broken. Expectations on how incumbents have performed will also vary from person to person. One writer to the neighbourhood Tri-City News has this to say:
There was a time when you actually voted for the candidate and/or party you believed was most qualified to represent you and run your province or country.
Unfortunately, two axioms now better describe our election process: “the lesser of two evils” and “the devil you know.” – Tri-City News (May 4th, 2017)
It’s a lowering of our political expectations from the “best person” out there, to “least evil” before us. Such is the state of the electoral frustration. In some way, it is an illustration of what the Bible has declared all along about our human nature, “There is no one righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:10).
These couple of weeks, TV and radio are filled with slamming ads where parties hurl accusations and mud at one another. It’s like a childish mudslinging-fest where muddied candidates continue to fling verbal slurs in an ugly war of words. This tactic has worked before. Knowing how more voters are preferring a “lesser of two evils” strategy, the more their opponents are discredited, the lesser evil they themselves become in the eyes of voters. While this is not the cleanest or most ethical strategy, it somehow works. Politicians will use whatever means they can within the legal framework to get the votes they want. Who should we believe, knowing that most of these accusations are tainted with half-truths, out of context interpretations, and ulterior motives?
Most candidates running for elections would have had their skeletons in their closets dug up during this war of words. We don’t need to let these political statements tell us how broken the world is or how imperfect the candidates are. The Bible has already declared it.
Our Response: Remember that whoever we vote for, it is not permanent. Whichever candidate chosen would have to face the reality of being elected. Contexts will affect their choices, not promises made. Four years later, if the elected don’t perform, voters can still change our minds. Just because we don’t like the boss at the top of the political party does not mean we automatically vote against the party candidate who is more suitable in our riding. We need discernment, and the more we understand the needs both province-wide and riding-specific, the better. It’s not about who we like or dislike. It’s about who is most able to get the job done realistically, properly, and wisely.
2) Policies: Understand Their Platforms
This can be taken at many levels. Should we rely on the past performances of the parties? What about the quality of the local candidates running for elections? Should we base our choices on present needs or what the various policies mean for future generations? Are the policies more self-driven or communal? For the most part, when the election dates draw near, policies tend to be more people-focused. Post-elections, other priorities dominate. For example, the previous Gordon Campbell government had pledged not to implement the GST pre-elections. After getting voted in, they eventually reneged on their promises and introduced the GST, much to the furor of the voting public. As we know, this single issue led to the resignation of the then-Prime Minister.
Voters need to remember that promises are easily made and politicians often hope would be forgotten. Unless they bring it up in their public speeches to showcase their own achievements. Remember too that it is easier to make a promise than to keep them. Choose a leader who is not only realistic but bold enough to make appropriate decisions instead of mere popular ones.
Our Response: Sometimes, we can become too emotional about personality likes or dislikes. Take time to reflect on how realistic and how responsible the policies proposed are. Promises are one thing. The ability to carry out these promises is another. Be careful about forcing candidates to say things we like to hear. Be more attentive to those who say things we need to hear.
3) Press: Be aware of Opinion Biases
In our media and information saturated world, everybody have something to say. It would be foolish for anybody to presume that the truth is presented only by certain people or media. There are no neutral parties, no matter how we see it. Whether it is the American press, some pro-government media, or a blog article ranting against the existing government, there is always a bias in any reporting. Every reporting already has an interpretation tailored to sway viewers in some manner. In fact, it is completely possible that the people behind some mass media machine have already made a decision that no candidates are worthy enough. They could very well encourage voters not to vote for anybody; to vote for the most unlikely party; or to simply to spoil their vote. Admit it. Our opinions are being shaped each time we listen to a broadcast or an opinion piece.
Our Response: Read widely. Recognize that no one has the full truth. We need to exercise discernment by doing our own homework to read up more about each party or candidate as much as possible. This means reading the perspectives from all sides.
Read widely. Vote wisely. Accept results willingly.
Finally, pray. May God’s wisdom be with you as you go out to vote, and God’s discernment guide your choices. Prayer is a time in which we distance ourselves from what politicians are saying; what the press are spreading; and what our own fleshly desires are surfacing. Use that emotional distance to let God fill us with wisdom.
One more thing. As Christians, also remember that we are voting in a politician, not a Pope.