Election Day 2022, and the Single Issue Voter
It is a fine needle to thread as a clergy person in our political climate today. I believe strongly that religion has no place in politics, but that values do. And my values are informed by my faith. So how are we supposed to allow our personal sense of morality to be influenced by our traditions while not allowing those to infiltrate how others view their own rights as a citizen? We do this best when we vote our conscience, but we do so in a way that does not force others to legally uphold our own spiritual beliefs. We can think something is wrong without making it illegal, or can find something worthwhile without demanding that everyone participate.
During the 2020 election, it was a particularly fraught time, because the boundaries between politics and ethics were blurring so unpleasantly. In the face of moral crisis, I, and so many of my clergy peers, felt compelled to speak out about the issues we were facing, yet were obligated to do so in a way that wasn’t partisan or in violation of the Johnson Amendment (banning religious leaders from using their pulpit to influence politics). Which is why Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was such a helpful character in our congregational conversation. At a time when party affiliation was so intense, it was helpful to be able to look to a Republican who was upholding the values of which I was preaching. DeWine’s handling of the pandemic was generally attentive to public health, aware and deferential to scientific wisdom, and willing to do hard things because they were the right things. There were many times that we said, “DeWine is the kind of bipartisan partner we can believe in.” Depending on the context, I had said, I could foresee a world in which I would vote for DeWine in 2022.
Except when I stepped into the voting booth this morning, I simply couldn’t do it. Because DeWine has turned me into a single-issue voter. DeWine has been one of those governors trying to make abortion as inaccessible as possible in the post-Roe v. Wade reality, claiming that Ohio is a “pro-life state”. Despite public opinion in which a plurality of Ohioans support full abortion access, DeWine has gone in opposition to those he serves (and his legal mandate).
Abortion should be up for discussion, but not in the political sphere. If you think abortion is morally repugnant, that is your right, and you shouldn’t get one. But this election hinges on whether or not it is appropriate for a political party to tell others how to practice their sense of morality, to enforce Evangelical Christian dogma on the nation as a whole. I would love to engage in the quality of debate that allows us to challenge the best ways to create worthwhile education, the best allocation of funds, the most accurate ways to help those who need our support. But as long as we continue to question whether or not women can make decisions about their bodies and whether or not we agree that Black lives actually matter, this is a nonsensical farse of a true democracy.
The current system isn’t working. Humanity in general, and American reality specifically, is too diverse to be well-served by the two-party system, and doesn’t allow for the kind of nuance that is required of the hard work of government. But today, this is the system we have, and we have to cast a vote that helps to propel us in the direction that most aligns with our endgame. So today, allow your faith to point you in the right direction, and remember your obligation to allow others to live out their faith in a way that is authentic, worthwhile, and legal for them.