Six things to remember as we approach Election Day:
1. The stakes are high, but we’ll be okay. Scary music, sensational quotes, and apoplectic narrators invade our television sets each night, warning of the destruction and utter hell that Obama or Romney will unleash on America should he win in November. But the reality is, we’ll be okay. This nation and the world have faced worse times than these, and we’re still here. For most of us, our daily lives won’t be too altered by who wins the White House. This election is important, and we should all vote, but stepping back for a moment would allow us to reduce the craziness a bit.
2. The other guy is more than a defective product. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are brands to most people, products we’re told to love or hate depending on who’s peddling the ad. But the reality is that they are human beings, presumably with good intentions to better the lives of Americans. I was asked in college to introduce a severely conservative Southern US Senator in my role as a student ambassador. I was skittish, but agreed to do it. He and I had a few minutes alone together in the green room before he went on, and I remember being struck by what a decent guy he seemed to be. I’m not totally naïve; he was obviously a good schmoozer if he became a Senator. But still, connecting on a human level eases some tension and helps lessens the vitriol.
3. There’s more than one way to fix a problem. Perhaps expanding access to healthcare and childcare will reduce the abortion rate more than outlawing the procedure? Maybe eliminating some government entitlements will foster a stronger culture of financial responsibility? Same-sex marriage might strengthen a culture of monogamy and commitment, rather than lessen it? The point is: just because you disagree with someone’s tactics doesn’t mean you don’t share a common vision. There are many paths that lead to the same destination.
4. There’s no ticket that is more Catholic than another. Barack Obama loves abortion and bull dozing Catholic churches filled with priests and nuns. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan despise the poor. Or at least that’s what we might believe if we watch only Fox or MSNBC. Both parties have their strengths and weaknesses, but the reality is neither fully encapsulates Catholic social thought. After carefully considering options, a Catholic could reasonably vote for either ticket.
5. We have a responsibility to care for the poor. As Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput said earlier this month, “Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period. There’s just no doubt about it. That has to be a foundational concern of Catholics and of all Christians.” Both Obama and Romney have been pitifully silent on issues of poverty, and voters should demand more. (Some more thoughts on poverty over at Busted Halo.)
6. Either way, prejudice will be defeated just a bit. Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was a proud step for all Americans to celebrate in the long struggle of civil rights in this country. If he wins again, it will be another step toward fulfilling MLK’s vision. Should Romney win, a Mormon and a Catholic will hold the nation’s two highest offices, both members of religions that have endured religious bigotry.