Thursday, November 5, 2009

Election Day tribute?

While it is perhaps a couple of days delayed I wanted to take a moment to reflect on our practice of elections in the United States. First of all, this year we are given a powerful reminder, that despite issues and concerns, Florida in 2000, Ohio 2004, Minnesota senate race in 2008, we have a strong election system. Looking at the challenges that places like Afghanistan face in holding their elections and keeping them fair, I think we have a lot as a country to celebrate. I am a huge fan of democracy and all that it does to help all of us.

That being said, on the eve of election night I feel like I saw a "still better way" to quote Paul. As a part of the Long Range Planning process at Park, the committee was asked to help select a track, or direction for our church to take. The conversation was started by everyone placing their vote or preference and then we tallied the votes. Of the 41 cast, the leading track had 18, while the others had 11, 11, and 1 respectively. While not a full majority, since everyone could cast two votes, it was reasonable to assume that of the 21 people voting, a majority cast at least one of their votes for this direction. In our election system that would seem to imply a win and time to move on. One of the values we have as a part of the process is the consensus model which means while the vote told us how people were feeling in GENERAL we also care what people are feeling SPECIFICALLY. The question was then asked of everyone in the group is this a track that you can get behind. The question was not, did you vote for it, or was it your first, or even second choice but instead, can you get behind this track. Obviously if it was your first choice that would be a yes, but even if it was your last choice you could still look at it and say "yes, I can live with that." This is not the first time I have worked with a consensus model but it reminds me of a key difference that exists between it and our current political process: on a national level everything is about winning.

If you are like me, at some point you have gone to the polls and voted for someone, but really what you probably wanted to do was to vote against the other person. You may have agreed with the person your were voting for, but your real issues was what the other person stood for. Unfortunately our political system is based not on what is best for EVERYONE but instead what is best for a majority, or even simply what is best for a majority of those who actually vote. Ironically I think our country was founded as a democracy but with specific measures put in place not support majority rule, but to protect minority rule from it. As it was explained to me, one of the reasons for the Free of Religion clause in the Constitution was because most denominations were worried about what would happen if someone else got the majority. Europe had been torn about with religious wars based around majority rule, the US, which actually had a clear system of determining it, wanted to prevent that from happening.

What would it look like if we had a more consensus model of elections? What if our politicians were worried not about what is best for some people but what is best for all people. Are we even geared to think that way anymore? Everyone can think about what they do not like and block that from happening, suddenly there would be tax cuts for everyone, since no one would want to raise their own taxes, but is that really the solution? I am not saying our current tax code is fair or good for everyone BUT I can also say that while no tax code would be fair it would not be good, since if we want government we kinda need to support it somehow. It challenges all of us to think beyond what we want in the moment to what is really important for all of us.

So once again, I love our country, I love the right to vote, but I sometimes wonder if maybe we need to rethink what we are voting for ... or who else is affected by our vote.