Election Postmortem

In every election there are always surprises, as there certainly were as the returns came in last night and even this morning. But even more significant than the results of the election were the interviews with the voters. Throughout the day yesterday, I watched on television as voters expressed disgust with and contempt for the political process. People said they were happy with the way the country was going but unhappy with the politicians. Leave us alone, they seemed to say. It was almost as if they wanted to simply tune out the political process. For me, the best indication of how turned off Christians are on the process is the response BreakPoint had when I aired a two-week series on Christians and government. We had one of the lowest responses ever to a series, at least as measured by the number of listeners calling for transcripts. To give you an idea of just how low the numbers of calls was, when I did a series on great literature just a few weeks ago, we received three times as many calls per day. Now, there's a sense in which this low response could be healthy. Maybe folks are recognizing that politics is not the ultimate goal in life. In recent decades we've been taken in by the political illusion, the idea that government has all the answers. If we're discovering that isn't so, that is good news. But the bad news, I'm afraid, far outweighs the good. You see, democracies work only with the consent of the governed. They work only if we fulfill our civic duties—if we serve on juries, pay taxes, and vote. I'd like to think that this cynicism toward politics simply indicates that people are waking up to the fact that politicians don't have all the answers. But I think it goes deeper. Both political parties have behaved abominably on matters like campaign finance—Clinton with the China connection, and the Congress with gambling and tobacco money. Millions of Americans, I believe, have just plain had it with the shocking disclosures about special interests and how they've tried to buy elections all over the country—and at least in one case yesterday they succeeded. And then there's the matter of leadership. Politicians, before they take a policy stand, take a poll, and then they do whatever the pollsters tell them to do. If the polls say people care about education, well, they come up with an education program. I call it "finger-in-the-wind" politics. It means politicians are following instead of leading. Is this what Americans want? Of course not. What this country wants and desperately needs is politicians of courage and character who will rise above self-interest and offer the country a genuine governing vision. But at the same time, we as a people have got to be willing to support candidates who will risk going against the popular tide. A few politicians have done this—and gotten badly beaten up. I think of Sen. John McCain, who has fought valiantly for campaign finance reform—ostracized by his Republican colleagues. Linda Smith, in Washington state, as well. And there are a few who bucked the tide and as a result will be retiring after this election. We've got to give politicians like these some encouragement. And whatever we do we mustn't give up on the political process. America remains the greatest and most noble experiment in ordered liberty. If we lose it, it will be because we simply don't care enough to do what we ought to do as citizens. Then when that happens, we will get the government we deserve.


Chuck Colson


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