Some find it easy to choose their candidate and make their vote. I don’t.
Maybe it’s because, as a Christian, I have unusually high expectations for leaders, and we aren’t always offered high quality candidates. Maybe it’s because I’m disgusted with our two-party system, for I don’t identify completely with either party. And maybe it’s because I’m not looking at the same things that others look for. Honestly, I often find myself disagreeing even with other believers on who to vote for.
Or maybe it’s just supposed to be hard.
I’m only one person with one vote, so I don’t expect a candidate to cater to me. Nevertheless, if you want my vote, this is what is important to me:
The most important thing I look for is character. Do you have personal and public integrity? Are you honest and do you tell the truth? Are you a person with high moral standards? Can I trust you to do what you say you will do? Do you do your homework so that when you speak, you have the facts? Are you willing to tell me where you stand and what you believe on the hard issues? Can you run on your integrity rather than participate in the name-calling and mud-slinging that are common in today’s politics? Can you resist bribes and pressure from others? When you’ve been wrong, can you admit it?
One way I examine your character is to look at your personal and business life. I don’t need all the details, but have you released enough information about yourself that I understand your family, your values, your morality, and your finances? I’m not looking for perfection. I’m willing to vote for people who have made mistakes and who have done dumb things, but I want you to admit it and move on rather than hide it or lie about it.
I want to see integrity in your voting record. Did you vote the way you promised, or at least give an honest reason on why you changed your mind? Does your voting record show that you’re not a clone of another politician or your party? Are you more interested in doing the right thing for your country than in pleasing your political party? Are you a strong enough person to resist the inevitable pressure to conform?
That’s where I start. Character is the most important issue, and I will not vote for you if you don’t meet my character test.
If there are no candidates in a race with that kind of integrity, I’m completely willing to leave that portion of the ballot blank. I want candidates and political parties to nominate men and women of character.
There have been multiple times in recent years in which I didn’t vote in a particular race. I’ve been challenged by friends—and I understand what they’re saying—who tell me I’m letting others decide for me. But that’s not how I look at it. You have to earn my vote with your integrity.
I may still choose to vote for you if I disagree with you on issues—but I do want to know your stance. (I won’t bore you in this blog with my own stances. I keep most of my political opinions—but not my moral opinions—out-of-the-pulpit and church publications, but if you ask me in person, you might get an earful!) I do expect candidates to openly share their stance on abortion, religious liberty, immigration, the border, the budget, Dreamers, the environment, gun control, the military, racism, public education, wages, crime, health care, terrorism, the safety of our schools and public areas, government regulation, and a whole host of other issues.
And I want to know more than simple platitudes. Before the primary election, Dawn and I (who recently moved and are in a new legislative district) researched the official web pages of a host of candidates. Every candidate said they loved their country and they supported the constitution, local businesses, faith, family, and morality. That sounds nice . . . but I needed to know more. (I also emailed their campaigns for more details on specific issues. The only response I received was of the “I thank you for your support and please send in your much-needed contribution” type.)
If you can’t tell me where you stand on the issues, I can’t vote for you.
I’d also like to hear what you plan on doing about some long-term issues that most politicians avoid. How are you going to deal with the long-term stability of Social Security? How will you deal with growing racial tension? How do you plan on dealing with Russia, Iran, North Korea, Syria and other international issues? How will you deal with our serious environmental issues? We have a very large—and growing—prison population. Is there anything we can do to reduce this population and still reduce the crime rate? Healthcare costs continue to rise more rapidly than the overall cost-of-living. Do you have a plan to deal with this before many Americans are priced out of the healthcare system? Our education system needs to be improved if we are going to keep up with other nations. Do you have a plan?
I know ahead of time that I won’t agree with you on every issue, but I do want to know that you’ve put some time and energy into solving the issues we face. And I want to see something much more intelligent and nuanced than you can give me in a 30-second soundbite or in a one paragraph webpage.
What am I saying?
I probably won’t agree with you on every issue, but I won’t vote for you until you’ve earned my respect.
About Pastor Jack
Pastor Jack Marslender is the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Avondale. He is married (Dawn) and is the father of Tina, Rebecca, Kimberly, Melinda, Angela, Maria, Kenneth, Kevin, and Lorissa. He is also the grandfather of Wyatt, Emilie, Everett, Olivia, Dylan, Charlotte, and Aiden.