Well, here we are: Election Day. Some of you have followed the ins and outs of the campaign for months, if not years. Today is more exciting than the Super Bowl and March Madness and college rivalry week all rolled into one. For others, the excitement of the Summer Olympics every four years is only matched by the tedium of the presidential race in those same years. At this point you’d rather get habanero eye drops, sit next to a starving baby on the plane, and go the dentist every day for a month than be subject to any more campaign ads. Whether we’ve been engaged in the process since Ames or disconnected until today, we are all ready for this thing to be over.
So perhaps a little thanksgiving is in order. Even if you feel like the system is broken, the debates are worthless, the political process is a joke, and the candidates are profoundly flawed, God still tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18).
Here are five things I’m thankful for on Election Day. Plus one more thing I’m thankful for every day.
1. I’m thankful I can vote. Sure, it’s a relatively small role in the process of self-government, but I’m glad for what little part I can play. Aren’t you glad the election isn’t decided by averaging all the polls together or by asking Ivy League professors what they think or by consulting the landed gentry? And as annoying as the pandering and obfuscation can be in debates and rallies and advertisements, isn’t it better to have a system where politicians desperately want your vote rather than a system where the politicians don’t have to make anyone happy except for a class of warlords and plutocrats?
2. I’m thankful that the nastiness of our politics could be much nastier. We all get tired of negative ads and fear mongering and name calling, but firing deceitful missives is a whole lot better than firing destructive missiles. I’m glad the war between the Democrats and Republicans is fought on blogs and in op-ed columns and on cable news shows instead of in literal trenches with actual bombs. We should all be grateful than no matter what happens today there is a very, very good chance that Obama will begin another four years or Romney will take office without the nation descending into civil war. The peaceful continuation or transfer of power is a remarkable gift.
3. I’m thankful for the Electoral College. You may not agree, especially if you live in Texas or California or Alabama or Vermont. There’s no “Christian position” on the Electoral College. But I’m grateful that our presidents have to go to every little hamlet in Ohio and Iowa. I’m glad that the election does not come down to voter turnout in the same megacities every four years. I’m glad that because of our confusing process, the most powerful man in the world has to make inroads with people from all over the country. He can’t simply be a regional candidate who promises the Northeast lots of goodies at the expense of the South. He can’t win the White House by racking up 80% of the vote in a handful of states. The President has to be attuned to the needs and desires of the most politically diverse places, not the most politically homogenous. This seems like a good thing to me.
4. I’m thankful for our two-party system. Yes, I am often extremely disappointed with both parties. Like many of you, I sometimes wish a third-party candidate could break through. But most Americans are too quick to dismiss the two-party system, with all its obvious faults, without ever appreciating its benefits. The reason most people are sick of both parties is that they seem so prone to compromise, so tolerant of positions we don’t like, so wrong on a few important issues. I share these frustrations. But the flip side is that the parties must also learn to incorporate some of the positions we do like, even if they are the positions someone else in the party can barely stomach. In a two party system, the parties have to be big tents. The present political climate may seem polarizing, but the parties themselves cannot be prone to extremes. This may be disappointing when we feel like the “extreme” position is actually the right one, but on the whole it’s better for the peace and stability of the country that our parties must gravitate toward moderation and must find a way to form a broad coalition of supporters rather than only courting a narrow slice of the electorate.
5. I’m thankful for checks and balances. The President can make a big difference. He appoints judges and bureaucrats; he signs legislation; he can speak from his bully pulpit; he is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Elections have consequences. But I’m glad we are not electing an emperor. I’m glad that Romney and Obama can’t, by themselves, do many of the things they’ve promised. I’m glad we get gridlock and that it’s hard to change the country in four years. This is as it should be. Given the realities of human depravity and the corrupting influence of power, I’m grateful no one, not even the President, has the authority or the power in this country to make all his dreams come true.
And of course, on this Election Day (and on every day), I’m thankful beyond words that my eternal future and the future of God’s eternal plan do not depend on this presidential election. Christ is risen. Christ is King. Christ is coming again. The Lord Jesus will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The Son of God is not running for re-election. The Spirit is not pandering for our approval. The Father of glory does not consult any poll. Our Triune God reigns now and forevermore, world without end, amen and amen.