For those visiting this site looking for post-election thoughts, I apologize for the lack of new material. As some of you may know, last Saturday I suffered through food poisoning and then, shortly thereafter, fell ill with a nasty cold and an ear infection. Although the doctor tells me I am now on the mend and have been medicated, I still have a persistent cough and cannot hear properly yet.
Anyway, putting politics aside for a bit, I wanted to tell you why today is a special day for me. Four years ago today, I attended my first service at RISE United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg. Back then, I had no idea what RISE was all about nor what I was getting myself into; I was simply following the calling of my heart. Although I suppose you can say that I first went hoping to win the affections of a certain woman, I ended up finding something else, something unexpected.
Prior to discovering RISE, I hadn’t had a church family for a number of years. From time to time, I would visit a new church, but nothing seemed to fit. And yet here I am still, four years later. Now does that mean I never miss a Sunday? I’d be lying if I said yes. But RISE has become my home, as it has for others in the community. Not since high school graduation have I stuck with the same church for such a length of time. However, back then, the church was chosen for me.
In some ways, you could call RISE the church of misfits, those who do not fit neatly into the rigid and premade duties that some other churches require. To be honest, it is an imperfect church (though if we are honest with ourselves, every church is) but unlike some places, it is open about its imperfection. It doesn’t pretend that the folks who go to RISE are the world’s greatest saints, that perfect knowledge and salvation rests with that church, and that the rest of the world is comprised of little more than sinners and heretics. Then again, if everyone acted and thought in perfect lockstep, there would be no chance for dialogue and no prospect for either growth or change. Their often repeated mission statement is “mending God’s creation together”.
Although I suppose I could make a specific list, let me just say that I am grateful for not only the folks who lead RISE, but for many of the attendees as well.
Yes, I wouldn’t have predicted many of the journeys that I’ve shared with the RISE community from late 2012 to the present day. What is next? Where will we go from here? Who can say?
This morning, Wednesday, November 9th, Andy Schmookler and I (Joshua Huffman) returned to WSVA 550 AM to discuss the surprising results of the 2016 presidential election. Although pollsters had predicted a fairly sizable win for Hillary Clinton (as did Andy and me during our October show), many were shocked by Trump’s upset.
At about 1 PM, I visited my polling place, Keister Elementary, to cast my ballot in the 2016 election. The drive leading up to the school was blanketed with signs for the various candidates. Outside of the building, there were people handing out both Republican and Democratic sample ballots. The fact that the Republicans openly encouraged voters to cast their ballots for Independent City Council candidate George Hirschmann seemed to further prove that he is not, in fact, an independent, but rather a Republican who is trying to obscure his party status. In addition, a woman stood outside conducting an exit poll, which I thought was quite exciting! More on this issue in a moment.
I expected that there would be quite a long line inside, but was surprised that I only had to wait for a minute or two. Apparently, traffic had been particularly heavy earlier and many people had already voted, but I just happened to be there during a lull.
Voting was actually fairly difficult this year. I knew my vote for president, of course, but hadn’t decided upon the names for my write-ins for various offices where I either didn’t know or care much for the candidates listed.
Anyway, when I got back outside, the pollster asked for whom I cast my ballot for president and whether I had voted in the 2012 presidential election. I told her that I voted for the same candidate in 2016 that I did in 2012. I then asked if she could tell me the results of her poll thus far. Although I expect that Hillary Clinton will win Harrisonburg, given that Keister is one of the most Republican precincts in the city I assumed that Donald Trump would be winning the exit poll or that it would be very close. However, that was not the case. Of the multitude of respondents, about 60% said they voted for Clinton, 30% were for Trump, and Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Evan McMullin, and write-ins split the remaining approximate 10%. Yes, in this exit poll Clinton had about twice the votes that Trump had. The pollster theorized that perhaps Trump voters were far less likely to admit that they cast their ballots for Trump, but I thought this unlikely. What it told me is that if these numbers hold, Hillary Clinton will win Harrisonburg by a far larger margin than I anticipated and will likely perform even better in Virginia than what people say. If she wins Virginia by a sizable factor, then it might end up being a very quick election night reminiscent of 1996 when Bill Clinton bested Bob Dole.
Yes, Keister is only one of many polling places in Harrisonburg, but the exit poll doesn’t seem to bode well for Mr. Trump and the Republicans. It will be fun to discover if this poll is accurate or not!
Tomorrow, millions of Americans will go to the polls and cast their votes for electors for president. Although I started following politics in 1994, volunteered on my first campaign in 1995, and cast my first vote for president in 2000, this election has been, without a doubt, the worst election I’ve ever seen.
There are several reasons that 2016 has been particularly terrible. First is the candidates themselves. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are some of the most reviled people in American politics. Whether it’s due to perceptions of corruption and dishonesty, or claims of racism and sexism, the average American has a negative perception of both. Most Republicans who once condemned Trump and Democrats who declared Clinton unacceptable during their respective party primaries, in a display of blatant hypocrisy, have since come out in favor of their candidates. It is amazing to me that some people can give all sorts of reasons why a candidate is abysmal and should not be elected, but then completely ignore these glaring flaws simply due to their attachment to party labels.
Now, we do have third party choices too; in Virginia, we have five candidates on the ballot. Besides Trump and Clinton, we also have Johnson (Libertarian), Stein (Green), and McMullin (Independent). However, none of these candidates have been particularly outstanding, nor have they run particularly competent campaigns, nor have they made much of an effort to make either a long or short-term effect on politics in this state. But, even if this weren’t the case, the media and the political system itself has done a pretty good job marginalizing third party candidates, framing the election as a choice between the lesser of two evils, and, there is little doubt in my mind that both the Republican and Democratic choices are indeed evil and thus unsupportable.
However, what I would say is the absolute worst aspect of this election has been the nastiness exhibited by average Americans. Yes, we all have differing political opinions, but rather than expressing these views with civility and respecting opposing viewpoints, many have resorted to personal attacks and name-calling. As one metric, in every election cycle, I have lost several Facebook friends. However, in the last several months of this election, I have either been defriended or have defriended by at last a dozen folks. The majority have been Republicans and/or Trump supporters, though to be fair, I know far more Republicans than Democrats. While some have quietly defriended me because of my steadfast belief that Donald Trump is unfit for office or due to my inclination to cast my vote for Gary Johnson, others have been unbelievably nasty. Yes, some say things like I am throwing my vote away, but others have told me that Donald Trump is owed my vote and if I vote for any other candidate I must be: an idiot, moron, stupid, a fool, ignorant, a traitor, or even suffering from a mental disorder. Besides the name calling, they say that this election is simply too important and thus I must surrender my political free will by helping elect an evil person in order to prevent someone who is even worse from winning. Although I’d like to think that my friends could show at least a modest amount of respect, this election has brought out the worst in some people. There are both good and bad people supporting Clinton & Trump as well as sound and poor reasons to cast a vote for them and the same can be said of the various third party candidates.
Last week, I met my pastor at a local cafe, mainly to discuss politics and, at the end of our talk, she asked if I would give the opening prayer at church the Sunday before the election. I agreed to do so and, after thinking about these recent experiences, offered something similar to what is below.
First, let me thank you for those who came out to hear your word this morning at Court Square Theater. Yes, some days it is difficult to come, maybe because the message is tough, or we’d rather watch football in London, or maybe it’s just that our beds are simply too darn comfy.
With the advent of next election in just a few short days, we have struggled mightily as a people. We have been divided into camps and told that we must hate those who hold opinions different than our own. Whether we consider ourselves to be Democrats or Republicans, or Libertarians or Greens, independents or something else, are we not all made in your image? Is it your plan for us to make our friends and family enemies due to mere political disagreements? So many pundits and politicians have been goading us into fear, urging us to make choices based on which person or persons we detest the least. Where once there was reasoned political dialogue, as we get closer and closer to Tuesday, civility has all but disappeared and has been replaced with naming calling and insults. The temptation to lash out in the same way others treat us is strong, but we ask that you would imbue us with the strength not to fall into this trap. Remind us that we are your people and you call us to be better than this world.
We pray for our pastor, our theologian in resident, our worship team, and each and every person here today, and those who are unable to join us. May you watch over us, guide us in your wisdom, and correct us when we stray. Please direct our nation and our leaders, no matter which candidate emerges the winner in Tuesday’s election and may we be mindful and courteous to everyone even when some people attempt to divide us over our skin colour, sex, national origin, and yes, even political affiliation.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, we ask these things.
As I told the JMU student that I am tutoring, Election Day to me is like Christmas is to most people. However, this year I am relatively certain that I don’t want most of the gifts the American people will be unwrapping tomorrow but unfortunately we can’t return them. My great hope is that no matter how things turn out, Tuesday will be the end of the awful 2016 elections, citizens will accept the results, we can put this particularly nasty season behind us, our overblown fears will subside, and we can work for greater civility and support candidates that actually share our values, as opposed to relying on party labels and this whole lesser of two evils nonsense.