Is Voting an Act of Violence? Reflections on Election Process
Yesterday I offered up some thoughts on the upcoming elections. The day before that I offered up a review of a book entitled Split Ticket: Independent Faith in a Time of Partisan Politics. I have always believed that voting is not just a right, but a sacred privilege to be taken very seriously. I have tried to vote in every election and I make it a point to go to the polls to vote. I have taken my lead in part from Romans 13, though my interpretation might not be standard issue.
In Romans 13, Paul tells the people to be "subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God." In our country, which is a democracy, the governing authority is the voter. Thus, I am to be subject to the direction given by the voters, even if I don't always agree with the majority on every issue or candidate. Now I don't follow this lead blindly, but I understand that in our system we have the right to resist through the vote. Because I believe that voting is important it has been my belief that if you don't vote then don't complain. That's the way I was raised.
With that as the background I find quite challenging the premise that voting could be an act of violence. In an essay in Split Ticket John Edgerton and Vince Amlin make this very claim.
Most of us think about voting for a President as choosing between candidates, deciding who is best suited for the position. This is only part of the story. We are also voting to place someone in the office of President. This office, like any, comes with a job description, part of which is the role of Commander in Chief of the armed forces. When we vote, we collectively decide to give one person control over the deadliest weapon in the world, the U.S. military, and authorize him or her to use it whenever necessary. Voting in a Presidential election does more than simply express a preference. Voting also affirms the broader political order of our nation, and that political order is not peaceful. (Split Ticket, p. 59).
Although I don't find the argument convincing -- maybe that's because of my own upbringing -- I think it is appropriate to consider the kind of political order we've committed ourselves to. Remember that Paul was writing to people living under Roman Rule. He suggested that government provided structure and order, but he didn't give his imprimatur on any particular form of government.
Although I'm not sure that voting is an act of violence, I have become more and more convinced that the act of campaigning is verging on becoming an act of violence. I realize that nastiness has always been part of the campaign process, but with the multiple forms of media available, and the huge sums of money available due to corporate spending on elections, they have become more and more polarizing each time out. It is rare to see a positive TV commercial, and if you're watching TV for a couple of hours in an evening you will be bombarded by commercial after commercial.
Is voting an act of violence, I'm not convinced that it is, but the process has become increasingly violent. And, to be honest I'm concerned about the kind of governance we will get if we continue down this road.