Sunday, October 31, 2010

Our Precious Privilege

[Voting] is one way, one of the weaker and vaguer ways, to speak truth to power. We may do well to support this channel with our low-key participation, since a regime where it functions is a lesser evil (all other things being equal) than one where it does not, but our discharge of this civil duty will be more morally serious if we take it less seriously.
John Howard Yoder

We have seen that the religion of the prophets was not the quiet devoutness of private religion. They lived in the open air of national life. Every heartbeat of their nation was registered in the pulse-throb of the prophets. They made the history of their nation, but in turn the history of their nation made them. They looked open-eyed at the events about them and then turned to the inner voice of God to interpret what they saw. They went to school with a living God who was then at work in his world, and not with a God who had acted long ago and put it down in a book. They learned religion by the laboratory method of studying contemporary life. Consequently their conception of God and of God's purposes was enlarged and clarified as their political horizon grew wider and clearer.
Walter Rauschenbush, Christianity and the Social Crisis (1909)

At the outset of this post, we would like to remind readers that voter guides, by their nature, basically tell people how to vote, which makes them inherently unChristian. By this, we are referring to the New Testament resistance to coercion and authoritative demogoguery in key texts like I Corinthians 14:27 and Acts 15. The early Christians discerned truth in the power of the Spirit through prayer, experience, research and the underrated practice of talking it out to find consensus: multiple voices mattered. So it is with great sensitivity that we present the 2010 EasyYolk Voter Guide as a discussion starter, not a theological-political mandate--a first word, not a last word.

Our hometown newspaper, the Orange County Register, follows the conventional GOP narrative by calling this midterm election a "referendum" on President Obama's first 20 months in office:

The president won by a landslide in 2008, but since then he has steadily lost support, especially among self-declared independents and women. We suspect that this is because he saw the election as a mandate for sweeping change, whereas most Americans chose to hear rhetoric about a more cooperative "post-partisan" era. This is reflected in the rise of the Tea Party movement and polls that show congressional Democrats suffering significant losses of support.

If anything, Obama prioritized bipartisanship to his own chagrin. The GOP scoffed, whined and said "no" to everything, while blaming Obama for record deficits and an exploding national debt which, ironically, can quite easily be traced to Reagan-Bush-Bush policies of the past three decades by checking the historical record.

Many members of the GOP name-called ("liar"..."socialist"..."racist"..."foreigner") or stood silently by as their cable-news and radio pundits did much worse. This strategy looks as though it has worked marvelously, stirring up the conservative base, convincing many independents to cross over to the right, while progressives felt rejected or jaded by the limitations of Obama's "successes" (no public option? mandated health care coverage? no immigration reform? no overturning of Don't Ask Don't Tell?) and his strange moves to the right on national security (moving torture overseas? expanding the war in Afghanistan? record deportations? drones killing citizens? very tardy on closing Guantanamo?). If anything, what these first couple of Obama years have revealed is just how powerful media propaganda can be in a distracted, busy and easily entertained democracy.

The popularity of the tea party movement can be credited to the power of Fox News and other wealthy backers as they took advantage of the anger, anxiety and fear of white working class Americans in the midst of change (skyrocketing unemployment and federal deficits? a mosque in Manhattan? diminshing pensions and 401(k) plans? a black President? bank bailouts? home foreclosures?). Some of these problems are surely of legitimate concern, but the fear-based oversimplified solutions (less government?) are going to be far more complex and strategic than what is communicated. Who can blame the American populace? We live in an era of diverse tellings of recent history and a choose-your-own-adventure smorgasbord of news sources, with many of our hardest-working, most critical thinking and courageous journalists not household names. But really, none of this is new. The American electorate has traditionally responded by punishing the party in power when the economy is flushed down the toilet. We should not expect that to be any different when we have a President who was born outside the United States ;).

Here are some thoughts as we approach the ballot in California:

Governor: Jerry. He's obviously got a lot of experience governing the largest state in the union and we can't stomach Meg's $150 million proposal to give her a chance to try something new (she's rarely voted and never held public office), not to mention her grab-bag of policies that will surely continue the middle-class vanishing act.

Senator: Boxer. Ditto. Fiorina's "pocket change" and falied policies won't make our federal and state situation any better.

Congress: Beth Krom (48th) and Bill Hedrick (44th). These two Democratic candidates are looking to unseat incumbent GOP congressmen who have "mailed it in" during the campaign season. When incumbent leaders fail to respond to the needs of their constituents--just as Krom's opponent (John Campbell) did when he turned his summer 2009 health care reform town hall meeting into a political fundraiser by charging at the door--then voters need to respond by rejecting them at the ballot.

--> NOTE: until 3 years ago, I was a registered Republican. I've since moved on as BOTH parties (and the American electorate with them) have moved increasingly to the right. Although I'm open to voting for Republicans with policies that truly support the common good and individual rights, I am not compelled by much of anything that is coming from the GOP in this political atmosphere. EasyYolk is always looking for ways to transcend left-versus-right political dialogue, yearning for a deeper, more complex conversation.

Proposition 19: YES. See our recent post on the failure of pot prohibition.

Proposition 20: YES. Take the drawing of congressional districts out of the hands of political leaders who have power, privilege and money to become congressional leaders in the near future.

Proposition 21: NO. We love our state parks, but our political leaders should figure out how to fund them instead of having voters relegated to agreeing to a $18 per car fee. A car culture (lacking appropriate mass transit) does not need another regressive tax that burdens the poor and working classes.

Proposition 23: NO WAY. California's ground-breaking environmental law (AB32) is supported by Democratic party, Schwarteneggar, most independents and, of course, the burgeoning green technology industry in the Silicon Valley. We have a tremendous opportunity to lead the nation with this important issue. This Proposition should be called "Big Oil Strategically Attempts to Take Advantage of Economic Anxiety"

Proposition 25: YES. Bring majority rule back to the budget process in the California Legislature. If the budget is unjust, the governor will veto it or the voters will vote the majority party out of office. That's democracy!

Proposition 26: NO. Again, decisions by the Legislature should be majority rule, not 2/3.

Proposition 27: NO. Same reason as Prop 20 above.

I reiterate: this, in no way, is an attempt to tell you who or what to vote for. It is a basic framework to start thinking about how you will vote in 48 hours. Voting is a privilege in our democracy, one that should not be taken lightly, but in light of our discipleship to the Reign of God, shouldn't be taken that seriously either (see our earlier post on the meaning of voting in regards to discipleship). We only ask that you think deeply, critically and honestly about why you are voting as you are. Whose interests will your vote really serve? Yours? Those with money to buy their self-serving version of democracy? Those who benefit from the status quo no matter what?
Readers living in Southern Orange's a great write-up from EY conversation partner Chris Dollar on the Capo Unified School District vote:

Recall: YES

Measure H: Yes

School Board Candidates to vote for: John Alpay, Saam Alikhani, Gary Pritchard, Martha McNicholas, and Lynn Hatton

I. Why vote in favor of the recall of Trustees Maddox and Winsten?

Here is a brief summary:

1) Trustees Mike Winsten and Ken Maddox voted in favor of an out of court settlement resulting in payments to individuals who financially contributed to or supported their candidacies to the CUSD Board of Trustees.
2) Trustees Winsten and Maddox have supported gross mismanagement of CUSD finances and the reckless spending of millions of dollars on consultants, lawyers and lawsuits.
3) Trustees Winsten and Maddox have not fulfilled their campaign promises of reform, transparency, fiscal responsibility.
4) Trustees consistently display arrogant and dismissive attitudes toward their constituents, parents and teachers at Board meetings and official school functions.
5) Maddox and Winsten refused to support a change in the way Trustees are elected to a "by-trustee area" voting method and they also voted against seeking a waiver to an election that would have resulted in a savings of over $500,000 to CUSD.

For more info on the recall:

II. Why Vote in favor of Measure H (Local Control of School Board Elections).

1. Voting in favor of Measure H ensures that you vote for trustees in your local area, rather than a slate of candidates whom you are unlikely to know. This limits the influence of outside money and influence on school board elections.
2. A vote in favor of Measure H save a significant amount of money in on-going election costs. The cost of every election from November 2012 forward will be reduced by $150,000 - 200,000.
3. Provide better representation by area. Trustees will be better informed on issues in their area, the change will provide direct accountability and improved communication for the constituents.
4. Reduce the cost for individuals to run for a Trustee position to allow more qualified individuals to participate. Cost to run at large is approximately $112,000. Cost to run by Trustee area is approximately $18,000!
5. Reduce the possibility of special interest groups funding and controlling the elections.

III. Why vote for John Alpay, Saam Alikhani, Gary Pritchard, Martha McNicholas, and Lynn Hatton

I have met with all five of these candidates and found them to be committed to public education. They are stakeholders in the community, as four out of the five actually have children attending CUSD schools. These candidates are not attempting to politicize this non-partisan position or use it as a political stepping stone. John, Saam, Gary, Martha, and Lynn are level-headed, rational, educated individuals who simply want what’s best for students of Capistrano Unified School District.

For more info about the candidates go to:

John Alpay:

Saam Alikhani:

Gary Pritchard:

Lynn Hatton:

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