Who Should I Vote For?
On February 18th, when it was time to vote for a candidate to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I realized that I knew which of the 3 nominees I didn’t want to win–but I wasn’t sure which of the other 2 would best reflect my values. Of course, I had read articles about them in the paper, and seen or heard stories in the media. I had even seen some of their campaign materials. But I wasn’t always clear where they stood. (After all, almost every candidate says things like “I will fight corruption,” “I will work for justice,” “I will follow the Constitution,” and “I will represent the hard-working voters of this state.”)
Now, usually I’m more informed about the larger elections–for President, U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, etc. But when it comes to state and local offices (especially primaries)–where the candidates may not have been vetted in much detail– I sometimes feel I need to call someone I trust who I know is more politically savvy than I am.
Figuring that some of you may do the same, it occurred to me that Unitarian Church North might be able to provide a kind of “election service” to its members and friends. Not to tell us how to vote–but to offer accurate information on who’s running, as well as our opinions on why we might be supporting one candidate over another.
My previous UU congregation (in Racine, WI) tried something similar, and it worked pretty well. We would have a brief “forum” on the Sunday before each election, and those interested in sharing their opinions–or in hearing other people’s–would get together after the service for 20 or 30 minutes to discuss the candidates and issues in the upcoming election. We didn’t always support the same candidates, of course, but we ended up being a little better informed about all the candidates as a result. (Personally, I can say that, while few of these forums ended up changing my mind on an issue or candidate, all of them taught me something I didn’t know before!)
For such forums to be helpful, we found it was important to have 3 different kinds of people in attendance:
1) Politically savvy people who are up-to-date on current issues and familiar with all the candidates. (Without such folks we’d end up with a forum of “the blind leading the blind.”)
2) People who actually have questions and concerns about current political issues or candidates, and who would like input from fellow UUs. (Without such folks we’d end up with a forum of strong-willed people “preaching to the choir.”)
3) People who are somewhere in between 1) and 2). That is, people who are familiar with some candidates and issues but not with all; and who, in any case, would find it helpful to hear about issues they care about…from people they care about. (Without such folks, we’d end up with a lecture format: those in the know lecturing those with questions.)
I shared this idea with our congregation’s Social Justice Committee, and the consensus was to give it a try. So, on the Sundays before elections we will have an “election forum” after the service in Barton downstairs at UCN. We’ll start at 11:30 am so people can get snacks during the social hour (and bring them to the meeting!). We will aim at keeping the discussion to about 30 minutes, though people are welcome to stay longer if they wish.
The election-forum Sundays will be:
- April 5th (to discuss the Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary on Tuesday, April 7th)
- August 9th (to discuss the Partisan Primary on Tuesday, August 11th)
- November 1st (to discuss the General and Presidential Election on Tuesday, November 3rd)
I hope to see many of you there, especially at our first one on Sunday, April 5th.
But regardless of whether you can attend these forums–and regardless of who you end up voting for–please remember to vote! After all, our 5th UU Principle says we affirm and promote “the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.”
peace and unrest,
P.S. For those who might be concerned about separation-of-church-and-state issues–or IRS guideline about what religious groups can do, without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status–rest assured: While churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other religious organizations are not permitted to officially advocate for particular candidates (while keeping their tax-exempt status), they are free to encourage their members to discuss candidates and their positions. (Not only that, but religious organizations can–and do–advocate for and against particular political positions, like fair housing, gay marriage, reproductive freedom, public-school funding, transgender rights, gun restrictions, etc.)