Don't Vote Your Values

Vote everyone's values.

Many Americans and especially Christians are proud to vote their values. In fact, churches and parachurch organizations are known to encourage people to do so. It's our privilege and duty to vote, so we must make our voice heard and contribute to our society.

Of course, when places like Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, or the American Family Association talk about voting your values, they really mean voting their values. They may doll them up with excessive biblical prooftexts to make you feel like a heathen for disagreeing, but that doesn't make it any less true.

No one actually wants you to vote as you would like. You're an individual, and your views probably don't fit neatly into one particular party. Every political party knows this, so they make it their mission to coerce you into believing that your values should be theirs. It's no different than any other kind of propaganda, except if you're a Christian, your faith will be questioned for not adhering.

However, as insincere and unethical as many of these parties tend to be, they have the right idea. You shouldn't vote your values. For the sake of this country and its future, your individual voice should not be heard. Why? Because your voice probably has a lot of stupid ideas.

Voting your values is the reason we have ridiculous political parties like The United States Marijuana Party, The United States Pirate Party, even The American Vegetarian Party. If I ever ran for political office, I'd probably run on The Ban Pop Music and Budweiser Party. We all have preferences that we dress up as values. But they rarely have anything to do with what's best for the country (read: what's best for everyone else beyond just us).

For example, according to a survey conducted by World Magazine of a hundred evangelical leaders, the top issue this election cycle for them by far is domestic religious freedom (international religious freedom, where people are losing their lives, scored much lower). Not surprisingly, it's an issue that has taken center stage on most of the GOP candidates' platforms. It's also an issue that has nothing to do with the rest of the nation.

When people whine about religious freedom, they're not talking about rights. Refusing service to people or refusing to pay taxes on things are not rights. I have my own opinions on how un-Christian these attitudes are, but from a civic standpoint, religion cannot be used to restrict the rights of others. That's the opposite of religious freedom.

Religious freedom is the freedom to exercise your religion, not impose it. Baking gay people a cake or paying taxes for contraceptives may not be your preference, but it is not your right to prevent people access to those products or services. You have the right to find another job, and you have the right to move to another country, but you do not the right to exercise your religion at another's expense.

Some Christians have convinced themselves that America's well-being is dependent on appeasing an already appeased God by installing a law that failed to save humanity. But much to their chagrin and that of the first century, Christ's kingdom is not of this world. They can think all they want that forcing that kingdom on the world rather than inviting people into it is for everyone's best, but they really just want a geo-political savior who will keep them from having to "violate their consciences" (the blood of our sisters and brothers around the world most certainly cries out with them).

Democracy has an unfortunate habit of making us believe that what's best for us is what's best for the country. Because we all get a say in how our government runs, we all think that we should for vote for what we want out of it. In stark contrast to President Kennedy's famous quote "Ask not what your country can do for you...", voting values is voting for desired outcomes, not wise leadership.

If you're voting for Ted Cruz, it's likely because you want to see the Affordable Care Act repealed and Muslim neighborhoods monitored. If you're voting for Bernie Sanders, it's probably because you want free college tuition or a higher minimum wage. Those things aren't good or bad, they just have nothing to do with leadership--especially that of a sizable nation.

Voting your values or voting for preferred outcomes is like marrying someone for money or saying that McDonald's is the best burger joint because you like their cookies. Wealth doesn't make a person a good spouse anymore than a cookie can guarantee grade A beef. Likewise, the candidate with which you most align on various issues has nothing to do with their capabilities in executive leadership (that's why conservatives loved Ben Carson before the debates).

The best leaders are rarely supported 100% by anybody. Leaders understand that influence is more potent than loyalty and that compromise is more effective than filibuster. They don't try to convince everyone to agree with them; they try to find the most agreeable position. In the end, it matters less what they think or believe than how they present it. Evangelicals could learn a thing or two from such an attitude but I digress.

Knowing that good leaders must be able to compromise--they have to be able to get disparate parties to work together, the best candidate will often not be the one you prefer. As much as I love Bernie Sanders and his Scandinavian socialism, I think he would make just as terrible a president as Ted Cruz.

Choosing a leader means being a leader, and being a leader means setting aside your preferences for the benefit of all. Sometimes it means supporting someone with whom you patently disagree on a variety of issues because you know they would do the same for the sake of running the country. It's not a lack of conviction or backbone to be flexible. To the contrary, it's an act of modesty to admit that one person can't possibly know what's best for so many people. Just like your myopic little values can't possibly account for the diversity of needs in the world.

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