I was having dinner with some friends the other night when the question arose, “How important is the Presidency anyway?”. The person that asked it wondered why they were inundated for two years straight with presidential politics on every imaginable media outlet. It’s seemingly inescapable. Do we really need to focus on presidential elections this much? Is it just some deranged cult of personality hero fetish? Do we need to tune all of this stuff out?
No, we don’t.
Several people of different political persuasions catalogued various policy achievements of past presidents, money spent, judges appointed and wars fought. But the presidency is much more than a list of policies enacted or decisions made. It’s an institution, one that helps Americans know who we are, what we want, and what our hopes and dreams are.
This time around around we have seen a Republican party torn. Republicans don’t like Obama for a number of reasons, and Willard Mitt Romney seems like the man to beat him. And yet, Romney isn’t coasting to an easy coronation. There are social conservatives who don’t trust his reliability on abortion and gay marriage. There are fiscal conservatives that think Romney will be the return of the Bush era big government conservative with a vengeance. There are libertarians that worry about expansive government overreach that will continue to erode what little is left of the Constitution’s authority. There are dovish conservatives who worry that we just can’t handle another decade of military adventurism and nation building.
It looks as if this discordant host will not prevail and that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. But this is not a foregone conclusion. Five million dollars in Newt’s coffers certainly make things more interesting (interesting is of course a clinically neutral term). But whether or not the five million dollars the former Speaker of the People’s House will make the difference in the coming weeks, the subsequent elections still matter.
The exit polls in New Hampshire revealed something interesting. Ron Paul’s supporters said that they would support Romney as the nominee if he wins, but that they wanted to send a message. They wanted to send a message. Presidential elections matter and they get enough media coverage to make us want to be Amish and swear off social media for a reason. Presidential elections give us a chance to regularly revisit our ideals as a people. They give us all together as Iowans, Alaskans, Pennsylvanians and Californians to decide what makes us a people, and what would serve to make us a more perfect union. The primaries do divide us, but they also unite us. They help us to identify what are the most important questions, and what the answer to those questions are. True in the end when November rolls around we only get two choices, but those choices are the product of a refining process, one that winnows it down to what matters most to the most of us.
So this election season, don’t tune out. Tune in and make your voice heard. The conversation won’t be the same without it.
“What happened to Jesus at his baptism…was given its counterpart in the church when the Holy Spirit sent by the Father in the Name of the Son came down upon the Apostolic church, sealing it as the people of God redeemed through the blood of Christ, consecrating it to share in the communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and sending it out into the world united with Christ as his Body to engage in the service of the Gospel.”
-T.F. Torrance, Theology in Reconciliation