Tomorrow I will vote in the Florida primary. Again this year we are being told that voters in our state will play a pivotal role in the choosing which candidates win their party’s nomination, and eventually which candidate wins the election in November. For the past few days, candidates have been making brief stops and stump speeches in my city of Pensacola, and unfortunately, the more I hear, the more frustrated and discouraged I become.
I am not bothered by their vision, but by the lack thereof. And as the rhetoric continues to grow more and more accusative and vindictive, the message becomes less and less trustworthy and appealing.
However, despite my distaste for the negative tactics in campaigning, I will go to the polls and cast my ballot. I consider voting to be a civic responsibility. And as a Christian, I also think that voting conscientiously is something Jesus would do. But this year, I am voting out of obligation, not out of enthusiasm.
I confess that tonight I am really having a difficult time deciding which candidate is the least objectionable and the least slanderous. I think it would be refreshing to hear candidates present their vision and their values rather than hear them launch repetitive attacks against their fellow candidates. A forward-thinking, proactive, values-based campaign might even rejuvenate participation in the political process, and restore confidence in national leadership. While there are those who say, “That’s not the way the game is played,” maybe it’s time for the game to change.
The future of our nation is at stake. We are voting for a president, not a mud-slinging champion. It’s high time to put aside the political venom and cast the proactive vision. Since the candidate I vote for in November could be a different candidate than the one I vote for tomorrow’s primary, I find myself asking, “Will the candidate with a vision for the future please speak up?” I don’t think we’ve heard from you. But we are listening…and waiting.
(Barry Howard serves as Senior Minister of theFirstBaptistChurchinPensacola,Florida.)