Monday, October 31, 2011

Election 2011: 3) What to Think About When Voting

So we come to vote, how to go about it? First, we all need to pray. Christians across the churches should be gathering in these weeks leading to the election and praying that God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (esp. 1 Tim 2:1–2). We want the right people in power, that our nation will be well led, safe, protected and provided for. This is a tough time in the world, and it will take some seriously good leadership to get us through the economic and political challenges we face.

Secondly, we need to think in regards to the gospel. Here are some elements:

We get two votes of course and so we need to be strategic with them. Where the local candidate is concerned, I think we should vote on two main fronts: 1) The person, who will be the best local politician and represent the electorate well; 2) The party they represent. That person will get to vote with the government so the policies of their party are critical (see below).

So, get to know your local electorate candidates. Look out for meetings and go and listen to them. Email them, ask them questions. They are desperate for your vote so they will answer if they have a brain.

With our party vote, we need to vote for what our hearts and minds informed by the Spirit and thinking about the gospel and world leads us to vote.

How?

Get to know the political parties and their policies. Because of MMP, this is a far more complicated thing than in the first-past-the-post days of two clear parties right and left. Then it was easier to know where they stood. Now it is a cluttered political scene with small parties and their various policies. This is further complicated in that they don't release their policies in one big lot, a kind of manifesto approach as in the old days; rather, they leak them out. They spin them through the media too. So we need to try and get through the red tape and get inside their minds. We can also observe our local MP, are they active for our concerns?

Get to know the leaders and what they stand for. We need to observe the main party leaders closely. Who will give us good leadership? As Christians, character is of as much importance as skill—who has both?

Thirdly, we need to think about voting from the point of view of what God dreams of for his world. I imagine he wants a nation with:

  • Stable non-corrupt united Government—who will best give us this? Look for signs of unity and strong by fair leadership at the top of the party. Clearly, we need to think about the major parties here, and their coalition parties. Which party(s) will give us stability?
  • Economic prudence and wisdom, the generation of wealth through policies that encourage business and innovation etc, the distribution of wealth so that the needs of all are met—who has the policies for the dangerous struggles of the time where we are simultaneously trying to maintain our economy in a failing market, incentive to businesses and people to be innovative and employ, yet ensuring that there is a safety net for the poor i.e. their tax policies, their policies that encourage business, how do they balance this? Do they appear to have the capacity to manage the economy well? In a sense this is always the number one question, because everything else flows from this.
  • Asset Sales: This is a bit of an issue with National wanting to sell 49% of Air NZ and some power companies. Others repudiate this. What are the implications of selling part of or all of assets. It yield money, but is it selling our soul? 
  • Justice: safety, protection and justice for all—who are committed to protection of NZers, concerned too for the victims, committed to restorative justice where appropriate, but protective justice (e.g. no parole) where appropriate, making a priority of protection of the nation.
  • Education: where our young, regardless of race and 'class,' can get a good education that opens up options of them as adults whether tertiary education, a trade or other occupation. One big issue here is student loans, who is thinking of creative ways to pay for tertiary education, yet at the same time, ways to pay them off e.g. assistance to students who stay and work in NZ.
  • Primary health care for all: where all NZers have access to primary health care, affordable GP's, access to hospital services.  
  • Family: where a government empowers families as the basic care unit of the nation. My sense is that all the main parties focus on schools rather than families. The school should not be the first point of citizen-formation, rather, the family unit. What is the parties approach, is if family centric? As I see it, of the 'bigger' parties, United Future and Maori (Whanau) seem the most on to it here.
  • Moral goodness and social ethics: to what extent does the government embody and encourage a Judeo-Christian morality and ethic? To what extent does the government encourage egalitarianism ensuring that whatever people's personal opinions are, all are protected and not marginalised or oppressed on the basis of their world-view, gender, age, culture etc. Western human rights may overstate individualism over society, rights over responsibilities, but is still a good thing. For example, in the past abortion, decriminalisation of prostitution, civil unions, etc might have been election issues. Some issues around might be the decriminalisation of marijuana, gay adoption etc. I get the sense that while these issues are always around, this election there are no real major ones on the horizon that might rally Christians in one direction or the other. Most of the mainstream parties are liberal-minded, so it makes little difference at a social ethical or moral sense who we vote for. They are all much the same, socially liberal.
  • Environmental concern: Is the party focussed on sustainability, but in a common sense manner which does not crumple economic growth. Clearly the Greens lead the way here, but are their policies sensible?
  • Religious and personal freedom: While I am a Christian with strong convictions, I need to allow others the same freedom I wish to believe what I believe and live life without oppressive imposition on others. This is hard to grasp for some Christians who want a Theocratic nation. Thankfully in NZ, all the main contenders seem to me to hold these values.
  • Social justice—care for the poor: Two real solutions seem to exist: 1) That government is the best means of redistribution of wealth from those with to those without; so a lack of trust in the wealthy redistributing their wealth, greed, so the left tend to support taxation of the wealthy e.g. those in Wall Street, those in Queen Street; 2) That government has become too big and unwieldy, that we need to reduce government, retain the safety net at the very bottom, stronger means testing etc, force people into work, and encourage personal charity and generosity through government policies. Some hold to tax the wealthy will crumple growth with more business and personal costs, and we need growth. So one side tends to demonise the wealthy and believe in the government as the best means of distribution. The other side tends to demonise big business and the wealthy and believe they should be taxed less to generate jobs through business. We need to seriously think about this as we go to vote, who has it right? Or is the answer somewhere in the middle?

So what are the really big issues this election. To me there is one major issue at this election, the economy. The globe is on the brink. We need to vote thinking of who can get us through whatever is coming. Who will give best leadership to stimulate business in a struggling market, and yet ensures the care for those who are struggling—the unemployed etc? That is, reducing government debt, stimulating the economy, ensuring the safety net is there. Not easy! This does not necessarily mean voting Labour or National, but it means thinking of the implications of coalitions and on economics for whoever we vote for.

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