Three-Ring Election

Well, it’s election day. I, for one, could not be more glad to see it come to an end for a while. The various races here in Oregon (and SW Washington) have been crazy. State and US races for House and Senate seats have taken over the whole landscape. The TV is dominated by all of it—which is fine with me. I don’t mind the idea of turning away from the television in disgust. But I can’t even seem to drive down the street without being hit with a barrage of messages which would like me to believe that the world will come to an end, if I fail to vote for some candidate or other. The enormous pile of expensive campaign mailers that have landed in our mailbox in the last few weeks blows me away. I keep thinking: There must be about a million better uses for this money.

A candidate is shocked and incensed by the “attack ads” of his/her opponent and is telling me about it in his/her own return attack ad. Of course, that prompts another ad from the other side. Back and forth, back and forth goes the game of one-downmanship. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can seem to rise above it. And the minor parties simply lack the budget to join the fray.

As I drove through downtown Hillsboro the other day, I noticed on the marquee of a theater/dinner house that they are planning to show elections results there tonight. Now, this establishment is an interesting one that my wife and I have been wanting to try out for a long time, but have just not had the opportunity. We have stepped in a time or two; and we have heard about it from others. It is an old movie theater which the new owners refurbished and combined with a restaurant. Patrons can then combine their eating with entertainment—if I understand it rightly. Sometimes they show movies; sometimes they have live performances.

Last year (I think it was last year), the marquee displayed the fact that they were going to show the civil war game between the Ducks and the Beavers. When I saw that they were going to do that, I thought, How cool! A big room full of people enjoying dinner, dressed in their orange and black or green and yellow and making a bunch of noise cheering for and against the two teams. Kinda like a sports bar, but at a dinner house. What fun!

But the other day, as I drove past, I saw that they plan to do the same kind of thing with tonight’s “election results.” This strikes me as a bit… odd. With a sporting event such as the Ducks/Beavers game, people can cheer or groan or whatever, and nobody really takes any of it too seriously (one hopes). But is that what this election is like?

I keep imagining the news of victory for some candidate or ballot measure being displayed on the screen—to the joy of some and the chagrin of others. Do the victors openly cheer for their side? Do the losers openly groan or whatever? If not, why bother watching the results in such a venue? But as I imagine the “winners” hooting and hollering and celebrating their “win,” I immediately begin to imagine the reaction of the “losers.” It seems to me that things could get pretty ugly. I wonder about the wisdom of hosting such a gathering.

Then I had an even more disquieting thought. What if things don’t get ugly, because nobody really takes any of this political stuff any more seriously than they do a Ducks/Beavers game?

It is nothing new to realize that politics in America is almost indistinguishable from entertainment. And there is little distinction between entertainment and sports either.

The other day, I saw on television that Sarah Palin had said that she was quite willing to consider running for the office of president in 2012. The fact was reported by a regular newsperson; and then the clip was shown in which she actually said it. It was in an interview with Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight!

And why not? We have already had the oval office occupied by actors and saxophone players.

The dizzying circus of American political-entertainment-sport is almost enough to put me off voting altogether. By the time the next election rolls around, I may have come to that point. For now, however, I will go ahead and voice my opinion quietly on my ballot at least this one more time. I have left much of it blank, but I have marked a few things. And I expect to drop it off some time this evening.

I do not share the belief of many that these elections are of grave importance. I do not believe that the one political entity I really care about, the kingdom of God, is in any danger whatever the outcome of this or any other election. But I do agree that the ideas that are represented on my ballot are serious ones. They matter.

On Superbowl Sunday, at the end of the evening, one team has a Lombardi trophy. The other team has long faces. But it is not the end of the world for anybody. It was just competitive and fun entertainment. It seems that that also is what we are to think of the sport of government.

I will be watching the election coverage tonight with interest. But what I will probably notice more than anything else is the festival spirit with which it is enjoined by participants from every side.

To the coliseum! The game’s afoot!


11 thoughts on “Three-Ring Election

  1. Well written my friend. Fortunately, I have not seen one political ad this year since I don’t watch television…

    Understanding and studying Rom 13:1 is the only hope for me. In this experiment we call democracy, there are winners and losers. However, I still feel like regardless of which camp one falls in, our entire system of government seems to be traveling down hill quite rapidly.

    • Yeah… It would seem so… I admire your abstinence from TV. I am watching less and less with each passing year. I may soon be able to say what you’ve said here. But I’m curious, has your mailbox been crammed with mailers?

      If you’re interested in a really good look at the Romans 13 passage about civil government, I highly recommend the online appendix to the book Jesus For President. I am having trouble loading the page today, or else I would put a more exact link here. But you can find it at

      Thanks for dropping by, Keith!
      Shalom, brother!

  2. I am having a hard time telling the difference in the political parties these days. Same type of people, slightly different views, same ways of attacking eachother and no comprimise between them. I have to choose what I think is the lesser of two evils. I would be willing to do a National refferenduim vote for major issues. People never ask why these people run for office or what thier end goal is. I just have lost my fancy for politics, at least on the national level.

  3. I know what you mean…
    A friend of mine gave me this quote from Stanley Hauerwas several years ago:

    “The American left and the American right provide interesting exhibits of the incoherence of liberal political and ethical theories. For example, neoconservatives celebrate the ‘free market,’ but they insist that we must distinguish between the economic, political, and cultural realms since they do not want the habits acquired in the market to invade other aspects of our lives. Accordingly, they endlessly celebrate the importance of the family for developing people of virtue. Yet they fail to tell us how the family can be maintained culturally in an economy in which we are taught to regard ourselves as self-interested units of desire. In like manner, the left’s support of the distinction between the public and the private in matters such as free speech and censorship robs the left of the resources to make questions of economic distribution or the quality of our environment morally intelligible.”

    The use of the word “liberal” in the first sentence is not the same as it is normally used in popular parlance today. It is the original sense of the word, where both the right and the left are liberal.

  4. You miss the most important point of showing a political event such as an election. While individuals may cheer and whoop it up for the Ducks or the Beavers at a civil war game, it is the elections that will really last with us. Will the school be forced to teach homosexual lives as just another relationship, will more taxes be pulled from your income that now cannot be placed in the offering at church or will a reorganization of goverment funds release dangerous felons on the street. While we imagine we are on the football field with a college team, we actualy are on the playing field of politics and when the other team scores against us… we can lose a lot more than points.

    • Thanks Todd,

      Great point. I feel kinda guilty for not really caring anymore. If vote were for propisitions then I would be more possitive about it. Though you can change the polititians you can not change the lobbiest that control the polititians. Unfortunetly, kids are exposed to that stuff with or without government regulations. TV and movies impact that exposure way too much. Even if you control what your kids watch they are still exposed to that by thier friends.

      Except in the while I was in the Marines whoever has been elected has not truely impacted my life. Not in any way that really matters yet. To me the Government is too big and we give up more and more of our freedoms wanting them to regulate and do things for us.

  5. Are you sure I missed that point?… I thought I got it. At least, I meant to show some grasp of it when I included these words:
    “Then I had an even more disquieting thought. What if things don’t get ugly, because nobody really takes any of this political stuff any more seriously than they do a Ducks/Beavers game?….
    …I do agree that the ideas that are represented on my ballot are serious ones. They matter.”

    Thanks for chimin’ in, Cuz! 🙂

    • Hey, Jaz!
      Yes, I have read parts of Amusing, including the entire chapter, “Reach Out and Elect Someone.” I was very consciously aware that that chapter was influencing my thought on this post.
      It’s funny… About 11 days ago, I was in Powell’s and was going to buy one book. I narrowed it down to three, one of which was this Postman classic. “I’m long overdue for adding this thing to my library and my reading,” I thought. (I’ve known about it since my Multnomah days.) But in the end, I went with my new Ramachandra book. 🙂

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