Party Time

Most of my life I have held an interest in politics. As a teenager, I went to a Young Republican meeting in my hometown in rural Missouri. I attended Boys State, where teenagers set up and run a mock government, ran for office, and got the most votes in my party for anyone running for the Fake Supreme Court.

I have simultaneously also been politically apathetic. As a Christian, I always thought the Church should bring about the change we need to see in society. I spent a ton of time trying to improve my community, but outside the realm of politics. In fact, I’m now a little embarrassed to say, I did not vote in any election in my adult life until the last one.

Increased polarization, harmful rhetoric, and the pivotal presidency of Donald Trump got me off the bench. Not only did I decide to participate by voting, I also decided to participate by running for something. But by the time I filed I could only register as a write-in candidate. I chose to do so as an independent, still nobly hovering above partisanship I so often critiqued. But I only had seven weeks and about $2,000. Needless to say, my guerilla campaign didn’t go very far.

That’s not to say it did not make an impact.

What it did do was teach me a lot. And it convinced me that I may want to make another attempt some day — a more legitimate, thought out attempt. Above all, it was clear that if I wanted to truly compete I would have to align myself with one of the two major parties. There is just no way to win without doing so — and you can’t make the kind of impact I want to make if you don’t win.

So I started doing my research, talked to folks I knew in both parties, shared my policy positions with people who studied such things, and landed on the realization that I am a Democrat. One of my advisors sort of chuckled at me when I suggested that maybe there was a path for someone like me in the Republican party. “You might be able to align yourself as an independent, but dude — you’re a Democrat.”

Still, I can’t shed my bias that part of the problem in our country right now is powerful partisan duopoly that runs our government. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to lean into a partisan identity for a few reasons.

  1. As I mentioned already, if you want to make an impact you have to be in the game, and the game right now has two dominant sides. An independent hasn’t been elected to a statewide office in Texas since the 1930s. It’s just necessary.
  2. My heart in the political sector is motivated by the same thing my entire life has been motivated by — my faith. While cultural messages tend to insist that if you’re a Christian in politics you have to be a Republican, I know this isn’t the case. There is a long line of faithful Christians who have served the public square from left of center. Any argument to the contrary isn’t based in fact.
  3. Two organizations I really admire (The And Campaign and the Center for Action and Contemplation) have both taught me that we need faithful people in public life who are willing to critique their own side. This is something I’ve always been comfortable with and something I believe I will continue to do even as someone within the Democratic Party. In other words, you can belong to a party without holding a hyper-partisan posture. I’m not blind to the Democratic Party’s weaknesses, policy-wise or organizationally. I’m not blind to my weaknesses.
  4. I have always felt the strongest pull to Biblical passages which mandated care for the “least” among us, those living in the margins and oft-ignored. Matthew 25:33ff prompted me to start a nonprofit organization caring for the hungry, thirsty, sick, stranger, naked, and captive among us. The Beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5 remind me that power, wealth, and image are more shallow pursuits that humility, poverty of spirit, and self-sacrifice. And Micah 6:8 has been ringing in my ears since I was a boy: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justices, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

I’m not suggesting you can’t do that as a Republican, I’m simply suggesting that I can most authentically do that as someone who aligns himself with the Democratic Party.

I have and will continue to vote for Republican candidates I believe in. I have and will continue to seek policies that advance the consistent life ethic I wish to live by. I have and will continue to seek common ground, employ common sense, and pursue the common good. I have and will continue to value dialogue “across the aisle,” though at this point I don’t have an actual aisle to dialogue across.

In fact, I’m still not sure if I’ll run for something again. Choosing the Democratic Party in suburban Texas is not the surest way to win, proof positive that I did not do this out of a thirst for power and electoral success. Still, I will look for ways to contribute to my community like I always have.

I have faith in a community where while our differences persist, those differences are matched by our persistent love for one another. I have faith in a politics that seeks the good of all above and beyond the good of one’s self. I have faith in a God who has implanted a common likeness and value in all humanity and has the power to unite us in the shared experience of being human.

I have faith in all of us, that when called upon to do what is right we will do it; that when called upon to do what is good for our neighbor we will gladly meet their need; and that when called upon to have the courage to do that which is unpopular will rise to meet that challenge. 

That’s the faith — in God, in my community, and even in myself — that has inspired me to take this step.

It’s an exciting time in our country. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way, and I’ll let him have the last word:

If there is any period one would desire to be born in, is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it.