“The Republicans are for the rich and the Democrats are for the poor.” So goes the sum-total of political ideology handed down to me by my parents. Oversimplified, perhaps, but it made perfect sense for a family existence that was entirely dependent upon the United States government. I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to make my break from our housing project home, so when the long-awaited day finally arrived, I went off to college—with the help of government financial aid—in search of a better life.
From Democrat to Republican
In college, I became a Christian and changed my affiliation from Democrat to Republican—mostly for moral issues. And while I highly valued the government assistance that I had received along the way, I also knew plenty of people who milked the system for all that they could. In their lives, the welfare system had created a welfare mentality.
From Republican to Independent
Sadly, I became increasingly uncomfortable with my Republican voter registration and so I changed once again to become a political Independent. Why? I began to see both the Democratic and Republican parties as closed minded and untrustworthy. Also, I realized that abortion and sexuality are not the only moral issues that matter. Unbridled greed and injustice toward the poor are both forms of immorality strongly condemned in the Bible.
The mistake political conservatives—and, thus, religious conservatives—have made is to equate our form of United States capitalism with the industrious economy encouraged in the Scriptures. The idea is that if you work hard—like I did—you can improve your lot in life and create a better material existence—like I did. If you’re lazy, on the other hand, and just want to feed off of the government, you have no right for the government to support you. In principle, that’s the way it is supposed to work. But in practice, for two primary reasons, this famed aspect of the American Dream is quickly fading.
1. As much as we hate to admit it, racism is still very much alive in the United States. Young black men, for example, are often treated quite differently by civil authorities than are young white men. And while I don’t profess to know all of the details of the chaos in Ferguson, Missouri, at least part of the outcry flows from the cumulative frustration of many blacks. White people struggle to grasp the depth of this frustration because we mistakenly assume that the average black person is treated no differently than the average white.
2. Big business, which is generally championed by conservatives, has become a greedy affair. Greed, according to the Scriptures, is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Many of us are now acutely aware that the average American CEO now makes an absurd amount of money compared to the average American worker. One study put the ratio at 354:1. That number, dear readers, is immoral.
Greed Destroys Lives and Families
What happens when an employee works hard and devotes an extreme amount of time and energy to his or her job? More and more, that worker is “rewarded” by longer hours and lower pay so that company executives can make more money. Such behavior clashes with the heart of God as revealed through the Scriptures and yet it is supported by conservatives. After seeing multiple lives damaged by corporate greed, I couldn’t help but jump from the conservative political bandwagon.
Of course, the issue is never as simple as was implied by my parents. The recent Bank of America settlement, for example, gives the appearance of opposing corporate greed, but really amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist by our Democratic administration. Not a single bank executive has been prosecuted for a fraud that wreaked havoc on millions of lives. I can’t imagine, however, that a Republican administration would have done any better.
If conservatives continue to wink at such financial injustices, more people will shift politically left and the moral causes championed by those conservatives will mean less and less to the general public. Should we strive to eliminate corporate profits? No, but we do need to make them honest. Those who are truly concerned about moral issues should challenge conservative candidates to combat–not encourage–corporate greed. This self-absorbed expression of immorality is destroying the fabric of our nation.
It was the combined effort of these two parties that sought to control the format of mainstream political debates, effectively forcing out candidates from other parties. For this reason, the League of Women voters quit sponsoring presidential debates in 1988.