Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lessons Learned from the 2008 Election

President Obama. That's painful for me to write. For some, it's probably just as painful to read. For others, you're rejoicing that "change has come to America!" I'll be honest with you: I'm very disappointed in the outcome and nervous for what that bodes for the future -- not just for the next four years, but the potential strategic implications that could affect us 20 years down the road...BUT, I've learned a few lessons along the way this election season that give me hope.

I'm reading the book, Battle Cry of Freedom, right now, about the Civil War. Yesterday, I read a section describing the 37th Congress that sat from 1861-1862. The author stated that it "did more than any other in history to change the course of national life". Yet as I looked at what it did, I couldn't help wondering what we would be saying about those "same" things now if they were election platforms. They passed an act authorizing the transcontinental railroad, seeded with government funds. They also passed several land-grant acts that benefitted individuals (free land to live on), corporations (land for starting/growing/expanding businesses), and universities (where many got their start). We look back 150 years now and are thankful for that because we see the goodness in it, right? After all, that helped form the foundation of our modern America! But these were all internal improvements -- most funded with government money, and done at the expense of foreign spending and foreign affairs -- mostly in opposition to current Republican philosophies. Well, let me back up: Not necessarily opposed, but lower in priority to protecting our interests globally because of a finite budget (i.e., we can't do everything on limited funds). My point is that these domestic issues (i.e., internal improvements) were what Barack Obama staked his claim on. Hopefully we can look back in 25-30 years and realize that we're much better off than we were domestically and that his foreign policy actually kept us afloat despite many Republican and military fears.

The second thing I learned is that Democrats aren't evil people -- a bit misguided perhaps :-) but not evil. I believe Barack Obama won this election because many people either believed he was the best person to help our country on one particular issue (like healthcare), or because they aligned with him on more issues than they did with John McCain. I do not believe that it was because the vast majority of Americans believed that Obama was all right and McCain was all wrong. (I believe the media helped significantly with that, but I'll just leave it right there.) That's what makes our republican form of government so great. We elect our leaders based on their platform and who can best lead our country and/or help us individually. Do I agree we made the right decision? No. But the majority of Americans feel that Obama can help them individually and/or that our country as a whole needs to go in a different direction. The rest of us hope they're not wrong...but we can also change that in 4 years.

On a similar note, I also had the chance to converse (well, okay, debate/battle) with a few friends during the campaign that are hard-core Obama supporters. What I learned from them is that relationships transcend politics. We debated several times. At the end, we always said that it was good we could discuss these issues openly and still be friends afterward. Last night, after it became clear who would win, I changed my Facebook status to "Tim is praying". Immediately, I had 5 people (the first two being two of my Democratic friends) say that they hoped my prayers were about the election and not because something was wrong with Lauren. What a great reminder to me to keep my focus on relationships and not on something that will pass.

Finally, God is in control. I must confess to you that as I watched Barack Obama win and as I watched others who were already learning that lesson (or trying to convince themselves to learn it), I was not ready to learn it. I am now. Because of all I've said above and other things I've written in this blog, I must believe God is in control. No matter what happens. The next four years could be great, or they could be lousy, or they could just be four years. It doesn't matter. Yet again, I go back to the challenge I was given October 3rd and 4th in Nashville to be fearless. Even if the worst thing imaginable happens, God is still on our side...if we let Him be. "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10)

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