Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Election 2000: How a Handful of Florida Mennonites May Have Altered World History

The outcome of the 2000 presidential race was eventually decided by a mere 537 votes in the closely contested state of Florida. It makes me wonder what might have happened if Mennonites there would have just stayed at home on election day? Assuming most of them voted for the party that prevailed (as the majority of Mennos elsewhere did) would that alone have changed the outcome?

If so, here are four additional hypothetical questions:

1. Would there have been an Iraq war, the longest in US history next to the Afghan conflict, and one that has resulted in the loss of over 4000 American lives, plus some 40,000 service men and women being psychologically and/or physically maimed for life--along with Iraqi casualties numbering in the hundreds of thousands? Perhaps some Mennonites would argue that deposing Saddam Hussein was worth that and more, but imposing regime change by military means has never been advocated by a peace church like ours. And regrettably, in the instability that has followed, large numbers of Christians who were formerly able to practice their faith in relative peace have since had to flee Iraq for their own safety, leaving a large vacuum as far as a Christian witness in that part of the world.

2. Would the US national debt have begun to spiral out of control as it did after 2000 as a result of sizable tax cuts that turned a national budget surplus into a rapidly growing deficit, and because of the enormous cost of waging two simultaneous wars?

3. Would the US have ratified the Kyota Protocol, with potentially significant implications for the future well being of the planet? The actual merits of the treaty and the evidence that supports its provisions can always be debated, of course, but the fact of it not passing in part as an indirect result of the Florida vote is certainly a possibility.

4. Would the makeup of the Supreme Court have been altered, thus affecting, for example, the outcome of  the recent Citizens United case (which gives corporations the status of "people" who can make unlimited campaign contributions), adding to the loss of civility and accountability in current and future political campaigns?

We will never know the answers to such speculative questions, but I welcome comments and further conversation on whether our voting as Mennonites may not sometimes have major unintended consequences.

P. S. Here's a link to an earlier piece, An Election Reflection.
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