Dear Person Who Wants My Vote-
I have been listening to your campaign ads for months now. I have read analyses of analyses of your comments. I have heard your promises and how your opponent scoffs at your record (or lack thereof). There have been rhapsodic theme songs, carefully posed pictures, and evocations of long-dead statesmen and politicians. Yet, there seems to be some confusion.
The confusion seems to be within you. Within this campaign. Within the ethos you are attempting to evoke with every dollar spent. Every ounce of your energy and other people’s money is going toward make you appear like a savior- one to redeem us from the current state of things.
However, I’m not electing a savior this year. (Nor is one electing me- that kind of election is entirely different.) I’m electing a leader. Thus, I need to know that you understand that you are not Jesus- either reincarnate or returning. Since you seem to need some framework, I’ll help you. If you want my vote, please consider Moses as your model.
First, I appreciate a little reluctance in a leader. Not a false modesty, as though you’re shocked to find yourself at this stage- millions of dollars and hours later, but a genuine humbleness and trepidation at the confidence people are placing in you and your skill. Take off your shoes and be real about what you do bring to the table and what you do not. Surround yourself with those who can supply the skills you do not have. Do not ask your brother/wife/neighbor/donor because of that relationship or owed favors, but because he/she is genuinely better at something than you are. Find your Aarons and Miriams. Let their gifts shine.
Second, expect to be thwarted, but have your staff ready. You may call for change, for release, for a new vision of the future. That stuff is great to hear. It’s powerful and the charge it brings runs down the spine to the feet and inspires forward motion. But we both know that there will be powerful voices that say, “No.” Voices backed by money, by influence, by might that will look at you offer and attempt to prevent what you are attempting to bring about. Only history will tell who is right, but if you genuinely believe that your plan offers real, democratic life and liberty to a strong majority of Americans, fight for it. Call down a plague upon those who filibuster against the little, the least, and the lost in the system. You are their leader, too, and they’re counting on you. What good is happiness to them if they have neither the life nor the liberty to pursue it?
Third, remember to whom the people belong. You may have forgotten the scene where the Lord tries to make Moses responsible for the people who, in that very moment, are collecting jewelry to make the Golden Calf. As God attempts to renounce them, Moses is quick with the reminder that these people are God’s people and God’s alone. When I am alone in the voting booth, I want some confidence that you know the American people do not belong to you. If you are not able to say that we belong to God, I want to know that you know we belong to this moment and to history. To vote for you, I need to know that you believe that in America, there is neither red nor blue, unregistered voter or super-PAC, entitled or freeloading, but out of many, we are one. Remember that you belong, as a leader, to all, but we do not belong to you.
This brings me to my fourth and final point for your consideration: your term is not forever. Four years, two years, six years- the end of your term will most likely not find us in the Promised Land. However good you and the circumstances in which you find yourself might be, there likely will be hungry people, struggling people, boarded up towns, failed business, uncured illnesses, and societal gaps at the end of your term. These things are not inevitable; we do not need to resign ourselves to them. However, they seem likely and if you understand that you are a leader, not a savior, it will be a little easier to swallow when these things are pointed out. You lead the wandering of the nation; you do not save its soul.
I hope you can understand why I would like to see a little more Moses in you and a little less Christ. Certainly, I am hoping and expecting to see you adhere to some of the teachings of Jesus, but that’s how he should serve as a guide for you (see: treatment of the poor, access to food and healthcare, overturning corrupt financial systems). If your mental image of yourself aligns with Jesus in any other context, do not be surprised by crucifixion.
Remember, I’m a religious voter, too. When I vote, I’m not electing a savior. God’s got that covered. I’m electing a leader. I want to know that you understand the difference.
An unaffiliated voter
Julia Seymour is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, currently serving a small congregation in Anchorage, Alaska. She lives with her husband of six years, their toddler son, and their middle-aged Labrador retriever. They are expecting another child in January.