Following a historic midterm election, many Americans are still trying to understand the results and what they will mean for our country in the years to come.
Gabe Lyons, founder of Q Ideas, recently sat down with political expert Michael Wear to discuss the most significant results of this election, the effects of increased political polarization and what it means for American believers to live out a faithful witness in the political sphere.
#1: Our country will face continued uncertainty.
Even following a historic midterm election, when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and Republicans retained control of the Senate, Michael said some uncertainty remains.
Wear pointed to the 2006 midterm election when Democrats also took control of Congress. He said they generally sought compromise then, but that seems unlikely in today’s political climate.
“The mood is a little different now,” Michael said.
He cited a statement Nancy Pelosi released, in which she said she’d like to see a compromise between her party and the Trump administration. Michael said some of Pelosi’s colleagues spoke out against this idea, and meanwhile, President Trump has indicated he doesn’t plan to take a passive approach, either.
All of this leads to considerable uncertainty about what will actually be accomplished over the next two years, Michael said.
“Given how heated and combative the general political environment is — and frankly, how much Democrats just want President Trump gone, whether by election or the 25th amendment or something like that — it’s not an environment which is conductive to level-headed reasoning,” Michael said.
#2: Our country is greatly impacted by partisan identity and political polarization.
Michael said one of his most significant takeaways from this midterm election was a realization of the tremendous impact of partisan identity. This made the election’s results feel particularly emotionally charged, he said, in a way that felt almost similar to the 2016 presidential election.
“I think we’re in this place in our country where our elections are so deeply felt,” Michael said. “There’s such a personal aspect to them. They hit us to our core — that there are not completely satisfactory outcomes to our election. We end up, no matter how our side did, still feeling as though our place in our own country is sort of unmoored, and I think a lot of people are feeling that right now.”
Michael pointed to the fact that even some candidates with deep roots in their districts and states didn’t win re-election.
“A big reason for that on both sides of the aisle was that the other party was saying how evil their party was,” Michael said. “Partisanship drove so much and transcended even personality and individual campaigns people ran. Of course, there were exceptions, but that’s what really stuck out to me.”
#3: Politics impact culture.
Michael also pointed to another reason this election was significant.
The election was about more than who will make government decisions over the next few years, he said; our politics have a much larger impact than that.
“The culture our politics creates is going to influence everything else,” Michael said. “It influences what our children are exposed to. It influences the types of conversations we feel empowered to have or not empower to have. So, I think that’s a really profound thing for us to understand — there is no focusing on culture apart from politics because it’s all in a big stew right now.”
#4: Christians need to understand the purpose of politics.
At the same time, Michael said Christians should understand the rightful place and purpose of politics.
To him, this means we shouldn’t turn to politics as a way to have our spiritual or emotional needs met, treat politics as a form of entertainment or approach politics as a way to get our Christian culture affirmed.
“When we go to politics and fill ourselves up with that kind of personal affirmation — that kind of cultural entertainment value — it means that we’re not freed up to go into politics to love our neighbor,” Michael said. “It means that we’re not freed up when we go into politics to focus on the concrete and limited purposes of justice and affirmation of human dignity that politics is actually capable of meeting.”
#5: There’s still good news for Christians when it comes to politics.
In light of this, Michael said there are some important things for Christians to remember when they approach politics.
“The good news for all Christians is that politics is not like this one realm of life in which God is just sort of confounded or mystified by it,” Michael said. “We so often treat politics like that, but Jesus actually is not scared by our politics. He’s not anxious about what’s happening in the political scene.”
Jesus’ burden is light in all spheres of life, including politics, Michael said. He added that our faith offers us resources to help us navigate politics in a healthy way, and this is part of what he and his colleagues try to steward at The AND Campaign.
#6: There’s hope for the future.
In the midst of uncertainty, Michael expressed hope for the future — starting with the idea that Christians can do better.
“What if it was Christians who said, yes, some of us are Republicans; some are Democrats; some have different political interests than us; but because we’re Christians, because we’re motivated in politics, because we want to see the flourishing of our communities, we don’t want to see our politicians play games with policy in order to advance their own political interests?
“What if Christians actually said we’re going to steward our influence to provide those incentives? We’re going to support politicians of either party who are going to take concrete steps forward in a way that will help our neighbors, and we’re not going to pay so much attention to what party they’re a part of or what their long-term political strategy is. I think we can do that. I really do.”
Listen to the Q Podcast to hear Michael and Gabe’s full conversation following the midterm election. To learn more from Michael and to continue the conversation, sign up to host a Q Dinner in your home..