The US presidential race is like a Canadian election on steroids. Election campaigns in both countries seem like an alternate form of consumerism. Millions of dollars are invested in opinion polls and advertising. There is a competition for the most compelling promises while repeating the refrain of lower prices (taxes). Candidates frame their messages to attract individual votes the way the product commercials seek to direct purchase decisions.
What is missing in all the rhetoric? I think that little attention paid to the common good of communities, our countries, and the world.
The environment, including the air we breathe and the water we drink, seldom receives significant attention. Perhaps most Republicans deny human caused climate change, detest government regulations, and want to exploit rather than conserve. Democrats may wish to avoid conversations about the cost of reducing carbon emissions, protecting water supplies, and mitigating the impact of prolonged droughts and violent storms. The environment is an important component of the commons that we share as citizens.
The wealth of a nation can be seen as another common good. Children deserve access to good schools and professional teachers. (Canadians should be ashamed of the inadequate funding for schools on indigenous lands.) Secure employment with adequate salaries provides resources for the needs of families. Taxes may need to be raised to create projects to restore infrastructure like sewers and water systems. Land and endangered species can be preserved. Low income housing can be built. Youth can be brought together to challenge the racism that divides our countries. Many of us would like to hear candidates speak about jobs that will benefit the common good.
The US and Canada are economically privileged. We have a role to play on the world stage for the common good. Global problems will not be solved by domination and fear of our armed forces. We are challenged to act constructively and generously with people who live in desperation on the margins. I would be interested to know how Clinton and Trump would address hunger and poverty in Africa.
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s current prime minister, seemed to understand the importance of appealing to our better natures and our concern for the common good in the 2015 Canadian election. He elevated conversations about the environment, indigenous rights, Syrian refugees, and assistance to low income families. The election of the Liberal Party proved that there is a constituency that wants more than rhetoric about individual benefits and freedoms.
The Hebrew prophet Amos spoke to those in power when he said: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a river.” St. Paul, in a time of hunger, wrote about a fair balance between the secure and the needy (2 Cor. 8). Faith and people of faith are concerned about the common good of the whole community. There is a place for us as Christians to challenge our candidates to address the issues that concern the well-being of our communities and the world.