I am posting this blog at the time when the presidential election in the United States is still undecided. The President has already claimed victory, but the counting of the votes is far from complete and it looks like Joe Biden has a very good chance of becoming the 46th president of America. However, there probably will be a long legal battle and I don’t want to wait with posting this week’s blog until I know whether it is Biden or Trump. Anyone who has regularly read my blogs knows that my sympathy is certainly not on the side of the current president. But I try not to say too much about this to my American friends, because given the extreme political polarization in the U.S., friendships can easily suffer lasting damage when discussions become too intense.
As a European, I look at the American election system with a very critical eye. I dislike the fact that a presidential candidate has to collect huge sums of money in order take part in the presidential race. But above all, the system of the electoral college, which ultimately elects the president, even though the popular vote may differ from what the electoral college will decide, is, in my opinion (and that of most of my compatriots), rather antiquated and not very democratic. I continue to follow the news on CNN and other national and international channels closely, so that I will not miss an important aspect of the election circus and in the meantime, I keep hoping that there will be a new resident in the White House.
In the meantime the date of the Dutch parliamentary elections is steadily approaching. In this Corona-era the American system has inspired the Dutch government to spread the voting over three days (15-17 March) and make it easier for older people to vote by mail. Most political parties have now written their draft program and have established their list of candidates. I haven’t made my choice yet, but I certainly intend to let my Christian principles be the deciding factor, and this will probably lead me to vote for a Christian party or for one of the left-wing parties. I will no doubt return to this in a later blog.
The Dutch system is not perfect. It would, in my opinion, diminish the fragmentation of the political landscape if parties would have to pass a significant threshold (maybe two or three seats) in order to enter parliament. What’s more, someone who has been elected on the ticket of a particular party should not be allowed to turn his/her back on that party halfway through the parliamentary term and start his or her own one-person toko. Unfortunately, I still see few initiatives in that direction. And the way in which the Senate is elected should perhaps also be looked at, but discussions about this have been going on for decades. All in all, I am quite happy that in the Netherlands we have a multi-party system that usually requires a number of parties to form a majority government, and that, as a result, extreme shifts to the right or to the left are avoided. In any case, we are facing exciting months now that all parties are preparing for the election.
There is yet another election coming up, namely that of the worldwide Adventist Church. The big question that occupies the minds of many church members is whether 70-year-old Ted Wilson, after ten years at the helm, will be re-elected for a new presidential term. Because the system of governance of the Adventist denomination in many ways reflects the American political system, the president has disproportionate power in both cases. In American politics at one point a law was passed to prohibit the president to run for a third term. It would be good if such a rule would also apply within the church, to guarantee a regular refreshment at the highest level. In this Corona-time it is even more difficult than at other times to make predictions. Will Wilson be president for another five-year term? Are there other good candidates who can profile themselves sufficiently, and will be sufficiently known around the world, to qualify? Could the fact that there has been no international travel for some time , and that there are far fewer other personal contacts between leaders worldwide, have a significant impact?
In the past, the Church has always taken the position that there should be no politics in the Church. It would, however, be naive to think that there are no political maneuvers in connection with church elections. It remains a good thing to avoid political actions as much as possible. But isn’t there a way to ensure that—perhaps through the social media—the delegates will get more information about capable women and men who can play a part in the administrative and spiritual leadership of the church, before they meet in May for the General Conference session? I think that is certainly worth considering.