1. Background
  2. Voting & Elections

Democracy, Elections, and People of Faith

December 20, 2019


The political campaigns and debates leading up to the November 2020 national elections are challenging the notion that candidates running for Congress or the presidency have seen the 10-foot sign on the front of the FCNL Building that reads, “Love Thy Neighbor (No Exceptions).”

Loving thy neighbor, after all, also includes engaging with people running for public office, no matter their political party, during the 2020 elections.

What these candidates hear during the election season will shape public policy for years to come.

Since the 1600s, Quakers have worked to influence government. We encourage everyone to use this election year to talk to your neighbors about the priorities of our FCNL community and to reach out to candidates to ask them questions and influence their agendas. What these candidates hear during the election season will shape public policy for years to come.

How we ask the questions is equally important. Disagreements over policies and debates exist and are important, but much of the campaigning and the media coverage focus on style rather than substance, on how one candidate tears down another, or what opinion polls reveal about decisions that are many months away.

Adding to these challenges, problems like voter suppression, the influence of money, and the polarization of the public debate, make campaigning difficult for those who participate. They drive more and more people to simply turn away from the political process. When people don’t vote, our democracy is weakened.

Even when we disagree with a candidate’s perspective, engaging in a civil exchange, can leave the door open for future conversation and transformation.

The tone in which we ask a question and the respect with which we listen to the response makes a difference in whether candidates—or even our neighbors who are listening—see us as adversaries or people seeking solutions to our country’s problems. Even when we disagree with a candidate’s perspective, engaging in a civil exchange, can leave the door open for future conversation and transformation.

In this issue of the newsletter, we offer a selection of questions based on issues that are important for FCNL. We will update our website, fcnl.org/elections2020, with more questions.

Our FCNL legislative priorities include working to strengthen our democracy by advocating for laws that would improve the electoral process. We also want to make sure candidates hear our concerns about criminal justice reform, gun violence, the environment, immigration, and the rights of Native peoples.

At FCNL’s Spring Lobby Weekend several years ago, Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02) noted that too often, questions about ending endless wars, refugees, nuclear disarmament, and peacebuilding simply do not get asked. You can change this dynamic. The presidential elections are important, and often the statements of presidential candidates grab the headlines in local newspapers and dominate the news cycle. We hope you’ll also focus attention on the candidates running for Congress, where specific questions about policies can help them develop positions on issues they have not considered and even shift the debate on issues of importance to our community.

The 2020 election is important—and it’s also just one point in the process of political change.

We have several tips on how you can effectively engage candidates during an election. For example, you can ask these questions at a town hall meeting, adapt them into a letter to the editor, or write the candidates a letter. As the elections progress, we will offer more ideas to engage your meeting, church, or community group to raise issues that matter to you.

Many of you are already involved in this election, as volunteers and in efforts to increase voter registration and turnout. These are also critical ways of shaping our government for the coming years.

The 2020 election is important—and it’s also just one point in the process of political change. Changing U.S. policies to advance the world we seek takes persistence and focus, before, during, and after an election. It takes an ability to adapt to changing circumstances, paired with a clarity of purpose, and a sense of what can and can’t be compromised.

Faithfully engaging candidates now helps put our issues on their radars and gives you an opening to follow up after Election Day, once successful candidates have turned to the business of governing.

The challenges facing our country won’t be solved by one election—but the way you take part in our democracy during the 2020 elections makes a difference in how those problems will be solved.

Background Elections 2020 

As Quakers, we have worked to influence government for almost as long as there have been Friends. This year, we encourage you to use the 2020 elections to talk to your neighbors about the priorities of our FCNL community, reach out to political candidates, ask them questions, and influence their agendas.