June 12, 2007
"Saving Lives, Securing our Future Yesterday" is the ingenious motto of the nonpartisan ONE Vote 08 campaign, which launched yesterday in a church in Washington D.C. In a stroke of brilliant marketing, ONE Vote 08--an offshoot of the ONE Campaign--combines two quintessentially American traits: moral idealism (The worlds poorest countries are in crisis and we have a moral obligation to act) and strategic pragmatism (Fighting poverty is in the strategic interest of the United States).
ONE is a grassroots organization which attempts to mobilize supporters to pressure elected national leaders, particularly Congress, to fund more of the U.Ss international development and relief programs. The ONE Vote '08 Campaign extends that focus to the upcoming presidential race.
Although my favorite charity (World Vision) is a founding member of the coalition, I've tended to view the ONE Campaign with a degree of skepticism. The problems of humanity are too complex to be solved by government programs or increased funding of NGOs and no amount of money can substitute for the world's most pressing need: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Still, international aid can help alleviate the rampant poverty and disease that ravages our neighbors in Africa and threatens the security of the West. That is why I'm giving my tentative support for this campaign.
Here are five more reasons I support ONE Vote '08:
1. Because they have the right priorities -- ONE Vote '08 wants presidential candidates to agree to focus on the following five goals in the fight against extreme poverty:
- Save 15,000 lives a day by fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, three of the world's most devastating diseases.
- Prevent 5.4 million young children from dying each year from poverty-related illnesses and 400,000 women from dying in childbirth each year.
- Provide free access to primary education for 77 million out-of-school children with a special emphasis on girls.
- Improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations by, for example, providing access to clean water for 450 million people and basic sanitation to more than 700 million people.
- Reduce by half the number of people in the world who suffer from hunger, resulting in 300 million "fewer" hungry people each year.
2. Because they have a plan -- ONE Vote '08 has developed a presidential-platform of achievable solutions that if championed by the next U.S. president could have a profound impact on the poorest people in the world. The platform is built on the foundation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed to in 2000 by the United States and 188 other nations to achieve poverty reduction and sustainable development by 2015. The plan isn't perfect--no policy solution ever is--but it is workable. Until a better plan is presented, I'll support this one.
3. Because helping the poor is a national security issue. As former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told a group of us bloggers, "People do not go to war with people who have saved their children's lives." While that might not always be true, the Senator's underlying point remains valid. Extreme poverty promotes extreme instability. The poorest nations on earth are breeding grounds for radicalism. But by providing aid and improving living conditions, we can curtail future threats.
4. Because its a true nonpartisan coalition -- Yesterday I sat in a stuffy room in an Episcopal church with rival former House Majority Leaders (Senators Frist and Daschle), policy wonks from the left and right (John Podesta and Michael Gerson), and bloggers both liberal (Matthew Yglesias, John Aravosis) and conservative (Soren Dayton, Matt Lewis). We may not can agree on much else, but we all agree that these issues worthy of our time, money, and attention. Fortunately, we aren't alone. ONE Vote '08 has been endorsed by both the RNC and the DNC, by religious leaders and Hollywood secularists, and by millions of ordinary people across the country.
Bipartisanship is not inherently virtuous. But in a country as politically divided as America is today, it is comforting to know that there are still some issues that we can all agree upon.
5. Because the church hasn't done enough -- Conservative Christians often claim that feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted, and tending to the orphans are roles that belong to the church, not the government. I completely agree. But I'm left with uncomfortable questions: Why then are so many people around the globe still in extreme poverty? Why are so many people dying of AIDS and malaria? Why are so many children still hungry? Either the church has failed to obey the commands of Jesus or we are doing the best we can and are still falling short. For whatever reason, the church needs help in carrying out our duty to our global neighbors. Hopefully, one day the ONE campaign will no longer be needed. But until then, I'll welcome whatever help we can get.