Winter 2003
Volume 7 Number 2
 

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Faith and Politics | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5| Page 6
 
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by Kent Annan

An October Saturday morning several weeks before election day was enveloped in a gray, dreary mist. The Trenton Farmers Market, in New Jersey’s state capital, countered the dull weather with the bright bustle of buying and selling—the smell of fresh baked goods; the autumn colors of tomatoes, cilantro, pumpkins, and apples; the sharply dressed Boy Scouts selling popcorn.

 

Doug Forrester

The business of politics was also underway: “Hi. Doug Forrester, running for U.S. Senate. Nice to meet you.” Forrester (Class of 1983), 49, who was running as the Republican candidate for senate in New Jersey, moved confidently up and down the aisles, his baritone loud and clear as he reached out to shake hands with each of the vendors and shoppers.

And though not even having the balance of power in the senate of the most powerful country in the world at stake could glamorize shaking hands in a farmers market, Forrester considered it a vital part of the democratic process.

“I’ve been doing a lot of this for nine months…pretty much anywhere you can think of in New Jersey,” he said as his campaign entered the final stage. “It’s been very helpful to me in a lot of ways. For one, it’s helped me listen to what people’s concerns are. Also, there’s a real humbling effect [for the political candidate] when you see people really struggling.”

In addition to the humility gained by taking in people’s struggles, on this morning Forrester encountered the palpably unpleasant results of running as a largely unknown Republican in a mostly Democratic state—first against Democratic nominee Robert Torricelli, then his replacement Frank Lautenberg. For every enthusiastic, “Good luck! You’ll do it. I’m behind you all the way,” there was also a reluctantly offered, limp hand of someone who avoided eye contact, leaving no doubt that Forrester would not get the nod on her November ballot.

(Who other than a politician has this kind of humility regularly scheduled into his day? Who would choose—or even listen to God’s call to—a vocation that includes this as part of the work? While following Forrester around, I entertained myself by imagining a theologian, after publication of a groundbreaking new work, having to come to this same market and walk down the aisles saying, “Hi. Professor Smith, theologian proposing that a radical reinterpretation of metaphor will unleash the power of Jesus’ miracle stories. Nice to meet you.”)

“It is very important to make sure that those involved in elective office spend a lot of time listening to people,” Forrester said after an hour of meeting and greeting. “Democracy works only if people believe they have access, if they can stand eyeball to eyeball and say, ‘You’re obligated to me.’ I think that’s a good thing for two reasons. First, the person who’s speaking is reminded that he or she has access, and is encouraged that democracy works. Second, it reminds the elected official that ultimately [the people are] where the power comes from.”

Forrester was initially motivated to run for the senate because he thought New Jersey deserved better than Senator Robert Torricelli, who was running for reelection but eventually quit the race under pressure for unethical conduct that had contributed to his falling behind Forrester in the polls. Forrester had to that point been sold as the honest, upstanding alternative to Torricelli. When Frank Lautenberg, who had previously served two terms as New Jersey’s senator, replaced Torricelli, Forrester suddenly again found himself an underdog—fighting as a moderate conservative in a left-leaning state. Though for the past 12 years he had worked in business, government service and political ups-and-downs were not new to Forrester. Before running for the senate, he had 14 years experience in local and state government—as mayor of West Windsor (at the same time he was a part-time student at PTS), as director of the state pension fund, and as New Jersey’s assistant state treasurer under Governor Tom Kean.

Continued on page 2
 

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