Who Would Jesus Vote For?
by Chris Busby
The United States of America has no official religion. The First Amendment of our Constitution prohibits the government from establishing a national creed. Yet one could be forgiven for mistakenly believing we live in a Christian country.
Our government is awash in explicit references to God. The Pledge of Allegiance proclaims we are one nation under God’s authority. Our money says we place our trust in God, and our leaders routinely beseech God to bless us.
Although this God is the same deity worshipped by Jews, Muslims and Christians, America is obviously not a Jewish state or a caliphate. With a handful of exceptions, every elected representative in the country has taken their oath of office with one hand on a Bible (and most conclude that oath by asking for God’s help to keep it).
Americans have never elected a leader who professed to believe in any religion other than Christianity, and our two most recent presidents are among the biggest Jesus freaks ever to occupy the White House. During his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast this year, President Obama declared that his entire life and political career have been determined by “God’s guiding hand.”
“It led me to embrace Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior,” Obama said. “It led me to Michelle … It led me to public service.”
Politicians from the liberal left to the religious right claim to be guided by the tenets of the same religion, yet their differences are so deep that our federal and state governments are commonly said to be “crippled” by them. This is partly because the Bible, landmark work of world literature that it is, is riddled with seemingly contradictory statements and strange events that can accommodate a wide range of interpretations.
To take one of humankind’s most vexing examples, God gives Moses the commandment that his people shall not kill, but then gives Moses’ successor, Joshua, the green light to send his army on a genocidal killing spree through over 30 cities in the land of Canaan, murdering every man, woman and child they find.
A modern Christian politician seeking the Lord’s guidance on issues like war and gun control runs into similarly swampy territory in the New Testament. “Think not that I come to send peace on earth,” the man known to millions as the Prince of Peace said, according to the Gospel of Matthew. “I came not to send peace, but a sword” [10:34].
Earlier in the same Gospel, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously instructs his disciples not to resist evil: “whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also [5:39].” But during the Last Supper, anticipating a confrontation with the authorities, Jesus commands the apostles to arm themselves: “and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” [Luke 22:36]. Then, when the Roman soldiers and Temple cops try to apprehend Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Peter cuts off the high priest’s servant’s ear, Jesus tells him to put his sword away, “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” [Matthew 26:52].
Verily, it wasn’t easy to be this Guy’s apostle, and modern followers similarly struggle to understand (much less live by) Jesus’ political beliefs. But as the religious scholar and author Reza Aslan explains in his 2013 bestseller, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus’ teachings are largely consistent and relatively easy to comprehend when considered from a historical, rather than a religious, perspective.
To answer the question posed in this year’s Voters’ Guide — “Who would Jesus vote for?” — we’ll consider what the poor Jewish carpenter from a backwater village in Galilee would think of today’s candidates for Maine’s highest offices, not how a divine incarnation of the Almighty would judge them.
This approach limits the topics covered by this Guide to those that were relevant in Jesus’ time. Many of today’s most contentious political issues — global warming, gay rights, counterterrorism, abortion — were not subjects of debate in first-century Palestine, so Jesus’ take on them can only be guessed based on things his Dad supposedly said and did. And given God’s record in the Old Testament — commanding the Jews to kill babies, drowning nearly every living thing on the planet in the Great Flood — those are thorny arguments better left to the sidewalk preachers and their antagonists.
But there were several pressing social and political issues way back in the day that are still problems two millennia later. For example, Jesus said the poor will always be with us and, sure enough, that prophecy is still true. He was clearly a proponent of free health care for the poor, having personally provided it many times during his travels through the Holy Land. And Jesus was deeply offended by economic inequality.
As Aslan points out, Jesus’ talk of the poor becoming rich, the weak becoming strong and the meek inheriting the earth is just one side of the equation. “[T]hat also means that when the Kingdom of God is established on earth, the rich will be made poor, the strong will become weak, and the powerful will be displaced by the powerless,” he wrote. Or, as this idea is expressed in the Gospel of Mark, “many that are first shall be last; and the last first [10:31].”
Jesus was a more radical revolutionary than any Occupy protester. He was calling for a reversal of the social order of his day, not economic equality. And Jesus was not so naïve as to believe this upheaval would happen peacefully. “His commands to ‘love your enemies’ and ‘turn the other cheek’ must be read as being directed exclusively at his fellow Jews and meant as a model of peaceful relations exclusively within the Jewish community,” Aslan wrote. “The commands have nothing to do with how to treat foreigners and outsiders.”
A faithful adherence to Jesus of Nazareth’s worldview would place the preservation of Israel above the interests of other nations. “As a Jew, Jesus was concerned exclusively with the fate of his fellow Jews,” Aslan wrote. “Israel was all that mattered to Jesus.”
So, although our domestic policies fall woefully short of the goals Jesus endorsed, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East hews fairly closely to that of this Galilean rabble-rouser.
This year’s Guide covers the two major races in our print-readership area that have a chance of being competitive: those for governor and for the Senate seat held by Republican Susan Collins. (Due to limited space in this issue, the Guide to the Senate race is available on our website, thebollard.com.) First District Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree ostensibly has a Republican challenger, USM student Isaac Misiuk (a staunch advocate for Israel, for what that’s worth), but his amateurish and practically invisible campaign gives him slightly less of a chance of victory than a snowball in hell.
Though it’s tempting to declare right off the bat that there’s no way in hell Jesus would vote for Republican Gov. Paul LePage, fairness demands we at least consider the possibility.
What attributes does LePage have that Jesus might admire? Well, LePage does seem to believe humankind began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He thinks this creation myth is plausible enough to be a mandatory lesson in Maine’s public schools — taught, if not instead of evolution, then in addition to scientific fact; and if not in public schools, then in “charter schools, magnet schools [and] special schools” (whatever “special” means in this context).
When LePage’s advocacy of creationism caused a political uproar in the summer of 2010, he claimed he was being persecuted by a powerful Democratic operative, Arden Manning — not necessarily because he believes in creationism, but because “I am a French Catholic and I believe in God,” he told a WGAN radio host.
During an interview that same summer with MPBN reporter Susan Sharon, LePage — who weeks earlier called the Bible “a working document … that can be enhanced or changed” — seemed to equate creationism with acts attributed to Moses and Jesus. Manning “calls me a creationist,” he told Sharon. “I tried it, though. I did try. I went to the river and tried to part it and it didn’t move. I tried to walk across my pool and I sunk,” he said, laughing.
It’s doubtful that Jesus would be amused by that remark, though he may share LePage’s antipathy toward tax collectors (known as “publicans” back then) and the federal government. To the extent that LePage’s political philosophy aligns with that of the anti-government Constitutional Coalition (and given the fact he met with members of the group over half a dozen times and, in some cases, did their bidding, it’s fair to say there’s some common ground), he’s endorsing Jesus’ famous reply to the Temple authorities who confronted him after he drove out the money-changers and sacrificial-animal salesmen.
“Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar or not?” they asked Jesus, to which he replied: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” [Mark 12:17].
In Zealot, Aslan argues that this statement has been misinterpreted over the centuries as a call to forsake material things in favor of spiritual concerns. He interprets it instead as a declaration that Caesar (the highest authority in the Empire) has no rightful claim to that which is God’s — specifically, the Holy Land the Romans were forcefully occupying at the time. And he notes that the Roman authorities considered Jesus’ response in the same light, labeling him a lestes, a bandit, a “zealot” advocating the overthrow of the regime.
So-called “sovereign citizen” groups like the Constitutional Coalition similarly reject governmental authority and the value of the money — paper currency and coins made of non-precious metals — the government issues.
These possible sympathies aside, there’s no doubt Jesus would abhor LePage’s treatment of the poor, the sick, and the scared.
The governor has repeatedly made statements that demonize unemployed Mainers and those receiving public assistance. His refusal to expand Medicaid coverage to upwards of 70,000 poor people, despite the federal government’s guarantee to cover the costs under the Affordable Care Act, is unconscionable by Christian standards. And his outrage that the federal government allowed eight little kids — “unaccompanied alien children,” he called them — to shelter and receive sustenance in our state while their immigration status was determined is itself a moral outrage.
If the Son of Man does return, LePage — who took his oath of office with one hand on a Bible — will not be able to say he wasn’t warned. “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels,” Jesus said at the end of Matthew 25. “For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in … ‘as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.’”
The most recent example of LePage’s lack of charity is his decree that cities like Portland will be denied reimbursement for General Assistance benefits given to undocumented applicants. Portland officials are determined to continue to provide assistance to the homeless and hungry regardless of their immigration status — a stand that could cost the city many millions of dollars.
LePage’s defenders could make the same point Aslan makes in Zealot — that the Jesus of history was very conscious of the divisions among the people of Palestine, and declared himself exclusively responsible for the Jews. “He insisted that his mission was ‘solely to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’” Aslan wrote, quoting Matthew 15:24, “and commanded his disciples to share the good news with none but their fellow Jews.”
Jesus was even said to refer to gentiles using the type of derogatory language LePage is prone to use. When a gentile woman approached Jesus seeking help for her demon-possessed daughter, Jesus replied, “‘Let the children [by which Jesus means Israel] be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs [by which he means gentiles like her],’” Aslan wrote, citing Mark 7:27.
This is not much different than the statement LePage’s Health and Human Services Commissioner, Mary Mayhew, gave to the press in defense of her boss’ policy. “The LePage administration remains committed to protecting our scarce resources for the people of Maine and this country, particularly the elderly and disabled,” she told the Portland Press Herald.
But when the gentile mother replied to Jesus, “Yes, Lord: but the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs” [Mark 7:28], Jesus cast the demon out of her daughter. And later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations” [28:19]. Consistency was not among the Gospel writers’ virtues.
LePage’s Democratic challenger, Congressman Mike Michaud, is also a Catholic. And like LePage, he does not support providing government assistance to undocumented immigrants. But in an interview with The Bollard in September, he stressed that “we have an obligation to help people seeking asylum and refugees.
“Governor LePage has tried to blur these lines and pit people against one another,” Michaud continued. While it’s reasonable to “evaluate” the way administrators of local assistance programs determine eligibility, “you don’t do it by attacking cities and towns and making threats.” (LePage’s campaign did not make the candidate available for an interview for this Guide.)
Unlike his fellow Catholic, Michaud supports expanding healthcare coverage to the poor under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. He also differs with the governor on the issue of raising the minimum wage: LePage vetoed a bill last year that would have brought the state’s minimum up from $7.50 an hour to $9 by 2016; Michaud supports a boost to $10.10 within two years.
When it comes to reversing income inequality, neither Catholic candidate is a follower of Jesus.
The big tax cut LePage enacted in 2011 effectively eliminated income taxes for the lowest-paid workers, but saved the most highly paid Mainers much more. It’s estimated that over 60 percent of the benefits of that cut went to the top 20 percent of earners. And those who reap wealth by inheriting it, rather than working for it, benefited from an associated doubling of the state estate-tax exemption, from $1 million to $2 million.
The governor’s critics also say his income-tax cut resulted in property-tax increases, as cities and towns raised rates to compensate for the loss of state revenue. Property-tax increases are more burdensome for low- and middle-income homeowners and renters than for wealthy property owners.
In Congress, Michaud displayed limited sympathy for the rich. He voted against the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in 2008, and in 2010, he opposed extending the Bush tax cuts for households earning over $250,000. “If we’re going to be borrowing trillions of dollars for tax cuts for the top 1 or 2 percent, that’s wrong,” he said at the time.
That said, at the federal level, Michaud has supported estate-tax exemptions of up to $3.5 million for individual inheritors and double that for couples. Although he told The Bollard he believes the current tax structure “benefits the wealthy,” he’s not among the crusaders targeting corporate tax loopholes and demanding more sacrifice by economic elites. He’s a member of the so-called Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats, and has neither distinguished nor disgraced himself during his 11 years in Congress.
“I think we need a [tax] system that treats everyone fairly,” Michaud told The Bollard. Although his Catholic upbringing is “an important part of who I am,” Michaud added, “you have to be careful about mixing politics and religion.” Still, his guiding political principle is a Biblical one, the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you want them to do to you,” Jesus said. “This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets” [Matthew 7:12].
Like any voter, Jesus would probably consider the candidates’ personal stories, in addition to their policies, before marking the ballot. Almost nothing is known for certain about Jesus’ early life, but strong inferences can be made based on the circumstances of that time and place in history.
As a carpenter or builder, a tekton, Jesus “would have belonged to the lowest class of peasants … just above the indigent, the beggar, and the slave,” Aslan wrote. He was almost certainly illiterate — his was an oral culture — and uneducated in any formal sense. He had a big family that included at least four brothers and most likely some sisters. Though there is no reference in the New Testament to Jesus being married, Aslan wrote, “it would have been almost unthinkable for a thirty-year-old Jewish male in Jesus’s time not to have a wife. Celibacy was an extremely rare phenomenon…” Draw your own conclusions.
There being little work for a woodworker in Nazareth, a small community of fewer than 100 mud-and-stone homes, Jesus most likely toiled in nearby Sepphoris, “a sophisticated urban metropolis, as rich as Nazareth was poor,” according to Aslan. The demand for food in Rome’s booming Palestinian cities strained the lives of impoverished subsistence farmers in the countryside; meanwhile, newly wealthy landowners and merchants (Jews and gentiles among them) built mansions in cities like Sepphoris, the capital of the region and home to roughly 40,000 souls.
“Six days a week, from sunup to sundown, Jesus would have toiled in the royal city, building palatial houses for the Jewish aristocracy during the day, returning to his crumbling mud-brick home at night,” Aslan posits. “He would have witnessed for himself the rapidly expanding divide between the absurdly rich and the indebted poor.”
If this was the case, then surely Jesus could relate to Michaud’s decades of drudgery at the Great Northern paper mill in East Millinocket, as well as to LePage’s lean teenage years hustling, half-homeless and fatherless, on the streets of Lewiston.
One suspects Jesus would have a harder time relating to Eliot Cutler, a fellow Jew raised in privilege, who claims in his campaign book, A State of Opportunity, that he won the “genetic lottery” by being born to a successful doctor and his wife, a Wellesley-educated economist-turned-homemaker active in social causes.
Although his intelligence and strong work ethic were certainly factors, Cutler’s family connections landed him the big opportunity to intern for Democratic Senator (and former Maine governor) Edmund Muskie in the late 1960s. From there Cutler climbed the slimy ladder of Washington politics to a powerful position in the Carter administration, earning a law degree at Georgetown along the way, and then parlayed his political experience into an enormously successful and lucrative career as a lawyer, occasional lobbyist, and international businessman.
Jesus was not big on lawyers or know-it-all muckety-mucks in general. In Luke, he tees off on the pompous Pharisees, “Woe to you … because you love the front seats in the synagogues and greetings in the market place.” When the lawyers speak up, saying that insults them, too, Jesus serves them some humble pie: “Woe to you lawyers also! Because you load men with oppressive burdens and you yourselves with one of your fingers do not touch the burdens” [11:43-46].
And then there’s that famous line, also in Luke, about it being “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” [18:25].
“I am not a religious person, but I have been profoundly influenced by the cultural and historical incidents of being a Jew,” Cutler told the Bangor Daily News in 2012. “So, for example, I am deeply committed to the separation of church and state and to the principles of tolerance, justice, fairness and equal rights upon which the country was founded.”
On the policy issues Jesus cares about, Cutler’s positions are similar to Michaud’s. Sometimes he’s a bit bolder, sometimes more cowardly.
Like Michaud, Cutler favors expanding Medicaid in Maine using federal funds. Cutler goes further by openly calling for a new state health-care system that provides “universal access to quality health care,” but doesn’t delve into the politically perilous details of how such a system would be funded and run.
While Cutler claims he wouldn’t have vetoed a $9 minimum wage, and said a minimum of $10.10 an hour “doesn’t seem off the mark,” he’d prefer that the federal government raise the minimum nationwide, so Maine businesses won’t be “disadvantaged compared to other states.” (Those quotes are from news reports; Cutler did not make time for an interview for this Guide.)
On the issue of General Assistance benefits for undocumented applicants, Cutler punts. He “certainly believes” political-asylum seekers should continue to get aid while their applications are being processed (which is the law anyway). Beyond that, he told the press, it’s “very important for our state rules to be reconciled with the federal rules” — in which case Portland would be turning lots of hungry, homeless people away — and for LePage to reconcile with the Democratic state attorney general and “work together to craft a solution.” The nature of that “solution” is left unexplained.
The big tax-relief plan Cutler’s touting would essentially lower property taxes by raising and expanding sales taxes. (Income taxes don’t figure into it whatsoever.) For low-income Mainers who don’t own property, that’s not only no help; it’s a bad deal.
All things considered, I believe Jesus would vote for Michaud this November. The Democrat isn’t everything Jesus would want in a governor, but compared to LePage, he’d be a godsend.
In her rush to clutch the reigns of power, Susan Collins forgot her god.
As recounted by Bangor Daily News columnist John S. Day, Collins’ first inauguration day, in January of 1997, was hectic. It began early, Day wrote, when the senator-elect’s nieces “charged into [her] hotel room and shouted, “‘It’s time to get going!’” She was running late, and “in her haste to get to the swearing-in ceremony, Collins left her personal Bible in the car and had to use a substitute,” Day reported.
Day also noted that then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott “showed up to praise Collins as another in the Maine tradition of great senators.” Six years later, the country realized what it meant to earn such respect from the Republican senator from Mississippi. At a dinner celebrating the birthday of Sen. Strom Thurmond, who God had somehow allowed to reach the age of 100, Lott praised his racist, segregationist colleague and said the country would have been better off if Thurmond had been elected president in 1948. (Lott resigned his leadership position in the Senate in the wake of the firestorm that followed, though Collins and her fellow Republicans voted him back into power, as the party’s “whip,” in 2006).
Right-wing wackos loved Sen. Collins in those early days. “Maine does not have a Newt Gingrich or Jesse Helms in Congress, but Collins maintains the strongest conservative record among Maine’s congressional delegation, according to the John Birch Society,” the Press Herald reported in April of 2000. “Collins supported a national missile defense system and tax cuts, and she opposed police and school spending programs advanced by Democrats.”
On the issues that’ll make the history books, Collins is still on the wrong side. Invade Iraq and Afghanistan? Collins supported both misadventures. Enact the Bush tax cuts in 2003 that further bankrupted the country? That sounded good to Collins, who also supported extending those disastrous cuts, even for the richest Americans, in 2010. President Bush wants to put likeminded conservatives Samuel Alito and John Roberts on the Supreme Court — what do you think of that, Susan? Yea and yea.
Collins has since styled herself as a “moderate,” and she’s got some votes in her record to back that up. For example, she was the only Republican to support a Democratic proposal to levy a 3.5 percent surtax on millionaires and billionaires in order to cover the cost of payroll tax cuts enacted in 2011. (That bill failed.) And she supported the Dodd-Frank Act to reform reckless financial practices on Wall Street and create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which is supposed to protect people from unscrupulous credit-card companies and other unholy money-lenders.
That act passed, though Collins later joined fellow Republicans to thwart both of President Obama’s nominees to head the CFPB, on grounds that the bureau lacked accountability to Congress. (Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, then a high-ranking official in the Democratic Party, called Collins’ vote against the confirmation of CFPB director Richard Cordray “a slap in the face to Maine families whose lives have been rocked by debt collection practices and by the unregulated abuses of financial institutions….”)
When the rubber hits the road, Collins can generally be counted on to hop aboard the GOP bandwagon as it rolls over the poor and the sick. She’s been a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act, including its implementation in Maine. Last May, she told talk-show hosts on radio station WGAN that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour “would actually harm the very people we’re trying to help” — supposedly because some employers would fire workers rather than provide them even that poverty-level wage.
Collins’ opponent is Democrat Shenna Bellows, the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, who’s making her first run for public office. Unlike Collins’ campaign staff, Bellows’ team made their candidate available for an interview for this Guide, which was conducted last month at a Portland coffee shop.
Like Jesus, Bellows is the child of a carpenter and she grew up in a home without running water or electricity — at least until she was in fifth grade, when her mother went to work in a Christmas wreath factory to help the household afford those utilities.
Bellows supports a minimum-wage increase to “at least” $10.10 within the next two years, as well as a bump in the so-called “tipped minimum wage” for waiters, waitresses and bartenders. She wants the wealthiest people in America to pay more in income taxes, and supports levying a “financial-transactions tax” on those who make money by simply moving it around, rather than sweating for it.
Like Collins, Bellows is critical of the Affordable Care Act, but for the opposite reason. “I think we need universal health care for all,” said Bellows, who advocates a single-payer system financed by the government. (To which Jesus would say, “Amen.”)
Also like Collins, Bellows supports providing food and shelter to people without citizenship papers — at least until their immigration status is determined.
In November of 2004, federal immigration officers caught five Central American men, all of whom had phony Social Security and resident-alien cards, lying on the ground outside a residence in Mars Hill. The men, who were working in Maine harvesting potatoes, where brought to an immigration office in Portland, then released from custody and dropped off at the city’s homeless shelter.
“I appreciate that workers at the Oxford Street Shelter did not turn these individuals away during a cold night and allowed them to stay in a warm and safe environment,” Collins said at the time. “But we need to examine current policy and whether the city should bear the burden of providing shelter for individuals in similar situations.”
“I think that when it comes to basic food and shelter, we need to provide first and then make sure that there are due-process rights for people to gain legal status,” said Bellows, a founding member of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project’s Maine Immigrants Rights Coalition, which includes both the ACLU and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.
Bellows and Collins are both staunchly pro-Israel — a position they share with Jesus. But Bellows is more inclined to criticize the Israeli government. “The human rights consequences of the occupation and the illegal settlements [in Gaza and the West Bank] are devastating,” Bellows said, “and we need to support the human rights and security and autonomy of the Palestinians.”
Collins has taken “a very hawkish approach” to the Middle East, said Bellows. She points out the senator’s support for new sanctions against Iran in the midst of negotiations aimed at convincing the country to relinquish its nuclear weapons program. Though Jesus himself may not have come to bring peace, he praised those who try to achieve it: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” [Matthew 5:9]. Making the peacemakers’ task more difficult is not an approach the Lord would condone.
When she was growing up, Bellows attended the Congregational church in her hometown of Hancock, Maine, and her childhood minister, Phil Devenish, serves on her campaign’s board. But Bellows also had copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights tacked to her bedroom wall back then, and she puts more faith in those secular documents than she does in the Bible when it comes to political matters.
Bellows’ aversion to mixing politics and religion is deep and longstanding — again, we’re talking about the former head of Maine’s chapter of the ACLU. She recalled that opponents of Maine’s marriage-equality law tried to back up their position with religious arguments against gay rights (though proponents of gay marriage did the same, noted Bellows, a leader of the marriage-equality campaign; see earlier comment about the elasticity of Biblical interpretations).
I concluded the interview by asking Bellows if Jesus would vote for her. She paused for what seemed an eternity before saying, “I would not presume to answer that question.”
Then she hopped up on the proverbial stump. “If Jesus were a Maine voter, I would encourage him to vote for me because I will stand up for working families, for seniors, for students,” Bellows said. “I will fight to confront income inequality by raising the minimum wage and focusing on job creation at the local level. I will fight to expand universal health-care access. I will fight to increase Social Security benefits, to protect our seniors now and also protect the promise of Social Security into the future …”
OK, OK — Christ, enough already! Jesus already voted for Bellows — absentee.