The Most Dispiriting Presidential Election in My Lifetime

Let me dream, please. In my dream, I see Hillary Clinton so tarnished that the Democrats decide they can’t really offer her up as their nominee. I see a party that finally comes to the realization that a woman who can’t be trusted with official documents should never be president.

Also in my dream, I envision a Republican party that actually looks at the platform it just created and shakes off the spell put on it by the Trump circus, acknowledging that he is no more than a Democrat in Republican clothing. In that dream, the delegates come to their senses and deny him the nomination next week at the convention. They will turn, instead, to someone who really believes in the stated goals of the party.

Now, back to reality.

Donald Trump is doing what he can to head off a delegate revolt by readying his announcement of his VP running mate, supposedly tomorrow. He’s been vetting people, doing things like asking for their tax returns—you know, the very thing Trump himself refuses to release. Of course, if he had his first choice for VP, it would be an unconventional pick:

Vice

In the running, presumably, are Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Mike Pence. Gingrich is smart, but his personal reputation is almost as smarmy as Trump’s. Between them, they would be the first team to “boast” of six marriages, three apiece. Gingrich led the Republicans to victory in the 1990s, then fell from grace and had to resign from Congress. This is a positive choice?

Christie was my next-to-the-last choice during the primaries, second only to Trump. He’s not that different from Trump in personality, and he also wouldn’t be wedded to the platform.

Pence has a solid background as a conservative stalwart and Christian man with principles, but he’s let those principles slip in some startling ways lately, particularly with his rather spineless action in backing off the religious liberty bill in Indiana. Although he endorsed Cruz in the primary, it was a tepid endorsement, again betraying a disturbing trend toward loss of principle. In my view, Pence would be lowering himself to attach himself to Trump. He needs to regain his reputation.

Regardless of whom Trump chooses, that person will have one major job: having to defend Trump’s artless statements and actions the rest of the way, often being put in the position of defending the indefensible:

Shovel-Ready Job

Hillary has recently received the coveted Bernie Sanders endorsement, which isn’t going over too well with those fanatical Sanders supporters:

No Establishment

Whichever candidate wins, the inauguration will be a grand joke on us all:

I Do

Nightmare Inaugural

If you follow the latest developments closely, you know that Trump has now said he wouldn’t mind the Republicans losing control of the Senate—he likes the idea of being a free agent.

He’s also initiated a lawsuit against a former campaign senior consultant, Sam Nunberg, for allegedly outing ousted campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for having an affair with campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks. Nunberg also alleges that Trump set up a fake company for the campaign and misused the funds in that company. Stay tuned for more on that.

This has got to be the most dispiriting presidential election in my lifetime, and that’s saying a lot, considering we’ve suffered under two Obama elections. For the first time, the Republicans are not offering a viable candidate, if indeed Trump escapes the convention intact.

Is this really the best America can offer?

Uncle Sam's Head Bag

Divine intervention is sorely needed. I cannot vote for either of these two people. I have to put my complete trust in God’s mercy.

It Will Be Over Only When It’s Over

I’ve let a day pass since the primary elections on Tuesday. It provided time to reflect on the results. Listening to the talking political heads on TV, there are certain themes that have emerged, some I agree with, some I don’t. In no particular order, they are:

  • Santorum’s victories in Alabama and Mississippi took almost everyone by surprise. Only one Alabama poll had him leading, and that was only by a single point. No Mississippi polls showed him ahead. Yet I followed the returns minute by minute, and except for the very early returns, Santorum led throughout the night. Some attribute this to the high evangelical turnout in those states. That certainly was helpful. But only a few voices keyed in on one of Santorum’s clear strengths: his likeability when one meets him in person and the genuineness of his character. He doesn’t come across as a phony politician saying what he thinks you want to hear. Those who characterize him as strident miss the essence of the man.
  • Gingrich lost big time. His only real shot—and it was a true longshot—was to capture both of those states in an area, the South, where he should have been strongest. Almost everyone thinks he has no chance of getting the nomination after these losses, and they believe he should exit the race as gracefully as possible. I couldn’t agree more. He is finished. The only thing his continued candidacy will accomplish is to divide the conservative vote with Santorum, who is the clear consensus choice of the conservative electorate. If he really doesn’t want Romney to get the nomination, he should bow out now. He has declared, though, that he’s going all the way to the convention in Tampa. Will he be forced to rethink that position? When funding dries up, he may have to face the inevitable. It’s a shame he won’t do so now.
  • Strange as it seems, Romney came out ahead with new delegates despite his third-place finish in Alabama and Mississippi. He won Hawaii and American Samoa [with all of 70 votes being cast there]. With the proportional division of delegates, that put him 5 0r 6 delegates ahead of Santorum for the evening. For the Romney campaign, it’s all about the math. They continue to say his nomination is a done deal.
  • My view: his nomination is no way a done deal. Yes, he still has the inside track, but there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the Republican electorate for someone who has to try to convince people he really is a conservative. Santorum, meanwhile, is picking up that lost enthusiasm. I’m fully aware that enthusiasm by itself doesn’t equal victory, but it is an essential ingredient for anyone who eventually gets the win. The last thing the Republican party needs is a nominee who doesn’t generate any real excitement.
  • There’s also a lot of talk about the final choice of a candidate not being made until the convention. While I would like to see this settled before the convention, I’m not as dismayed as many seem to be by that prospect. I also question the belief that a prolonged primary season is bad for the Republicans. A thorough vetting of the two candidates who are left is very important. We shouldn’t just jump on a bandwagon of inevitability and then face buyer’s remorse later. A vibrant convention that actually chooses the party’s nominee might inspire enthusiasm when all is said and done. Who knows? Political analysts and professional campaign staff have been wrong innumerable times before.

Sometimes, it takes time for a candidate to grab the attention of the voters. And once he gets that attention, it takes time to fund a complete campaign staff. That’s what is happening with Santorum, and it would be a travesty to allow the early primary and caucus states to determine the nominee before a good number of the other states get their say. Illinois and Louisiana are next on the docket. Romney currently leads in Illinois, but there’s no telling how Santorum’s latest victories may change that. Louisiana polling shows Santorum on top at present. If he takes both of those, can anyone justifiably say this race is over?

It will be over only when it’s over.

Of Politics & Ivory Towers

You know, I really can’t stand politics. That may be surprising, considering how much I comment on the latest political happenings. What really interests me is a proper understanding of government, Biblically and philosophically. I like to explore the original intent of government as revealed in Scripture, and how it is meant to work. I prefer to focus on character as much as possible, and I seek to find those who display the type of character that is necessary for the government to function the way God intended. Some will say I’m too devoted to theory, and perhaps live in that oft-described “ivory tower” that academics tend to inhabit.

Actually, I don’t think those ivory towers exist; no one can escape the day-to-day realities. Nor should they. I fully realize the practice of politics rarely achieves those Biblical goals. We are inundated with winning strategies, false accusations against political foes, and all the seamy aspects of life that we would like to ignore, if possible. But we can’t. I get tired of it all, as I’m sure many of you do as well.

Yet because we live in this world, and because our lives are affected deeply by what transpires in the political realm, we have to stay vigilant. A Christian, rather than living in a dream world, grasps the truth of man’s sinfulness in a way that others cannot. A real Christian knows firsthand the consequences of sin; he or she has been pulled out of the pit. Gratitude for a second chance in life should be a constant inspiration.

Christians also know that government is not the solution to all of life’s problems. In fact, all too often, government has become the problem. I borrowed that from Ronald Reagan. He knew what he was talking about. Government is not an idol, and it needs to be taken down from its pedestal. Yet it is significant, and God expects us to labor for the best government possible. That’s why I have to continue to comment on the latest developments.

Today there will be three more primaries: Alabama, Mississippi, and Hawaii. Will they determine the future of the Republican party, or will the battles go on after today? One of the candidates, Newt Gingrich, is in a must-win situation, even if he denies it. If he fails to win any of these states, he should hang it up. Another one, Rick Santorum, is seeking to turn this into a two-man race once and for all. To do so, he’s going to have to win at least one of these states, preferably two. The third, Mitt Romney, has already declared that campaigning in a southern state is like being in an “away game.” He has to connect somehow with people who don’t form part of his circle. Can he do it?

May God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The Most Important Insight from Super Tuesday

Let’s start with a summary of what happened in the Super Tuesday contests, then move on to some specifics. Romney won six states, Santorum three, and Gingrich one. The only one that was close was Ohio, which took until the wee hours to be called for Romney. Santorum had been leading there most of the evening. The [almost] final tally is 38%-37%.

Key thoughts: except for Ohio, Romney’s wins were easy. One was his real home state of Massachusetts, as opposed to his other quasi-home states of New Hampshire and Michigan. I’ve never seen a candidate with so many home states. Another of those wins was Virginia, where only he and Paul were on the ballot. That was a simple task for him, not having to face Santorum in a state where Santorum could have done well if not for having the toughest rules for getting on the ballot. Virginia may be changing those rules after this experience where its voters didn’t have a real choice.

Santorum’s win in Oklahoma was expected. In Tennessee, the polls seemed to indicate Romney was coming on strong. They were wrong. No one knew what to expect from the North Dakota caucuses; Santorum’s easy win there was somewhat surprising to the pundits. If he had captured Ohio, the story might be different this morning.

That leads me to the most important insight from the night: Newt Gingrich is the ultimate spoiler; he’s the Ross Perot of the Republican campaign. He won his home state of Georgia and claimed that was significant enough to carry on his quest. Never mind that he didn’t come in second anywhere else. Sometimes, he was woefully behind Paul as an unimpressive fourth-place finisher. The only thing keeping him going, I suspect, is ego.

As I’ve noted before, polls show that when Gingrich supporters are asked for their second choice in the race, most pick Santorum. Without Gingrich, Santorum probably would have won Ohio comfortably. The problem is, he never gets to take on Romney one-on-one. Gingrich keeps muddying the waters. It’s past time for him to go, but he doesn’t get the message.

Commentators, even after last night, continue to speak of Romney as one of the weakest frontrunners imaginable. If Gingrich were to face the inevitable, Romney wouldn’t be inevitable. If indeed Romney captures this nomination, he enters the race against Obama as a weak candidate. The mantra is that this drawn-out campaign is what is weakening him. I disagree. His weakness comes from within. His baggage will go with him.

Tearing Away the Veil

Sometimes the veil is torn away and we can see the deep and wide chasm that exists in our society. A comment Santorum made the other day has served as the catalyst for showcasing the dichotomous thinking that dominates our culture. The media are in an absolute apoplectic fit over his all-too-true statement that Obama’s theology masquerades as Biblical theology, and that the president’s worldview is decidedly other than Christian.

From both the Right and the Left, Santorum is being taken to the verbal woodshed for breathing such heresy, and for introducing a theological element into the presidential race. Apparently, they don’t believe there is any connection between ultimate reality and politics. I beg to differ.

In fact, he was correct. Obama’s worldview is in direct opposition to a Biblical worldview. Now, Santorum came out later and said that he didn’t mean to imply Obama wasn’t a Christian personally, merely that his worldview was inconsistent with standard, orthodox Christian theology. The only criticism I have of anything Santorum said was that later statement. Of course, as a presidential candidate, one must be careful not to alienate everyone by declaring your opponent a non-Christian, particularly when the “One” is touting his Christianity as often as he has been recently.

However, I’m not running for president, and I will say what Santorum cannot: Obama’s so-called Christianity is not the real thing. His view of Christ and salvation are not Biblical. He is caught up in a spiritual deception, but he’s not a victim—it is of his own making, by his own free will.

Naturally, this will be an ongoing point of attack from Santorum’s challengers. Ron Paul is already saying that social issues should be off the table. Mitt Romney has nothing to run on besides being a businessman, so he doesn’t want anything to do with moral values. Gingrich has so much baggage that he will probably avoid the same, except for disparaging Santorum for standing up for Biblical foundations in society.

In the current field, only Santorum has the lifestyle that reflects a Biblical worldview. For that, I respect him, and I pray for his success.

By the way, new polls show he has a commanding lead in both Texas and Oklahoma. These go along with a big lead in Ohio and a consistent lead in Michigan. That last one is still in play because Romney will be pulling out all the stops there. If Romney loses one of his “home” states, he’s in big trouble.

Romney should be running away with the nomination: he has the money, the organization, the backing of the Republican establishment. But he doesn’t have the hearts of Republican voters. Santorum is filling that vacuum.

Santorum’s Rapid Rise

It’s turning into a tidal wave, particularly in the Midwest. What am I talking about? The rapid rise of Rick Santorum in the polls. All you have to do is watch the faces and hear the incredulity in the voices of cable news hosts to know that something is happening that was more than a little unexpected.

A series of new polls coming out of Michigan show Santorum leading Romney anywhere from four points to fifteen. Not a single one favors Romney at this time. Then there is the shocker out of Ohio, a Rasmussen poll showing Santorum with a 42-24 advantage. Even Arizona, where the Santorum forces decided not to waste money because it is a winner-take-all primary like Florida’s, and polls showed Romney with a big lead, now sits at Romney 38%, Santorum 31%. It appears GOP voters continue to have a hard time coming to grips with a Romney candidacy.

Commentators have begun searching for weaknesses in Santorum. They think they’ve found them on social issues. They believe voters will eventually be turned off by his lack of support for contraception and his opposition to gay marriage. First, if we’ve come to the point where opposition to homosexuals demanding marriage is a losing proposition, we’re beyond the pale as a country anyway. I appreciate Santorum standing firm on that one. If that’s a losing position, it’s also a principled and honorable one. Second, Santorum has no plans to make Americans accept his views on contraception. Even those of us who don’t agree with his stance completely on that one know what his aim is—to reduce sexual immorality and enhance the status of marriage and family. As long as he frames these positions carefully and positively, he can win with them.

The biggest problem remaining for Santorum appears to be Newt Gingrich. He hasn’t yet come to the realization that his opportunity has passed him by. He’s even less desirable for Republican voters than Romney.

He used to lecture Santorum to drop out of the race so as not to split the conservative vote. It’s time for Newt to take his own advice.

A Rising Tide?

The latest poll of Republican voters shows that Rick Santorum is now tied with Mitt Romney with 30% each. It’s a stunning shift as Santorum has risen thirteen points very rapidly while Romney has dropped a couple. Newt Gingrich appears to be fading. The big question is whether Santorum can sustain this momentum.

Critics say that this is no different than what we’ve seen throughout this primary season. Rick Perry rocketed into first place when he entered the race. His fall was followed by Herman Cain’s meteoric rise, and then when he ran into his troubles, Gingrich was the beneficiary. So, in all, this makes Santorum the fourth candidate to equal or surpass Romney at one point or another.

My response is that while this also could be transitory, Santorum would only fall back due to some major misstep. Unlike Perry, he has come across as knowledgeable in the debates, with many believing he was the outright winner of the second one in Florida. Unlike Cain, he is more tested and has political leadership experience. And unlike Gingrich, he has no real personal baggage or history of constantly changing positions. He is who he is, and he’s been pretty consistent over the years.

I wasn’t at CPAC, but all the accounts of his appearance there indicate there is a rising tide. So many showed up for his speech that not everyone could get into the room. The accounts I’ve read say he got a standing ovation for his comments. Earlier in the week, when he showed up at Oral Roberts University, they had to change the location to the large arena because they expected perhaps 2000 would be attending. Instead, 3500 came to hear him.

Romney, meanwhile, in his speech at CPAC, seemed determined to convince the audience that he was a true conservative. He used the term “conservative” or its derivations twenty-six times in a speech with the same number of minutes. He even called himself the “severely” conservative governor of Massachusetts. Severely? How does that adjective fit? It’s oddly out of place to use that word in that context. It’s as if he is almost desperate to showcase his conservatism. But when you are that desperate, you have to understand why some might question your authenticity.

The real test of the trajectory of this race this month will come down to Michigan and Arizona on the 28th. Maybe those contests will clear the air. If not, March’s Super Tuesday will be the one to watch.