Position over Honor, Politics over Principle

For all of my adult life, I have been a strong advocate for what I believe are the true values of American conservatism. Constitutionalism and the rule of law formed cornerstones of my political philosophy early on. The natural outgrowth of those beliefs are policies that keep the federal government dealing only with federal issues. Those beliefs allow state and local governments to rule in their respective spheres.

The greatest cornerstone, though, has been my Christian faith. When I look at the conservative philosophy I developed, I still see it as the proper vehicle for my faith because it takes into account the sinfulness of man, the need to rein in civil government (because sinful people are in charge), and the liberty to follow the Lord without restraints from government, otherwise known as religious liberty as protected in the First Amendment.

In most of my talks to local Republican clubs over the years, I emphasized that I was first and foremost Christian in my thinking; second, and as a result of my Christian worldview, a constitutionalist dedicated to the rule of law; and third, a Republican as long as the Republican party didn’t violate the first two.

My political world was rocked by Republican voters giving Donald Trump the nomination in 2016 and by the next four years of nearly total obsequious responses from Republican leaders. They rarely offered any critique of Trump’s words or actions.

At the base of all my deepest concerns about Trump’s tenure in office is his character, a feature that used to be important for most conservatives when considering a person for office, and one that ought to be foundational for Christians when they vote.

Donald Trump’s character is what I believe lies behind his unwillingness to admit that he has lost the election and for his baseless claims of fraudulent voting. Nearly every court challenge has been dismissed, and some were practically laughed out of court for lack of substance.

Republicans in charge of elections in Georgia and in Philadelphia have gone on record as saying there was no fraud. Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security has stated the same in very strong terms (and then Trump fired the person in charge of that office for telling the truth). The hand audit of the vote in Georgia has affirmed that he lost that traditionally Republican state. Trump has now declared the audit to be invalid and is forcing a machine recount. It will only confirm what the hand audit already has determined.

Just yesterday, Michigan certified its votes, declaring Joe Biden the winner in that state. Pennsylvania is soon to follow. The Michigan certification forced the GSA administrator to face reality finally and begin the transition process to the new president.

If any American president had a reason to be aggrieved in a failed reelection bid, it was George H. W. Bush in 1992. Third-party candidate Ross Perot took 19% of the popular vote, and even though he didn’t win any state, the bulk of his support normally would have gone to a Republican. Bill Clinton won the election with only a 43% plurality. Bush could have ranted and raved about this. Instead, he accepted the loss with grace, even to the point of writing a letter to Clinton that awaited him in the Oval Office, a letter that showed no bitterness at all.

The letter began, “When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.” In that same spirit, Bush continued,

I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some presidents have described. There will be very times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course. You will be our president when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck.

What a model of grace and humility. It’s the Christian model. The more I’ve studied Bush, the more I realize he had a genuine Christian faith that animated his life. Some would call him a loser for failing to win reelection, but I call him a winner in all that really matters in life. He had integrity.

Where are the people of integrity in the Republican party now? Only a few have gone the whole route to congratulate Biden as the winner. Senators Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse were the first to do so. I also give honorable mention to Maryland governor Larry Hogan. Most, though, hold back regardless of the futility of the challenges. The election result has been obvious for a long time.

I appreciate what one commentator from the UK said: “Republicans, as their name suggests, are supposed to uphold republican institutions.” Instead, they have abandoned that responsibility at a crucial time when the legitimacy of a presidential election has been questioned by the loser of that election. Republicans are reluctant to speak the truth publicly, fearing that alienating Trump’s base will mean political loss for them later.

To put it more succinctly: They have chosen position/incumbency over honor and politics over principle.

Trump won in 2016 by an electoral tally of 306-232. Even though he lost the popular vote, he declared that his victory was a “landslide.” The 2020 result is also 306-232. His loss in the popular vote is even greater this time. Is this therefore a Biden “landslide”? Actually, neither result qualifies for that description. When Ronald Reagan won 49 states in 1984, that was a real landslide.

What is the future of the Republican party? Is there hope that this experience will encourage a return to the philosophy, character, and policies that the party once claimed to support?

Frankly, I’m not optimistic. But I want to believe. Republicans, please give me a reason for believing.

Meanwhile, my life and my hopes are not based on the latest political developments, and neither should anyone else’s. I have a greater hope that overrules anything that happens during this earthly existence, and I need to keep that in mind.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13