October 18, 2017

Daniel Jepsen on “How I became Non-Political”

I see the presidential election season is heating up.  Soon, it will be a two-man race, Obama versus a candidate to be named later.

I find I care less each election cycle.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still vote, and I do so after a good deal of reading about the candidate’s positions.  But I have a hard time getting too emotionally worked up about the outcome.  I don’t claim this as a virtue. Maybe (as perhaps you are thinking right now) it is a great fault. This post is not to defend my apathy, but to explain it.

First, let me stress that “twas not always so”. The month after I turned 18, I walked into a cold January night to take part in the Iowa caucuses.  That same election I was allowed to ask a question during the “audience participation” part of the only GOP debate of the Iowa campaign.  That was my fifteen minutes of fame (it was run on all three networks, and yes I am dating myself terribly by putting it that way).  I recall that same season walking up and down the streets of Des Moines hanging GOP campaign material on people’s doorknob.  I hated abortion (still do), resented the welfare state, and was suspicious of ‘socialized medicine” and soft-hearted judges. I was a full-throttled, red-blooded young republican, and I rejoiced at the start of the Reagan Revolution.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the revolution.  It never happened. Reagan and the rest of the GOP talked about social issues all day long, but acted on very few of them. Despite 12 years of Reagan/Bush, Roe v. Wade was still securely on the books, welfare reform was still a dream, and most of the promises made to the religious righters like myself were unfulfilled.  Yes the economy improved under Reagan, but I learned not to give the President too much credit for the ups and downs of something as complicated and multi-faceted as the economy.

When Clinton ran for office, I was still imbibing at the cool-aid well, and agreed that slick Willy was, if not the anti-christ, at least married to her.  His general sleaziness during the Lewinsky affair only confirmed my animus.  But again, funny facts were messing with my mind and creating some disturbing cognitive dissonance.  Not only had the economy rocketed up (see above paragraph) but the social life of America had not fallen apart.  The rates of abortion, teen pregnancy and violent crime all declined from 1992-2000 (see graphs at the end). I was kerpuzzled (family neologism). Could it be, I began to wonder, that the party of the president and congress had little bearing on the social issues I cared about so deeply?  Could it be that society usually reacts against the crusades of the president more than it joins those crusades?

I voted for Bush in 2000, but deeply regretted his decision to invade Iraq on what (to me anyway) were patently false (or at least un-proven) grounds: Iraq’s alleged link with 9/11 and supposed stockpiling of WMDs. To be clear, in my opinion, the war in Afghanistan was probably in line with ‘just war” theory, while that in Iraq was not (and was a dangerous and deadly diversion from the Afghanistan war).  Now, you don’t have to agree with this, and I am not trying to prove my position right now.  My point is this: I liked Bush personally and agreed with his stance on many issues on the home front. But not only did he (like his father and Reagan) fail to deliver on most of these, I viewed his foreign policy as a disaster.  And, here is the important part, I never saw it coming.  Not once during the campaign did he strike me more fundamentally different than Dukakis on foreign policy grounds, especially in the Middle East.  Maybe I just didn’t pay attention enough.  But I never saw it coming.  I learned again the hard lessons: you can’t judge a president’s effect on the country too much until he is actually in office.

Why? The following is only a partial list.  Add your own reasons:

  • They campaign differently than they govern
  • They face immovable obstacles to their goals
  • They create opposition to their policies just because those policies come from a position of authority
  • Their judicial appointments are blocked (or vote differently than was foreseen),
  • Even their policies that get through often make things worse by their unintended consequences (No Child Left Behind being the classic example)

Again, we must vote. It is our duty and privilege.  As for myself, I refuse to get wrapped up in the politics of the culture wars.  I take abortion very seriously, but I am no longer under a delusion that its scourge will be removed by which party occupies the White House.

I look now for three things in who I will vote for:

  • Which candidate has the personal integrity to handle the incredible power of the presidency well?
  • And which candidate seems to have the sanest foreign policy?
  • And thirdly, which candidate comes closes to my views on domestic issues

These three are in order. The checks and balances on the president’s domestic policy are substantial and varied, while the modern president has almost carte blanche in foreign policy, even to the point of starting a war.

So I will vote, and I will pray. But the nights staying up till dawn watching election returns, with either raucous joy or bitter disappointment, are gone.  God is on His throne. His plans will be accomplished. I will try to vote wisely, but I will remember His words: “Do not put your trust in princes”.

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*Click on the graphs to enlarge

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Comments

  1. Good thoughts, Daniel. Bonhoeffer’s apolitical stance helped shape me after years of right-winged-ness.Plus, I really grew weary of political stumping during worship services. Did we not realize that we systematically ruined our ability to reach people of different political leanings when this was (and is) happening?

    Mama always said it was rude to talk about politics when company was over, even if it was just about which road needed paving. I vote for whomever I feel will do the best job for their constituents. The rest of the religious posing by candidates makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

  2. Not only had the economy rocketed up (see above paragraph) but the social life of America had not fallen apart. The rates of abortion, teen pregnancy and violent crime all declined from 1992-2000 (see graphs at the end).

    The two facts (economy shooting up, and social life not falling apart) are in fact related. I was tempted to write a post once on the relationship between the unemployment rate and abortion. (There is about a 50% correlation – that is, if the unemployment rate were to fall to zero, the abortion rate would fall to half of its current levels.) The 90s were economically good times, so naturally rates of crime and abortion fell.

  3. Randy Thompson says:

    Thanks to Richard Nixon, I developed .a life-long suspicion of all things Republican and anyone supported by evangelicals and loudly promoting family values. I am a social conservative, by the way, and agree with most all of the family values issues. However, I am highly cynical about those who promote them. Either they seemingly have no sense at all of the give and take of the political process, or (to me at least) use “family values” as a smokescreen to hide a wider right-wing agenda. In other words, they’re zealots unable to compromise or cynics out to impress evangelicals.

    Recently, I spent some time meditating on Psalm 72 (“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son. . .”). And, in preparation for Christmas, the Magnificat (Luke 2:46-55). Both of these passages (and many, many others) got me thinking about God’s concerns when it comes to kings, rulers, politics, senators, members of congress, and presidents. I found myself wondering how on earth so many Christian people can get so frothing-at-the-mouth right-wing in light of the countless Bible passages that address God’s preference for the poor over the rich and for the weak over the strong (e.g., James 5:1-6, 2:1-7, Isaiah 1-2 & 5:8ff).

    It seems to me that if you’re trying to vote Christianly or Biblically, you end up in a political no-man’s land. I find much of the progressive left to be contemptuous of pro-life concerns and (increasingly?) of any Christian presence in the public square. Likewise, I find much of Ayn Rand-style conservatism utterly repugnant to the Christian faith and, more importantly, Scripture.

    No matter how you end up voting, you end up having to cauterize part of your conscience, or so it seems.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “I find much of the progressive left to be contemptuous of pro-life concerns and (increasingly?) of any Christian presence in the public square.”

      On the first point, the progressive stance is that the best way to prevent an abortion is to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Making abortion illegal will merely drive it into the back alleys. That’s how it was done in the bad old days. Making contraception and effective sex education available are pro-life acts. Yet the right wing typically fights against this. The result is deep skepticism on the left of “pro-life” advocacy, with a strong suspicion that we are really talking about dirty, dirty sex. Similarly with a “pro-life” stance that cares greatly about abortion, but little about the death penalty, and is often downright enthusiastic about warfare. (The Catholic Church, to its credit, is more consistent about what “pro-life” means. On the other hand I have never heard of a bishop threatening to withhold communion from the politician over a war vote.)

      On the second point, the one president from within my lifetime who I am morally certain attends church even when no one is looking is Jimmy Carter, who has devoted his time since being president to housing the poor. No one thought it odd in 1976 that a born again Christian could be a Democrat. The liberal Catholic priest was also a familiar figure of that era. What has changed is that Evangelical Protestantism allied itself with the Republican Party as part of the Reagan revolution. (Reagan, by the way, was a man of no identifiable religion. His (second) wife, on the other hand, consulted astrologers.) In the meantime the successors to Popes John XXIII and Paul VI have suppressed the progressive spirit in Catholicism, though pockets remain. There are and have always been progressive strains in American Protestantism–these are the churches which Evangelicals happily condemn as “apostate”–but they are shouted down by the far more vocal Evangelicals and conservative Catholics. This has reached the ridiculous stage that someone like John McCain–a non-practicing cultural Episcopalian–was given a pass when he claimed that he thought he might actually be a Baptist, but wasn’t sure. In the meantime there are endless fools and charlatans claiming that Obama is a secret Muslim, even though he attended the same Christian church for many years before he became a national politician. Progressive Christians are unremarkable, if you are paying attention. If this seems odd, it is because the Evangelicals and conservative Catholics have spent the past thirty years working very hard to make it so.

      • Good overview and helpful perspective, Richard.

      • The only presidents who could be considered trinitarian Protestants are Wilson, Carter, and Bush II. Which of these does anyone want now?

        Regan didn’t believe in original sin. How many evangelical churches would allow him as a member based n this belief?

        • A better question is how many churches would change their belief to accommodate Saint Reagan?

        • Reagan was not outwardly religious but he was inwardly. His mother was a true blue evangelical and a member of the Disciples of Christ, and Reagan took after her much more than his alcoholic Catholic father. Reagan believed that God had given him a mission to protect America and the world from Communism and nuclear annihilation.

          I suggest the books “His Holiness” by Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi or “When Character Was King” by Peggy Noonan.

          Reagan was one of our most devoutly Christian presidents. If a president begins to wear his faith on his sleeve, like our previous chief executive, that’s when you should be concerned.

          • I didn’t say he wasn’t religious. Just that he didn’t believe in original sin. In his view people were corrupted by society and governments, not by original sin.

            Which is a pretty big flaw, (to many/most of us), if you’re calling him someone to emulate in terms of his faith.

            And I’m in no way shape or form bashing him as a President. He did a lot of good at a time when it was needed. But he also had his flaws.

      • Richard McNeeley says:

        +1

  4. I can not get my dear American wife to be interested by the election…I guess it will be one less vote for the Republican Party, then (yyyyeeeeesssss!!!) 😉

  5. Good stuff. No matter what side you are on, and no matter who gets into government, things seem to continue much the same. Sure some things are better and some things may be worse…but wars are still fought…and the poor are still with us…and the endless march to the graveyard continues.

    We ought do our bit, and vote and participate. Knowing full well that the princes of this world will never bring about true justice and wholeness. This is a pride-soaked, sinful world.

    Only Christ Jesus can make us and the world whole again.

    _________________________________________________________

    I have said this before (on this site), that the congregation of which I am a member is roughly 50% liberals, and 50% conservatives. Our pastor, when he speaks of politics at all, speaks of it in such a way as to put a pox on both their houses…so that we will realize that what ‘we do’ (while we must do it) will never bring about the healing that can come only from Christ Jesus and His great love for sinners.

    .

  6. Living in a swing state like Florida, the endless barrage of political attack ads has already begun. Yippee.

    I have become so disinterested in the process that I have purposely chosen to either “waste my vote” on a fringe candidate that more closely represents my positions or not vote at all. I’ve heard the saying that if I don’t vote then I don’t have the right to complain about the outcome. Fine by me, because frankly I don’t care, and it doesn’t seem to matter one way or the other.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Living in a swing state like Florida, the endless barrage of political attack ads has already begun.

      Poor sod. Especially after South Carolina. Through next week, Florida is going to be Politicized more than the USSR ever was. Best to skip town out-of-state or seal yourself in a bunker for the duration.

  7. my voting choices simple: i will vote for anyone/anything me ex-spouse promotes, therefore effectively cancelling out her imaginary impact to the election results… 😉

    • Randy Thompson says:

      What if she gets lucky?!

      • no chance. it will always be a ‘wash/win’ proposition for me… 😉

        {see response below}

        • my voting choices not the direct opposite of candidates/causes as she promotes. we are similar in that we are conservative leaning. i am just more middle road & not as militant in my views…

          i simply deflect the obvious choice she will select with an alternative one that still represents my political views. it really is as simple as that…

    • I’ve been married for 25+ years and I have never once found out for whom my wife voted or what her political stance is on virtually any topic. This non-political aspect of our relationship (along with not doing DIY projects together) has kept the fights to a minimum IMO. 🙂

      • funny aspect of married relationships…

        my ex-wife always wanted to know how i voted. it was more like an expected disclosure. she would even get testy when i refused to say how i voted. her life wrapped-up in political machinations with regards to her business association. her boss (now her husband) impacted by the party-in-power both at the state & federal levels…

        my ex-spouse doesn’t have an original political point-of-view at all. she spouts the proverbial ‘company line’ of the man she had her affair with & eventually married…

        i have come to the recent conclusion that they do deserve each other & actually got what they deserved in the process… 😉

        • i have officially been a registered Democrat, Republican & Independent during my ~40 years of voting history…

          and there were a few years where i did not encourage anybody by voting for them… 😉

  8. Back when I was a rabid young conservative, I found that politics was an excellent way to get away with practicing the works of the flesh, and having all the folks in your church cheer you on while you did it.

    Still is.

  9. I’m not conspiratorial in the traditional “grassy knoll shooter” American sense. But, much like the OP, I’ve come to see that the faces and names change, the rest well….there is truth in the words of Paul. (Ephesians 2:1-2 is as good as any to prooftext it.) There are forces at work echelons above political parties and nationalities. All of our political wrangling is often little more the re-arranging deck chairs…

  10. Bill Metzger says:

    It’s funny: the candidates who most loudly trumpet “family values” are the ones with the most mistresses. I LOVE what Paul says in Romans 13 concerning government as a necessity, but trusting what you hear during campaign mode is another matter entirely. My two cents! 🙂 Romans 5:20b

  11. David Cornwell says:

    From my teen years I considered myself to be a political conservative. However that kind of conservatism has no resemblance to the radical brand of scorched earth conservatism we see today. When I was 14 Ike was my man and I watched the convention on TV in a tent at the county fair. Back then the Republican Party was for a balanced budget, and in many ways this was the central part of their conservatism. They didn’t try to revoke the New Deal, just figure out ways to pay for it. Ike spoke sparingly of God.

    My mom’s side of the family were Roosevelt Democrats, my dad’s were Taft Republicans (as long as Social Security was not revoked!).

    As time progressed, with the assassinations, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam (out of order) the impeachment, etc., conservatism became a very sour brand (witness some of our Senators’ faces). Rather than avoiding war, we started looking for them. The military-industrial-media complex feeds the blood lust.

    These days I see a few liberal causes (I’m not talking about socialism or communism) with which I can connect. But I refuse to sell my soul to liberalism or conservatism. Our real cause is the Kingdom. And His Kingdom flies a flag that stands against the kingdoms of this world in so many ways.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “These days I see a few liberal causes (I’m not talking about socialism or communism) with which I can connect.”

      There may be a few genuine socialists or communists still out there in America, but you would have to look far and wide to find them. Reading left wing political tracts from forty or fifty years ago, if only to refresh the memory, can be quite enlightening. What we consider the left in modern American politics is what we used to call the center, or even the center-right.

    • Eisenhower too, though dismissed by many conservative Christians at the time, was a true Christian. He was raised by his Jehovah’s Witnesses mother and walked away from religion for much of his life. After witnessing the horrors of World War II and after winning his first term in office in 1952, Eisenhower was quietly baptized into the Presbyterian Church, went through catechism and continued on a Presbyterian until his death.

      These facts are revealed in a new book by one of Ike’s grandsons. You can look it up on Google and you’ll be directed to a review of the book in the conservative magazine The American Spectator.

      Eisenhower’s Christianity was shown by his policies, particularly his concern for human welfare and for peace. His speech on the military industrial complex was probably one of the most consequential warnings given by a president.

      • Interesting historical side note: Eisenhower met privately with President Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. I think he gave Kennedy the low-down on the military industrial complex, the shenanigans of the CIA, how the presidency was being boxed in by an out-of-control national security state, how Kennedy was being lied to about the nonexistent “missile gap” and what to do about it all.

        Who knows? That conversation may have prevented nuclear war. Of course as soon as Kennedy began to see the light and reverse course, the Usual Suspects got rid of him.

  12. About 20 years ago I decided to vote according to a different principle. Which way do I vote that will make things better 20 years from now. I has led me to vote for some strange candidates when looked at from a “we must win this election” point of view. And never since my first vote in 72 have I ever cast all my votes for a single party.

    As to the food fight the R’s are currently having. It makes the national D planners happy. But they are scared stiff of what has happened to the under 30/35 vote. Many of those who voted D expected the world to change overnight. And now that it has not they have told both parties to “stick it in your ear”.

    And as someone who grew up in far western KY in the 60s I’m a registered D. I just never changed. Back then you had to register D to be able to have a meaningful vote in anything but national and the governor’s race. The rest of the ballot was almost always a D primary winner running unopposed in the general election. At time it amuses me and at times really irritates me that some of my intelligent Christian friends stay I’m not a good Christian unless I register as an R. (I ignore the ones who can’t even discuss why they are for a candidate except that a pastor said they needed to be elected.)

    • David Cornwell says:

      Western Kentucky, the you remember John Sherman Cooper. He would be disowned by today’s Republicans My early married years were in Kentucky.

      • David Cornwell says:

        the = then

      • I had to google him. His second election to the senate was when I was 12. Sorry but no real memory of him. Plus when I say western KY I mean really western. Near Paducah. People in Louisville and Lexington think we’re next to Owensboro. We’re 2 hours or so west of there.

        • Neither Carter or Bush II believed their own swooning praise in the media. Obama’s arrogance makes my blood pressure go up. That plus his international groveling places him in the #1 spot permanently.

  13. The Previous Dan says:

    Wow. It sounds like the timeline and evolution of your political views are almost identical to my own. Bush II was my breaking point. IMO Obama is the WPE but Bush II and Carter tie for a very close second place. Ironically, they were the two most outspoken in their claims of Christianity to hold the modern office of POTUS.

    • What is really sad is how so many in the Evangelical camp would rather have a really bad president than one registered as a D.

  14. Matt Purdum says:

    Lot of good comments here and I agree with many of them. I recently read where Frank Schaeffer says that Roe v. Wade was the turning point in his father’s thinking. Before that for Francis Schaeffer it was all art, philosophy, and softer apologetics. Michael Bell is certainly pointing in the right direction. Those who want to reduce the number of abortions seem to support the very Republicans who keep wages low and unemployment high, when obviously (to me, anyway) the smart pro-life thing to do is work for higher wages and lower unemployment. It’s sad that so much opposition to abortion is really just opposition to sexuality (thus, gnostic dualism, and opposition to sex ed and contraception). And it’s really sad that candidates like Santorum have the effect of firing up, in reaction, the old feminist forces that declare how wonderful abortion is (when most people, on both sides, would sincerely like to reduce the numbers). Everything has unintended consequences. I’m impressed that our president’s favorite theologian is Reinhold Niebuhr — who advocated a pragmatic approach to politics, with low expectations — and that most evangelicals have never heard of him. And I’m pleased that the David Barton-Cindy Jacobs wing of the GOP couldn’t put forth a legitimate candidate, and that it looks like Romney on that side. I can’t say whom I’ll vote for, and it won’t matter much anyway.

    • I’m impressed that our president’s favorite theologian is Reinhold Niebuhr — who advocated a pragmatic approach to politics, with low expectations

      Then who came up with the bone headed idea of signing that declaration on day one about closing Gitmo? I knew he was headed downhill as soon as I saw him do that.

      Whether or not you wanted the prison there to close, Congress and the states were not going to allow harly any of them to come to the US. Period.

      Of course he made the mistake almost all presidents make early. They do not comprehend how limited they are in so many ways in our system of government. Especially, as noted above, on domestic issues. Clinton figured out after a few years that the way to change things was via the various departments that had leeway given them by Congress, NOT by presidential fiat.

  15. America’s evangelical “leaders” have just met to crown their would-be temporal king. No one seems to have paid them much attention. It’s an encouraging sign that perhaps many are just getting tired of their nonsense. One can point to all sorts of reasons why the threat to Christianity’s survival is never-ending and the culture wars are not being won. Couching patriotic nationalism in religious terms is another gospel, a syncretic one. The spiritual battle they are fighting is Manichaean; there are no definite winners, only more battles to fight. Dividing the world into heroes and villains is a safe bet for these leaders who have become wealthy themselves over the years, and the continuation of their religious empires depends on convincing others we need earthly Messiahs to control America. For years their voices sounded credible as they tapped into rich veins of fear. And in responding, we largely took our eye off the ball – mission – to fight windmills.

  16. Events are in the saddle and ride mankind- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    At the core the elites of the democratic and republican parties are more similar to each other than to the average American. I am very pestimistic about the future of America and don’t feel any of the candidates can turn the tide.

  17. Stephen S. Mack says:

    If you mix politics and religion you get politics. And then Pogo’s comment is apropos: “We have met the enemy and they are us.”

    With best regards,

    Stephen

    • “If you mix politics and religion you get politics.”

      I’ll be quoting that whenever possible. Sums it up pretty well.

  18. Thank you for this post! I, too, used to consider myself a good conservative. Maybe I still am, but I sure don’t recognize the conservatives of today. I have always believed in the political process, but am beginning to doubt that, too. When I, after having spent 20+ years working, paying bills, not borrowing money, helping others when I could, raising my own children, giving to church, worshiping God, and voting conservative, imagine my surprise when, after my job ceased to exist in mid-life and the economy was unforgiving about me finding another, I hear the politicians I have supported for years tell me that my situation is my own darn fault! Seriously?? I can’t take another Christian leader who condemns others for some indiscretion or another while he or she is doing the same thing or worse, and when caught, says “My bad. Jesus forgives and you should too.”

    I’m still sorting it out but it is an odd feeling to hit middle age and realize that the foundation you had been told was rock solid, and believed it, was just a sham.

    • I think you speak for many of us out there.

      • I met Frank only once, and he left me abellutsoy speechless. We were at some sort of public reception and Frank glanced at my nametag. “I sold your dad insurance for years. He’d be spinning in his grave if he knew you were a damn Democrat.” Nothing else. And there was not an ounce of humor, not a hint of a smile. The incident got funnier over the years as I can not recall my dad ever saying one word about politics, taxes, candidates, voting, elections or any public issue. He never even mentioned the Supreme Court case he helped set in motion.

  19. While I concerned about the social issues, I am also convinced that the only thing that will ultimately make a difference there is a change of heart and perspective by the American public at large. I am convinced evangelicals have too frequently bought into the idea if we just pass a few laws it will change everything. I am convinced we need to recognize that we are Christians in a pagan culture and the only way to impact it is to let go of the past and work to change the hearts of people by having an influence in individual lives and not thinking we can fix everything just by getting the right person elected,

    • I agree with you, and had let politics take a back seat in my life until 2008. I had a visceral reaction the the candidate who won [and let me state it was his politics, not his skin color, AND I refuse to roll call the black politicians and statemen I do support as my bona fides…] that has gotten worse since then.

      The last time I disagreed so vehemently to a president’s policies was 1976-79, for many of the same reasons. However, in fairness, I judged Mr. Carter to be an honest and decent human and Christian who was in over his head and clueless about life inside the beltway. I have not changed my mind on that (although age may be coloring his choices these days.)

      I will vote for anyone with a pulse who runs on a platform of reversing the trajectory of the last three years. My home is in heaven, but I likely have to live HERE for a bunch more years, and would prefer to remain in a representative republic with limited government. I really think that the federal government should guard the borders, deal with international treaties and trade, print the money, and let the states do whatever else they please.

      • I am of similar mind. I tend to be an open minded conservative – meaning I believe both sides can have good ideas and I will listen but I lean right. That does not mean though I will not question ideas on the right that might not be good for the country. I never identified myself with the evangelical right, or the big capitalist right but more of the small entrepenurial right. That being said, if I was to make a generalization based on what I read here at IMonk when we talk politics it would be that many here are former conservatives moving towards the left. I chuckle at the justification of the social issues, specifically abortion and comments like “there hasn’t been anything done” (I guess we forgot about the repealing of the most gruesome form of abortion – partial birth abortion). My comment here is that a lot of the same sentiment was shared going the other direction when many of us young liberals in the seventees saw how rediculous our wild eyed idealism was and began looking at things more pragmatically.

        I tend to still vote for whoever fits my view of conservatism (and that by the way could at times be a democrat- especially in local races) , I admit in hindsight that Clinton had a pretty good economic team once he moved to the center, but I agree with Patty on many points why I am not in favor of the current president (although I also agree that it is a thrill to shake any President’s hand just because of the respect of office).

        My jumbled thoughts…

      • Well, considering that Obama is to the RIGHT of Clinton, I’m guessing this actually has more to do with his skin color than you’re willing to admit.

        • Clinton balanced the budget, signed welfare reform and signed DOMA into law.

          Obama has added over a trillion $$ to the national debt, signed Obamacare and supports the repeal of DOMA.

          Under what theory is he to Clinton’s RIGHT?

          DOMA means the Defense of Marriage Act for those who may not know.

        • Marie, do you know how tiresome this old saw is??? Clinton was a solid centerist, at least by his second term. If Obama is to the “right” of anyone it is Fidel Castro and Chairman Mao.

          And how does your race theory explain the same dislike and concern during Carter;s presidency? You may not have lived through those years as an adult, but I did, and loathed his social leaning and feared for the safety of the country THEN, too.

          You realize that “racism” cries are crying wolf, and dilutes the shame and reproach that REAL racism deserves. Correlation is NOT causation, as we say in science circles.

          • Donalbain says:

            Just a quick example. Remember the Clinton attempt to bring in health reform? You know what idea some Republicans came up with in response? A personal mandate, which is not at the heart of the Obama led healthcare reform today.

          • Donalbain says:

            Which is NOW at the heart…

  20. I’m just curious, has their ever been a serious effort, on any level, to reverse Roe v. Wade? Like maybe some grassroots organizers that started to push a case through the system but failed to make it all the way? Because if not, I have a very hard time believing that a GOP president’s pro-life position, by this time, makes any effective difference at all, and voters ought to have seen that long ago.

    • All true. But most true believers don’t want to let facts get in the way of their beliefs. The want simple answers to complex problems and will support the guy with the best message for their desires, facts be d***ed. Look at Obama and his promises about Gitmo. It was not based in reality but in the desires of his supporters.

      And yes I really intend for that statement about facts to have multiple meanings on a blog such as this.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Supporters, nothing. He had drooling fanboys to whom he was a God, just like Ross Perot in ’92, and Ron Paul in the past few election cycles. (I’m not going to mention the LaRouchies.) Unlike Perot, Obama had enough of those fanboys and the raw Charisma to pull off a Messiah Politics platform.

        And when he DID make it into the White House, he disappointed a lot of his fanboys when they saw their God was only a Man. (Rabbi Boteach had an essay on this.) You can only pull off Messiah Politics for so long before your imperfections and flaws and reality get in the way. Then a lot of your fanboys turn on you when you can’t deliver on their too-high expectations.

        The REAL danger for a President in that situation is when they start believing their own Campaign PR — “The Voice of a God, Not of a Man!” I suspect the nameless First Horseman of the Apocalypse refers to this phenomenon in general, warning of a pattern that repeats throughout history.

    • Donalbain says:

      I am not sure who would have standing to sue in any such court case. How could you argue that someone is harmed by their being able to get an abortion?

      • The very idea of overturning RvW is a huge headache. From the Supremes who are incredibly reluctant to reverse prior rulings, even those they disagree with, to creating a case or cases that could even make it to the court. And since much of RvW is based on the privacy issue, overturning it would open up a vast can of worms that makes it even more likely the Supremes will not touch it.

      • I think that we will see at the least a restriction on abortion after 18 or 19 weeks of pregnancy, as verified by an ultrasound. From a purely medical and scientific view, it is disingenous to allow a “fetus” of 24-26-28 to be “terminated, while at the same time spending millions to SAVE the life of a “baby” born at 22 or 23 weeks!

        As a nurse (and an long time labor & delievery nurse) I cannot see the age of viabilty ever dropping below 20 weeks of gestation [and the way we measure pregnancy length is wierd. A woman who is “25 weeks pg” is carrying a baby that was concieved 23 weeks ago. We usually date from the first day of the mother’s last period, effectively adding two or more weeks of pre-preganancy time unto the count.]

        As wrong as it is morally, I think from a practical matter we will see abortion cut off at the age at which the the fetus “looks human” using our new and improved ultrasound techinques. My guess is that would be somewhere around 12 weeks of life, so a “fourteen week” pregnancy.

    • In order for Roe to ever be overturned, some court or judge is first going to have to set a solid legal precedent that defines a human fetus as a human being with guaranteed rights under the Constitution. The justices in Roe established a woman’s right over her own body as a Constitutional right, but their ruling did not include any definitive statement in regards to the rights status of a fetus. Right now, the law is pretty convoluted in that respect. For example, a fetus is often legally recognized as a full human being with rights in cases in which a pregnant woman is murdered or assaulted.
      If human fetuses are granted inalienable rights at some point in the future, it will be interesting to see how our legal system deals with a situation where the Constitutional rights of one can’t be upheld without violating the Constitutional rights of another. And the possibility of that kind of legal Catch 22 provides a pretty big incentive for judges and justices to keep the legal status of human fetuses unclear and undefined.

    • sowarrior says:

      Well for Roe vs. Wade to be over turned it would require 5 Supreme Court justices to vote to over turn it. Currently there are 4 who would (Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts) there are 4 who would not (Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Kagen) and 1 (Kennedy) who is sort of on the fence. The 4 who wish to overturn RvW (as well as Kennedy) were all appointed by Republican Presidents. The 4 who wish to preserve RvW were all appointed by Democratic Presidents. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which party you need to vote for if you want to see it overturned, or which party you should vote for if you want to see it preserved.

      It should also be noted that overturning Roe v. Wade will not make abortion illegal. It will merely make it a state issue, each state could make abortion illegal or not as they chose. In some states abortion is already protected by law or even in their constitutions in case RvW were to be overturned.

      • Well for Roe vs. Wade to be over turned it would require 5 Supreme Court justices to vote to over turn it. Currently there are 4 who would (Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts)

        Is this a personal educated guess, wishful thinking, or have you read some secret documents that most have never seen where these folks state such? I try and watch any of the Supremes when they are on C-Span or other interviews. And I’ve seen nothing which gives me the impression they are committed to overturning RvW. They HAVE stated they don’t like it. But to overturn it is a very big deal. And all, or nearly all, of them are very big on accepting precedents unless there is a HUGE reason to overturn them. In the last big case where they reversed a prior ruling it was a near unanimous decision but in the decision they stated something like “don’t expect this to happen again anytime soon.”

        As an aside, these folks don’t hate each other. The Scalia and Ginsberg families travel the world together on joint vacations. Someone many of us might learn from.

        • sowarrior says:

          I never said the judges hated each other, given their similar backgrounds I would assume most of them to be at a very minimum cordial to each other given their similarities.

          Also, one of the criticisms I’ve heard from many on the Left is that the current court doesn’t respect precedent (as they shouldn’t by the way, Brown v. Board overturned a precedent that had been established for over half a century). Upon doing some research on the net (not always the most reliable source I know) it seems that Chief Justice Roberts might be in the same camp as Kennedy on this issue, but Scalia and Thomas did vote to overturn RvW in the Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision in 1992. Alito seems to be very closely aligned with those two.

          So I guess to correct myself there are 3 Justices who would overturn Roe, 4 who would not and 2 who might not but do support restrictions on abortion.

        • sowarrior says:

          And I forgot, but to reiterate the 3 who would overturn RvW were appointed by Republicans, the 2 who support restrictions were also appointed by Republicans and the 4 who support RvW were appointed by Democrats. So, as I said if you want to see it overturned it’s pretty easy to see which party you’d prefer to be appointing judges to the court and if you want to see it upheld it’s also pretty easy to see which party you want appointing judges to the court.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            This has been the one-track tunnel-vision of National Right to Life — Elect an Evangelical Republican who will Appoint Evangelical Supreme Court Justices who will Overturn Roe v Wade. And when OD’d on steriods, that of American Life League. When I was involved in the Pro-Life Movement during the Reagan and Bush 41 years, I noticed most Pro-Life activist groups had acquired a tunnel-vision that their approach and their approach alone was THE Pro-Life approach to stop Roe v Wade, and if you weren’t on-board with their approach, you were a Baby-Killing Infidel. Add that many groups had very different One True Approaches and you had chaos.

  21. Funniest political attack I ever heard came in the 60’s from Republican Shorty Price in Alabama who said, “George Wallace will put a tax on everything but the air we breath and the right to go to the bathroom.” Things indeed haven’t changed much.

  22. The rates of teen pregnancy are the lowest they have been since sometime in the 1940’s. I don’t know why, and not sure if anyone else does. I was surprised.

    My beef with the political process is the extreme polarization. Each idea must be fundamentally a Democrat or Republican one and there can no middle ground. There are no shades of grey anymore, only bills that fall from heaven or rise from the fiery pit itself. During the Republican primary process now ongoing, one of the worst things Gingrich seems to be able to say of Romney is that he is a “moderate” conservative. Debating a bill in Congress more closely resembles ringside at WWE Smackdown.

    I teach world as well as U.S. History. I need to be able to tell my kids the system works. An election year is a good time to catch students actually interested in the electoral process, and I try to be as positive about the whole procedure as possible. I can’t exactly be idealistic when I myself realize it’s a little ridiculous.

    • I think each of us have a responsibility to not add to the ridiculousness. I show respect for the office of the president regardless of who is in it. I did not vote for Obama in 2008, as most residents of Kentucky did not. But on January 20th our student body watched the inauguration live because it was history-making. I would be honored to shake the president’s hand or have a brief conversation with any American president, even if we disagree on abortion or gay marriage.

      And Mike is right. Sometimes my guy gets in office, sometimes not. It is a very powerful position, but when all is said and done the president is only one man. There are 100 senators, 435 representatives, and any bill must pass both houses of Congress before coming before the president. No matter which party gets in the Oval office this November, our divisive country will undoubtedly have a backlash to the other party in the congressional elections in 2 years. Okay, I’m done.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I think each of us have a responsibility to not add to the ridiculousness.

        Unless you’re Pat Paulsen in the Sixties or Vermin Supreme today.

  23. Chaplain Mike, I like the list of three things you consider when deciding how to vote. I never quite thought of it in those terms, but I would say my list is very similar to yours.

  24. I didn’t get to my computer yesterday, but I really like this post, and wanted to share my own story of evangelical,conservative, political activist to . . . well . . . something else.

    During the Bush-Dukakis election of ’88 I was doing my “Christian” duty of persuading everyone I could to vote Republican and save the country and the world from abortion and socialism. My efforts were such that several of my Democratic coworkers derisively nicknamed me “the old Republican”. I relished in the idea that I had made an “impact”.

    My Scripture readings at the time were in the book of Acts. In the eleventh chapter we are told “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” The phrase stood out to me because I noticed that the disciples did not call themselves Christians, but that outsiders called them Christians. As I reflected on the passage, it dawned on me that I was not being called “Christian” by the outsiders — I was being called a “Republican”. I knew exactly why. My words, my actions, and more importantly I think, my enthusiasm, were all centered around America and the people that I hoped would lead her.

    Why were these disciples in Antioch called “Christians”? Having been taught by Paul and Barnabas, the words, actions, and enthusiasm of these believers was centered around the Kingdom of God (not Rome, and certainly not America) and the Person who led it, the Lord Jesus Christ. If I had been as excited about Christ and His Kingdom as I was about George Bush and the United States, my coworkers might have called me a “Christian” instead of a “Republican”.

    I praise the Lord for His patience, kindness, mercy, and grace toward His children who can be so blind. It was one of those signal moments of repentance in my spirtual walk, and I have never looked at politics the same sense.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Very good. We serve His Kingdom, not the decaying and corrupt kingdoms of this world, including our own “Christian” country.

  25. Good post. One benefit of having grown up overseas is that I’ve never become deeply invested in American politics. On returning to the U.S. for college, i tended to be more conservative/Republican leaning, but as I’ve grown older I’ve become more centrist to liberal leaning in some ways, not because I’m enamored of that side of the political aisle, but mostly because of a better understanding of the priorities of God’s kingdom as I grow older. Precisely because earthly politics is incapable of increasing or ushering in God’s kingdom, I approach it with a sense of distance and skepticism. Where I live, conservative and vocally political evangelicals tend to dominate the religuous land community andscape, so this also leaves me firmly in the post-evangelical wilderness.

  26. I agree with Jepsen’s top three criteria for choosing a candidate. Foreign policy is important not only because it’s something that the president affects more than anything but because the issue of war is an issue of human life. As Christians, I still believe we ought to pay special attention to the life issue.

    And that’s why I support Ron Paul, the only authentic peace candidate this election season (Kucinich gets my thumbs up as well).

  27. Donalbain says:

    American politics is utterly broken. When you have candidates saying that it should be OK for the state to arrest gay people, and none of their candidates criticising it, but it is considered worthy of an attack ad that someone speaks a foreign language, then you know that the experiment in democracy has failed.

  28. First of all, greetings from a long-time lurker who’s finally felt the need to speak up here. 🙂

    I was really struck by Jepsen’s second criteria of a sane foreign policy, partially because I’ve never figured out why this isn’t a more important topic to evangelical voters. I’ve been an overseas missionary for several years, most recently in a Muslim-majority country where most of the people I meet think George W. Bush is the devil incarnate. His foreign policy and aggressive warfare are deeply hurtful to them, and the media portrays evangelical Christians as largely supportive of his policies. Talk about getting in the way of the Gospel! It’s a daily struggle to be an American speaking of God’s mercy and grace when my homeland’s foreign policy is so associated with violence and greed, and Christianity is perceived as an essential component of our society and politics. Sorry to be so anecdotal, but that’s just what I’m seeing at the moment, and I’m sure other missionaries are experiencing the same struggles in other parts of the world.

    And the current crop of GOP candidates, minus Ron Paul, spew out foreign policy ideas that can only serve to hinder the work of missionaries around the globe. All while courting the evangelical vote.

    I know I’m out of touch with the current U.S. climate (hazard of the job), and political stumping in the church drives me crazy, but is there any discussion of the impact that U.S. foreign policies have on American missionaries?

    • seaweed,

      Thanks for the insightful comment; I hope you become a more frequent commenter.

      I have never heard discussion of our foreign policie’s effect on missionary activity, save for a stray article or two in Christianity Today once in a great while.