Whom should we blame for the confusing state of American politics?
But not for the reasons you might think.
Good news and bad news for the winners
Donald Trump won last night’s New Hampshire Republican primary. This is good news for his campaign in a variety of ways:
- In twelve of the last fourteen elections, the Republican who won the New Hampshire primary went on to become the party’s nominee.
- No Republican candidate has ever won the first two states and then lost the nomination.
- Though Nikki Haley vowed to stay in the race, Mr. Trump leads her nationally, 67 percent to 12 percent.
Does this mean his path to the nomination is secure?
- He is facing legal battles that threaten his eligibility to run.
- In one poll, 45 percent of Republican respondents said they would not support him if he were convicted of a felony.
- He is one of only a handful of ex-presidents to run for the office again; only Grover Cleveland did so successfully.
On the other side, President Biden wasn’t on the printed ballot, but he still won the Democratic primary. He wanted South Carolina to hold the first primary, but New Hampshire refused to move its election, so Mr. Biden’s campaign chose not to participate. However, his supporters staged a write-in effort that secured his victory.
Does this mean Mr. Biden’s path to the nomination is secure?
- Two-thirds of Democrat-leaning voters do not want him to be the party’s nominee.
- At eighty-one, he is the oldest person ever to hold the presidency, though Mr. Trump was the second-oldest. (On average, US presidents are fifty-five years old when sworn in.)
- He trails Mr. Trump in the latest polls, 47 percent to 42 percent.
And there’s this: at 43 percent, independents outnumber Republicans and Democrats (at 27 percent each) by a wider collective margin than ever before.
“The rex is always subject to the lex”
Our elections have always been highly contested and correspondingly chaotic, in large part because every eligible American is able to participate. If we don’t like our leaders, we can replace them. We believe, in Abraham Lincoln’s immortal words, that ours is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” (my emphasis).
This belief that we are more valuable than the institutions that exist to serve us is a product of the Christian worldview.
I am reading Andrew Wilson’s fascinating Remaking the World: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West. In it, he offers these observations regarding his readers:
You believe in limitations on the power of the state and that the rule of law is essential to a healthy society, whereby the rex (king) is always subject to the lex (law). . . . You think the central truth in human relations is the self, the sovereign individual, rather than the group to which the self belongs. . . .
You see your identity as something you choose and construct for yourself rather than something you are given. The true “you” is not imposed on you from the outside, by your ancestors or your community; it is something internal, and only you get to say exactly what it is.
These beliefs, according to Wilson, are “Christian assumptions about the world” that Americans embrace whether we believe in God or not. The biblical worldview motivated our nation’s founders and undergirds our democratic commitment to the “unalienable rights” of every person still today.
Why our government should serve us
Here’s the problem: Americans have forgotten why we are so valuable.
Our government should serve us not because we are worthy of being served but because we—not our institutions—are the objects of our Creator’s passionate love. And we are the objects of his love not because we deserve his love but because he is love (1 John 4:8).
How are we to respond?
Jesus answered our question: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). In this divisive political season, remember that he added: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35).
Mother Teresa observed:
“When you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love.”
Do you know how much God is in love with you today?
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
The Daily Article Podcast is Here!