Saturday, November 06, 2010

Will Republicans Sell Their Soul To Win An Election

The 2010 Midterm Election saw the Republican/Tea Party Alliance take control of the House of Representatives. Had they offered more credible candidates in several key Senate races, they may well have taken control of Congress. That said, the party faces a serious dilemma as it looks ahead to the 2012 presidential race.

As I outlined in my earlier post (Midterm Elections Show Republican Party in Crisis, see below), the Tea Party has brought fresh energy to the Republican effort. Credible Tea Party candidates did well, and their supporters voted. Their grassroots effort created a block of voters through which any successful Republican Party presidential candidate will have to pass. And that block is strongly motivated by opposition to President Obama, a fact reflected by the similarity between Obama’s Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll disapproval rating – 41% ( and the number of voters in 2010 House elections who identified themselves as Tea Party supporters – 41%.

A Republican/Tea Party presidential candidate, holding Tea Party policy positions, could expect to receive the support of everyone to the right of those positions – immigration reform, lower taxes, curb federal spending, repeal of recent healthcare changes. Those issues worked well in the House races which targeted individual candidates and compartmentalized voter choices. To get to the presidency, a Republican/Tea Party candidate would have to appeal to voters closer to the center. Not many issues offer the option of a move to the left of Tea Party positions. One possibility might be abortion.

Once the decisive issue among Evangelical Christian voters, opposition to abortion has faded as a motivating factor for the way Christians view and decide political issues. For instance, in opposing healthcare reform, only 3% of those polled said they opposed it because of the possibility of increased funding for abortion (Pew Forum Most said they opposed it because of the cost and increased government intrusion on their lives.

Opposition to abortion is not the primary motivating factor among Tea Party faithful. Their motivation comes from strong, deep-seated opposition to Barack Obama and is expressed through economic issues. Blue-blood Republicans, another faction of the Republican coalition, have longed for a day when they could jettison the Christian right. Now, they might have that opportunity.

A pro-choice Republican candidate, with genuine pro-choice credentials, running on a platform that stresses economic and personal liberty issues, would open the Party’s appeal to progressive voters nearer the center of political opinion. Evangelical Christians would be forced to decide between not voting, and handing the election to President Obama, or voting for a pro-choice Republican based on other issues. It’s a strategy that just might win.

Which leaves the Republican/Tea Party alliance, and Evangelical Christians, facing an interesting question: Will you sell your soul for the sake of opposing Barack Obama?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Midterm Election Results Show Republican Party In Crisis

According to 2010 Midterm Election exit polls, 41% of those voting in House elections favored the Tea Party. 31% opposed it. 25% had no response. Overall, 53% opposed the Republican Party – yet the Republican Party won control of the House of Representatives. Traditional Republicans see this election as a referendum on the Obama administration and a mandate to undo many of the things that have been done in the past two years. Tea Party leaders see the election results as placing them in the driver’s seat for the presidential election in 2012. Actually, the 2010 Midterm Elections revealed a political party in transition and crisis.

In this election, Tea Party candidates ran as Republicans and were a big part of the Republican success in taking control of the House. But they did not run with impunity. Credible Tea Party candidates did well, but most of their candidates lost – many of them because of a lack of credibility. Yet, with 41% of voters identifying themselves as Tea Party supporters, the Tea Party has emerged as the source of energy in the Republican Party.

For the past thirty years, the Republican Party found its strength in a coalition of traditional conservatives and evangelical Christians. Those groups were bound together by hot-button issues like abortion, national defense, and lower taxes. Now, that coalition is changing and the emerging Republican alliance is an uneasy one – a fact revealed in the poll results showing 53% of voters identified themselves as opposing the Republican Party, even though a significant number of that opposition voted for Republican candidates.

The Tea Party tapped into voter anger over the direction of the economy, immigration, same-sex marriage, and a general distrust and dislike of President Obama. Fueled by that anger, the Tea Party turned to the familiar tactic of street protests to build support for its positions. (They called their gatherings ‘rallies’ instead of ‘marches’ but they served the same function just as well). Though somewhat ill-defined, the Tea Party has loosely coalesced around several charismatic spokesmen – Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh among them. They offered a hard-line, uncompromising, decidedly conservative message that energized supporters to hold local rallies, work for approved candidates, and vote.

As a result, the coalition under the Republican umbrella has now become a Tea Party-Traditional Conservative-Evangelical Christian coalition. However, the galvanizing issues for that coalition are no longer opposition to abortion, lower taxes, or military support, but opposition to President Obama and the undoing of measures passed during the first two years of his administration. This shift in motivation gave the Republican/Tea Party success in the midterm elections, but it puts them in a precarious position for 2012.

Assuming 2010 voter patterns hold in the 2012 election, any presidential candidate hoping to win from the Republican Party will have to do so with Tea Party approval. The Republican candidate will be a Tea Party candidate. That gets the Republicans a theoretical 41% of the vote, which leaves them 10% shy of victory. To attain a majority, the Republican/Tea Party candidate would have to appeal to half of the 21% who identified themselves as having no position for or against the Tea Party or the Republicans – essentially, undecided voters. Assuming the Tea Party’s 41% support lies to the right of center, a Republican/Tea Party presidential candidate would have to find motivating issues through which he or she could appeal to those slightly to the left of current Tea Party policy – without alienating supporters on the extreme right. Very few issues offer the potential for even a slight shift to the center and none of the potential candidates who have appeared so far seems capable of accomplishing the task. Getting from 41% to 51% will be a monumental task for the tenuous Republican/Tea Party alliance, one that will require a candidate who has yet to step forward.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Walk, by Shaun Alexander

Earlier this year I had the privilege of assisting former NFL running back Shaun Alexander with preparation of his latest book The Walk (from WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House). The book is now available at your local bookstore and online at all the usual places.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The End of Dual Citizenship

For perhaps the first two hundred years of our American republic, Christians had the luxury of holding dual citizenship. Christians arguably could maintain a commitment to the Kingdom of God and the United States without jeopardizing their allegiance to the former by their allegiance to the later. That is no longer true.

When Christians in America turn to the question of civic involvement, they are faced with only two realistic choices. On the one hand, they can express their political interest by supporting candidates of the Democrat Party, a party that not only supports the right to abortion-on-demand, but which seeks to use government to promote that practice. Those not satisfied with that option can express their civic opinions through the Republican/Tea Party, which still has a pro-life stance but has adopted a Darwinian economic policy that damns the poor to a miserable existence for the sake of the wealthy, and a Draconian immigration policy fueled by racial hatred and division. The options posed by both parties place Christians at odds with Scripture.

In the end, religion has become merely one more tool by which politicians motivate their electoral base. And though that effort may have influenced the outcome of elections, it has done little to influence government policy. All the while, the church has grown more and more like secular society, reflecting the same rates for premarital sex, infidelity, divorce, and preoccupation with wealth.

Jesus wasn't kidding when he said, “You cannot serve two masters.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Place To Be - By Roger Mudd

Last night, I finished reading The Place To Be (Public Affairs/Perseus Group 2008), by former CBS News correspondent and television anchor Roger Mudd. I purchased the book from the $2 rack at Books A Million in Pensacola. What a surprise! After reading the first few chapters at my desk I resolved to limit myself to one chapter per night. It was a book I wanted to read, but I did not want it to end. Those evening chapters became a private conversation with Mudd about politics, politicians, the 1960s and 70s, media, news, and journalism. In the course of which I caught a glimpse of Mudd's life and the lives of the many people he knew. This book was a treat. I hope Roger Mudd writes more. You can find the book in hardback and paper at all the usual locations.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Barack Obama and the Ancient Prophets

When the ancient Hebrew prophet Daniel was a young man, Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian army into the Levant and conquered Israel. After ravaging the countryside, the Babylonians gathered up the brightest and best of Israel's young men and took them back to Babylon. No doubt, Daniel would have rather stayed in Jerusalem. He would have rather had a Jewish king over him, and he would have preferred to have known Nebuchadnezzar only from a distance. But God had other things in mind.

In Babylon, rather than being forced into slavery, Daniel was placed under the care of Ashpenaz, Nebuchadnezzar's chief court official - his chief of staff. Daniel was fed the best food, offered the best living quarters, and afforded the best instruction available in the Kingdom of Babylon. After a while, Nebuchadnezzar experienced a series of troubling dreams and when he sought an interpretation from his court magicians he found them unable to answer his questions. As events unfolded, Daniel was able to interpret the dreams. In interpreting one of those dreams, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar, ". . . the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes." (Dan. 4:25)

That was a message for the king - he served at the pleasure of Another - and it was also a message for Daniel. God rules the kingdoms of man and He orders them for His own purposes.

Rather than fight against God's purposes, Daniel did his best to discern what God was doing and then joined God in that work. As a result, Daniel lived a long and successful life. He never returned to Jerusalem, but through him, God turned the heart of Nebuchadnezzar to Himself, which led to the Hebrews' eventual return to the Levant. And much later, a remnant of those who learned about God from Daniel came from Babylon to Jerusalem as the Maggi when Jesus was born.

Daniel didn't spend his days wandering the streets of Babylon searching for every opportunity to discredit the king. He didn't spend his time plotting to replace Nebuchadnezzar, and he didn't slink off to the corner and sulk. Instead, he yielded to God's purposes in placing him under the authority of Nebuchadnezzar, discerned every opportunity to join God in furthering those purposes, and submitted to God's choice of leadership.

Many of you spent the 2008 election cycle praying that someone other than Barack Obama would be elected president. Some of you worked diligently in an attempt to see that he did not win the office. But in the end, he won. If you believe God is at work in the world, if you believe that He still rules the kingdoms of man and sets over them whom He wills, then it is time to submit to His purposes, discern what God is working to accomplish through President Obama, and join Him in His work.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Abstract Abstraction - The Nature of Banks in the Current Era

Banks are often viewed as repositories of cash, evoking images of vaults with currency stacked to the ceiling. And we talk about the money banks hold as if it actually had substance. In reality, the concept of money is quite ethereal. Money, after all, derives its 'substance' solely and only from our confidence. Money has always been abstract.

Banks, on the other hand, were always places of substance. You put your money in there and they locked it in a safe. "Here for you anytime you need it." They also kept important documents for you and the image of that safe with the big doors made you feel like not only were your documents and money safe, you were, too. But, alas, times haves changed. Now, banks have gone over to the abstract side. Today, banks are not institutions with cash in the vault. Instead, they have become Government-Authorized Digit Allocation Centers.

Think of it this way - the bank operates a computer server on which, for a fee, one is allowed to create an account. Using a numeric code assigned to that account, customers may execute a defined set of transactions with other accounts on similarly authorized servers located around the world. Digits may be shifted from the simplest account (a time deposit, for instance) to specialized accounts through which complex transactions may be executed (brokerage accounts, for instance). At any given time, all or a portion of the digits in those accounts may be converted to a national scrip - paper currency or metal coin - or converted to a printed or handwritten draft drawn upon the institution that operates the server.

In this way, pizza can be ordered from the local pizzeria by entering the correct numeric code on the pizzeria's server authorizing it to notify the bank's server to subtract digits from a hungry patron's account and add them to the pizzeria's account. This is abstract abstraction. You can obtain pizza - actual, real, tangible food for your hungry belly - by entering a numeric code on your computer that tells the pizzeria's computer to notify the bank's computer to create a numeric image on the pizzeria's computer screen.