|'Help! I need someone who can swim to save|
me from drowning!'
So goes a quote by Protestant Reformer Martin Luther.*
What is the relevance to today's American Republican Presidential primary campaign?
Many observers were somewhat stunned that Donald Trump received 41% of the registered evangelical vote in South Carolina last weekend. He has received similar numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire and apparently last night in Nevada along with virtually every other poll that has been taken in other primary states over the past 4 months at least.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz trailed Donald Trump in South Carolina with 37% of their vote even though he has assiduously targeted evangelicals in every state as the basis for his road to the GOP nomination.
We don't know what his target was when he started the campaign but it had to be at least 50%+1 of the evangelical vote if not 60% or more in order to make the numbers towards nomination work for him.
We know he didn't count on coming in second to Donald Trump or anyone else in South Carolina or any other state in the 'evangelical lane' as some are starting to call it as if this was some sort of horse race or NASCAR race.
So what is going on out there anyway?
We think the same things that are driving evangelicals to vote for Trump are the same things driving others in both parties to vote for the most outsider of all outsiders they can find in this 2016 presidential primary season:
Lack of confidence that the US economy is working as it should and America is safe from all attack.
It is one thing to vote for a candidate who has impeccable religious credentials when things are going well and we all want a leader to exemplify the epitome of American values, character and beliefs.
George Washington held that kind of sway over the American voting population for two elections where he ran unopposed for President. He also had the added benefit of leading the new nation to independence and victory over the hated British who 'only' had the most powerful armed forces the world had ever known to that point in time.
Jimmy Carter ran as an outsider to the entire Washington political apparatus in 1976 and was able to position his campaign as 'looking out for the little guy' in the wake of the resignation of President Richard Nixon and the subsequent pardon by President Gerald Ford. He was able to portray himself as the 'Man From Plains, Georgia' much like Bill Clinton became 'The Man From Hope (Arkansas) in 1992 but President Carter also benefited from being able to speak fluently and without reservation about his role as a Sunday School teacher even while a sitting Governor.
His term in office is routinely referenced as being one of the least successful four years of any of our 44 US Presidents today. 21% interest rates; 12% annual inflation; skyrocketing gas prices and 52 hostages from our US Embassy in Tehran being held by Iranian fundamentalists for 444 days will do that to a Presidential legacy.
We think evangelical voters in the GOP primary have seen and felt and heard the same things other disgruntled voters have seen and felt and heard over the past 7 years under President Obama:
- Very low annual rates of job creation and opportunity
- Very low annual GDP growth by any estimation relative to other Presidents
- Sense of weakness and a diminishing of American strength, power and presence overseas.
- Heightened sense of unease due to ISIS threats to kill American citizens anywhere in the world including on American soil.
- A recognition that we may be in the same sort of 'malaise' under President Obama that we were living in under President Carter.
They all want it to get better. On all accounts. Soon.
American voters have come to realize that because someone can recite the Bible at the drop of a hat is not a 100% indicator as to whether they can fix the economy or keep America safe from threats. The depth of someone's spiritual life and devotion is no real direct indicator of whether they understand how to balance the budget; reduce the national debt or fix our public education systems, just to name a few major problems we face today.
That is why we think so many evangelicals, along with other segments of the Republican Party as well as independents, unaffiliateds and blue collar workers formerly known as 'Reagan Democrats' are flocking to Donald Trump.
They don't hear his insults, lack of specificity on issues or his constant repetition of him leading in the polls.
They hear him say: 'I am going to fix this. I am going to 'Make America Great Again!' and that is enough for anyone tired of the malaise we have seen over the past 7 years.
As political commentator Alex Castellanos said about evangelicals in South Carolina voting for Trump over Cruz:
'Cruz has taken for granted that evangelical voters would support the most evangelical candidate. When the bus is racing towards a cliff, however, evangelicals want more than a minister to offer a prayer.
They’d like somebody who knows how to drive to turn the bus around.'Americans want someone to lead them who is inherently optimistic and positive about the future of America. Not someone pointing out the faults of America all the time and apologizing for everything America has done in the past whether it is justified or not.
Americans want someone 'who can swim' to save them from drowning, give them CPR and help them get up off the sand and back to their family, friends and home where they can lead normal productive interesting lives.
Even Martin Luther might agree with that.
|'Gosh! I wonder for whom I would vote in this|
2016 Republican Campaign for POTUS if I
was alive and registered to vote as a US
*I hope. I seem to recall reading this in one of the biographies I have read about Martin Luther but failed to keep the exact quote for record-keeping and future reference for some reason. However, any cursory reading of Martin Luther will yield many other similar pithy-isms such as this one below I did verify in a previous post from 'Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy' with attribution to Eric Metaxas so it is not totally out of the question that Luther could have written such a statement, which I wish I had saved if he had written it, of course.
If he didn't write the quote I used in the post above, he should have.
‘If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would have sooner become a hog than a Christian.’ (actual quote from Martin Luther confirmed in Metaxas' book)