OBSERVATIONS ON THE ELECTION
I confess that not much of this is original, I am sure many others have seen what I have seen. These are my observations from the campaign and the post-election results. For the sake of full disclosure I was not able in conscience to vote for either of the big party candidates and did in fact write-in my vote. Let me also just put one pastoral or spiritual note here. The motto on our American money comes from Scripture, and it is upon that which my hope is built, “In God we trust!” I hope you will do the same.
1. As far as “Evangelicals” go I see two camps that don’t seem to hear what the other is saying, or seem to be somewhat deaf to what the other side is saying.
a. One side has listened to Mr. Trump and heard things that were anti-immigrant, anti-woman, and anti-Muslim. They have seen clips of his rallies and seen abuse of black people. They have seen who he is asking to be on his staff and see a racist being given a prominent position. They have heard him imply threatened violence if he did not win. They have seen the documentation of his immoral and worldly life-style. They have seen and heard him fudge the truth and be abusive to his opponents. These people have felt threatened by Mr. Trump and could not in conscience vote for him. Some of these same “Evangelicals” voted for Hillary Clinton, and some did not.
b. One side has listened to Hillary Clinton and seen the threat of four more years of a liberal slide into national immorality, especially in the area of abortion and an aggressive homosexual social agenda. They heard from her, and saw in President Obama, a threat to religious freedom. They were wary of coming Supreme Court appointments which would continue this liberal agenda. It is estimated that 81% of Evangelicals that voted, voted for Mr. Trump. Others voted for other candidates or did not vote. Many of those who voted actually voted against Hillary Clinton in their view of her as ambitious, lying, manipulative, and corrupt in her life as a chronic politician and the wife of Bill Clinton.
2. These two groups don’t seem to see the rationale in the other side’s position. Those Evangelicals who voted for Trump can’t imagine Christians voting for someone who supports abortion or homosexuality. Many of those Evangelicals who voted for Hillary don’t buy into the Republicans being sincere about fighting abortion or homosexuality due to scant evidence of fighting to change it within government previously, but they are fairly convinced that the Republican party isn’t concerned about issues such as racism or poverty or other kinds of injustice. In short it comes down to what each side fears and what each side ignores.
3. Many Evangelicals who voted for Trump are suspicious of his personal lifestyle and comments but seem to be willing to overlook warning signals of his instability, immorality, or incompetence in favor of a Republican government. In the past issues of personal character seemed to be a high priority for most Evangelicals, but not in this last election. Those Evangelicals who voted for Hillary are fairly convinced that the way Mr. Trump has lived his life and the things he has said should all be taken seriously as to what we can expect from his future behavior and see a bit of hypocrisy in Evangelicals who have overlooked character issues this time.
4. There is a split in the Evangelical world with some attempting even to distance themselves from that word and that group, even though they may have similar theological doctrine. It is still largely conservative and Republican but it will no longer be monolithic.
5. In the general population there have been some other dynamics at play:
a. One is the loss of those jobs for men that provide an adequate living. While employment has gone up it has not gone up in significant ways for working class men. They are not only concerned but bitter about it and haven’t felt government was taking their personal situations into account especially in international trade deals. They see competition not only with foreign countries but with immigrants. These men see feminism not as success for women but sometimes as an attack against themselves and their ability to support a family.
b. While there has been a kind of “triumphalism” in minority communities over the last decade about the rise of Hispanics as a minority, and the decline of the white population, (and the prediction that the white population will become the “largest minority”) there has also been a backlash against this dynamic. Since some of that rise is from a Hispanic population that is undocumented much of the white population doesn’t see it as legitimate or permanent.
c. One of the most dangerous things that could happen to our country is for white people to see themselves as a “tribe” in competition with other tribes. This last election has empowered racists and nativists into seeing themselves and the USA in just that way. They see every protest and complaint by African Americans as an attack against their privilege or somehow as a threat against themselves. They don’t sympathize at cases of injustice but usually blame the victim. A white tribe would be the largest, richest, most entrenched, and most powerful of all the tribes in this country and would create just the kind of tribalism that Africa continues to face and Europe still struggles against.
d. Many minorities assume that this is what the majority of white people already think about themselves as a group (that they are a tribe in competition with others), when in reality many if not most white people don’t think of themselves first as a race or a color.
6. Another dynamic of this election was the demagogue power of right wing conservative media that used slander, innuendo, ad hominem arguments, and fake news (much of this spread on the internet) to create a narrative or myth about President Obama. This myth was used to create a sense of “losing our country” to a suspected Muslim who lied about his birth so socialism could take over the government and control our economy. While there were plenty of legitimate policy arguments, and plenty of moral and justice issues to join with President Obama a great many conservatives were more concerned with aspects of this fostered and manufactured myth than they were with actual policy disagreements. These myths empowered the Republican congress to pursue a policy of non-cooperation so that possible compromises were hindered. Compromise became a nasty word to the radical right wing.
7. Those who voted for Bernie Sanders especially, those who are concerned with the power of banks and financial institutions to lead us once again into a national financial disaster unless they are regulated, those who are concerned with predatory companies that abuse and misuse the environment and fear that the unraveling of regulation will lead to ecological disasters are all very concerned with the direction that Mr. Trump may take us. Others think government regulation has strangled our economy and it will now be set free for a time of heightened prosperity.
8. Those who are concerned with foreign policy and the rightful use of our military are concerned with the things Mr. Trump has said about our allies, about our war heroes, about our military leadership, and about our potential enemies. What lies ahead is anybody’s guess as those principles which seemed to be America’s way of looking at the world may be radically changed. War and certainly the threat of war seems possible.
We are entering a very different time for ourselves as Americans. Many are unnerved and others feel a nativist and even racial boldness which some have felt gives them license to be abusive to others. There will be racial violence and at least an atmosphere of ominous threat in various places over the next year. No matter what Mr. Trump says to silence it, and we certainly hope he continues to speak out against it, there is a spirit of racial hatred not seen in public since the days of George Wallace.
No Christian should excuse sinful, wicked, or unjust behavior. All of us should be quick to condemn that which is evil. All of us should pursue love and live our lives with faith and not fear. Our Lord and master is Jesus Christ and our mandate for how we live our lives is the Word of God. We certainly respect our Constitution but neither it, nor its interpretation, provide the absolutes by which we set our course. We are confident in the Lord of nations to protect our souls, our future destiny, and help us through whatever times may come. So, if anything, we should all determine to do a lot of praying.