Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Election

The 2004 election offers Christian, constitutionalist conservatives no natural choice for the presidency. In light of that, lets look at some of the options.

Option 1: Vote for Bush, then pray…a lot.

Call this the Pat Buchanan strategy. In his recent endorsement of the president, Buchanan argues that an election is at heart a visceral, tribal affair. And, Pat says, once the shooting begins, it is time to come home to our own.

Fair enough, many of us have pulled levers for Republicans before. But haven’t authentic conservatives been evicted from the house? This ostensibly "conservative" president working in tandem with a "conservative" congress has adopted the domestic policy of LBJ, the foreign policy of Wilson, and the revolutionary spirit of Robespierre.

Even in endorsing Mr. Bush, Buchanan calls the Iraq debacle the greatest strategic blunder of our lifetime and rightly condemns the Republican addiction to big government, free-trade, and open-borders immigration that is balkanizing the country, hollowing out what remains of our industrial base, and sapping our liberty. Buchanan writes that the Bush presidency has produced:

A guerrilla war in Iraq is dividing and bleeding America with no end in sight. It carries the potential for chaos, civil war, and the dissolution of that country.

Balkanization of America and the looming bankruptcy of California as poverty and crime rates soar from an annual invasion of indigent illegals is forcing native-born Californians to flee the state for the first time since gold was found at Sutter’s Mill.

A fiscal deficit of 4 percent of GDP and merchandise trade deficit of 6 percent of GDP have produced a falling dollar, the highest level of foreign indebtedness in U.S. history, and the loss of one of every six manufacturing jobs since Bush took office.

Nonetheless, Buchanan argues that Bush will select better judges and has conservative instincts on "values" issues. Considering that Republican presidents have appointed 10 of the last 12 Supreme Court justices, and given Bush’s history in Texas, Buchanan’s argument is spurious at best. Moreover, the president has endorsed civil unions and done nothing substantive to curtail the legalized slaughter of unborn children. Indeed, it is likely that the abortion rate has climbed during the Bush years.

To his credit, Buchanan at least recognizes that he Constitution Party and its candidate, Michael Peroutka, are closer to authentic conservatives in philosophy and policy prescriptions than are the Republicans.

Such even-handed and thoughtful analysis and rhetoric is completely absent on the Christian Right. Jerry Falwell said this week that evangelicals are behind the president "because of who he is and what he believes." Under Bush, according to Falwell, America is "on the way back" and Christian influence is unprecedented. (Makes me pine for rule by secularists!!) Earlier, Falwell had said, "For conservative people of faith [that about covers the religious gamut], voting for principle this year means voting for the re-election of George W. Bush."

Pat Robertson spouted that Bush would win in a landslide and then added, "The Lord has just blessed him. I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and come out of it. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him."

Andrew Sandlin, president of the Center for Cultural Leadership, writes, "…we should work faithfully with the historical options God has granted us. He has not placed us in a historical situation that permits us to vote for the ideal candidate (and perhaps He never will). So, God expects us to vote responsibly and thoughtfully for the electable candidate that most accurately reflects Christian conviction. And in the upcoming Presidential election, that candidate is George W. Bush." Sandlin also, very thoughtfully, compares conservative critics of the administration to Maoist revolutionaries and wonders whether we "really have confidence in the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit."

Ken Gentry, a fine scholar who should stick to writing about Jerusalem in 70 AD, says that voting for a third party is inherently non-constitutional and violates the Biblical methodology of gradualism. Uh, yeah. For a thorough refutation of the incrementalist nonsense spewing forth from various sectors of Christendom, read this essay by William Einwechter.

If Republicans don’t care about Bush’s departures on life and homosexuality, not to mention the illegal, unconstitutional, and just plain stupid war in Iraq, you would think they might be troubled by the syncretistic idolatry propagated by the president. But then again, you would be wrong. Earlier this week on Good Morning America, the president said:

Good Morning America, October 26, 2004 ~

Charlie Gibson: Do we all worship the same God, Christian and Muslim?

George W. Bush: I think we do.

CG: Do Christians and non-Christians and Muslims go to heaven in your mind?

GWB: Yes, they do. We have different routes of getting there...

This is merely the latest public utterance or act of idolatry by the president. Yet, other than Doug Wilson, I have seen no prominent Christian publicly chastise the president’s implicit universalism and unitarianism. Wilson’s comments are on point. He writes:

The problem is idolatry. George Bush is not a proposed law, or a referendum. He is a man who has a responsibility to worship God through Jesus Christ. And this he does, as a baptized and confessing Christian. He is like Solomon, and is a covenant member. But, also like Solomon, he is doing something else. George Bush, in a disciplined and principled way, has supported and advanced syncretistic idolatry. He was central in that abominable National Cathedral worship service after 9-11. The National Cathedral really has become a National Pantheon. He had the Islamic holy month of Ramadan honored in the White House. He paid religious honor at a Shinto shrine in Japan…
So the central problem is that our national evangelical leaders who support Bush show no signs of any willingness to confront the central problem here, which is that of syncretistic idolatry. In fact, all the indicators are that our evangelical leaders are complicit in this sin, or have accommodated themselves to it in some fashion. Who is the evangelical leader, who has the president's ear, who has confronted him about this? And a private confrontation doesn't count -- these are high profile public sins, and the confrontation needs to be as public as the sin.

Further, this illustrates that incrementalism
is a two-way street. Who is more likely to get politically-involved Christians to participate in idolatrous worship services? Bush or Kerry? Who is more likely to get Christians to timidly occupy their assigned corner in the National Pantheon? Bush or Kerry? Who is more likely to get conservative Christians to go along with some generic "people of faith" approach? Bush or Kerry? Given the zeal with which many Christians support Bush (despite such glaringly obvious problems) I think we already have our answer. Incrementalism doesn't work if you sell your soul along the way

.…it really distresses me that among our national Christian leaders, there has been no one willing to play the role of a faithful prophet and friend. George Bush is a layman, and he could always excuse himself by pointing to all the evangelical leaders, like Billy Graham, who follow this same approach. Who will tell the president to stop including the idols, and in doing so, make it a fundamental issue? Billy Graham? Jerry Falwell? World magazine? Again, the problem is the Church, and the fact that the position I am arguing is controversial shows that their incrementalism is working far better than ours is.
One other item that Wilson fails to adequately address is the Bush administration infatuation with the idolatry of statism. That our security comes from the regime, that you are "with us or against us" in the war on terror, that there is "wonder working power" in state-funded "faith-based" social programs are all lies propagated by the administration, and point to the state rather than God as the author of every good and perfect gift.

This is not the record of a man that Christian conservatives can support. Which brings us to…

Option 2: Punish Bush, vote for Kerry.

Several stalwarts on the political right are taking this tack. Paul Craig Roberts writes that:

…the only way Bush can be held accountable for Iraq is to be voted out of office.

However unappealing the alternative candidate, if the electorate fails to hold Bush accountable for invading Iraq on false pretenses and multiplying the recruits to al-Qaeda, American democracy will have failed.

In a powerfully written and reasoned polemic in defense of voting for John Kerry, Scott McConnell offers a similar observation. He writes:

It is, instead, an election about the presidency of George W. Bush. To the surprise of virtually everyone, Bush has turned into an important president, and in many ways the most radical America has had since the 19th century. Because he is the leader of America’s conservative party, he has become the Left’s perfect foil—its dream candidate.

George W. Bush has come to embody a politics that is antithetical to almost any kind of thoughtful conservatism. His international policies have been based on the hopelessly naïve belief that foreign peoples are eager to be liberated by American armies—a notion more grounded in Leon Trotsky’s concept of global revolution than any sort of conservative statecraft. His immigration policies—temporarily put on hold while he runs for re-election—are just as extreme. A re-elected President Bush would be committed to bringing in millions of low-wage immigrants to do jobs Americans "won’t do." This election is all about George W. Bush, and those issues are enough to render him unworthy of any conservative support.

Jude Wanniski argues that if Bush is re-elected he will see it as vindication for his policies. Wanniski considers himself an internationalist, and will vote for Kerry because of the administrations mishandling of foreign policy. Wanniski says:

I will cast my first vote for the Democrat in a presidential contest since I pulled the lever for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And I will do so with enthusiasm for the Senator's views on how to manage the world, having come to appreciate the way his mind works. It changes with new and better information. If he does win, he will have a Republican House and probably a Republican Senate to work with, finding acceptable common ground on important domestic issues. But most of all, I think he will little by little make the world a less dangerous place than it has become these last four years.

Wanniski may very well be correct that divided government is preferable to one-party domination. Indeed, the Republicans could undergo a spine implant in the face of a Kerry presidency and begin to reclaim legislative prerogatives from the overweening executive branch.

While gridlock may be the best alternative, and the desire to see Bush and the neocons punished is admirable, a vote for John Kerry is not the proper means of redressing the grievance. Kerry is pro-abortion, pro-gay rights, anti-gun, pro-big government, and a liberal internationalist to boot. He will do noting to seal our borders or protect our manufacturers from predatory trade policies. He is an unreconstructed leftist whose views are hostile to everything we believe.

So what about…

Option 3: Don’t vote, it only encourages them.

In The American Conservative, Kara Hopkins makes the case that sitting out the election is best among a series of awful alternatives. Hopkins writes:

But what value is participation if those who cast ballots go unrepresented? Is there virtue in the act if it allows no choice? Smash offending countries alone or invite friends along for the invasion? Tax-and-spend or tax-cut-and-spend? Open borders or open borders? Before herding to the polls because it’s What We Do—like fireworks on the Fourth or eggnog at Christmas—consider the possibility that voting has little to do with democracy and democracy is not the first cause of liberty.

In other words, there’s not a dimes worth of difference, so lets go fishin’. Hopkins argues that not voting is more effective than casting a ballot for a third party. Hopkins points to the four million evangelicals who stayed home in 2000 and have been assiduously courted as a result.

Hopkins makes a strong case, but ultimately, I’m inclined to agree with Gary North who wrote, "I love to do my share, no matter how small, to make some career politician unhappy. Voting for a third-party candidate makes no politician happy, and it makes at least one politician unhappy: a major party's loser, who did not get my vote. No politician is better off, and at least one politician is worse off." Moreover, if Mr. Bush loses, I’m quite eager to be blamed by Sandlin, Falwell, Robertson, and the rest for my "unchristian" vote.

Which brings us to..

Option 4: Vote for an explicitly Christian, constitutionalist candidate.

If one is a Christian, constitutionalist conservative, doesn’t it make sense to vote for a Christian, constitutionalist conservative? In 2004, that means casting a vote for Michael Peroutka and Chuck Baldwin. Read their platform, then spend a few minutes comparing the various platforms and ask yourself a few questions:

1) Will you continue to vote for candidates who do nothing to stop the abortion holocaust?
2) Will you continue to vote for candidates that unconstitutionally drag the country into illegal and unwise foreign wars?
3) Will you continue to vote for candidates that fail to enforce immigration law?
4) Will you continue to vote for candidates who won’t fight the culture war?
5) Will you continue to vote for candidates who by their words and deeds deny the Lordship of Jesus and the efficacy of His Word?

Well, will you? As William Einwechter says, "In voting, the question is not, ‘What makes the most sense to me?’ but rather, ‘What does God’s Word require of me?’" To vote for the "lesser of two evils" still means voting for evil. It is time we gave up doing evil in the name of good, and voted with obedient, rather than expedient, hearts.


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