Analyzing what the message of the presidential candidates reveals about the state of our nation
Thumping music blares. The lights flash red, white, and blue. The standing people raise their cell phones, desperately trying to catch a snapshot of the sandy-haired man walking onto the stage. He waves, raises his arms in the air and gives the crowd a double thumbs-up. After the cheering crowd finally quiets down, the politician is ready to speak.
He cuts to the quick, bringing up his trademark issue early into the speech. “We are going to have a strong border. We are going to build the wall. And it will be a real wall. A real wall! Are you ready?” He cups his hand behind his ear. “Who is going to pay for the wall?”
The auditorium erupts, “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!”
A Unique Election
The 2016 Primaries have many of the same features as every other recent election: childlike mud-slinging, exposed dirty laundry, entertaining debates, and frivolous promises. Yet in other aspects, this pre-election season has been interestingly unique.
Bernie Sanders has found traction among the millennials (ages 18-29)—more so than any other candidate.1 Twenty years ago, even ten, a self-proclaimed socialist would not have had a chance in American politics. The horrors of Communism and the tense years of the Cold War with the Soviet Union are still all too real for those who lived through them. Yet most of the millennials were born since then and do not seem concerned about the implications of socialism.
According to The Atlantic, “…if there’s one thing people are learning about this young generation, it’s that they are liberal. Even leftist. Flirting with socialist.”2 Sanders appeals to this age bracket by offering free college for all. Many students realize the financial burden of college debt and jump at the idea. He also offers free health insurance for all and promises to pay for his expensive ideas by raising taxes for Wall Street, big corporations, and the rich. In a society that has grown accustomed to everything free, who would say no to these wonderful offers?
Not everyone to the left has bought into Sanders and his socialist agenda. Hillary Clinton still commands the Democratic field, despite her floundering reputation. Where many a politician has fallen for lesser accusations, Hillary continues on. She touts her support for the minorities — specifically women, Afro-Americans, and Hispanics. She loudly declares her goal to get equal pay for women’s work!
Appealing to everyone’s concern about the economic crisis, Clinton promises to provide more jobs. She reminds the throngs of her husband’s success at turning around the nation’s economy in the 1990s and commits to do the same.3
Since the very beginning of her campaign, Clinton has endured an ever-growing trickle of incriminating evidence from her tenure as Secretary of State. The FBI discovered that her personal email server was used to host top-secret federal information, and then was retained in her New York home even after her term ended in 2013. If proven guilty, these crimes could result in years of prison time.4
Donald Trump uses his trademark strategy of tapping into the people’s anger and fear. He paints the dismal picture of a country on the edge of defeat, and lifts himself up as the hero to save the day. “Our country owes now 19 trillion dollars. We owe trillions to China. We owe trillions to Japan. The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous.”5
He does not like wasting time with specifics. After all, that’s not what most people show up to hear, and he feeds them just what they want. “It’s going to change around. It’s going to change quickly. We are going to renegotiate our trade deals… and we’re bringing companies back to the United States.”5 This never fails to bring loud applause.
Often accused of being a racist, and sometimes even a fascist, Trump has his enemies. He champions the idea of securing the borders and threatens to deport all illegal immigrants. While he trumpets his success as a businessman, more-than-questionable tactics have been employed in his accumulation of wealth. He has filed for bankruptcy four times, with billions of dollars in losses. He is married to his third wife and brags about his adultery in his book The Art of the Comeback.6
Fearful and Angry
The presidential campaign continues to reveal where our country is and where we are headed. As the world’s superpower, we have grown accustomed to being in control. While that confidence was shaken by the 9/11 attacks, our nation has remained optimistic about our world dominance. Until recently.
Shootings, terrorist attacks, beheadings and anti-western sentiment continue to blaze the headlines. The San Bernardino attack in December brought the threat onto home turf and only heightened the tension. Top that off with the fear of losing jobs to foreign countries and immigrants, higher taxes, ever-rising healthcare costs, and last but not least, a nineteen trillion dollar federal deficit which may result in an economy crash. You get the picture.
Added to the fear-factor is the deep distrust that our nation has towards authority. Conspiracy theories run rampant about Washington politics, to the point that “outsiders” with little or no political experience actually have “home-court” advantage! The people are so sick and tired of political correctness that crude, and sometimes downright derogatory speech is embraced as honesty.
Entitlement plagues our culture more than ever before. Free software, free online services, free upgrades, free refills, free school…the list goes on. It only sounds fair for the government to expand that list to include free healthcare and free college. Coupled with this deserving attitude is a rebellion against the large corporations and an anger towards the rich billionaires. Somehow the blame gets cast on them for our nation’s financial difficulties.
What About Us?
Are we as conservative Anabaptists exempt from all the voter fear, distrust and anger? After all, we are known to be “the quiet of the land” and political involvement is often strongly discouraged. However, we spend plenty of time discussing and criticizing political figures. Taxes edge upward and we bemoan our country’s incompetence of balancing a budget. We watch with concern and disgust as our nation continues to raise the debt ceiling. Religious freedom spirals downward and we fume over lost privileges.
This election does not offer much hope to reverse these trends. In fact, it may speed up the process. As lovers of peace and comfort, we can easily fall into fear and anxiety as we look at the dismal future of our country.
I fear we have grown so used to our comforts, freedom, and prosperity that we will not be prepared when hardship and persecution arrive. Growing up in the land of the free where everyone has the right to the pursuit of happiness has greatly stunted our willingness to suffer for the Kingdom. I speculate it impacts our hesitancy to share the Gospel boldly with our lost neighbors. I suspect it prevents us from embracing our cross daily and following after Christ, especially in areas that draw the most criticism.
As God-fearing citizens of the United States, it pains us when the people collectively turn their backs on God and promote evil and perversion. We long for continued freedom and peace as a church, and wince as it threatens to vanish from sight. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”7 We are entirely within the bounds of Scripture to pray for our country during this tumultuous time!
Yet our hope must not lie in religious freedom, economic prosperity, and secure borders. Right before His death, Jesus reminded the disciples that His Kingdom is not of this world. We are active citizens of another Kingdom that is not made with hands. Our Commander-in-Chief will not be surprised by the outcome of the upcoming elections, and we can rest assured that His overarching plans will be furthered through the next President of the United States.
Share your comments!
What are some of your fears as you look to the future?
What are your takeaways from the current presidential campaign?
What are some ways you sense God moving in our country and world right now?
|Ian Miller lives in Brooklyn, NY and volunteers full-time with a non-profit organization. He is earning his BA in English through College Plus, which he hopes to use to teach ESL, both at home and abroad. He is passionate about urban, cross-cultural church planting, and verbal, personal evangelism.|
- “Harvard IOP Fall 2015 Poll.” Harvard University. Harvard IOP @ The Kennedy School, 10 Dec. 2015. Web. 08 May 2016.
- Thomson, Derek. “The Liberal Millennial Revolution.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, n.d. Web. 08 May 2016.
- “Hillary Clinton Campaign Rally in Virginia” C-SPAN.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.
- Morrissey, Edward. “Why You Should Be Furious over Hillary Clinton’s Email Scandal.” The Week. N.p., 02 Feb. 2016. Web. 08 May 2016.
- “Full Event: Donald Trump Bethpage New York Rally on Long Islands, 17000 Supporters Attended (4-6-16).” YouTube. YouTube, 06 Apr. 2016. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.
- Trump, Donald, and Kate Bohner. Trump: The Art of the Comeback. New York: Times, 1997. Print.
- Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1990. Print.