The election is tomorrow and regardless of how it goes, it will be nice to have something else to talk about, like where in the back yard we should bury the family silver. But in the time remaining, here are just a few relevant observations.
First, in times of declension the people in charge are the ones managing the declension, approving of it, and getting it through Congress by wide margins, and all the rest of it. This means that those who see and understand what they are doing to the country will be attracted to the stay home option (“why vote? — it only encourages them”) or the third party option. That third party option is the way I have voted for a number of years, and while it is an honorable response, it is not a trouble free approach.
When told that he throwing his vote away, the third party purist often says that he wants to take the principled approach instead of the pragmatic one. But pragmatism always needs to build coalitions in order to get something done (and that something can be much smaller than winning the election), and so this coalition building is not something that disappears when you leave the mainstream parties. I left the Republican Party many years ago because I didn’t like a lot of the company — suits, haircuts, PR-meisters, pollsters, liars, liberals, charlatans, and clowns. Great . . . that’s a good reason to leave. But in the world of third parties, you soon discover, if you have kept your wits about you have haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid, that . . . you don’t like a lot of the company. In the third-party world, pragmatism places certain people in charge of state organizations who couldn’t organize a two-car funeral. On top of that, you have your racialists, your whackos, your tin-foil hat people, and your conspiracy nuts. Now of course, the fact one is paranoid doesn’t mean that “they” are not after him, but still, there it is. Just because you have separated yourself from the corruption does not necessarily mean that you have become a noble member of the Council of Elrond. But mixed all through this you have intelligent people who really love God and their nation, and who really understand how corrupt the mainline parties are. Just like back in the Republican party — there are people there who understand all this as well. We are all in the hands of God, and so those who see the crisis accurately should strike hands gladly, regardless of how we believe God would have us respond to it in the polling booth. I exclude from this broad call for political charity anyone who votes for Obama, or who would secretly like to in his heart. Every Christian who votes for Obama is part of the problem. Most Christians who vote for McCain are part of the problem. And most Christians who vote for the “pure” third part candidate are part of the problem also. But there is no reason for despair. Every Christian who gathers on the Lord’s Day to worship the Father in the name of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, in order to renew covenant with Him, is part of the coming inevitable restoration.
Second, I believe that regardless of which way this election goes, the political landscape will be dramatically altered in a way that will present us with many opportunities. The losing party will have to restructure itself completely . . . either that, or fold up shop. If the Republicans lose, then this means that the studied policy of “compassionate” conservatism, pursued at length, was simply a betrayal of conservative principles rather than a nice application of them. And measured by its own standard, it is found wanting. Pragmatism doesn’t work. Once governance has become a bribery contest, the “conservative” will always lose it. Picture two men trying to bribe their way into a sold-out event. One man is willing to offer anything, while the other will always offer less — in order to maintain his “conservative” bona fides. He will consistently lose on two levels — he will not win the object of the bribe because he always offers less, and he has also lost his conservative principles because he is trying to bribe anyone at all. So if McCain goes down, it will be very interesting to see what happens in the Republican Party because the Republicans, as we have known them in recent history, will have been discredited.
And if Obama loses, as I take still to be a real possibility, the Democratic Party will implode in some fashion. If the Democrats can’t win the presidency under these conditions — really unpopular Republican president, war, financial crisis of gargantuan proportions, a charismatic candidate of their own, and so on — then they will never win. In either case, I believe the political landscape will be completely altered.
One last comment, and I am done. My friend Peter Hitchens, in his recent article on the American election, has said that an Obama win will have been, if it occurs, a festival of self-deception. Fortunately, it will be the kind of self-deception that reveals itself for what it was in a matter of months, not years. And we will have the opportunity to speak the truth. But it will do no good to speak the truth in the public square until ministers begin speaking the truth in the pulpit. Reform the Church first — then the nation.