Part II — Some Mitigating Factors

As I said in Part I, the prospect of the next four years under Barack Obama and a strongly Democratic Congress disturbs me greatly.  The following are some of the reasons why the outcome of the election might not matter as much as I fear.
  • The President of the United States never has as much power as we fear—or he would like.  Presidents acquire both credit and blame they don't deserve, for events set in motion long before they took office, or determined by forces over which they have no control.  Their campaign promises may tell us about their philosophies and their hopes (or they may not), but presidents by and large are at the mercy of legislators, judges, the press, public opinion, and a host of natural phenomena and international situations beyond their purview.  This is a good thing.

  • I have yet to find a strong positive correlation between a president's apparent potential and his performance.  Ronald Reagan was an actor, once uttered the infamous statement, "A tree's a tree; how many of them to you need to look at?" and his wife consulted horoscopes, yet his presidency encompassed some of the best years in my experience, both domestically and internationally.  Bill Clinton's sexual proclivities made a mockery of the office, he lied under oath, and he threatened to take the country on a far-leftward swing complete with nationalized medical care, yet if you look at reality rather than rhetoric you could make a case that George W. Bush was the more liberal president.  True, some of Clinton's success came from riding on the coattails of what was accomplished under Reagan, and his administration is probably to blame for some of the conditions that led to our problems with al-Qaeda, and certainly much of the reason he was not the Liberal success many had hoped for lies in Republican opposition in the Legislature—still, the point is that his time in office was not the unmitigated disaster many—including me—had feared.  Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, are stellar examples of how good men, with strong morals and a determination to do the right thing in all of life, from the bedroom to the war room, can still be really lousy presidents.  I may yet look back on an Obama presidency and say, "This wasn't as bad as I had expected."  I doubt it, but you never know.

  • George W. Bush did not want to spend most of his presidency embroiled in a war, and whoever wins today's election did not want to spend most of his presidency weighed down by economic woes, but such realities arise and force presidents to set aside their own agendas.  Unfortunately, they can also be a smokescreen through which really bad policies are slipped past our distracted eyes, so vigilance is still the order of the day.  Our next president must deal not only with the troubling economic situation at home and abroad, but may face political and military challenges most of us would rather not contemplate.  Any hopes that our only significant threat comes from Islamic terrorists and rogue dictators of minor countries are foolish at best.  Russia is beginning to flex its muscles in a way more frightening than at any time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and as for China—J. R. R. Tolkien said it best:  It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations.  We attempt to elect the best person for the job, yet the job rarely turns out to be what we expect.  Sometimes presidents rise above themselves when the occasion demands.

  • One of the advantages of being a Christian is knowing that God's plans can never be thwarted, not by the President of the United States and not even by the Supreme Court.  The election results may make our paths more difficult, but they won't change the ultimate direction, and God will be with us through each turning.  But that is the subject of Part III.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at 10:30 am | Edit
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(Why This Election Is So Threatening), (Some Mitigating Factors), and How We Can Sing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land
Excerpt: Like it or not, our country has placed itself under the threats I mentioned in Part I, and I can only hope that the mitigating factors of Part II will enable me to say, at the end of four years, "That wasn't so bad."  Regardless, althoug...
Weblog: Lift Up Your Hearts!
Date: November 5, 2008, 12:36 pm
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