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Which Presidential Candidate Will Restore Sagging Confidence?

An Associated Press survey released this week shows that American confidence in the President, Congress, the Supreme Court, and those who report on them—the press—is at all time lows. When confidence lags, one begins to look for something to hope in for the change that is needed. Six years ago that search led to Barack Obama, who promised hope and change “we could believe in.” We got lots of change, but these poll numbers show that hope is still sagging. Are any of the candidates for president in 2016 what we need?

To answer that question, one must diagnose what is needed. Someone well-versed in the mechanics of combustion engines might be great to call on when your car is not running smoothly, but not to do a heart valve transplant when your heart’s not running smoothly. So what is our problem that needs fixing?

Our tendency is to look at various public policies and to believe that if we tweak this policy or add or eliminate another policy that we’ll get things back on track. We then look for a candidate whose policy views best line up with our policy diagnosis.

While I do believe public policies can produce negative individual and societal consequences, diagnosis of our problem must run deeper. How do we determine which policies or perhaps missing policies are producing the negative consequences?

I think the answer to that question ties into the reason we have no confidence in government or the press. I’m reminded of another culture that bore a striking resemblance to ours. A man named Isaiah described it this way:

So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away (Isaiah 59: 9-11 NIV).

Then in summary fashion he provides the diagnosis for their condition: “Truth has stumbled in the street. Yes, truth is lacking” (Isaiah 59:14).

Truth is what is needed to evaluate anything, including public policies. And like Isaiah’s culture, truth is not in vogue in ours anymore.

Let’s admit it. We don’t trust these governmental institutions because we think they are, on the whole, a “bunch of crooks and liars.” But in our condemnation of them we forget that they are a reflection of us. They are a product of a culture filled with lies and a people that seem to prefer the temporary phantom comfort of lies over the harsh realities of the truth.

So going back to the question about the presidential candidate in which we should put our hope for change, the answer, to me, is none of them. None of them will really say what needs to be said because they fear the PC police and their allies in the press.

For me, our hope for the change we need will not be found on the ballot, but in the pulpits of our churches. However, that will only happen as our pulpits recover their prophetic voice and speak God’s truth about what is going on in our culture, something large numbers are not yet inclined to do. If they do recover their voice, the question is whether those in the pews will listen.

Again, God’s prophets of old have described our modern situation. Jeremiah said this of the “pulpits” of his day and the response of those in the “pews:”

An astonishing and horrible thing
Has been committed in the land.
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule by their own power;
And My people love to have it so (Jeremiah 5:30-31 NKJV).

And then Jeremiah asks this question, “But what will you do in the end?”

That is a question we Christians need to be prepared to answer if we don’t want to hear the truth anymore.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Overcoming Election Season Perils

Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” And during this election season, his analysis seems particularly true to me.

While the form of civil government in the United States is a republic, not a democracy, Churchill was correct that our form of government is better than all the other “forms.” It’s better in that it best protects us from the corrupting influence of power by distributing those powers in various ways and attempting to put checks and balances on the exercise of those powers.

But the form of our government does not protect us from either of two problems that can result in corrupt, immoral, or dysfunctional government.

Ignorance

First, our form of government does not protect us from ignorance, both among the electorate and among our candidates.

I have previously written that some very fine individuals running for office don’t really seem to adequately understand our form of government. We won’t let someone drive a car if they don’t know the rules of the road, but we will elect someone who doesn’t know how to steer the ship of state according to the constitution.

As for the ignorance of the electorate, what I see runs the gamut from voters who also don’t understand our form of civil government to the uninformed who don’t thoroughly study up on the candidates for whom they will vote.

As a case in point, in recent weeks I have spoken with individuals who have given money to and actively supported candidates whom I know don’t share their views on issues like marriage, family structure, or religious liberty. That is, they didn’t know until I told them. Unfortunately, in most cases, I was too late.

I also find people supporting candidates because they know or like them or because someone else they know vouched for or endorsed the candidate. That may be fine for popularity contests, but it’s not so great when it comes to putting the power of civil government in someone’s hands.

Knowing and liking someone has nothing to do with whether they will wisely exercise the power they hold according to the constitution and God’s moral order. Personal piety just means that the person may do the wrong thing with an honest and pure heart. But integrity and purity don’t turn bad policy decisions into good ones.

Endorsements are yet another cause for concern. They are tricky because it’s very possible that the endorser doesn’t know what to look for in a candidate either or may not have properly vetted the candidate. In some instances with which I’m familiar, I know the endorser hasn’t vetted the candidate well. It’s a classic case of the blind leading the blind.

Deception

The second problem that our form of government doesn’t protect us from is deception.

There are advertisements for and against candidates that I know make “connections” between various things to suggest conclusions that really don’t connect. Charitably speaking, what they say is a “stretch.” But if a voter doesn’t have more information or take the time to really consider what has been said, then he or she will be fooled.

And I’ve already written about candidates who give answers in one venue that are, in principle, contrary to what they have said in a different venue. It’s impossible for voters to be in all places at all times.

Lastly, I admit that I struggle with how to accurately portray an incumbent’s voting record. Scorecards are snapshots that show you only a moment frozen in time, but what happened before or after that shot was taken may provide much-needed context.

What’s the Solution?

All that can be discouraging, but as Churchill said, the problem isn’t in our form of government. These problems can be remedied if we all take more seriously our duty to investigate candidates more thoroughly and we have candidates with more integrity than those who are willing to stretch the truth. And, thankfully, that remedy is in our hands if we’ll use it.

Our Voter Education Headquarters is just one tool that can help you remedy the problem.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Does a Politician’s Christianity Really Matter?

Because I have been a state senator and now lead a state organization dedicated to promoting public policies that respect God’s design for marriage and family, life, and religious liberty, I talk to a lot of state politicians and political candidates, particularly at election time. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most who talk to me this time of year are professing Christians. But a conversation I had the other day raised a question about the extent to which one’s Christianity matters.

Many who know me would be surprised to hear such a statement coming from my lips. I don’t say it because a person’s character or the basis for his or her understanding of right and wrong doesn’t matter to me. It matters a lot. But that’s not enough.

I say this because being a Christian doesn’t mean that the candidate for office understands anything about how our form of government is supposed to work. We would not hire a person to handle our finances, run our businesses, treat our illnesses, or do much of anything else simply because they said they were a Christian, even one we might call “devout.”

As a case in point, I spoke with a candidate for office the other day that, based on what I know, I would fully expect to see in the eternal presence of God. But the first thing out of the person’s mouth set off alarm bells for me and required a quick tutorial in the doctrine of separation of powers.

This person, whom I respect, mentioned that when it came to abortion I probably had more trust in the legislature to handle the issue correctly, the implication being that maybe the judiciary was either more trustworthy or better able to balance this sensitive issue. I quickly assured this person that I didn’t trust the legislature either and that, in my case, my distrust was based on real-life experience.

Then I explained that the issue wasn’t about the branch of government in which we should put more trust to make abortion policy, but to which branch of government the enactment of public policy had been entrusted under our state and federal constitutions.

There is only one real, right answer to that question: the legislature. And we’re in the mess we’re in today because, in part, both our politicians and a solid majority of Americans have apparently forgotten that. We only care about whether we get the result—the policy—we want.

That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why Congress and voters aren’t throwing out members of Congress right and left for not impeaching a President (and any President) who essentially keeps enacting or changing the law through executive orders and impeaching activist judges who violate the Constitution by twisting its words and by encroaching upon the legislature’s constitutional prerogatives.

Fortunately, at least for this one candidate, I think my little “refresher course” on constitutional government set things rights. But my point is that candidates who don’t understand our form of government and their responsibilities under that form of government aren’t the type I’m looking for, no matter how often they are in church or how personally holy they are.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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