Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where Are We in the Elections?

Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:

OK, the field has narrowed and only a few viable candidates have momentum. Newcomer Barack Obama now credibly threatens Hillary Clinton, the heiress apparent to the Democrat nomination. On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee is arithmetically separated from overtaking John McCain. Left in the media shadows are Allan Keyes and Ron Paul, still very much in the race. Oh, and I keep forgetting about the lone pro-life Democrat. I’m embarrassed I can never remember his name, and I’m not sure he’s still in, but no announcement otherwise.

All this to say it’s boiling down to:

1)    For the Democrats, obviously it’s either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Policy-wise, most observers say that means little bottom-line difference in policy or legislative outcomes, but I say a huge difference in the way each would govern. And there will be an enormous difference in the culture-tone of their two White Houses. Hillary at least has a memory of church-going family life. Barack has no such formation. Still, his work within the black churches may offset some of that making his administration more congenial to religious groups. African-American churches also tend to be more morally conservative than white churches.


2)    For the Republicans, it’s John McCain with the lingering question of what influence Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul can have on his platform. McCain has had a good record on pro-life (I did not say great, or even very good), a so-so record on marriage and the family (and that’s both public and private) and little to zilch on the public acknowledgment of God. So there’s definitely room to tutor him. I’m looking for that opportunity and hope and pray Huckabee and Paul might have it, too.

My observations:

The Democrats have ignited a “movement” with Barack Obama. Movements are very difficult things to contain. Notwithstanding Obama’s unexpected momentum, the Democratic Party establishment—the elites, the celebs, the mega-donors—are still largely with Hillary. She also holds the greatest number of political IOUs than any Democrat, ever. Hillary and Bill have been raising and giving away boatloads of cash for more than seven years. They have bought into all the strategic congressional districts by backing candidates they knew they’d need in this fight. That means she still has some good wins ahead of her. She also has a majority of the so-called Super Delegates, 700 plus, who carry exponential weight in the final voting. (I find the presence of these “more equal voters” to be an absolutely bizarre violation of “democracy” within the “Democratic Party.”) 

Having said all this, the winds are shifting. In politics, everyone likes a winner better than a loser. They also like attention—and Obama’s getting a lot more attention than Clinton. It may not be long before a critical mass of voters, luminaries, donors and Super Delegates peel away from Hillary and glom onto “Beautiful Barack.”He may prove me wrong. I’ve been saying that she holds such a commanding ownership of Democratic Party machinery that it’s hers to lose. Well, maybe I’m still right, because she’s definitely the one losing it. She thought her party was still operated solely by the older white liberals. She was wrong. The Democratic Party is now energized by a new, young generation of “post-racial” kids. They’ve grown up with friends of every ethnic heritage and their heroes represent the full spectrum of human shapes and forms. Hillary and her people are out of touch with their own base. That looks more and more like it spells a loss for her and Bill, but we’ll see.

An Obama win will draw extremely sharp contrasts with a McCain ticket. Obama is fiercely anti-war and anti-military. He’s a child of multi-cultural intellectuals and religious skeptics. “Church” appears to be for him mostly an organizing tool to corral and deploy the best of humanitarian impulses. He uses the utopian language of “building the kingdom of God on earth.” On foreign policy, Obama is pro-Palestinian and leans anti-Israel. He has championed socialist-like government programs and attends Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, one of the most liberal congregations of the most liberal denomination in the U.S.

In contrast, McCain is fiercely supportive of war in pursuit of the enemy and until full victory. He is not just pro-military, though, he is actually a scion of the military caste. (His father and grandfather were admirals and I believe four generations of McCains have been trained at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.) As far as I know, he is pro-Israel and leans away from the Palestinians. The age difference goes without saying: McCain is a septuagenarian—he makes Hillary look young and the ageless Barack positively youthful. In today’s image-conscious culture, McCain’s age is a liability. On spirituality, McCain’s been flatter than Obama; a taciturn, “we don’t talk about religion at the table” kind of guy. McCain has also straddled a lot of fences. Down-the-middle rarely works in politics. As Jesus said, “because you are lukewarm I will spew you out of my mouth.” In this case, the majority of the electorate just may follow the Lord’s lead! Then, of course, there is the temperament difference. Obama is at least perceived to be a calm and cool conciliator, while McCain is known to be hotheaded and obstinate. On and on it goes.

The McCain ticket looks to me like a redux of Bob Dole. Dole couldn’t make it and, I’m afraid, neither can McCain. A great friend of mine who is a seasoned veteran (literally and figuratively) called to say he believes McCain is anointed of God for such a time as this. I want to believe that and I’m praying and working on it. God knows and so often confounds our finite reasoning. Still, this one is loaded with problems. Another seasoned leader and one of the most brilliant Christian minds in our country said to me today, “We have no leadership.” Amen.

Please watch my video blog on all this. Pat Mahoney joins me in the conversation. He’s a deeply spiritual guy and a real politiphile! (I made it up and have no idea how to spell it!)

Lets keep praying!

Your grateful missionary to elected and appointed officials,


Rob Schenck