You may remember that in 2007 the secular press used up an entire year talking about "leading candidates" Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Of course, Mike Huckabee won the Iowa Caucuses the following January; Romney finished second and Giuliani a distant sixth.
Now, in 2015, the media have consumed most of the year talking about Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
In 2008 the "Fourth Estate" (the press) couldn't unravel the puzzling results of Iowa's "Huckaboom." They didn't understand the evangelical culture, the numbers or how it happened. Fox News exit polls were most intriguing, as statistician Dr. Daron Shaw gave the following election night analysis:
"While 60 percent of those participating in the Iowa Republican Caucuses claimed to either be born-again Christians or evangelical Christian, this does not tell the whole story. Many more traditional denominations that are undeniably conservative, Lutherans, Presbyterians ... share the same positions on values issues, but do not view themselves as evangelicals or born again. In reality, I believe the influence of conservative Christians to be much higher than 60 percent."
Candidates adept at public relations but unable to muster a grass-roots army generally do not fare well in politics. Why? Because press conferences, press releases and headlines are public relations: useful for boosting one's reputation, improving one's image, increasing one's awareness and self-promotion. But the true currency in the political economy is:
1) how many votes can you bring, or
2) how much money can you bring to deliver votes.
Mr. Trump has mastered public relations medium; no candidate except Ronald Reagan has had more TV experience. Watching him run for president in 2015 has been fun and brings home why he delivered a top-rated TV show for 14 seasons. As effective as he has been with the media, his biggest contribution so far in 2015 has been to throw a monkey wrench into the early coronation of a moderate, establishment Republican nominee for 2016. He trimmed the bushes and stole the paintings right out of Christie's auction house.
In mid-March, I wrote of Dr. Ben Carson: "I believe he is a good, good man. I have been so impressed with his courage." I continue to believe that Ben is a good man, but from my distance he is still a 3-5 percent candidate. If that assessment is correct, then Dr. Carson will take away 3-5 percent of the vote from another conservative candidate that can win the Republican Presidential nomination and potentially take Barack Obama's place on Jan. 20, 2017.
Two concerns have been advanced regarding Dr. Carson's views:
First, Carson affiliated with the Independence Party of Florida until a year ago. Before that, he was registered as an Independent in Maryland since 2001, (he had not voted in a Primary Election in 10 years). Last year, Carson became a Republican. That's not a deal killer because politics is addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division. But it does illuminate a caution light and necessitate additional information.
Second, Carson wrote America the Beautiful to tell the story of his wonderful rise from inner-city poverty to international medical and humanitarian acclaim. Dr. Linda Johnston, MD, reviewed the book in 2013 and wrote that Carson
- believes in "embracing the positive aspects of socialism"
- thinks government should pay for doctors' education
- believes some businesses should be protected from competition by government-imposed trade barriers
- thinks "health care basics" should be universally free and wouldn't increase our debt even a penny
- wants nuclear disarmament
Again, this is not a deal breaker but it does flash a cautionary light and requires additional information.
The political observations above make plain why I wrote to the 100,000 American Renewal Project pastors last week:
"1. Men and women of Issachar (1 Chr. 12:32) must return to the public square with our values. We must counter the fool's distortions and expose the negative consequences of living in a valueless, topsy-turvy world. 2. We must re-establish prayer in America's churches, asking God for mercy for what we have allowed to happen to a once Christian nation. Will the pastor-shepherds of our nation's congregations take the lead in the vital work of prayer?"
America's pastors must take the lead to save the nation in the real work of prayer.
The late Leonard Ravenhill once said: "The tragedy of this last hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people. Victory is not won in the pulpit by firing intellectual bullets or wisecracks, but in the prayer closet. The ugly fact is that the altar fires are either out or burning very low. The prayer meeting is dead or dying. By our attitude to prayer, we tell God that what was begun in the Spirit we can finish in the flesh. What church ever asks its candidating ministers what time they spend in prayer?"*
Let's ask God to place a giant in the Oval Office in 2016. His man.
We need a Gideon or Rahab to stand.
David Lane is the founder of American Renewal Project.
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