Bummed your candidate lost?

by K.W. Leslie, 04 November

After Mitt Romney lost the American presidential race to Barack Obama in 2012, I wrote an article, “Bummed your candidate lost? Bad sign.” I didn’t update it much when I posted a similar article in 2016, after Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. The sentiments were the same; the only difference was which political party lost. And y’know, if it’s not partisan gloating nor gloom, the sentiments should be the same.

This election year, the day after Election Day, the results are still up in the air, ’cause for once the states are taking their time to count everything, instead of declaring a winner as quickly as possible. It’s agitating the impatient, including the president. But eventually we’ll know who won… and one side or the other is gonna mope about it.

Because same as every year, the losing side is gonna put on a brave face, say the usual platitudes—“God’s will be done,” and “God is in control,” and “God works out everything for our good,” et cetera, ad nauseam. God’s on the throne, even though their candidate won’t be. They’re very bummed, but they put their trust in Jesus.

Oh now they put their trust in Jesus.

See, this “God’s in charge” stuff is what people say after they’ve been putting their trust in an idol… and God just smashed that idol. As he does.

But not all of ’em go with the “God’s in charge” line. A number of them still rage about election results. And insist God’s will has been frustrated… and what comes next now, is God’s wrath. I heard quite a lot of rightists talk about wrath during the Obama years. Yeah, it’s projection; they’re thinking about their own wrath, and how they’re gonna get sweet vengeance once they’re back in power. Broken idol or not, they’re still idolaters—coveting and worshiping power.

Some of us are just that dense. I sure was.

Confession time.

You might already know I used to be Republican. It’s how I was raised. Christian mom, atheist dad, but both were Republicans. We went to a Christian Right church, so I was taught the Republican party was the only one Christians could vote for, since the Democrats were so very pro-abortion. And that’s how I voted in my teens and twenties.

The first presidential election where I didn’t get my way was 1992: George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton. The conservative vote had been split between Bush and independent candidate H. Ross Perot, which meant Clinton had the plurality and secured the Electoral College. So I was horrified: What the hell was wrong with Americans? Now this hippie was president.

(Amusing since a lot of people presume I’m a hippie. Must be the long hair, beard, and all the tie-dye shirts. And yeah, I used to wear sandals all the time. And yeah, I’m not Republican anymore; I switched parties in 2005. But real hippies figure I’m way too conservative for them. Anyway let’s hop off this tangent.)

In both parties there’s an element which firmly believes if the other candidate wins, it triggers the End Times. So in ’92 the Christian Right was convinced the very day Clinton took the oath of office, he’d immediately implement some freakish amalgam of Leninist Communism and Nazi Germany—never mind the fact Nazis and Commies are entirely opposed to one another. Any boogeyman would do. Thinking only gets in the way when you’re trying to terrify.

One of Ronald Reagan’s favorite lines was that government isn’t the solution but the problem. We rightists believed him. Margaret Thatcher had stated you can’t tax your way to prosperity, and since Americans knew nothing about geography and all the countries which had built a great infrastructure through an activist government (i.e. Canada, France, Sweden, Israel, Singapore, the Netherlands, Denmark, West Germany, Italy, or even Thatcher’s own United Kingdom) we believed her; that settled it. So any plans Clinton made to help people through government means? Communism! Or Nazism. Either. Both. Whatever. Clinton bad.

So once Clinton won, part of me expected those dire Republican predictions to come true: He’d usher in a new Orwellian dark age. I was depressed. It didn’t just feel like the Christian Right had lost; it felt like Christianity had, and America was going to hell. We Republicans were good moral people—the prolife party, who kept the queers in the closet and got 7-Eleven to quit stocking Penthouse in their magazine racks. We were the good guys! Yet we lost. America was doomed.

Somehow it never sunk in: The reason my hopes were dashed, was ’cause my hopes were put in the wrong thing. I’m supposed to put ’em in Jesus, not Republicans. Not a party platform. Not the plans our politicians had for America… which they never get round to implementing once we actually give them power.

And it took a few elections, a few more bummers, and then a few victories, before it finally did sink in: I was a civic idolater.

I have no business putting my hopes in anything or anyone other than Christ Jesus. Neither do you.

So if you’re bummed out ’cause your candidate lost—whether it’s Bob Dole, Al Gore, John Kerry, Mitt Romney, John McCain, or Hillary Clinton—that’s precisely what you’ve been doing too.

Gotta fight the denial.

Now I know you’re gonna have a buttload of excuses why your post-election blues have nothing whatsoever to do with civic idolatry.

  • You’re really bothered by the plans the candidate and his party have for our country. Different worldviews. Different priorities. Different theories of governance, diplomacy, human rights, economics, or justice. Plus you don’t care for their personal character.
  • You were hoping to retain this or that, or overturn this or that. Now you gotta wait two to four years for another shot at change. Or not.
  • You’re convinced their beliefs are immoral: They don’t see the weak and innocent as worth defending. (They have wholly different definitions of what comprises “weak and innocent.”) They’re willing to make vast moral compromises in the pursuit of power. Jesus can’t approve.
  • And you believe if Jesus can’t approve, America might come under a divine curse and lose its status, wealth, might, or position as an outpost of God’s kingdom. (Which, I remind you, it never truly was.)

Each of these things is a form of idolatry. Clinging to them means we’ve not wholly put our trust in Christ Jesus. And all of them will totally pass away once Jesus returns and takes over. If anything shares that characteristic—if it’s gonna pass away—it’s the wrong thing to worry about.

So be honest with yourself.

Once I was, I stopped worrying about elections. If I still had that mindset, I’d be just as bummed—or outraged—as the partisans on the losing side. ’Cause my hope would be in this world, not God’s kingdom.