2016 is Out for Hillary

I haven’t written a political article in a while.  There are several reasons for this.  First, I am currently in a political depression which I expect will last until the current administration is removed or defanged.  Second, my last political writing was a short book titled Massachusetts Political History: From Puritans to Presidents.  It was largely focused on why so many recent Presidential candidates heralded from Massachusetts.  It was written under the assumption that it would be published during the Presidency of Mitt Romney.  That short book, sad to say, was stillborn.

The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises once said that he set out to be a reformer, but became a historian of the decline.  I feel the same about politics.  My main attention is given to ministry and teaching in a Christian school.  My interest in politics is more past minded than present oriented.

But I must speak about current, or rather, upcoming political events.  This message is particularly directed toward Hillary Clinton.  I am certain that she reads my blog and has followed my past political writings with great care.  The topic at hand is the speculation about, and near coronation of, Mrs. Clinton as the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee.

First, praise.  I am not, never have been, and never will be a fan or supporter or even admirer of Hillary Clinton.  That being said, I recognize that if she had been nominated and elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, she would be doing a better job running the country than her primary opponent in 2008.  Also, she is obviously a person of extreme talents and drive.  She is one politically astute operator, and she obviously possesses great strength and determination in whatever task she undertakes.  I would hate to be in a confrontation with her.

All that being said, here is the message:  I am sorry, Hillary, but you are not going to be nominated for President in 2016.  I am not saying you could not win the general election or that you could not govern effectively.  I am not saying that your views, which almost totally contradict my own views, would not prevail among the majority of American voters.

What I am saying is that you will not be the Democratic candidate.

The reason:  It is obvious.  You are in the Democratic and not the Republican Party.  Republicans nominate older, aged, and “deserving” candidates.  Republicans favor a candidate who has run before, who almost got the nomination, who supported the winner, and paid his dues.  Republicans look past electability, past verbal and political missteps from the past, and past potential hurdles, and they grant the nomination as a reward for longevity.  Republicans rally around the establishment, stick with the tried and true, and honor the party war horses.

Democrats shoot their old war horses.  It is not meant to be mean, but quick.  Democrats nominate the fresh face, the new ideal, the wave of the future.  Democrats rally around the surging new comer.  Democrats want a fresh agenda, a new deal, and the cutting edge in political trends.

None of this is law.  None of it is absolute.  But let’s look at some history.  By the way, if you (Hillary) will recall what Dick Morris said that your husband said prior to his run against Bob Dole, you will see that the former President and I are on the same page.

The modern Democratic Party was defined by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Then New York Governor Roosevelt won the Democratic nomination in 1932 over a host of more qualified, better experienced older party regulars.  Roosevelt was simply amazing as a politician.  We had a country paralyzed by the Great Depression.  Then we had a man who had overcome paralysis who personified hope and energy.  Roosevelt’s economic plans were lacking.  His understanding of economics was even more lacking.  But he was a new fresh face.  He captured and captivated the hopes of the common man (and he himself was far from common) through the radio.

The Roosevelt phenomena lasted for 5 elections.  FDR won four of them, then his successor, Harry Truman, surprisingly pulled out a fifth win.  Truman won because the Roosevelt Coalition of union workers, farmers, Southerners, and liberals held together.

Adlai Stevenson: Twice he opposed Eisenhower for the Presidency and twice he lost. He was so fond of books, quipped William F. Buckley, that he threatened to one day actually read one.

In 1952, the Democrats drafted Adlai Stevenson to run.  The older insider candidates offered little energy, so the fresh face from the Illinois statehouse was chosen.  !952 and 1956 were pretty much lost causes with war hero and five star general Dwight D. Eisenhower heading up the Republican ticket.

In 1960, the Democrats picked their fresh new candidate, John F. Kennedy.  Many Democrats thought that the more experienced Washington leader Lyndon Johnson would be the candidate.  Others wanted to give Stevenson a third chance.  A few opted for the liberal battler Hubert Humphrey.  Kennedy was a political lightweight with a thin record and lots of concealed baggage.  But he won the nomination and energized Democrats for over a generation.

The Kennedy Brothers: All new fresh faces in the Democratic Party.

The 1964 Democratic nomination was uncontested after Johnson inherited the Presidency from the slain Kennedy.  Johnson had feared President Kennedy’s brother Robert contesting the race however.  That fear materialized in 1968.  Johnson was in trouble politically.  Vietnam and civil unrest at home had destroyed Johnson’s political clout.  He wisely opted out of the race after a newcomer named Eugene McCarthy won 42 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary.  Robert Kennedy, now a Senator from New York, entered the race and would have been a major force at the convention in Chicago had he not been assassinated.

As 1972 approached, the Democrats had a frontrunner.  It was Maine Senator Edmund Muskie.  Muskie had been the Vice Presidential candidate in 1968.  He looked Presidential and carefully worked to maintain his front-runner status.  In other words, he was earning the nomination.  He was very quickly bested in the early primaries by the upstart candidate—Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.  The 1972 Democratic fight was a free-for-all, but McGovern, whose aides had worked to change the party rules for delegates, won the nomination.  The general election, however, was a devastating route for McGovern.

In 1976, the frontrunner was Senator Henry Jackson.  Jackson was a Cold Warrior and an advocate of a strong military.  He was also a battler for social issues and the New Deal.  He stood in the shoes of Truman and Kennedy and Johnson.  He lacked flash and charisma, but was strong on competence and credibility.  But an upstart beat him.  One term Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter smiled his way through the primaries and won the nomination and the Presidency.

1980 was in internal Democratic fight among Carter and the next Kennedy, Senator Edward Kennedy.  Senator Kennedy’s outsider status and Kennedy name almost netted him the nomination, but Carter’s incumbency saved him.  Carter lost the Presidency to Ronald Reagan in the fall.

The Democratic battle for the nomination in 1984 should give Mrs. Clinton a glimmer of hope.  The Democrats did nominate as standard bearer the man who had been on the ticket during the previous two elections—former Vice President Walter Mondale.  The newcomer, Senator Gary Hart, made a valiant try for the nomination, but Mondale won.

In 1988, the Democrats nominated a new face.  It was Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.  For a time during that election cycle, he had a really good chance of winning the election.

Many Democrats held back from running for the Presidency in 1992.  President George H. W. Bush looked unbeatable.  He was defeated in the general election by a newcomer named Clinton from Arkansas.  Clinton ran as a new kind of Democrat, and it worked.

 

The year 2004 was a year for outsiders and new faces in the Democrat Party.  The deeply intellectual political philosopher John Edwards…oops, I confused him with that other Edwards…Jonathan.  I will start again:  Pretty Boy and philanderer, shyster lawyer and pseudo-man-of-the-people John Edwards was a new face.  John F. Kerry was a new face (although it was pasted onto an old face).  General Wesley Clark was a new face.  Topping them all was Howard “Yaaaahhhh” Dean of Vermont.  Dean burst onto the scene and became a media wonder and front runner.  That was before the scream, and the scream was before his campaign melted down.   JFK, Kerry in this case, was the new face nominee.

The glass ceiling was broken, we were told in 2008.  Hillary Clinton became the heir apparent to the Democratic nomination.  She had, after all, earned it.  She not only served as First Lady for eight years:  She fended off attacks on her character.  She dodged scandals.  She remembered dodging bullets on a trip to Europe.  She exposed the vast rightwing conspiracy that stalked the Clintons. And she stood by her man, Bill.  She had no idea that he had cheated on her.  On learning of his infidelity, she stood by him and became a martyr for truth, justice, fidelity, goodness, strength, motherhood, forgiveness, and stoicism.  She should have received a Nobel Prize.

Instead, she carpetbagged a Senate seat in New York

The Democratic nomination in 2008 was hers for the asking.  A few token non-descripts, old political hacks, and windbags entered the primaries to open the doors to Hillary on her way to victory.  But then the vastly experienced community service organizer, legal professor, and father-seeking Senator Barak Obama entered the race.  That was a nice gesture on Sen. Obama’s part.  In the future, the Clintonites reasoned, he might be a Presidential hopeful.  But for now, she would graciously defeat the Illinois Senator and others on her road to the White House where she would answer 3 a.m. phone calls.

But Democrats like new faces.  There was nothing newer or imaginably newer in 2008 than the articulate African-American Senator from Illinois.  In short, Hillary lost.  Crying didn’t help…much.  Fits didn’t help…much.  The former President’s campaigning assists didn’t help…any.  Hillary lost.

With 2016 approaching, add eight years to Hillary’s age.  She will be in her late 60s.  Like former Republican candidate John McCain, she holds her age well.  McCain was 72 when he ran and he didn’t look a day over 80.  Add the many miles Ms. Clinton trekked over the world bringing peace and resolution to world conflicts.  Add the looming guilt over Benghazi.  Add health problems for herself and the former President.  Add the abiding, though slightly faded presence, of the years of Clinton scandals and sleaze.  Add the grueling nature of a Presidential run.  Add the fact that Democrats aren’t nice.  Other Dems want the nomination.

But above all, note this:  Democrats don’t recycle.  They will, though sometimes reluctantly, grant the nomination to a Vice President.  Humphrey, Mondale, and Gore all got nominated that way.  (Don’t get your hopes up, Joe Biden.  The Veeps all lost, and the Vice President will be even older than Ms. Clinton, and he also is a retread from past Presidential runs.  And he loses debates.)

Here are the years in recent history where the Republicans picked a candidate who had been a Presidential contender or Vice Presidential candidate in previous years:  1960, 1968, 1980, 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012  (seven races).  In 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, and 2004, they were running incumbent Presidents (four races).  Only in 1964 and 2000, did they run a new face.  (You can argue that George W. Bush was not a new face in 2000 but a continuation of his father’s political legacy.  If he had been named George W. Smith, his road to the White House would have been much harder.)

Democrats ran a new face in 1960, 1972, 1976, 1988, 1992, 2004, and 2008 (seven races).  In 1964, 1980, 1996, and 2012, they were running incumbents four races).  In the other 3 elections (1968, 1984, and 2000), they were running men who had served as Vice Presidents.  They have not granted a former Presidential candidate the nomination since 1956.

It is simple:  Democrats don’t recycle.  They go for new.  Ms. Clinton will not break that glass ceiling.  Hillary, enjoy your grandchild and retirement.

Those were the days, my friend….

 

“Hie to the Hunters Day” at Veritas Academy

“Hie to the Hunters Day” at Veritas Academy

“It turned my life around.”  That idea is so prevalent in our life experiences.  It is a religious theme; it is a practical everyday experience.  Sometimes it refers to things that happen once, while at other times, it refers to processes or series of events.  In the Christian community, we speak of someone being saved, of someone getting religion, of someone finding God.  There are also those experiences that open up worlds to us that we did not know existed.  Maybe it was the discovery of a talent we did not realize we have.  Maybe it was a career choice, a marriage partner, or a friendship.

Quite often it is a book.

We go through life thinking a particular way, and then we read a book that (usually unexpectedly) changes our whole way of seeing and living life. There are many stories of someone’s life being turn around.  In many of those stories, it is another person who changes the character’s life.  It is the experiences of the story, no doubt, but there almost has to be a mentor, a guide, and an interpreter.  For Dante the character in Dante the poet’s Divine Comedy, it was Virgil the ancient Roman who first guided the wayward pilgrim through the underworld and then up the slopes of Purgatory.  At a later point, it is Beatrice who guides Dante.  Huck Finn was a troubled young man with a bad father, with oppressive female guardians, and with a buddy named Tom Sawyer who had no understanding of reality.  It was the slave  Jim who shows Huck what love and friendship are.

A less known literary character is Didway Hargis of Greenup, Kentucky.  Didway, when we first meet him, was being beat up by some town bullies.  Basically, Didway is being beat up by life.  He is fourteen and born to relative wealth and privilege.  He is a good student who learns nothing.  He is taught everything pertinent to having an irrelevant life.  He is weak, spineless, and ignorant of God’s world and manliness.  In spiritual terms, he needs a savior and a conversion. Saviors in literature are unexpectedly different, just as the Savior in the Bible was unexpectedly different.  Didway’s salvation comes when a hill-billy older kid rescues him from bullies.  The older kid, named Jud Sparks, goes by the name “Sparkie.”  He offers Did a whole new way of life.  He offers to take him to a world that is beyond his imagination and beyond his experiences.  Actually, that world is only ten miles away, but it is up in the hills and far off from town.

This is the story of the amazing transformation of Didway Hargis as found in Jesse Stuart’s novel Hie to the Hunters.  It is the story of a boy going down the road to manhood.  But he had to have a mentor, and that was Sparkie.  And he had to have a quest, and that was life with the Sparks in Plum Grove Hills.  Did was spoiled, effeminate, pampered, weak, and pasty white.  He was not even aware of the world of God’s creation around him.  Leaving the town and living with Sparkie and his family unfolded a whole universe of power, beauty, and meaning in Did. Living with the Sparks family meant sleeping in the hay in the barn loft.  If the weather was cold, it meant taking a hound dog up to the loft for warmth.  It meant using an axe and a crosscut saw cutting up trees into firewood.  It meant plowing in the fields all day, and maybe hunting all night.  It was a world of the music of fox hounds, of the scenery of God’s changing seasons, of the smells of the earth, of firewood, and good food.  There were corn shuckings and barn dances.  There was hard physical work and great delight in music and love.  There was danger and community. Jesse Stuart wrote a kid’s story in Hie to the Hunters.  But it is the kind of story that we don’t outgrow.

I first read this book back around 1971.  I was in ninth grade.  I envied Did for getting to enter into the world of the Sparks family.  When I recently reread the book for about the fifth time, I envied Did again.  Part of what is so amazing about this adventure story is the extent to which Did simply starts seeing.  He was so limited and confined in his world that he could not see, touch, or enjoy the world around him.  He could not grow and develop.  He was a loser who was being undone by life. By the end of this story, Did can hunt, plow, dance, fire guns, and even help apprehend a local arsonist.  Seeing the world of the Sparks family and the intense love they have, Did is even able to better appreciate his own world. I have recently enjoyed guiding another group of junior high students beyond the town and the highway to the trail that leads to the world of Hie to the Hunter.  The book is a favorite of my students.

In order to enjoy it even more, we had “Hie to the Hunters Day” on April 29 at Veritas Academy.  My students dressed like the people in the story.  Even better, we brought food and ate like the people in the story.  I remember that from my first reading, Jesse Stuart gave me an appetite for good country cooking.

Soup beans, ham, collard greens, biscuits and sausage gravy, and cornbread gave us all big Southern appetites. It was almost like eating with the Sparks family.

 

When Didway Hargis eats his first meal at the Sparks, here is what they had: “There was a dish of steaming hot soup beans, a dish of fried potatoes, pork ribs, kraut, pumpkin, a dish of apples, two small dishes of jelly, and coffee and milk. There was a flat plate of brown cornpone with steam oozing from the places where the brown crust was broken. “ We had a similar big meal today.  There were lots of beans, rice, and cornbread.  We also had sausage gravy and biscuits, and one of my wife’s specialties, Hoppin’ John, a soup made up of ham and chicken with blackeyed peas, carrots, and collard greens.  We had side dishes of potatoes and greens, along with ham steaks.  Dessert was a table full of pies:  apple, blackberry, peach, and cheery.  Needless to say, all afternoon I have felt stuffed.  A feller really needs to be out physically working after a big meal of this sort.

Hie Hunters Day 1

Using a crosscut saw, just like Sparkie and Did.

I read a lot of Jesse Stuart in high school, but somewhere along the way, I took about a 25 year break from reading his books.  The good part is that there are still books I have yet to read.  In the last year or so, I have read two previously unread ones.  They were his early poems in Man With a Bull Tongue Plow and his autobiographical To Teach, To Love.  I cannot imagine, however, any Stuart book that can surpass the life-changing and fun adventures found in Hie to the Hunters.

Book Reviewing Blitz: Good Mr. Baxter

Confession:  I am hopelessly behind on reading assignments and book reports.  The stack of new books to be read, reviewed, surveyed, and digested continues to grow.  Yet, there are only so many hours of the day and only so much caffeine in the coffee.  There are books to read for Humanities, including 3 more in the month of May.  There are readings in my other classes.  There is American history in the 20th Century.  There are studies in Matthew for Sunday sermons.  So, in an act of desparation, I am blitzing some book reviews.  I have read the books, or am reading them.  You need them or I wouldn’t be promoting them.

The book is Good Mr. Baxter: Sketches of Effective, Caring Leadership for the Church from the Life of Richard Baxter by Vance Salisbury.  This book is published by Piety Hill Press and is distributed by Lewis and Roth.   Anyone interested in getting a easily readible exerpt from Good Mr. Baxter can read it here.

Some people are fascinated by the mythical Lost World of Atlantis.  The whole idea of a lost world or civilization makes for great adventure stories.  But in history, there are lost worlds.  The rediscovery of such worlds is adventurous.  Those who enter such worlds come back to this world with tales of delight.

There really are lost worlds.  One such lost world was the World of Puritanism.  We knew it existed.  We were told that they wore funny hats, burned witches, oppressed free thought, and threw everything off in England and America for a season.  That whole sentence represents a myth.

The rediscovery of the Puritans in the middle to late 20th centuries is a fascinating story.  I am sure it is more complicated than this, but I usually associate with 2 men, neither of whom had much in common.  One was the American historian Perry Miller of Harvard College.  He began his quest of studying the American Puritans and encouraging his graduate students to do so also.  Other historians thought Miller was trekking off on an empty quest.  Miller wrote a whole series of scholarly works on the Puritans.  Miller was not a Christian and had no spiritual motivation for studying Puritanism.  He was a historian studying ideas.  But his labors spurred others, both believers and secular historians, to continue Puritan studies.

The other person was the British preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Along with such men as Iain Murray, J. I. Packer, and S M. Houghton, Lloyd-Jones envisioned revival in Britain and the English speaking world as a real need.  Basic to the vision was an emphasis on preaching the Bible in an expository manner and proclaiming sound doctrine.  Alongside those components, they all longed to see good solid books in the hands of pastors and Christian laymen.  They longed to see old Christian classics reprinted.  Such a quest led them quickly to the reprinting of great Puritan works.

Puritan tomes and scholarly works on Puritans began being republished or printed.  Very quickly, the impulse from the Christian community exceeded that of the university scholars.  There was some, by the way, who wore both hats.  By the 1970s, the Puritan book revival was becoming a flood.  Many of the Puritan books were not being retyped and reset, but were being photocopied and published in fonts and sizes as were the originals.  Banner of Truth in Edinburgh, Scotland was the flagship for Puritan studies.  But there were and are plenty of other publishers who were finding and printing the same kinds of books.

The Puritan Revival was a corollary to the broader revival of Reformed theology.  For English speaking and reading audiences, many of the best exemplars of Reformed theology were the Puritans and their direct heirs.

The Puritan Revival continues.  A whole lost world has been rediscovered.  But, as many of you know, it is a vast, as well as rich world.  The Puritans were extensive in their publishing and exhaustive in their treatment of Scripture and doctrine.  Their books were not trimmed and edited with the goal of making them light and breezy.  They mined the Word of God.  By that, I mean that they dug deep into the doctrine and text.  And they applied the doctrines in myriad details.  Grace was a great gift.  Understanding God’s grace was a life-long quest.  There were no cute slogans or snappy choruses; rather, there was theological meat.

The bulky size of many Puritans reprints, the theological assumptions of the authors, and the small print of the reprints all contributed to making new and beautiful reprinted volumes somewhat less useful and very daunting to many readers.  Add to those problems, there were lots of Puritan writers (most of whom were pastors) and lots of Puritans books.

What Puritans should I read?  And, which of the Puritan books are most important?  And where do I start?

I will answer the last question posed above.  Good Mr. Baxter is a great place to start on Puritan studies.  Even if you have been reading the Puritans for a time, this short book is a great review or overview of one of the prime preachers and writers of the Puritan world.

Baxter’s best know book is titled The Reformed Pastor.    Baxter was not writing theory, but explaining his practices.  He was the epitome of the good village parson who visited and watched over his flock.  His other best known works were The Christian Directory, a nearly 1000 page compendium of Christian living, and The Saints Everlasting Rest.  

The advantage of Good Mr. Baxter is its brevity.  The book consists of 13 chapters replete with quotes from Baxter.  The book could be read through rather quickly; however, I think it is better suited for a daily devotional study.  The book is especially useful for prompting pastors to read Baxter’s classic Reformed Pastor, but any Christian could benefit from reading the book.

After reading this book, many will be motivated to read more from Baxter.  I read portions of Reformed Pastor years ago and really would benefit from a careful reading and hopeful implementation of the book.

Anyone seriously ready to do readings from the Puritans might consider A Puritan Theology:  Doctrine for Life.  This book, edited by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, consists of essays about different theological topics with lengthy extracts from the Puritans.