Reliving Presidential Elections from the Past

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First of all, this post is just for fun and to help me celebrate Presidents Day, even though I am not dealing with either #1 or #16.  Second, it does work either logically or historically.  Logically, if A, then B, but if not A, then not B makes sense.  If some of my Presidential choices had happened, everything that followed would not have happened.  What are the odds, for example, that Richard Nixon would have been riding down a street in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 if he had been elected President in 1960?

I am posting my choices of who I would want to have voted for, based on the perspective of having studied most of these campaigns from afar, and who I would have posited as my preferred choice or choices in some cases.  Feel free to join the party, whether it is the Republican or Democrat Party, here.

Oh, to clarify, I am beginning with the election of 1900.  I am listing the Republican candidate first and the Democrat second.  If this offends you, think of it as either saving the best for last or first is….uh…first.  Maybe I can cover the prior elections on a future post.

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1900:  William McKinley/Theodore Roosevelt vs.  William Jennings Bryan.

As in 1896 in which the same two were running, I would opt for McKinley.  I love so much about “The Great Commoner” William Jennings Bryan, except for his political views.

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1904  Theodore Roosevelt vs. Judge Alton Parker

I vote TR.  I reckon that Parker was the more conservative, more Cleveland-like candidate, but U. S. history would be missing so much without having TR in the White House.  My love for his personality trumps my concerns about some of his politics.

1908  William Howard Taft vs.  Bryan (his third run failed run.

I vote Taft.

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1912  Taft vs. Woodrow Wilson and both of them vs. Theodore Roosevelt (Bull Moose Party) (and also Eugene V. Debs, Socialist)

Taft again.  TR’s more radical positions came more to the forefront, but you have to admire his speech given after being shot.

1916  Justice Charles Evans Hughes vs.  Pres. Wilson

I vote Hughes. “He Kept Us Out of War” rings hollow in the light of history.

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1920  Warren G. Harding/Calvin Coolidge vs. James Cox/Franklin Roosevelt

I vote Harding/Coolidge, wishing it had been Coolidge/Harding.  “Normalcy” ain’t such a bad word.

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1924  Calvin Coolidge vs.  John Davis  (One can also add Progressive Robert LaFollette, if you wish.)

EITHER.  This was my dream election–both honorable, capable men.  Both conservative.

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1928  Sec. Herbert Hoover vs. Gov. Al Smith

I vote for “The Happy Warrior” Al Smith

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1932  Herbert Hoover vs. Franklin D. Roosevelt

I vote Hoover.  After all, somebody needed to vote for him.  Being Southern, Texan, and knowing about the Great Depression’s effects, I admit that I might have voted for FDR.  Ronald Reagan often quoted from FDR’s 1932 campaign platform.  I would have preferred his VP Texan John Nance Garner.

1936  Alf Landon versus FDR

Landon, but the fact of being a Texan and Southerner might have kept me voting Democrat–reluctantly.

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1940  Wendell Wilkie vs. FDR

Awful election choices.  Garner tried to get the Democratic nomination, but FDR held it and went for the unprecedented 3rd consecutive term. Wilkie was just a businessman with no political experience and was very close to FDR in many views.  But I vote Wilkie because some of the Agrarians supported him.

1944  Gov. Tom Dewey vs. FDR

I vote FDR, but only because of the course of World War II and because he dropped Henry Wallace as VP in favor of Truman.

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1948  Dewey vs. Truman

Dewey represented the more liberal/northeastern wing of the party.  Truman had spunk, detested Communists, and had some good gut instincts (honed by years of reading history).  Besides, it is sad to think of the picture above if Truman had been frowning.

As a Southerner, I had a fondness for Strom Thurman.  Both poets Donald Davidson and Robert Frost voted for him.  I might have as well.  But I am glad Truman won that year.

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1952  and 1956 Dwight D. Eisenhower vs Adlai Stevenson

I vote Ike in both cases. Stevenson was not as liberal as many in the party and had some attractive qualities.  Truth be known, I really opt for the Republican Party choosing Robert Taft in 1952.

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1960  Richard Nixon versus John F. Kennedy

Two bright, handsome, young, dynamic men, both terribly flawed.  This is the first election I remember as a child.  My sister explained to me that we were for Kennedy because he was better looking.  Maybe so, but I would have reluctantly voted for Nixon.

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1964  Sen. Barry Goldwater vs. Lyndon B. Johnson

Goldwater ran one of the most inept campaigns in history.  LBJ’s ability to pass a Civil Rights Bill and a brilliant tax cut were outstanding actions.  Oh yes, Goldwater should have put William Scranton in the ticket as his VP.

But let there be no doubt, I would have been in the AU H2o camp all the way.

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1968  Richard Nixon vs. Hubert H. Humphrey and both of them vs. Gov. George C. Wallace

What a calamitous year!  I admire much about Humphrey and about Gov. Wallace (flaws notwithstanding).  It would have been far better had the Republicans nominated the articulate Gov. Ronald Reagan of California or even Gov. George Romney of Michigan.  Maybe even Gov. Nelson Rockefeller would have been better than Nixon.

I was for Humphrey back in 7th grade, but now I would reluctantly vote Nixon.  Brilliant man, flawed leader.

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1972 Nixon vs. George McGovern

I vote Nixon again.  Sen. McGovern was a really good man in his heroic military service and personal life.  But his left-leaning politics were atrocious.  His minions captured control of the Democrat Party by changing rules, but that’s politics.

1976  Ford versus Gov. Jimmy Carter

I voted for Pres. Ford in this, my first, election to vote in.  But in the previous May, I voted for Ronald Reagan in the Texas Primary. I wish the Democrats had nominated Sen. Henry Jackson, the last of the old-time Cold Warriors.

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1980 and 1984

Reagan vs.  Carter in 1980

Reagan vs. Mondale in 1984

Me–Reagan all the way.  He is my favorite.  Once, I got his autograph; twice I saw him.

1988–1992–1996

George Bush vs. Michael Dukakis

Bush vs. Bill Clinton and Ross Perot (Independent)

Robert Dole vs. Pres. Clinton and Ross Perot (Independent)

I wish 1988’s Republican candidate had been Jack Kemp.  I voted for Bush in ’88 and then voted for the hapless Constitution Party in ’92 and ’96.

I favor Bush and Dole with a bit of reluctance.  Their WWII records, however, are highly respected.

2000 and 2004

George W. Bush vs. Al Gore

Bush vs. John Kerry

I voted Bush both times.  Imperfect, but honorable in many ways.

2008 and 2012

Sen. John McCain vs. Sen. Barack Obama

Gov. Mitt Romney vs. Pres. Obama

I voted for both Republicans.  I don’t think Sen. McCain would have been a good President, and I supported Mike Huckabee in the primary.  I was for Rick Santorum in the Republican primary, but came to really like Romney.

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2016

Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton

This was one of the most interesting campaigns ever with two of the worst candidates ever.  Shortly before going to the election location, I decided to stick with the Republican Party because of Mike Pence.  My state, Arkansas, was very Red.  (We didn’t have much regard for our former First Lady of the state and of the nation.)  The election would have been much better had it been Vice Presidential candidate Pence vs. Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine.

I much preferred Sen. Marco Rubio as the Republican candidate.  Second choice was Sen. Ted Cruz.  I could have been comfortable with any number of other Republicans, but you don’t have those choices on election day.

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Lexham Press’ Best of Christianity Today

 

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I was born in December of 1955 and Christianity Today first went out in October of 1956.  It would be many years before I gained even a shadowy awareness of the rise and travails of Evangelicalism within the Christian faith.  I was raised in the Bible Belt and most of my elementary teachers attended either the same Methodist Church I attended or went to Baptist churches in the community.  We prayed in school or at school events and the Christian undercurrents were still going strong.  In time, I became aware of a preacher named Billy Graham, mainly because his televised Crusades interrupted the regularly scheduled evening line-up of shows.

In my college years, 1974-1978, I became increasingly aware of the issues that had confronted Christians in previous decades and that were continuing to confront Christians.  Early on, I came to know enough well read, usually college educated, Christians so that I never believed or assumed that the mind and the faith were on different spheres.  My goodness, all it took was one struggling read through Gregg Singer’s Theological Interpretation of American History and R. J. Rushdoony’s This Independent Republic for me to embrace the powerful floodlight of the Calvinistic worldview.

At times, over the years I subscribed to Christianity Today.  My lapsed subscriptions were usually due to my paltry funds for magazines.  Also, I did not have easy access to the magazine in a library since public schools didn’t subscribe to many publications and certainly not a Christian one.

Along with my occasional reads from the magazine itself, I would hear and continue to hear about and read criticisms of the magazine.  Is it any wonder that a publication that seeks to speak for a large segment of professing Christians receives lots of criticism?

Most often in these times, I only hear about the magazine if something is published that outrages Christian conservatives or if an article appears that “we” really like.  The cover posted above highlights an outstanding article in the magazine by Dr. Louis Markos that praises the work of classical Christian education. As a teacher in a classical Christian school and as a fan of Dr. Markos, I loved the article.  There have probably been quite a few other articles that I would love, as well as some I would totally disagree with or just be indifferent to.  By the way, the conflicts related to Christianity Today are not new.  R. J. Rushdoony locked horns with the editors many decades ago when they published an article about William Faulkner.  And in this case, I respectfully and fearfully disagree with Rushdoony.

In the early decades of the magazine, the towering figures in the Evangelical world were being published in the magazine.  (Yes, in ever area, we always can enjoy sitting around complaining about kids nowadays and how the old days were better.)  Without creating or demanding theological conformity on every point, Christianity Today attracted lots of top notch Christian theologians, authors, and preachers who wrote fine articles addressing current issues with ancient wisdom.

Lexham Press has been wooing and winning my heart for several years now with their publications of great works by some of those amazing Dutchmen such as Geerhardus Vos, Abraham Kuyper, and Groen van Prinsterer.  If that was all that they published, I would be plenty happy with them.  (And even happier when the day comes when I buy the entire set of Kuyper’s works.) But they keep doing more and more.  I feel like a young theology student in Geneva during the days of Calvin and Farel. (Besides having many good pastor/theologians to listen to daily on podcasts/morning sermons, the printing presses were going non-stop in that town.)

One of the most attractive, irresistible, and enduring series of late is called Best of Christianity Today.  

First came Christ the Cornerstone: Collected Essay of John Stott.

Alongside of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Stott was one of the greatest preachers and writers on Christian theology in the British Isles and across the English speaking world during the Twentieth Century.  I have probably a dozen or more of his books, but not near all of them.  He was solid in theology, a fine writer and stylist, and a powerful communicator.  As with everyone (except me), there are errors or glitches in his theological understanding, but the man was a giant. And while quite learned and educator, he was not a theologian who wrote for theologians.  He was a pastor, first to those within earshot and then to those who read or still read his works.

Second in the series is Architect of Evangelicalism: Essential Essays of Carl F. H. Henry.

Carl F. H. Henry was never the effective, easy communicator that Stott was.  But he was regularly regarded as being one of the serious heavyweights and key intellectual Christian thinkers of his times.  Like his teacher Gordon Clark and like some of his contemporaries, such as Rushdoony, Francis Schaeffer, and Henry Van Til, Henry taught lots of Christians how to think, how to expand their minds beyond church issues, and how to confront cultural and philosophical issues of the times.

Henry’s main work is a massive six volume set called God, Revelation, and Authority.  Few will be those hearty enough to plow through the volumes.  In fact, one admirer said of Henry, “It is too bad that no one has translated his works into English.” (An obscure joke since he wrote in English.) For a time, it seemed as those interest in Carl Henry faded away, but I detect a renewed interest in our times.  Gregory Alan Thornbury’s Recovering Classic Evangelicalism:  Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry awakened my interest in him several years ago and sent me scurrying to my library to rediscover several read and unread volumes I owned.

Any book that is highlighting the writing of the giants of the past, even the recent past, are a blessing to the Christian community.

The third volume in the “Best of Christianity Today” series is Basics of the Faith: An Evangelical Introduction to Christian Doctrine, edited by Dr. Henry.

This volume is a collection of articles by a host of authors who constitute the “Who’s Who of Evangelicalism” of the 1950s and 1960s.  Contributors include Philip E. Hughes, John Murray, Cornelius Van Til, F. F. Bruce, J. I. Packer, and many more.  While not a systematic theology, the essays cover a series of topics one would find in ST.

The key benefit in this book, as well as the series, is that these are relatively short essays.  Many readers are daunted by heavy books, long chapters, and the high mountain ranges of theological and Christian study.  But we can all read an article, an essay.  Of course, no short essay can cover the vastness of a topic, but we are finite.  The magazine and these writers were speaking to the Christian community.  You will likely dislike the fluffy Christian books as much as I do. You may break out into a sweat or hives when trying to negotiate with the contents of a serious, somber, searching theologian who is assuming that you have attended as many seminary courses as he or she has.

Here is the middle ground.  Add to that, these books are beautifully hardback works that adorn the shelf as well as fill the mind.  And for those of you who like, and I hate to say it, there are digital copies availabe to adorn your digital devices.

Great series.  Must haves.  Easy accessible reads.  Admirable authors.  Lovely bindings.  Thank you Lexham Press for this publishing venture.

 

What’s So Important About Western Civilization?

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Two new books….If that were all there was to discuss this topic, we would be in for a treat.  But there is so much more.  Every book and every study opens up a vast field of people, movements, ideas, and events calling for examination and reflection.

In my high school classes, I use and enjoy Francis Schaeffer’s book How Should We Then Live?  I assign the book; we watch the videos; and I test the students over a long list of names.  Along with almost any standard Western Civilization textbook, this provides a good grammar of the subject.  To some degree, the learner has to have a mental outline of history and a sense of where to peg certain people and events.  For example, if George Washington, the Protestant Reformation, and the death of Socrates are not in some mental order in your mind, you cannot make sense of history or the present.

We interrupt this blog post for this special announcement:  One of the helpful resources available for and geared for students is Ancient History from Primary Sources, edited and compiled by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn.  This work, published by Trivium Pursuit, contains a vast number of timelines, bullet point materials, and references for teaching younger children Ancient History.  While this might be gold to the homeschooling mom who is laboring over a history curriculum, I find it equally appealing as a history teacher with decades of teaching behind me.

Now back to the journey at hand:  I have found the study of Western Civilization to be all encompassing.  There are plenty of authors and books I find indispensable.  At the top of the list would be anything written by Christopher Dawson, Jacques Barzun (particularly his book The Dawn of Decadence), Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples, Niall Ferguson (especially The West and the Rest), Paul Johnson, and more.

We cannot even begin to list all of the original sources, classics of literature and philosophy, biographies, and other books that are part of the arsenal of understanding Western Civilization.

So while this topic cannot be reduced to two new books, I am going to focus now on two new books.

Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization by Samuel Gregg is published by Regnery.

Regnery is a well known publisher of conservative books, and the books they publish are quality materials with depth.  We are not talking about talk radio conservatism, but well-thought out, tradition-based, serious conservative interaction in the world of books and ideas.

I try not to cut and paste from others in doing my book reviews, but this comment found on the Regnery page for this book is a gem:

“Gregg’s book is the closet thing I’ve encountered in a long time to a one-volume user’s manual for operating Western Civilization.” —The Stream

Gregg’s book is a not a historical narrative, but is a analysis of key thinkers who have positively or negatively interacted with the issues of reason and faith.  In many formats, the reason versus faith matchup has been discussed.  In one sense, it goes back to the old line by Tertullian, “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?”  But the debate intensified during the Enlightenment.

If your study of Western Civilization—whether it be a class you teach or take, books you read, or your “study” via popular culture, or your Sunday sermons–is not raising questions of reason and faith, something is missing.  “Something” here meaning only the most vital elements.  And like it or not, the struggle for Western Civilization is a war of coalitions.  Yes, Protestants differ from Catholics.  Yes, we differ from those other people whose definitions of faith are inadequate.  But this is war and struggle.

We face a host of opposing ideologies.  Among others, Gregg focuses upon authoritarian relativism, Jihadism, and liberal religion.  These ways of thinking attack boldly, seep in, disguise themselves, and find other ways of infiltrating our culture and thinking.  Consider this quote from the one time Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”  (And we cringe to remember that Kennedy was a Catholic and a Reagan appointee.)  If that statement is truly the heart of liberty or belief in that statement is the norm, we are in trouble.

But this book is not a gloom and doom Jeremiad.  Concluding with a chapter titled “A Way Back,” Gregg follows up his making us better aware of the issues confronting us with a reminder of the hope and the means of recovery.  Western Civilization can, by God’s grace, say, “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

Dominion: How The Christian Revolution Remade the World by Tom Holland is published by Basic Books.

Dominion is simply too good.  I have been reading praises and seeing reviews showing up everywhere.  I had long anticipated this book and expected it to be an enjoyable, enlightening read.  But it was better than expected.  I can actually take comfort in the scattered observations of Mr. Holland that I found unconvincing or totally objectionable, lest I despair of ever speaking of history again without quoting directly from this book.

On the one hand, this book is something like a Church history.  From the ancient world to the present, it hits various Christian and church-related movements, leaders, ideas, and struggles.  But it is not a textbook or survey of the Church or of Christians.  In some ways, it does what Christopher Dawson did through a vast number of books and essays on the impact of Christians and Christian thought, but in a different style.

This is a narrative history.  It is a story, or a collection of stories.  Repeatedly, the stories are about how Christianity interacted with and impacted culture.  This is not hagiolatry.  There are saints described, to be sure, but there are some of the inescapable stinkers who used the cloak of Christianity to do wrongful things.  (Many of them were truly convinced that they were doing the right things.)

Holland’s use of the word “revolution” is truly on target.  Christianity has so permeated the culture, so impacted events, so structured the foundations, that no one can think without borrowing heavily from the Christian foundation.  Holland’s journey in life and in writing history began with an upbringing that included aspects of both nominal and real Christian belief.  His writing journeys carried him through different venues of the ancient world, especially among Roman and Persian cultures.  But in the course of years as an unbeliever, he has begun retracing the faith, both that of our culture and of his own experiences.

This is not a conversion story.  I am not sure whether Mr. Holland is a God-honorer or a God-follower.  But the contents of this book should be enough to strengthen every believer and to give the willies with a touch of fever to every agnostic, atheist, or skeptic.

There is no way that a history teacher can honestly step back into the classroom or up to the lectern without having read or starting this book.  Am I too fulsome in my praise?  Guilty.  Read it and see if I am right.