Books on Guv’mint from the Teacher

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Last fall I taught a small group of students a bit about politics and government. These were in the weeks leading up to the controversial 2020 Presidential election. With decades of reading and teaching about government and politics, I mainly rambled. Hopefully, it was good rambling. But I had an impertinent student who asked for a list of books to read about government. She moved away, but was visiting here earlier this week, so she asked again about that list. So, just to irritate her and the rest of you, I will try to make a list of essential or good books on government

Textbooks: I remember reading a line from Peter Kreeft years ago to the effect that “nobody steals a textbook.” As standardly issued and frequently revised and updated, textbooks are notoriously expensive and yet rarely have much resale value. For that reason, I generally find it worthwhile to use an older edition of a textbook.

There is a certain benefit to a good textbook. One can hope that it will have essential topics, a few vital sources, good charts and graphs, a glossary, index, and table of contents. One does not generally read the textbook for literary enjoyment, but for finding information. Textbooks are usually good for scanning and surveying.

I prefer to use Magruder’s American Government for a basic resource, reference text. The one I have and use now is the 2010 edition. It is close enough to being up to date and old enough to be cheap. Of course, there are benefits to finding the older editions.

The original author, Frank Magruder, was a political science teacher and professor. His original book came out in 1917. When he died in 1949, a student of his, named William A. McClenaghan, took over the revising of the textbook. (Somewhere in a tower of boxes, I have one of the older editions of the book, meaning an edition that may go back to before the 1950s.)

Standard textbooks get revised, updated, corrected, and “politically corrected.” I wonder how much of the book that I use would be recognized by either Magruder or McClenahan. But the book still have outstanding features, meaning great charts and graphs, well done organization, useful teacher materials, some original sources, good quotes, funny cartoons, and a helpful glossary and index.

Key point for anyone buying a government text: Look for used, but not too old. (Studying old government texts is a different pursuit than studying government as of now.) Look for something authored by a person rather than a committee. Look for its usefulness as a resource, and don’t quibble over politically disagreeable points made here and there.

Basic Readings on Government from a Christian Perspective:

  1. Christ and the Kingdoms of Men: Foundations of Political Life by David C. Innes
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This book is quite good, relatively brief, and thoroughly Bible oriented. It is also conservative, Reformed, and American. I plan on reading it again soon with a government student I am teaching privately. It is a book of depth, but is readable and applicable. It is not, as some political books by Christians, seeking to grind axes against our current political foes. It is rooted in a more long-term approach to the topic.

2. Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey And Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies by David Koyzis

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This book is challenging. If one is only used to the political banter of conservative talk radio or the contents of news shows, this book will plunge you into the deep water. Want to smack the liberals or conservatives with some zingers? Look elsewhere. This is a book that demands careful reading. Dr. Koyzis, like David Innes, seeks to write from a Christian perspective and from a Reformed tradition. He is not a traditional American conservative, so expand your world a bit in reading this.

3. Christianity and the Constitution by John Eidsmoe

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This book has been around for quite a while, and I have enjoyed using parts of it in teaching my classes. The book gives a Christianized version of America’s colonial and founding eras. Then Dr. Eidsmoe discusses quite a few of the key thinkers and books that influenced the Founding Fathers. This portion is a good introduction to the household names among the contributors to our founding documents. Next, the book gives detailed biographical sketches of key authors and shapers with an emphasis on their religious beliefs.

I don’t find this book a fun read or a page turner, but it is quite full of useful information. Dr. Eidsmoe is a well trained lawyer and student of theology and history. He is a Lutheran with a strong affinity toward Calvinist founders of America, and his perspective is very conservative.

4. Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem

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The subtitle states that this is A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture. This book is conservative red meat. I reckon it offends not only more secular liberals, but many Christians who think themselves a bit more balanced and erudite than Grudem. Maybe it is a bit over the top. Maybe it does imply that the Christian position is a bit more compatible with the Republican platforms than with those of the Democrat Party.

I include it because I am probably quite in line with much of what it says. And I like Dr. Grudem’s other books. So, read it and like it or read it and refute it.

5. Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper

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This book is so vital for so many areas of life and thought. Early on, it has a chapter on Calvinism and political thought. That chapter is vital for coming to a Christian position on government. Of course, I think each chapter in this classic work is vital for arriving at least close to solid and sound positions.

6. Christianity and the State by R. J. Rushdoony

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Not just this book, but almost every book that R. J. Rushdoony wrote is useful for constructing a Christian view of civil government. Probably Law and Liberty is the easiest to start with and The Institutes of Biblical Law, particularly volume 1, is the most comprehensive.

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7. The Patriot’s Handbook, edited and compiled by George Grant

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Any study of American government must reach back into the source materials. This book has a wealth of such shorter materials, and it includes not only the most often cited works, such as the Constitution, but also speeches, poems, and writings not often found in standard textbooks. And it includes Grant’s delightful survey of our first 14 Presidents, and that listing doesn’t begin with George Washington.

8. Politics Reformed: The Anglo-American Legacy of Covenant Theology by Glenn Moots

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This is a serious and in-depth study and survey of political theology, particularly that which grew out of the Reformation tradition and then was transplanted in the United States. This is one of the best books I have ever studied and one that calls for rereading.

9. Slaying Leviathan: Limited Government and Resistance in the Christian Tradition by Glenn S. Sunshine

This book is recent, and I have not read my copy yet. But from all I can sense and all I have heard from others, it is a keeper.

10. Civil Government: A Biblical View by Robert Culver

Toward a Biblical view of civil government: Culver, Robert Duncan

I read this book very many years ago. I remember thinking that it was quite good, but I cannot recall many details. It appears to still be in print, but under a slightly different title.

11. God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government : Theonomy, Principled Pluralism, Christian America, National Confessionalism, edited by Gary Scott Smith

I read this book many years ago. It is a good presentation of four different positions all held by responsible, scholarly Christian writers.

12. God and Government by Gary DeMar

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This series gives some basic information about history, government, and Christian influences. It was later reprinted in a nice hardback one volume edition, which I, unfortunately, do not have. Gary DeMar has written and reprinted lots of works that verify the Christian influences on American history and government. American Vision, his organization, has a wealth of resources available.

13. A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer

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This book caused quite a stir when it came out in the 1980s. The work of Francis Schaeffer during his most popular years coincides with the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. Much of what Schaeffer says in this book seems to be based on information gleaned from The Journal of Christian Reconstruction. That is another story.

14. Did America Hav a Christian Founding? by Mark David Hall

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I have and have read many books related to this topic, and many of those books are referenced in this one. This is THE go-to source for understanding and being able to better interact with a host of political issues that are related to our nation’s Founding Era.


  1. The Republic by Plato
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This is my favorite translation. The Allan Bloom translation is also highly acclaimed. I do not prefer the Benjamin Jowett translation, which is an older and usually cheaper version.

2. Politics by Aristotle

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3. The Prince by Machiavelli

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I am no expert, but I would recommend the translation by Harvey Mansfield, based on what I have heard from others.

4. Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos by Junius Brutus

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This book is a seldom read Calvinist and Huguenot classic. Thankfully, Canon Press has published a useable new edition of it that should broaden the reach of this book. R. J. Rushdoony often made a comment (actually based on a quote from someone he had read) that it was this book, rather than Thomas Paine’s Common Sense that was most influential in the American Revolution.

5. Lex, Rex by Samuel Rutherford

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Lex, Rex, also now available from Canon Press, is another Calvinist political classic. Rutherford was a Covenanter. Donald Macleod, in his book Therefore the Truth I Speak, raises some serious questions as to how influential this book was to American colonists who revolted against the Crown. It was Francis Schaeffer who first alerted many American Christians to the importance of this book.

6. Two Treatises of Government by John Locke

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Some conservatives and some Christians have strong objections to John Locke’s philosophical views. Nevertheless, he was and remains a big name in political thought and in the history of this nation.

7. The Federalist by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay

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This collection of essays is THE American classic of political thought. It needs to be read from cover to cover, but there are a few essays in it, such as #10 or #51, that are quoted continually.

8. The Anti-Federalist Papers

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In one sense, there is no such thing as The Anti-Federalist Papers. Whereas, three authors wrote essays that have come to be known as The Federalist Papers, there was no set of authors who compiled rebuttals per se. But there were plenty of articles and speeches by prominent Americans who objected to the proposed Constitution. Their insights are valuable, and some believe almost prophetic in seeing problems that followed with the ratification of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, by the way, was a result of Anti-Federalist influence.

9. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

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Thankfully, this work is a short read. But it must be read because of the great influence it has had on so many countries, so many people, and so much of history. The books and authors who have refuted and rebutted Communism would be a separate and very long list.

10. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek

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This book has become a popular read for many conservatives. First published in 1944, this book remains in print and is more widely known in our times than in previous years. Hayek is one of several prominent Austrian thinkers whose ideas have kept the spirit of freedom alive in our times.

Okay, enough is enough! There is no end in sight for the books that could be listed here.

If you notice any terrible mistakes I have made or unforgivable omissions, please let me know in your comments, or on Facebook, or by emailing me at

Previews for Book Reviews

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We have an unusual winter storm today. My mind keeps replaying the words and music to the poem written by Christina Rossetti, “Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter, Long Ago….” (from the song “In the Bleak Midwinter”). My wife is playing the Christmas music that never seems to fit our lives here in the American South where snow, sleigh rides, snowmen, and cozy firesides with outward beauty predominate.

So, my mind turns to the dangerous stack of review books I have threatening me with a mental overload or a avalanche of falling tomes. I want to jump out in front of this mighty host and do some previews and promotions of these worthy volumes.

American Conservatism, 1900-1930, edited and compiled by Joseph Postell and Jonathan O’Neill, is published by Lexington Books.

We are in an age where we need to recover the roots of our conservative heritage. The word “conservative” is bandied about in both positive and negative ways. We sometimes think conservatism emerged back in the days or Reagan or maybe Goldwater. But conservatism is a broad, deep, and very old tradition. Not everyone that is pegged as a conservative gee-haws with all of the other so called conservatives.

In this case, this book highlights some bright lights among conservative thinkers (who were largely office holders) during the era when Progressivism was the dominant political ideology. Hence, this book has lots of essays and speeches by such men as Henry Cabot Lodge, Calvin Coolidge, Warren G. Harding, and Elihu Root.

I would love to be in a college class where we were “required” to read this book and perhaps Murray Rothbard’s book The Progressive Era and a few other worthwhile reads. Thanks to my young friend (whose youth is limited only to age and not wisdom) Koty Arnold for recommending American Conservatism.

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1-2 Timothy and Titus by Andreas J. Kostenberger is published by Lexham Academic Press.

First of all, I love Lexham Press, and I confess that I used to refer to them as a small publisher. They ain’t small in terms of the wide and depth and range of books they publish. Their works include such older authors as Abraham Kuyper and Geerhardus Vos and such more recent writers as Travis James Campbell and Michael Heiser.

I have yet to look into this book, but I became a fan of Andreas Kostenberger a while back after reading one of his books. And, I read John Calvin’s Sermons on Titus this past year and loved it. I look forward to reading this commentary, but will probably begin with Titus and then look at the two Timothy letters.

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My friend Ray Rhodes has written two fine books on Charles and Susie Spurgeon. Yours Till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon is published by Moody Press and is a promising sequel to his biography of Mrs. Spurgeon, titled Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon.

I read the biography of Susannah last year and also read Tethered to the Cross: The Life and Preaching of C. H. Spurgeon by Thomas Breimaier (published by IVP). One should read lots of stuff about Spurgeon, and as the saying goes, “Sell your shoes, but buy Spurgeon.”

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But why Mrs. Spurgeon? She was quite a woman. A writer herself, she promoted, distributed, and loved books. She was, as the title reflects in a biography of Jonathan Edwards’s wife, “married to a difficult man.” Spurgeon was not difficult in the sense of preaching one thing and living another. He and they together were the real deal. Their lives were blessed, but not easy. Begin with either one of Ray’s books, but get both. And get Tethered to the Cross and get some of Spurgeon’s writings.

C. S. Lewis: Pre-Evangelism For a Post-Christian World: Why Narnia Might Be More Real Than We Think by Brian M. Williams. This book is published by Christian Publishing House.

Brian and I only recently became acquainted, but he quickly figured out that the way to get on my good side was to send me a book. So now, he’s a superhero.

Lewis, like Spurgeon, is an author whose works are vast and widely applicable and even more widely enjoyable. And, both men have inspired books about their books. How many books do I have about Lewis? 20? Maybe more? However many it is not enough.

I look forward to diving into this book and seeing how this newfound friend has applied and expanded our understanding of Lewis and Narnia.

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I was happy the day that The First Code Talkers: Native American Communications in World War I by William C. Meadows arrived. This book is published by one of the best sources for Native American studies–the University of Oklahoma Press.

I read a book about the Navajo Code Talkers several years ago. (And I misspelled Navajo consistently in the review I wrote.) On the one hand, it is amazing that Native Americans were willing defenders of the same United States that so often mistreated, abused, killed, and deceived them. And, their heritage was often suppressed. But they possessed a number of languages that defied the rest of the world from knowing. They were unsung heroes of World War II in the Pacific. And it was only in the last few decades that the contributions they made have been made public. Now, I find that they played a similar role in World War I. Can’t wait to get into this one.

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If Louis Markos wrote a book on the Dewey Decimal System, I would want it. But he has written a book on a topic I have grown to love–Greek and Roman mythology. Myth Made Fact: Reading Greek and Roman Mythology through Christian Eyes is published by Classical Academic Press.

While I am proud of my college training, my education zoomed and quadrupled when I began teaching (at about age 40 plus) in a classical Christian school. I was forced to begin learning and reading mythology directly through the Greeks and Romans and indirectly through reading Milton and others. I started beginning my classes with a Tolkien quote or two about mythology containing slivers of truth.

Add to this: I grabbed a cup of hot coffee one afternoon at the ACCS conference in Dallas. The seats were incredibly comfortable and I sat back to enjoy the writer Louis Markos speak. Have you ever heard the really good writer who speaks but is mediocre or even painful as a orator? Not Dr. Markos! Skinny as a rail, hopping around like a bird on the stage, the man gave a performance. It was on Lewis and Tolkien and it was pure joy. The caffeine paled in the light of the surge of energy Markos gave. His writings reflect the same joy.

Tolkien’s Modern Reading: Middle Earth Beyond the Middle Ages by Holly Ordway is published by Word On Fire Academic.

Here was another case of love at first sight. I actually began my quest for understanding Middle Earth by reading a biography of J. R. R. Tolkien before I seriously read his works. My heart tug and preferences always drift toward 20th Century Southern fiction, rather than Brits, fantasy, and mythical lands. So, I felt at home in Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County but disoriented in either Middle Earth or Narnia. I’m still geared toward the American South or the world of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, but I have learned (also a result of classical Christian teaching) to embrace the Tolkien-Lewis vision.

Click on the link above or look on the internet to learn more about this book, if needed. It is high on my “can’t wait to get started on this book” stack.

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I have started reading The Last American Aristocrat: The Brilliant Life and Improbable Education of Henry Adams by David S. Brown. To understand this biography, one needs to have read Adams’s autobiography The Education of Henry Adams, which I did read a few years back. Adams was the grandson and great-grandson of the two Presidents. His life spanned from before the War Between the States until 1918, and it was not just the times in which he lived, but his connections and reflections.


Solzhenitsyn and American Culture: The Russian Soul in the West, edited by David P. Deavel and Jessica Hooten Wilson, is published by the University of Notre Dame Press. That press is producing outstanding translations of Solzhenitsyn’s works along with studies about the man himself.

“I cannot think of any more worthwhile study for any student on any campus today than to go carefully through all the writings and discourses of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. ” Malcolm Muggeridge.

This book, and I have barely gotten started into it, is pure gold.

Revolutionary Prophecies: The Founders and America’s Future, edited by Robert McDonald and Peter Onuf, is published by the University of Virginia Press.

Thankfully, I have some time before this reading assignment is due. I am in a study group that will be discussing the book in a few months. I look forward to this because Robert McDonald is one of the finest scholars on Thomas Jefferson around today.

J. I. Packer: His Life and Thought by Alister McGrath is published by InterVarsity Press.

If McGrath writes it, I want to read it. If it has anything to do with the great Christian writer J. I. Packer, I want to read it. Can’t lose with this one. Amazing how many of the books in my stack are about writers.

The Doctrine of Creation

The Doctrine of Creation: A Constructive Kuyperian Approach by Bruce Riley Ashford and Craig Bartholomew is published by InterVarsity Press.

A Baptist and an Anglican got together to write this magnum opus, building upon the brilliant foundations of Abraham Kuyper.

Who Is My Neighbor: An Anthology in Natural Relations is edited and compiled by my friend and fellow teacher of classics Thomas Achord and Darrell Dow. This is a hefty collections of quotes and excerpts from across the literary, philosophical, theological, and historical spectrum. It is, as noted in the subtitle, an anthology, a collection, an assembly. I suspect that this book will be used often to quote from, to skip around through, and to reference.

I have not done these books justice!

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My 2020 Election Analysis

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The first Presidential election that I remember was 1960. My sister explained that we were for Kennedy because he was better looking than Nixon. She was old enough to know the way the world works, for I was about 5 and she was in high school. I never gave elections another thought until 1964 came along and I was told that Barry Goldwater would cause a depression and we would all have to go to the poorhouse. I became a dedicated supporter of Lyndon Johnson at that point.

It was during this time, circa 1964, that I acquired a small booklet on the Presidents. It was published and distributed by Enco, which was a gas and oil company, and was given out as a token gift. I don’t remember who gave it to me, but I pored over it off and on for years. (I just recently rediscovered it in my file cabinet.)

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As the years went by, I always paid a fair amount of attention to Presidential elections. By 1972, I became deeply interested. By the time I went through college, I had formed a pretty deep interest as a history major in politics, elections, and government at the Presidential level. Typical of me, I have never been really involved in any political campaigns, have only visited Washington, D. C. once, and have never seriously imagined running for office.

Have I read 100 plus books on different political leaders, elections, political issues, etc.? Certainly, and I have also watched news reports, documentaries, movie accounts, and other politically related media presentations. I like to think that I am something of an authority, although I have no official credentials to back up that assertion.

The 2020 Presidential election, which happened over 2 months ago now, will go down in history as one of the most volatile and disputed elections of all time. I reject the contention that it was the most important election of our lifetimes, but would claim that for now, it is the most controversial. Weighing in on this election, therefore, is a serious matter for several reasons.

  1. The post election drama and controversy exceeds even the drama and controversy leading up to the election.
  2. The results are never going to be accepted by the vast majority of those who participated in it.
  3. The two candidates were the two most improbable of candidates. I am sympathetic with the notion that they were the two worst candidates in our history. Without debate, they were the oldest two.
  4. The 2020 election is not going to fold up its tent and go away. The controversies surrounding and resulting from this year will be with us throughout 2021, all through the 2022 mid-term elections, and then revving up again in 2024.

In the course of this post, I want to say a few things about the election as a student of history. I am going to try, try, try to avoid partisan answers and repeating the now wearisome political commentaries that have been hashed and rehashed for three months.

First, as stated above, for the mere student of history, studying the 2016 and 2020 elections will be quite enjoyable, shocking, and unusual. Many U.S. Presidential elections are rather predictable, explainable, and uneventful. One side wins, and the other loses. Often, the results can be predicted for months in advance. Especially if an incumbent President is running for re-election, he is going to win, barring economic troubles. In the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries, incumbents McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt (3 times), Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama won. Incumbents Taft, Hoover, Ford, Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Trump lost. A party split cost Taft re-election, and economic issues cost the other five.

Normally, elections have pitted governors, senators, and Vice Presidents against each other. The only exceptions have been 1916 when Republican Charles Evan Hughes was a Supreme Court Justice (the only time such a person ran), 1940, when Wendell Wilkie was a businessman, and in 1952 and 1956, Eisenhower was a military leader.

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Normally, elections can be remembered for one tag or defining sentence. 1940 was the third term victory run for Roosevelt. 1960 was the first time a Catholic was elected President. 1964 was a landslide a year after Kennedy’s assassination. 1968 was a year of a strong third party movement (as were 1912, 1924, 1948, 1992, and 1996) and much civil unrest. 1976 was the first unelected Vice President who became the first unelected President following the resignation of a President. 1980 was the election of a former actor. 2000 was a disputed election due to the Florida returns and the first election of a son of a President since 1824. 2008 was the first election of an African-American.

But 2016 and 2020 were elections that will merit several tags. Note that I am tying these two elections together. They were, in some respects, the same election held two years apart. The Democrats went against their own tradition and nominated candidates who had already been in Presidential politics previously. Usually the party would opt for a new, fresh face, such as it did in 1912, 1932, 1960, 1972, 1976, 1988, 1992, and 2008, while the Republicans nominated the man who had paid his dues, as in 1944, 1948, 1960, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1988, 1996, 2008, and 2012.

And in both ’16 and ’20, the Democrats opted for an older (meaning old!) candidate. Hillary Clinton was almost 70 when she ran, and President Biden is 78.

The wildest part of the ride was the Republican Party’s nomination of Donald Trump in 2016. It had the most ethnically diverse and talented group of men and women running for the nomination that year. And the party of conservatism, the home of the religious right, and the party of the old-line Republican establishment went out of bounds and nominated a man of little or no past political experience or affiliation, a multi-billionaire with wealth stemming from running gambling casinos, a man aged 70 with a third trophy wife nearly 30 years his junior, and a complete novice on politics as usual.

To understand the ’16 and ’20 elections, just realize that the Democrats simply reversed their ticket. Four years ago, they had a sharp, but unwinsome woman at the head of the ticket with a more moderate, passive man as Vice President. This gave them the tag of having a woman at the head of the ticket. It failed. So, they put the more moderate and passive man at the head of the ticket with the more controversial and edgy woman in the VP slot.

The Biden-Harris ticket worked as the mirror image of the Clinton-Kaine ticket. It was somewhat like the German Manstein Plan in 1940 that reversed the direction of the Schlieffen Plan from 1914. And in both cases, failure was changed to success. The Democrats were able to say, in effect, “We have a woman on the ticket and we have a safe, predictable man on the ticket.” Keep in mind that candidates like Bernie Sanders (an unapologetic socialist), or Pete Buttigieg, or Michael Bloomberg all carried too much baggage or too little experience.

President Trump, to follow up on my ’16 and ’20 connection, ran a campaign exactly like the one he had four years earlier. But no two campaigns have all the same dynamics for a candidate. Ronald Reagan backed off of his compelling “Keep the Panama Canal” issue from 1976 when he successfully got the nomination and Presidency in 1980. Trump rallied his base, perhaps as well as any other candidate ever has, but he failed to expand his base in areas where he needed to.

To win in 2020, President Trump needed to win over a block of voters who would be willing to hold their noses and vote for him. They would never wear MAGA hats, never attend rallies, or put up yard signs, but they would have cast their middle -to-upper middle-class votes in their suburban voting precincts for the Republicans. There should have been pictures of Trump and Bush 43 together on the campaign trail. Mitt Romney should have been supporting the President (for he certainly didn’t reject Trump’s endorsement in 2012), and the McCain-Flake base in Arizona should have voted, however reluctantly, for the President.

President Trump won 46.5 percent of the vote in 2016. That means that one of the central focuses of the Trump White House should have been expanding that base to 50.1 percent or more. That would have meant fewer or NO tweets, especially those that posited unverified claims, cruel insults, bad grammar and spelling, and needless controversies. President Trump needed a fulltime advisor whose main task would have been to explain how Ronald Reagan would react.

Draining the swamp rhetoric didn’t expand the electorate, especially when everyone was wanting the swamp stimulus checks. “You have been here for 47 years and didn’t do these things” didn’t convince anyone who never noticed that Biden had been to Washington. “Lock him up,” referring to Hunter Biden didn’t resonate and wasn’t reported. The bull in the China shop debate tactics didn’t expand the base by any votes during the first debate.

For all of the talk that Donald Trump was not a politician, he was, but he failed. When you enter a political race, give speeches, shake hands, hold rallies, make promises, and win a political office, you are a politician. Although that word has many negative connotations, a politician has to possess a set of skills that differ from other professions. Like Reagan, a man with an acting background can use those skills to enhance political skills. Like Eisenhower, a man used to military matters can use those skills to transition to politics.

Anyone, meaning EVERYONE, remotely interested in politics either as a subject of study or as a profession must, as in MUST, read and master Robert Caro’s third volume of his multi-volume study of Lyndon Johnson. Master of the Senate completely revamped my whole way of thinking about politics. It doesn’t matter what you think of Johnson the man, he was able to figure out how the Senate worked. Successful politicians follow similar trajectories, those who failed, like Hoover, Carter, and Trump, didn’t.

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There is one other result of the 2020 election that I want to mention. I have not come across anyone else dealing with this issue. There has been lots of talk about how President Trump did better among Hispanic and African-American voters than any other Republican candidate since 1960. While Democrats were celebrating winning the Presidency, there have to be some Democrat political operatives who are sweating bullets about what the possibilities are if the Republicans increase, even marginally, these minority gains.

But there is also this feature to the 2020 election: The electoral map has changed. Even though most of those changes either helped the Democrats or reverted back to the Democrats, this underlying groundswell is significant. Some formerly Red (Republican) states are now no longer safe. Georgia and Arizona flipped. Texas was under assault, but it remained Republican. Ohio, Florida, and Iowa, where previous winners there were winners overall, went solidly for Trump in a close election year. (Many traditional election patterns changed in 2020.) But Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada are now all purple states. Yes, they ended up in the Blue column (and do you own work on the voting fraud issues), but they were close, and three of the larger states went for Trump in 2016. There is no longer the Big Blue Wall of the Midwest. The Midwest is up for grabs.

I am surprised that neither Minnesota nor New Hampshire were close. I am surprised that Republicans were so massively outspent. Why President Trump didn’t toss $500 million of his own supposed wealth into the campaign is a mystery. I have not exhausted all of my thoughts on the election, but I have likely exhausted my ever shrinking fan base.

Time to think again about literary classics and theology rather than politics.

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January 2021 Readings

May be an image of book, indoor and text that says 'α Who Shall Ascend the Mountain the Lord? L. Michael Morales � Making and Evangelicalisn 1750-1858 American RICHARD LYNTTON NORTH KOREA DEcEPTION REVIVAL & REVIVALISM The Battles OF Connecticut Farms AND Springfield 1780 LENGEL ANDREW ROBERTS LEADERSH WAR ខភ10 FAULKNER 1 ROLLYSON'

What a relief it was on January 1st to rip the 2020 calendar off the wall and start a new year. 31 days later, we are experiencing what we suspected: Some of the troubles are here to stay a while longer. For me, we had the school shut down in March, followed by the quick retraining to doing classes on line. That was part of the nationwide shutdown that brought my kids home from college and kept us home on Sundays. In June, our classical Christian school closed after 22 years. We survived many battles and difficulties, but in June, our re-enrollment plummeted, and my wife and I joined the unemployment lines. For a month or two, I thought I would land another teaching job, but have only ended up with a few part time jobs. Health problems have hit our family, my wife mostly, but I did have one day where I visited the emergency room. A bizarre election season came, but didn’t go away. A long time friend and former church member died unexpectedly. Also, the losses of 2020 included singers Charlie Daniels and Charley Pride, pro-wrestler Danny Hodge, and others.

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The main recurring thought in 2020 was that God is sovereign and still rules over the affairs of men. Still. Always. Without exception. With wisdom, love, and power. So, when 2021 began with Georgia making poor choices in electing two Senators, with controversies ongoing regarding the slightly odd Presidential election, with sound and fury signifying much going on in the Capitol, with on-going pandemic problems, and with further personal economic difficulties, I resorted to my constant sources of stability: God, family, church, coffee, the dog, and BOOKS.

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The new year began with me finishing The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper. For years, I have have taught through The Deerslayer to my younger students and The Last of the Mohicans to my high school class. I have won a few readers over to the riches of Cooper, but have not made as many converts as I wished. Even I had failed to read beyond those two books. Last November, I began reading The Pathfinder. I had watched and used a mediocre movie version of that story and may have read the book many years ago. Reading it through was quite enjoyable. Then I hastened on to begin The Pioneers. I began that book around Christmas, which was delightful since the book begins with a Christmas celebration. I struggled to maintain an understanding for the first 5 or 10 chapters, and then the book took off on its own.

The Pioneers is an outstanding fictional examination of several key issues that still affect us today. First, how do we balance the needs of civilization with the preservation of nature? Second, how do we balance the rights of the individual man, primarily the Leatherstocking as Natty Bumpo was called in this book, with the laws of society that encroach upon his rights? Third, how do we maintain our most basic loyalties when they put us in legal jeopardy? Fourth and always within the world of Cooper, how do we deal with the Indians, or Native American tribes, in regard to their original landholdings and culture?

Keep in mind that this is a story and not a philosophical treatise, but it does raise these questions. I am now moving on to the fifth book in the Leatherstocking series–The Prairie.

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I was thrilled last year when I first saw that there was a new projected two volume biography of William Faulkner coming out. I hastened to acquire the first volume and then kept it at my bedside stack for months before the right occasion came along to read it. (It was a crazy year.) I thought I would have a long time to wait for the completion of the set, but then I discovered that the second volume was published in the fall, so I got busy and read the book.

Faulkner was a complex writer and man. He was illusive, deceitful, odd, and brilliant. How he emerged out of his background, which was not barren, is a mystery. This biography will not solve the mysteries, but it does connect Faulkner’s writings with his life. (I have previously written a review of this book on this blog.)

I recently received and read North Korea Deception, which is the first novel of Richard Lyntton. His website can be found HERE. His purpose is to write thriller spy novels in the order of John Le Carre and Daniel Silva. He’s British with a impressive military background and work experience as an actor.

This book is the first of three in a series called “The Deception Series.” If you start reading it, hold on to your hat because there is non-stop action from beginning to end. Has he reached the level of Le Carre, Silva, Brad Thor, or the late Vince Flynn? Not yet, but he has completed a book and is completing the next two. None of those guys arrived at their destinations on their first tries. So watch this guy and his books if you like the political thrillers genre of books.

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Dr. Ed Lengel really irritates me! I first got to know of him and his writings when I read Never in Finer Company: The Men of the Great War’s Lost Battalion. Then I discovered that he had written other books on World War I, but also had written several on George Washington. Then this past year, he comes out with a book on two of the smaller, less known battles of the Revolutionary War, and is the editor of a book covering the major battles of that war. See why I am irritated? His works are too many and subjects are wide. (Some attribute my irritation to jealousy.)

I read The Ten Key Campaigns of the American Revolution last fall. This book is published by Regnery Publishing. which is a solid source for history and conservative thought. Due to loss of job, loss of my school office, having to move out of our house for a few months because of a water damage problem, etc., I lost track of The Battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield, 1780 for a few months. This book is published by Westholme Publishing and is part of a series called Small Battles.

The Ten Campaigns book covered the most familiar events of the war. With different contributors, most of whom have written complete books on aspects of the war, this chronological account shows the struggles, some of which were disasters while others were successful, that led to American independence. But Lengel’s book on two small battles deals with events that I have overlooked or forgotten along the way.

Both Connecticut Farms and Springfield took place in New Jersey. Neither battle was decisive, nor largely remembered. But it is a fact of history that sometimes the smaller events can have ramifications that are far in excess of their notice. These battles were proving grounds for Washington’s leadership and army as it had reached a peak of relative efficiency. On the other hand, flaws in the British leadership structure and an increasing loss of vision was obvious.

What I would truly love and enjoy would be a course where both of these books were read and discussed. Following the bloody footprints of the American Patriot Army is inspiring to me both as a history student and as a citizen-heir of these soldiers. Seeing how even the smaller skirmishes and battles impacted the whole war is likewise enjoyable. For many of us, Rick Atkinson’s projected trilogy on the War for Independence will be defining. I can’t wait for the second volume to appear. But those three books are just a drop in the ever increasing larger body of studies of the military aspects of the Revolutionary War.

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Revival and Revivalism: The Making of American Evangelicalism, 1750–1858 by Iain Murray is published by Banner of Truth.

I feel utterly ashamed for not having read this book many years ago. I am a huge fan of both Mr. Murray’s writings and of Banner of Truth. I have had the book for years, but moving books from the office to my home caused me to pick up and read a few volumes that I had unexplainably neglected.

Maybe I hesitated because I already basically knew the story here. That being the case, there was much that I learned for the first time or was reminded of or was able to better understand upon reading this book. This is an important part of American history. For those who want the more academic titles to study this aspect of social and religious history, Murray provides the references. (John B. Boles’s books come to mind here.) For those who want a devotional and thoughtful Christian study, this is the book as well. Murray writes Christian history for Christian readers. He exhorts and encourages and rebukes by historical examples. He cites the personal accounts in large selections.

In short, the early day revivals from the time of the Great Awakening and decades following were Calvinistic, evangelistic, and sporadic. For the men of those times believed that revival only comes when God is pleased to send it. The contrasting revivalism, led largely by Charles G. Finney, made such works the efforts of men.

Great study. Read this alongside the more than a dozen other Murray books.

Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?

Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus by L. Michael Morales is published by Intervarsity Press.

Some months ago, I was reading through the book of Leviticus. I got to thinking about the challenges of a pastor trying to do expository preaching through the book and almost had a panic attack. How does this book, so full of sacrifices and laws and regulations, apply to believers in the pews?

Then I picked up this book and began reading. This is not a chapter by chapter commentary, but it does reference some good ones. Instead, this is a thematic study. I would be sure to read this book at least three times before tackling Leviticus in a sermon series or group study. This book is a straight up climb along the sheer cliffs of Biblical theology, but it is rewarding. I look forward to reading Morales’s book on Exodus soon.

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Ending the month with reading Leadership in War by Andrew Roberts was quite a joy. This relatively short book consists of discussions about nine leaders–both of nations and armies–who guided their countries through times of war. In several cases, Roberts had already written books on the figures he covered.

They included Napoleon, Wellington, Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, De Gaulle, Marshall, Eisenhower, and Margaret Thatcher. Each chapter is filled with a good description of the leadership styles of this odd array. Some, like Hitler, were disasters (Thanks be to God), while others are worthy of honor and emulation.

One of the main benefits I received from reading this book of mostly familiar material was getting acquainted with Andrew Roberts. I have far too many of his books to have not been a long time reader and fan. Thanks to Tony Williams for inadvertently assigning this book to me.

Now, on to February and another large stack of books!

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