My Strange Conversation With a Bernie Sanders Staffer

Wallace Henley is an exclusive CP columnist.
Wallace Henley is an exclusive CP columnist. | (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)

"This is Bernie Sanders headquarters calling."

Those words opened one of the strangest and possibly most revealing telephone calls I have ever received. It happened just a few days ago, when someone from the Austin office of the Bernie Sanders campaign rang my phone by mistake.

I was so stunned that a Sanders minion could be calling me that I blurted out: "You mean Sanders the communist?"

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"Yes," the woman replied.

"The communist … Sanders the communist?" I repeated. Surely she had not understood the first time.

"That's right," she said.

Aghast that a Sanders representative would so blithely confirm the suspicion of many that Sanders is truly a Marxist, I put the question one more time: "Bernie Sanders the communist?"

And one more time she assented.

"Do you realize that you, one of Bernie Sanders' representatives, is confirming that he is a communist?"

Finally she realized she might have a wrong number. She named a person and asked if she was available.

"There's no person here by that name," I replied, and immediately I heard the click of a terminated call.

I reflected on the strange and brief conversation the rest of the afternoon.

When we elect a president of the United States we are turning over vast power to an individual. For a person who came of age during the Cold War, who worked in a White House grappling with relations between the Superpowers and the expansionist vision of communism, who visited the communist sphere during and after the collapse of communism and was struck by the emptiness and despair in the eyes of the people, who interacted with persons who had spent years in the Gulag, who remembered Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and the Kims, I could not conceive of turning over the power of the United States to a communist on one side or a fascist on the other (the two are of the same species).

That power is symbolized most glaringly for me in the "football," the briefcase containing the codes to unleash America's vast nuclear arsenal, and that travels with the President always.

Every presidential election comes down ultimately to this: Who gets the "football" of authority and power?

Certainly not a communist.

Certainly not a person who plays loose with national secrets and intelligence.

Certainly not a candidate who throws temper tantrums when he or she doesn't get his or her way.

Certainly not a man or woman who does not understand and respect America's roots.

Certainly not an individual without a belief in God, and therefore the principle at the core of American governance, that our rights come from God, not the state, and that's what makes them "unalienable".

Certainly not an aspirant to the highest office who cannot tell you how many Amendments there are to the Constitution, and explain their meaning.

Certainly not a politician who cannot recite the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence and elaborate on its implications.

Certainly not a candidate who does not grasp the importance of protecting the nation's borders.

Certainly not a politician who cannot recognize and tell the difference between America's allies and her adversaries.

Certainly not a person who does not respect the Bill of Rights, and comprehend their original meanings.

Certainly not a candidate who doesn't see limits on Washington's power over the states.

Certainly not a zealot for guarding the life of the snail darter but who supports the killing of a human infant in the womb.

Certainly not a candidate who carelessly spends billions on projects said to be essential for the nation's future while threatening that future with a crushing load of indebtedness.

Certainly not a man or woman who builds a career on fostering class warfare rather than working for the unity of the people around a national identity that transcends race and socio-economic status.

There are many more items that ought to disqualify an individual from holding the office of the President of the United States, especially this one: Certainly not a candidate who does not understand the differences between power and authority.

Authority is granted from the higher to the lower while power is seized by the strongest. In the eyes of the American founders the authority to govern came from God, but not in the way believed in the era of the divine right of kings. Instead, God's authority flows from the higher to the lower — the people — who then, acting on that authority, choose their leaders. That's one of the factors that have made America "exceptional".

Therefore, we certainly do not need a person in the presidency who believes he or she is there by divine right. However, we do need a president who recognizes that his or her authority is given by God, and therefore the chief executive is accountable to God regarding the use of that authority and the power to which it gives license.

Thus authority is given only to those under authority. Presidents who trample on the Congress and try to trick the Judiciary have violated constitutional authority. A legislative branch that attempts to push the president aside, and courts that assume the power to make law have removed themselves from true authority.

Authority is granted for the sake of service. Power is grasped for the sake of mastery.

Authority is sustained through openness, honesty, communication, and relationship. Power is sustained through manipulation, intimidation, condemnation, and domination.

In light of all this, who gets the football? Not the candidate who grabs for power, but the man or woman who places himself or herself under the authority of God, the people, and the Constitution.

That will grant the moral authority to lead in a world of corruption and perversion, and the right to use the power of (still) the world's mightiest nation (in terms of its nuclear capability).

Who among the current crop of candidates is left standing?

Discern that and you will know who should get your vote.

Wallace Henley, a former Birmingham News staff writer, was an aide in the Nixon White House, and congressional chief of staff. He is a teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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