I’m almost scared to admit it, but I’ve been involved in or fascinated by politics for more than 50 years. I worked in politics and on campaigns, first as a Senate assistant than as special counsel to the President Nixon.
Even after I left government, I advised, observed, and prayed with players on both sides of the aisle. In all humility, I’ve fancied myself a keen observer of politics.
But in all these years, I’ve never seen the kind of chaos, recalcitrance, and perhaps downright obstructionism that I’m witnessing in the battle over the budget and the debt ceiling.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been in a lot of tough, even nasty political battles. But almost every time - for example during the tough negotiations over the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty back in the early 70s - agreements were reached when both parties put the national good over ideology. Even if it took, as I remember one time long before that, Lyndon Johnson, then majority leader, locking the parties in a room and telling them not to come out until a deal was reached. And they stayed there until they did reach a deal.
But that isn’t happening now. And I find it both bewildering and alarming.
I cannot explain the behavior of either side. It’s bordering on the irrational. Deals are crafted, and then one side or the other pulls the plug. Commissions formed, recommendations made, all rejected. Those who understand that politics always involves some sort of compromise are hammered down mercilessly by their political base.
What is going on? I can only think of three possibilities. None of them are good. First, is ideological madness. Both sides held captive by a political ideology that won’t let them settle for anything short of total victory. If that’s the case, the system may be badly broken.
Second - and please God, I hope this isn’t the case - that one or both sides is bound and determined to bring about a real crisis: whether to destroy a presidency or as some sort of power grab. Both sides ought to remember that getting into a crisis is easy, getting out is another thing altogether.
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The third possibility, I hesitate to even mention it because it seems so far fetched but I can’t rule it out, could it be that some outside political or financial interests are deliberately herding our leaders into a train wreck? Who would benefit if the dollar crashes or the world loses faith in the U.S. financial system?
As I will talk about more tomorrow, what we’re witnessing is the inevitable result of a toxic and complicated mix of false worldviews that has been brewing for a generation. Our society has jettisoned the belief in moral truth and absolutes and we have grasped at man-made answers and ideologies; whether it’s angry anti-government sentiment on the far right or the sacredness of entitlements on the left, or any host of other political pathologies.
So, what do we do as Christians? What we have always done. Pray for our leaders, speak the truth in love, and demand that Congress and the president do the right thing by the country, even if it costs them their jobs.