The Right-Enough Candidate

I’m feeling amazingly perky after Joe Biden’s miraculous resurrection, with the seeming likelihood that he will beat Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. I say “amazingly” because less than a week ago I wrote a friend that “I’d like to vote for Biden because I think he’s a decent man,  but every time I see him in a debate I think, no way.”

At the beginning of the campaign I was mildly favorable to Joe, seeing him as the exact opposite of Trump. But on the debate stage he sometimes flailed like a drowning man grasping for a coherent sentence to pull him out of the flood. It particularly stood out next to the other candidates, who were a remarkably articulate bunch. (Can you spell Buttigieg?) I flirted with Mayor Pete (but thought he was just too young and inexperienced), Amy (I wanted to like her, but she absolutely lacked charisma), Corey (I still like him, but he dropped out early), Elizabeth (who is smart and capable and chipper, but makes too many policy choices that I think are wrong).

All along I was wishing for somebody to jump out of the pack. Nobody did. They were all impressively good but nobody was perfect. Nobody could grab our attention and hold it. Nobody could pull the bulk of the party behind them.

Then, in a week, Joe Biden jumped out of the pack. What happened? He did not become perfect. But somehow the crowd saw, with vivid clarity, that it was either him or Sanders.  We wanted to believe in Joe, so we did. It’s a little like accepting the guy you aren’t crazy in love with but who is a good man and a reliable provider. Once you make up your mind, everything feels better.

Joe isn’t the candidate we dreamed of, but he is, certainly, somebody we know. He’s right enough, as Ross Douthat put it in his column today. He’s a realist who would rein in extremes, but he’s a pragmatist who would want to get something done. Could he? That might depend on the fate of the Senate more than on his legislative skills. He’s broad-minded enough to bring in a talented cabinet (we’ve seen plenty of possibilities in the debates) so it wouldn’t all fall on him.

His most important quality, however, is normalcy. There’s a reason he’s called Uncle Joe. I could use a dose of normal. A big dose.



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6 Responses to “The Right-Enough Candidate”

  1. Bill Reichert Says:

    My first question for any candidate is, “What is your position on abortion?” Since all Democrats answer this question the same way, I needn’t explore their suitability further. All Democrats seem willing to do the Devil’s bidding.

    • timstafford Says:

      You are correct, Bill…. Today’s Democratic candidates are not only uniformly concerned for a woman’s right to choose, they are unwilling to say that abortion is a bad thing. Their position is morally unacceptable.

      Surely, though, abortion is not the only moral issue. Suppose I asked, “Do you support lying?” Then the immorality switches parties.

      Or to take a very clear biblical issue: “Do you believe in welcoming foreigners?”

      Or to mention a very crass issue: “Do you condemn the payment of hush money to porno stars?”

      Morality isn’t a Republican strong point right now.

      There’s an argument to be made that abortion trumps other moral issues, because it concerns with the destruction of human life. I would have to agree. But as a political issue, it’s much more complicated. I don’t see any prospect of doing away with abortion through legal coercion. I say this largely because of what I learned in studying Prohibition. That was a thoroughly moral movement, motivated by Christian compassion. And it actually did reduce drinking, in the short run. But in the long run, laws were unable to change American culture—they only created contempt for the law. Given the permissive views of America today, I don’t see a law against abortion having any chance of doing better. Unless we have a moral revival, no law eliminating abortion would stand. And the rebound would be terrific.

      So though abortion is a very important moral issue, it’s not my premium political issue. At this point I’m not sure it belongs in politics at all.

      • Bill Reichert Says:

        I don’t disagree with your comments, Tim, except to point out an essential difference between those who, say, lie openly but deny their lies because they recognize that lies are evil (or, as Christians would say, sinful), and those who support abortion because they do not regard it as evil (some would even assert it to be virtuous). It is one thing to sin but deny that we have committed that sin, but it is quite another to deny that the action, even if admitted, Is ever sinful. I know every politician I vote for is a sinner (as am I), but I cannot vote for a politician who believes that a morally significant act has no moral meaning at all, or worse, believes that act to be virtuous. These are radically different ways of addressing morality: the first is the universal aspect of fallen humanity; the second is quite literally demonic.

      • timstafford Says:

        I’m finding it hard to follow you, Bill, can you say more? I gather you think there are two classes of sin: and that the demonic is the sin that doesn’t even know (or acknowledge) what it is doing is evil. Can you give some examples other than abortion? And can you suggest some scriptural reasons for making this distinction? I was always taught that all sins are of equal moral status, that it is as bad to scorn others as it is to kill. (I think Jesus taught this.) Seems to me that lots of sinners deny that what they are doing is sin (not just that they didn’t do it). A lot of sexual sin, for example, seems to fit that description, but I don’t think you are suggesting that adulterers are demonic. In short, I’m not following you.

      • Bill Reichert Says:

        “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)

        Tim, this last summer I was asked to become the alternate preacher for our church’s Voyagers service (about 200-250 souls). So far I have preached about a half dozen sermons and never yet been accused of being unclear. (But of course there’s always a first time!) Nevertheless I think I was clear and in fact quite plain. With the demonic we are seeing the damned who deny God’s goodness and seek to invert it by claiming that His law is wrong and Satan’s is true. This is what abortion supporters do: we (they claim) are the judges as to whether life is worth preserving, and if God’s law is to the contrary, well then, God is wrong (or non-existent). This is well beyond the divine law that even sinful humans generally recognize, namely, that God’s law is true, but in our individual cases we have not violated it (for we always have excuses). But the demonic spits in the face of God and inverts His law. This is what abortion supporters do. And abortion is clearly an issue that human law must address, for the law is, first and foremost, about the preservation of life, liberty, and property. When it violates God’s law about the sanctity of life, it descends to the demonic. This is why no Christian can in good conscience support a candidate who favors abortion. There are many issues as to which Christians may disagree. Abortion is not one of them.

        To be clear, I think Donald Trump is generally despicable. But he does not support abortion. When the choice is between anyone who supports a demonic rule and those who, while despicable themselves, recognize God’s truths, the choice must be obvious.

  2. timstafford Says:

    But Bill, what was Isaiah referring to in the verse you quote? Not to abortion. To injustice, “acquitting the guilty for a bribe, and depriving the innocent of their rights.” Your case, if it’s based on Isaiah, must apply much more broadly than just to abortion. To call black white and white black is just what Donald Trump does every day. And not only him. What you describe is very common. Sinners may sometimes agree that they are doing wrong, but most of the time, in my experience, they justify what they are doing and think it’s just fine. You can hate abortion without making it such a singular example of sin that it blocks out everything else. That’s not what Isaiah had in mind, nor did Jesus when he summed up the law as loving God and loving your neighbor.

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