culture politics

The Worst President Ever

A president with wrong ideas is not a good president. But a president with wrong motivations would be the worst president imaginable.

Too often we think of politicians and rulers as fundamentally different types of people than the rest of us. It’s an understandable misconception, given that our ruling class is overwhelmingly technocratic and elite. From trust funds to the Ivy League, the existential gap between taxpayers and the leaders they get to choose from seems infinite.

But powerful humans beings are still human beings. That means they experience the same temptations, doubts, frustrations, and ambitions that their electorate experiences. If you want to understand the most powerful, influential people in the world, the best way to start is to try to understand the people working in the cubicle across from you, or sitting in the pew behind you, or taking notes on the other side of the classroom.

Every adult understands intuitively the difference between the wrong kind of person and a person who is just wrong. We practice this intuition every day on spouses, coworkers, children, law enforcement, etc. How many parents have pled for understanding from exasperated teachers with the words, “They’re not a bad kid”? Or how many of us have tried to get out of the speeding ticket by insisting that we had no idea the change in zone limit, or the speedometer has been messing up? Nobody in the right mind says, “You have to understand, my child is just an especially wicked and stubborn kid,” or, “Honestly, officer, I love speeding and breaking the law. Can’t you empathize with my loves?” In the contexts that come to us every day, we practice the difference between the wrong motivation and the wrong application.

What bewilders me about this election is the amount of people I’m running into who willingly concede that their candidate of choice may be the wrong kind of person. There’s a maddening air of willing indifference when it comes to motivations and basic moral orientation. And these same people are likely thrashing another politician, on the other side of the aisle, for being “anti-American” or “unpatriotic” in their policies or worldview. It’s almost as if there’s a huge group of voters in my social sphere who think the wrong kind of president is better than a wrong president.

But surely this is asinine. It’s a delusion that can only be maintained by divorcing entirely a person from their actions. If a candidate who seeks office consistently demonstrates morally contemptible behavior, a self-seeking narcissism, dishonesty, cruelty and manipulation, how is it at all possible that his or her leadership will not reflect that? How is it possible to be the wrong kind of person but the right kind of leader?

Surely this is not the logic we would apply to even our babysitters. It’s one thing for a sitter to cluelessly give the children sugary sweets right before bedtime. That’s a mistake, but it’s a mistake that can be cured through correction. But it’s another thing entirely for a sitter to plop down on the sofa, immerse herself in her phone, and let the children do whatever they want so long as she does nothing she finds inconvenient. The first babysitter needs instruction and perhaps some common sense. The second babysitter needs a moral intervention.

Parents get this distinction. Why don’t voters? Why are so many people in my Facebook feed convinced that character is negotiable if we’re talking about getting the job done? Why are so many evangelicals farming out their convictions about integrity for the sake of keeping the score between Left and Right even? When did we convince ourselves that the wrong kind of person can be the right kind of president?

A president with bad beliefs is a dangerous thing. But a bad person is even worse than bad beliefs. If this is true on Monday morning in the office, or on Saturday night during date night, it’s so much more true in November.

By Samuel D. James

Believer, husband, father, acquisitions editor, writer.

2 replies on “The Worst President Ever”

So, what does you suggest, specifically, I wonder? I didn’t see many specifics for the problem or solution, considering the real choices we now face politically. Unfortunately, we didn’t get better candidates after the primaries, but here we are. So what now? It seems like people are trying to make honest, real choices with the real candidates before us now. The 3rd candidates (despite all the commotion) are no better when you put them under the same microscope. Not voting is not an option for a Christian. Of the two candidates who are really in this race, one openly wants to destroy America and create further poverty and persecution for Christians here and abroad, as well as make the final steps towards tyranny. The other one wants us to back away (at least a few steps) from that cliff. Again, specifically, what do you think we should do? Which of these two candidates should we choose? Yes, all of us have to make a choice between these two. Don’t deflect the question with other candidates, that makes people feel good but is not an honest answer in Realville, where we are expected by God to work. It is going to be one of these two. One way or another we will make a choice between these two, even if we use our vote another way. Denying this is not smart nor loving. We are called to use our brains to make wise decisions in the situations we are in and to love those who are not Christians. That means working with them in our day to day lives, and even support them when they are the only candidates who are saying that they will hold us back from totally taking the plunge. We are to seek the good of our nation and for our people, not its destruction. Fortunately, we are also not only voting for one person, but for the many fine Christian leaders who will be able to serve if the candidate who doesn’t want to destroy us wins. We are called to work with non-Christians in this world in business, in our communities, and even in the government, while always pointing to Christ. We are called to be in this world, although not of this world. Both Peter and Paul say that we are to submit to governing authorities, which at that time were all pagans. This command does not mean that we obey laws that go against what our Highest King commands, but it does mean that we are called to work within the imperfect systems in which we live, while always pointing to Christ. Most of the Christians you mentioned are probably working out how to do this with the very real choices facing us today.


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