Donald Trump won the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, while Bernie Sanders narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in Nevada after being behind by twenty-five points just a few weeks ago. A recent Fox News poll put Sanders in the lead nationally. Jeb Bush withdrew from the race, an outcome no one would have predicted a few months ago.
This year’s presidential nominating process has been nothing like anything we’ve seen in decades. Why?
The Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan believes that “we’re in the midst of a rebellion.” She cites “the general decline of America’s faith in its institutions” and notes that “we feel less respect for almost all of them—the church the professions, the presidency, the Supreme Court.”
According to Noonan, those who support Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders are thinking, “Let’s take a chance. Washington is incapable of reform or progress; it’s time to reach outside.” They think Washington “will moderate Bernie, take the edges off Trump” and therefore “don’t see their choices as so radical.”
There is strong evidence to support Noonan’s view.
In 1958, three-fourths of Americans said they trusted the federal government to do the right thing always or most of the time. Today, only twenty-six percent of Democrats and nineteen percent of Republicans feel the same way.
According to a CNN exit poll, fifty-three percent of Republicans voting in last Saturday’s South Carolina primary said they feel betrayed by the GOP. In a recent Gallup poll, the issue identified as America’s top problem was “dissatisfaction with the government.”
Politics are downstream from culture. Since 1958 we’ve lived through the Vietnam War, Watergate, ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and multiple economic crises. “Occupy Wall Street” and “Black Lives Matter” are expressions of continuing civil unrest.
It’s also noteworthy that since 1958, the number of non-religious Americans has grown from 3.5 million to fifty million. Legalized abortion has taken nearly fifty-nine million lives in the U.S.; Internet pornography is epidemic; same-sex marriage is now legal.
Would you say our culture is closer to God than we were fifty-seven years ago, or further from him?
John Adams warned us in 1798: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Here’s the good news: While Americans may have given up on God, God has not given up on us. We can still pray with David, “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:14–15).
In whose hand are your times today?