Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won last night’s New Hampshire primaries. What do their victories mean for the rest of us?
The winner of New Hampshire’s primary doesn’t always wins the nomination. Since 1952, primary voters have elected the eventual Democratic Party nominee only five out of ten times (excluding incumbents). New Hampshire voters have elected the eventual Republican nominee seven out of ten times (excluding incumbents).
The New Hampshire primary has often been more significant for those who lose than those who win. After President Truman lost New Hampshire in 1952, he dropped out of the race. When President Johnson barely won the primary in 1968, he withdrew as well.
Last night’s results are important politically, but I think they’re even more important culturally.
A foreign reporter experiencing his first American political season went to New Hampshire, where he found a “dark and defensive America.” He asked, “Where was all that sunny optimism—the Apollo missions and Ronald Reagan’s ‘shining city upon a hill’—that made the United States the world’s role model? I didn’t see much of it. In its place were angry candidates playing to even angrier supporters.”
Such anger is understandable. According to Gallup, Americans consider our top three problems to be terrorism, the government, and the economy. Our fear of terrorism is higher than at any time since 9/11. Just nineteen percent of us trust the federal government to do what is right always or most of the time. Only thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults say the economy is “getting better,” while fifty-eight percent say it is “getting worse.”
It’s no surprise that two candidates widely perceived as political reformers won the nation’s first primary. Whether Trump or Sanders will win their party’s nomination is uncertain, but the anger their supporters feel is real.
Jesus cares about that anger. He cares when our enemies attack us, our leaders fail us, or our economy worries us. He offers us security, integrity, and compassion no candidate can match. And he sends us into our broken culture to give others what he gives us.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Millions of Christians will wear crosses traced on their foreheads, reminders of Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. But long after the ash crosses fade, the truth of the cross remains. Jesus would do it all again, just for you.
And for the next person you meet.