Donald Trump is a “faker,” according to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She told CNN that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee “has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego.” Justice Ginsburg told The New York Times, “I can’t imagine what the country would be with Donald Trump as our president.”
Not surprisingly, several Republican leaders disagreed with her actions, according to this morning’s CNN report. However, Bernie Sanders agreed with the justice. Several other Democratic leaders sided with her as well.
Welcome to the 2016 presidential election. It’s four days until the Republican National Convention begins, eleven days until the Democratic National Convention meets, and 116 days to the fall election. So far we’ve had violence at campaign rallies, vitriolic name-calling, and now controversy involving a Supreme Court justice. What will we witness in the weeks to come?
Most likely, we will see more of what we have always seen.
The 1800 election pitted John Adams against Thomas Jefferson. A Jefferson surrogate labeled Adams a “repulsive pedant” and “gross hypocrite” who “behaved neither like a man nor like a woman but instead possessed a hideous hermaphroditical character.” An Adams surrogate warned that electing Jefferson would create a nation where “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”
Stephen Douglas claimed that Abraham Lincoln was a drunk who could “ruin more liquor than all the boys in town together.” (Actually, Douglas was a heavy drinker while Lincoln abstained from alcohol.) Lyndon B. Johnson ran an ad against Barry Goldwater claiming that the latter would bring about nuclear destruction, killing America’s children.
Politicians wage negative campaigns because they work. Years ago a friend explained to me the three steps to getting elected: (1) convince people they have a problem; (2) convince them they can’t solve their problem; (3) convince them I can solve their problem if they’ll vote for me. If I can make you believe that the other candidate is the problem, so much the better.
The first two steps are actually biblical. God’s word warns us that we have a problem we cannot solve: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death . . .” (Romans 6:23a). Sinners cannot solve their sin problem any more than a drowning man can save a drowning man.
The third step makes all the difference. Only God can solve our problem: “. . . but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 23b). This “free gift” is the solution to our greatest need. Without eternal life in Christ, we can try to manage the symptoms of our fallen condition but we can never change their source. Our politics will be negative and divisive because they reflect our negative and divisive culture.
So expect political rhetoric to get even more antagonistic and apocalyptic in coming weeks. But don’t despair: the true Supreme Court is not occupied by mortals. The true leader of our world is not a president but a King. In a time of despair, people are drawn to hope. And as Paul says, “since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Corinthians 3:12).
Will you be bold for Jesus today?