And in my opinion, the Pied Piper of this election was the delicious illusion of experience, as the special something that would make Hillary Clinton desirable in America’s eyes.
Yes, I do know Hillary is more than two million votes ahead and still counting. But we all know that many, many of those votes were cast to keep that Other Piper from winning, and we all know the rust belt voters were particularly unimpressed by it. And that one of true things Trump kept saying to them was, why would they want to continue the experience of leadership that had led them into the mess they are in?
And it isn’t only Hillary who has fallen into this delusion, that experience could be a shining beacon. Think of all the other times we can collectively remember, when a candidate running on experience lost badly:
Obama, a newly elected and pretty much unknown Senator, ran against the vastly experienced McCain. And won. Then he ran against Romney, who boasted of his experience as Governor, as Chair of the Olympics, as successful businessman. And Obama won.
George W. Bush ran against Al Gore, and again, experience lost the battle.
Bill Clinton, the Bubba from Arkansas, ran against George H.W. Bush, a sitting President, former CIA director, with a long record of experience in foreign affairs. And Bubba won, thanks in part to Ross Perot, another outsider who won a lot of votes.
Before that it was Reagan, who beat a sitting President, Jimmy Carter, with hardly any experience but a lot of charm. And then he beat Walter Mondale, touted as the most experienced candidate ever. And in my opinion, the dullest and most boring. Needless to say, Reagan won.
Kennedy beat Nixon, who ran on his experience and lost, and later won when he had been out of office for two terms, and the country was in revolt against an unpopular war, all of which worked against the experienced Hubert Humphrey. Before Kennedy it was Ike, never ever elected, who handily beat a multi-term Governor known as the Egghead, Adlai Stevenson.
My point is, experience looks like an elixir but the American public considers it a foul-tasting brew, and invariably spits it out. Wouldn’t you think both parties would have figured this out by now? Wouldn’t you think the strategists who drink that Kool Aid would be considered demonically possessed?
Alas for all of us, this delusion has once again led to a disastrous fall, one that has left us in the hands of an incompetent incoming POTUS who knew that old canard was easily beaten. Though he certainly threw out a lot of tempting canards, and reeled a lot of folks in with them. Or, were they just vomiting out the whole idea of political experience as a value in a leader they hoped would help them, when so many leaders, in their view, had failed them?
It’s Advent. And once again Christians are remembering the story of salvation being sent into the world as a completely inexperienced human being – a newborn child. That God’s own wisdom was: the world, in its awful mess, needs a baby now.
The Baby is set up from the day of his mother’s conception, as an antidote to the great governmental experience of the Roman Empire, and the specific governmental experience of Herod the King. Later, when grown, he will stand before the shrewdly experienced Governor, Pontius Pilate, who will try to find a way to win him over, and fail. In silence, he won the argument. And in death, he won the hearts of the world.
It seems that God knows we are not able to follow someone who says they know more than we do. We are looking for, and will follow, someone who shared our humanity, make mistakes, and calls out our hope for a world in which we can rise together, rather than for a world they will manage on our behalf.
And that’s what Ike, and JFK, Reagan and Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all knew when rose, like Knights of the Round Table, to lead us. We’re looking for someone vulnerable, someone who loves walking among us, as Jesus, who gave his disciples nicknames like the Rock, and Sons of Thunder, and even Magdalene, a nickname meaning The Tower, certainly did.
Experience is an asset that needs to be kept under wraps, a sheathed sword, not a brandished one. And wasn’t The Child of Bethlehem that sheathed sword?
O there are those dull theologians who insist he really did know everything even before he was born, but that is not what people felt, or cared about, when he walked through their world. And it may be hogwash, you know?
What isn’t hogwash is the way they felt about him, how he was one of them even when they weren’t like him. Maybe that’s why we are all advised, before picking a surgeon or a lawyer, not just to read about their experience, but to meet them, and get a sense of whether we like them or not.
Whether woman or man, the candidate needs to be someone we trust to lead us from the old years into new ones. And something of the Child needs to shine through them – Bubba’s burgers, W’s mangled words, Obama’s youthful Yes We Can, will win our hearts every time.
Image: Pied Piper of Hamlen. 1592 painting of glass window in the Marketkirche of Hamlen. Wikipedia Image.