Election 2012: We Are All Victims Now, Mr. President

Election 2012: We Are All Victims Now, Mr. President November 8, 2012

C.S. Lewis said in his famous sermon “The Weight of Glory” that if he were to ask twenty Christian leaders in his day what was the chief virtue, nineteen of them would answer Selflessness. Lewis argued that previous centuries of Christians would have answered instead with Love as the noblest of virtues. He was right in assessing his generation.

But the 2012 Presidential election this week leads me to think that most Americans today would answer that question differently yet again. I suspect most Americans would cite not Love or even Selflessness as the chief virtue today, but Fairness. And it was that quest for fairness that moved many of them to pull the lever for Barack Obama as their way of saying in solidarity with him, “We are all victims now, Mr. President.”

Give that Man a Mulligan! Or two…

Fairness demands that we come to the aid of victims. It pulls us to do all we can, even sacrifice greatly if necessary, to level the playing field for the poor guy who had it so rough that he just couldn’t succeed. It’s ironic really, that President Obama chose to play the victim, to appear weak in order to maintain his hold on what is arguably the strongest leadership position in the world. But apparently sympathy works in the new American paradigm.

President Obama didn’t even seem to try to run on any record of accomplishment. He didn’t pretend to have been a successful President. Instead we heard an endless list of reasons why he needed more time to do what he had failed to do in his first term, although he never did get clear on what exactly it was he would be doing. If we had a dollar for every time we heard Bush blamed, there would be no more national debt.

We heard Morgan Freeman tell us in melodramatic tones that “never before” has a President faced such challenges (What rubbish!). We heard Bill Clinton even claim (as if he actually believed it) that even he could not have solved the problems Bush left for poor Barack. Barack himself blamed the Republicans for obstructing his hopes — when the Democrats had super-majorities in both houses for two years. And he refused to work with them at all for the other two.

But the electorate seems to have bought the victim argument. That’s part of what I meant in my previous post when I said that America has been fundamentally transformed. There was a time not so long ago in this country when such a candidate would have been thrown out in a landslide.

And Romney? Well, he seemed anything but a victim. In fact, I’d call him the anti-type of the victim mentality. He’s a guy who started from scratch and succeeded. It used to be that America saw that as good thing. Not anymore apparently. Instead, comparing the two seemed to stir a passion for fairness somewhere deep within many Americans. It seemed to awaken a moral need to level the playing field.

Tales from the Gym

We see this rush to embrace victim-hood throughout our culture, but consider a familiar scenario from your local gym. Imagine visiting your local middle school to watch two teams play. One team has invested countless hours of intense practice for many years to become exceptionally good at what they do. The other team, not so much. They claim lack of funds and lack of talent. They’re out of shape. They don’t practice often. They don’t know the difference between a 2-3 zone and man-to-man. And they can’t make a free throw.

The game begins. Each team plays to the best of their ability. But soon the score is lopsided in favor of the team that worked hard to get really good. Anyone who has watched sports at that level knows what happens next. The officials start calling more fouls on the good team. They start looking the other way when the good team gets clobbered or when the not-so-good team travels. And the fans erupt in boos when the better team plays basic defense or dares to drive the open lane and lay the ball into the hoop. Before you know it, the players who worked hard to excel are made to feel like losers while the lazy and inept team is cheered as champion of the moral high ground.

That’s what happens when fairness becomes the chief virtue. That’s what happens all across this country in school gyms all the time. Been there, done that as an athletic director and school principal many times. I’ve even dared to confront those officials who consider themselves demi-gods. And got nowhere.

This embracing of fairness as the highest virtue seems to be part of what happened in this past Presidential election. One team whined. One team claimed victim status. One team said it wasn’t their fault that they couldn’t make lay-ups. The guy who was in the gym before them didn’t play that well. Bad karma. Or something.

And it worked. Don’t expect the blame Bush mantra to go away. Whatever gets rewarded usually does get repeated.

But Is It Biblical?

This victim approach is often imitated and applauded in Christian circles. But is it Biblical? I think not.

As a boy, the first character trait that was drilled into me was “Learn to Blame Yourself.” You might have thought Eden would have taught us that lesson.

Jesus addressed a similar scenario when he told the parable of the talents. Different people got different amounts — funny how He didn’t see the need to redistribute it evenly. When the one servant failed to act responsibly with his talents, Jesus didn’t take from the servant who had more and give it to the servant who had failed. I can’t seem to find the part where He says, “I think that when we spread the talents around….”

Instead, He took the talent from the servant who’d failed and gave it to the one who’d demonstrated he would diligently steward the resources. If it had been a basketball game, Jesus would have kicked the lazy team out of the gym and given their gym time to the hard-working team.

Don’t get me wrong. There are true victims. Jesus ministered to them all the time. Widows. Orphans. Those who were ill. Those enslaved by sin. But he had little patience for those who had every opportunity to take responsibility but failed to do so. In fact, He said that to whom much is given, much will be required.

President Obama was given much. The American electorate, however, didn’t require much of him. All in the name of Fairness. This is only part of what I meant yesterday when I said it’s the end of America as we have known it.

We’ve tended to love our country enough to fire leaders who failed to do what we elected them to do. But when love is replaced by fairness as the chief American virtue, well, maybe we can just let the poor guy keep doing what he’s doing until he gets a trophy — or until the lights go out — whichever comes first.

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  • Loren Haas

    I encourage you to just keep on thinking this way. Your self delusions about victimhood will get you nowhere except on a train back to an imaginary glorious past. Good Luck with that!

    • That was helpful. Will I be a victim of my dillusions then?

      Sorry. Thanks for taking the time to read.

      • Judy

        Just pray for them, that’s all we can do. I thought you were Great!!! Thanks and keep up the good work.

  • Jennifer

    I think it’s more “equality” than “fairness” that people would cite. Women are no longer wanting to be seen as “less than” men. Men and women of various ethnic and economic backgrounds are no longer willing to consider themselves less, either.

  • DanH

    Please tell me where in the Bible when my Lord walked in the flesh that he told anyone to pass secular laws to enforce his teachings.My Lord changed the world with his Word not with laws.Christians continue to judge others and try to pass laws to force them to conform to their view of the Bible.This country is made up of many religions and many cultures Christians a only a voice in the choir that is America they are not a solo act.Preach my Lord’s Word teach my Lord’s Word but you cannot by force of law or force of arms convert someone to the Lord.Right now Christians are planting thorns by bringing hatred against people rather than bringing love and sowing the seeds of truth.Leave the judgement to the Lord as he says.

    • Dan, There is more to God’s revelation in Scripture than simply the brief time that He became man and walked the earth for a very specific purpose. We must consider the whole of Scripture when learning to think God’s thoughts after Him. It is all given by inspiratin of God and is profitable….for instruction.

      And it was Jesus himself that commanded us to judge people by their fruit — but to do it with wisdom and humility.

      • Jennifer

        My Grandparents (American citizens) thought that the hippy days were the end of America as they knew it…. While I agree with you that President Obama’s election signals an increasing shift in our beliefs as a country (countries), I don’t think that it is at all reasonable for you to lay down the blame on one man or to imply that this destruction has taken place over the four short years he’s been in office. Your words paint him a communist villain set on the destruction of American values . You also, apparently, agree with Mitt Romney’s 47% mentality by dismissing people as whiney victims. You would really not approve of Canadians. This makes me sad, Bill.

        I agree that as a country we are moving away from the God as Master/People as his obedient servants mentality. I disagree that the majority of American’s feel like victims deserving of everything without work. I think the real reason that a change is taking place is that people are moving away from selfishness and are starting to see other people as, well, people: It doesn’t matter if someone has black skin – they’re human just like I am. It doesn’t matter that this child’s Mom doesn’t have a lot of money – she’s human just like I am. And when we start thinking like this – when we start breaking down the walls that separate us – we start doing unto others as we would have them do to us. It’s not based on a feeling of victimhood, it’s based on a belief in humanity. Maybe there are some biblical reasons that this is not a good plan (you’ve mentioned many in your Obamacare series), but most of us are not religious scholars.

        • Thanks, Jen. So can you explain to me how a vote for Obama was a vote to “move away from selfishness.” And apparently how a vote for Romney would be a vote to NOT see people as people? Especially when the Obama campaign was one of the most divisive in terms of identity politics.

          Genuine question.

          • Jennifer

            I wasn’t actually arguing for an Obama vote, Bill. I was arguing against your claim that a victim mentality is to blame for the paradigm changes in America. I think that this change has been taking place over the past few decades and not just during the last four years.

          • I agree the shift has taken place over time, both here and in Canada. Nor am I fixing all the blame or lack thereof on that one thing. But the entitlement thinking is an idea that can prove disastrous. I think Europe is setting a fine example for us there.

          • Jennifer

            How much of a role do you think the age of instant everything is playing? My husband, who is in the field of psychology, has noticed that a large number of University students are coming to his practice with adult onset ADHD. This is a relatively new phenomena and it is theorized by some that much of this may be caused by the instant nature of so much young people do (ie. the web, text messaging).

          • Don’t know although this election seemed to sway based on events as they unfolded more than others. Not sure what to make of that yet.

    • momhusfam

      Hi Dan,

      What should we base our laws on then? What you think is right? What I think is right? What the majority thinks is right? What if that keeps changing? This is why we have a Constitutional form of government instead of a pure democracy.

      One of the founding fathers (can’t remember which one) when asked what form of government the Constitutional Convention had decided on, replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” I think we just lost it.

  • Rick Middleton

    The blog follows a pattern that is familiar to talk radio, Fox News, and the kind of lousy essays that flourish on the Internet:

    1. Mis-represent your opponent’s stance
    2. Heap harsh criticism on that mis-stated stance
    3. Show that your stance is soooo much better than the opponents you have demonized and mis-characterized

    It’s bad rhetoric, bad debate form, bad Christianity. Your post is basically calling 50%+ of America stupid for voting for one of two political parties. You don’t understand the stance of an Obama voter, so you ridicule it. You don’t seek understanding at all. Sad that evangelicalism is like this so much of the time.

    • By all means, Rick, please explain what specific things Obama proposed that drew people to support him. I am genuinely interested in learning them.


      • Rick Middleton

        Obama started campaigning in 2007, and countless articles have been written about him. He’s already completed one term as president of the United States. He’s been exhaustively scrutinized by critics and supporters alike. If you think I have some sort of information about him that isn’t thoroughly covered elsewhere, you’d be mistaken. There are a lot of people who vote Democrat (over 50 percent of your fellow citizens, apparently!), so maybe google the topic and find out why. Happy researching.

        • momhusfam

          Rick, I’d be interested in knowing why you support him.

  • I rofled when I read this part about Romney: “He’s a guy who started from scratch and succeeded.”

    I agree with Rick…your screed here against Obama is so simplistic that I have to wonder if you paid attention to Obama’s campaign at all. For example, Obama claimed that more private-sector jobs were being created and that jobs were being added to the economy (unlike when he first took office), that the stock market had improved, that bin Laden was dead and al-Qaeda was weakened, that the war in Iraq was over and the war in Afghanistan was soon to be over, that insurance companies could no longer deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, that the auto industry was back, and on and on.

    Now, you might disagree with Obama’s portrayal of those things (and rightfully so, in some cases). But, Obama most certainly did not campaign on some sort of “pity” or “victimhood” vote. He backed up his campaign with specific (albeit, of course, arguable) claims to positive achievements.

    • You are correct. I disagree with most of those claims that he made. But what did he say he would do that would merit re-election excpt to keep the status quo? I’d honestly want to know what Obama supprters expect him to do now, specific agenda items. And yes, I lost track of how many times he blamed Bush and Republiccans for the problems that were worse than he realized.

  • Steve Ruble

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created *equal*, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish *Justice*, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and *justice* for all.”

    Could you explain again how fairness isn’t a historical American value?

    • You are assuming that fairness today has the same meaning as equal and justice then, I assume?

      • Steve Ruble

        No, I’m assuming that when you say “fairness” you think it means just what you choose it to mean — neither more nor less. I’m just pointing out that Americans of the past (and present, the Pledge of Allegiance is still recited) thought that justice and equality were pretty important. Of course, no one can stop you from claiming that “justice” has nothing to do with “fairness”, but I think you’ll end up looking a little silly.

        I just realized what has been bugging me about your parable of the basketball teams. I get a strong sense that you intend for your readers to find the behavior of the refs and the fans – treating the dedicated and skilled team badly while praising the lazy and unskilled team – to be objectionable. But on what grounds could anyone object to that behavior? Why shouldn’t the refs and the fans treat the teams however they want to? Why should we have a problem with that?

        Oh, I know. It’s because it would be unfair. Oops. Maybe fairness is a worthwhile value after all, huh?

        • Jennifer

          I watched a YouTube video a few weeks back about a football team in Texas. This team was comprised of youth from a correctional facility. All of their games were “away” games. No one ever cheered for them. It is my feeling that many of those who lean far right would say, well, “good – they don’t deserve it”. And they probably don’t. I am under no illusions that these are nice kids. I would probably run screaming in the opposite direction if I met one in a dark alley.
          However… The coach of one of the teams they were to play thought that this was a shame. He sent out requests to his fans that at least half of the stadium cheered for the “bad” kids. And his fans responded. They dressed in the teams colours, they cheered when they scored, they even had cheerleaders 🙂 It was the interviews with the kids afterwards that got to me. They were stunned by the love that they had been shown. Some of them claimed that this would stay with them forever and that this had changed their lives. Maybe this one experience will change some of these kids and maybe it won’t. But sometimes a totally undeserved act of kindness or love can change someone’s life. I disagree with the belief that it is always a bad thing to give to someone who doesn’t deserve it. (I also entirely disagree with the implication that everyone looking for help is a unable or unable to work for it)

          • Jennifer

            I would like to edit my comment to take out the implication that those on the “far right” are uncaring individuals. It was pointed out to me – quite correctly – that this comment shows my ignorance about the feelings and beliefs of a seizable group of people. One of the reasons I am reading Bill’s posts is that I feel that learning goes faster when you are out of your comfort zone. My apologies to anyone I may have offended with my comment. It was not a helpful one.

  • House

    I´m not certain is what an issue of “fairness”, or that the President played “victim”, that got President Obama re-elected, but simply that more people believed that he was a better candidate than Mitt Romney. Also … don´t quote one section of Scripture (the Parable of the Talents as an example) to justify your viewpoint — try to see the Scripture in its fullest context. There is much in the Bible about economic fairness (see Old Testament — Year of Jubilee) which you left out of your somewhat one-sided arguement. Finally … there are some (if not a lot) of evangelicals who believe that with the exception of abortion and issues surrounding same sex marriage, democrats (overall) emulate biblical and kingdom values more than that of their Republican counterparts. Republicans are by and large for the rich and for war — not for the poor and those on the bottom of the ladder. They scream “PRO-LIFE!” while supporting the death penalty and sending young men and women to die in unpopular wars — how is this consistent? Believers need to start becoming aware of how to evaluate all policy platforms of those running for public office — not simply voting yes or no on one issue. The system is simply much more complex than that. What party (or person) MOST represents kingdom values overall?? That is the question.

    • House

      I just wanted to add that my whole point for posting was to highlight the fact that there are those who consider themselves evangelical, but who also see real problems with the Republican party. I for one am a born again believer in Jesus Christ, but could not vote for Romney nor support the Republicans.

  • T

    This was an unfortunate post. To boil an election or even a presidency and all the issues involved to “he played the victim, so people supported him” is sad because it simultaneously insults the president, all who voted for him, and–the best part–is that it’s done in the name of Christ.

    A more likely reality is that the rhetoric of the GOP has been so insulting to so many (hispanics, the “47%”, etc.) and increasingly extreme that many people were simply unwilling to trust them with more power, especially when their priority seemed to be to protect the incomes of those with the most. Regardless of why the author of this post is a Republican, he does Christ a disservice by the whole argument that portrays both the president and all who voted for him as intellectually and morally bankrupt, only thinking of the president’s so-called victimhood. This is the kind of thinking and insulting behavior that has made me less and less happy to be a republican, and sad for how faith in Christ gets overridden by political motivations. Very poorly done.

    • Thanks for your frank input. I did not cite this as the sole reason for his re-election. Simply as a reason. Feel free to offer three specific reasons agenda items that Obama offered that you think really resonated with the country.

      • House

        I think I can offer something here. Three items that resonated with the country (at least the part of the country that supports Obama)?:
        1. Healthcare
        2. Energy
        3. Taxes
        There are of course more items, but you only asked for three.

  • T

    As I’m sure you agree, no candidate’s positions or direction are considered in a vacuum or against an ideal, but against the opposing candidate and/or party. To some extent, the incumbent is always running based on the status quo, particularly his or her status quo policies, not in a vacuum, but compared to the policies of the alternative candidate/party. That said, I think there are a few policies that Obama ran on that resonated with the electorate much more than the Republican alternatives, and they are well known:
    1. Spending. All candidates recognize the need for cuts. Romney wanted to increase military spending, and decrease almost all others. Obama has proposed cuts to defense as well as other areas, with more reluctance to cut spending that directly effects the most vulnerable.
    2. Immigration. Obama proposed the Dream Act, and implemented something similar by executive order. Republicans killed the Dream Act in Congress and showed strong opposition to any change in the laws other than more strict and aggressive enforcement that would likely effect both citizen and illegal Hispanics. Even though Hispanics would have wanted Obama to get the Dream Act done when he had majorities in Congress, there was no comparison b/n him and the GOP, and even the highest levels of the GOP are now looking to rectify this going forward.
    3. Taxes. In light of our deficit and debt, Obama has argued that we need to raise taxes, but limited to those who are most able to afford it during this recession. Further, the existing tax rules that allow someone like Warren Buffet to pay a lower rate of tax than his secretary is a luxury that we can no longer afford. Further, it hurts national morale to deal with the difficult cuts and taxes that are coming if we think that the super rich still get their sweet deal. Romney, by contrast, was saying he wanted to cut everyone’s taxes by 20%, and somehow have it paid for by “closing loopholes” in the code. People didn’t buy it (neither did the vast majority of economists). I’m a tax lawyer and I thought that proposal was outright ridiculous. The only “loophole” that is nearly significant enough to offset that kind of reduction is the mortgage interest deduction, which helps the lower and middle class far more than the wealthy. He had to assume a huge amount of economic growth to make up the difference, which depends significantly on global economic conditions way beyond his control.
    So there are 3 policy differences that the electorate heard loud and clear IMO. But unfortunately, you have decided, similar to Romney’s unfortunate and inaccurate characterizations of 47% of the citizenry, to ironically say that Romney lost not because of his own party’s positions, but because of the president’s and his supporters victim-motives and sympathies. Who is playing the victim now?
    Finally, one question that deserves to be asked: what if the aggressive de-regulation of Wall Street did play a role in the banking collapse? Or, what if the Bush tax cuts did contribute to the deficit? Or, what if neither party was more to blame for the recession, but the depth and global nature of it would have made a quick recovery impossible for any president? These are all factual questions, any one of which could be answered in such a way to make the GOP less attractive, not because of any victim-mentality, but because of basic understanding of what policies will be best going forward. But rather than deal with how people understand what’s happened in the last several years and work for greater understanding on both sides, you just bad-mouthed people’s motives who didn’t vote like you. They didn’t disagree with you because there were rational or even moral reasons like you had, but because they’re unbiblical in their motives and thoughts. This was simply not a wise, charitable or even helpful post.

    • House

      Thanks T. Nice post. I have no idea where some evangelicals come off accusing those who didn´t vote for Romney and Co. (especially fellow Christians) as being unbiblical. Isn´t it possible that Christians who did in fact vote for Obama saw some (if not most) of his policies as being more in line with biblical values than that of Romney´s policies? Couldn´t these voters be equally as dedicated to Christ (and the Bible), but simply came to a different conclusion in this matter? Is the Bible truly pro-war, pro-capitalism, pro-materialism and pro-consumption that drives capitalism, pro-guns, anti-environmental protection, anti-consumer protection, anti-regulation, etc.? How is it that the conservative right wants less government except in the area of legislating morality — a place where it wants more governmental control? Ah … I´ll stop there.