Pundits have been stumped to explain satisfactorily why the American vote went as it did on November 6. With a sluggish economy and high unemployment, we also have more than $16 trillion in aggregate national debt, 60 percent of which has been added in the last three and a half years. It is worth taking a moment to realize exactly what has happened since 2009: the political and fiscal accountability of the budget process has been lost, and at the same time, spending soared so dramatically that we accumulated 60 percent of all the net debt America has racked up since 1789.
Yet Americans reelected the president and Congress that have presided over this development. I can't account for the voters' 2012 decision by considering anything that has happened in the past two years. In 2010, the voters, citing their concerns about ObamaCare and overspending, transferred the House of Representatives resoundingly from the Democrats to the Republicans, and left the Democrats with a very narrow lead in the Senate. Yet two years after the congressional shift of 2010, President Obama has been reelected by a comfortable margin—even though federal spending has continued to spiral, and elements of the ObamaCare legislation are already adversely affecting economic decisions across America.
The turnout in the 2012 vote is down from 2008; although we won't know the final vote tally for several days, it is on track to lag the 2008 tally as a percentage of the voting-age population. Enthusiasm seems to have been down for both candidates. Equally significant is that the 2012 vote doesn't jibe with other political watersheds like the Republican victory in the 2010 Senate race in Massachusetts, and the series of "recall politics" votes in Wisconsin, in terms of what voters have been doing about their concerns. I don't think the 2012 outcome is ultimately understandable through the trends we all vaguely believe to be in play.
(Nor, I stress, do I think that the vote was riven with fraud. Reports of questionable activities at polling stations weren't widespread enough to have affected voting totals comprehensively. Virtually all of the votes counted for both candidates are no doubt legitimate.)
I suspect the answer lies elsewhere. I had a strong sense after the 2008 election that God did not intend for His people to find their answers—their reliance, their peace—in political outcomes. Indeed, the same can be said of 2010 and 2012, if the outcomes are considered in light of the U.S. Constitution. Neither political party has the majorities it needs to implement its agenda by legitimate means. America is politically stymied, and God is letting us remain that way.
This should be a signal to Christians to focus on God and His work. That doesn't mean giving up on politics. But it does mean remembering that God is bigger and more powerful than politics and government. He's even bigger than the results of our elections. And that has real consequences.
Steve Elliott of Grassfire Nation published a letter on November 7 in which he likened the polling outcome for conservatives to the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon in the 6th century B.C. He points out that, according to Jeremiah, God's plan for the Jewish exile was characterized in the well-known words of Jeremiah 29:11-13:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (NIV)
Elliott observes that God told the Jewish exiles not only to settle down and grow food and marry and multiply their numbers, but to seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which they were exiled—for if the city prospered, the Jews would too (Jer. 29:5-8).
Are conservative Americans in exile in our land? I'm not sure this simile fully applies, but perhaps it does point to an attitude of the heart we should cultivate. I believe first of all that God is, in fact, bigger than the U.S. tax code. He will bless whom He will bless. God sends people economic and financial opportunities all the time; if He sends them to His people in a time of punitive, discouraging taxation and regulation, will He not guard and keep the outcome? Suppose—just suppose—that He can prosper any of us who will ask Him, no matter how anti-prosperity the political environment is. God cannot be taxed. Will He not restore to His people whatever is taken away from them?
America's unique character derives from the early settlers who had been oppressed and effectively exiled by their own people for their religious beliefs. They fled to the "New World" to get away from the oppressive organization of the old. As hard as they worked and as much as they endured, these Christians attributed the food on their tables, and every new penny added to their prosperity, to the providence of God.