Ever since the government shutdown, Democrats and their media outlets have gloated over an apparent division in the Republican Party. Like a well-rehearsed choir, they gleefully sang their chorus about the tea party vs. the rest of Republicans.
Then came Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom the far left desires as a challenger to the presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. Fearful that Clinton could move toward the middle during the primary, more radical liberals want a challenge from the far left.
The emergence of the Warren factor made conversations and reporting among Democrats anything from awkward to dismissive. But as the Affordable Care Act unraveled, awkwardness became a new normal for the Party faithful. Listening to Democrats try to defend the president’s health care debacle has been painful.
I am not talking about the delusional side led by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Far more intelligent liberals have looked painfully uncomfortable trying to offer a positive spin or just trying to change the subject to “those terrible, horrible Republicans.” It’s been embarrassing to our country.
Awkwardness, however, reached a new level when the president himself offered a quasi-apology and assured Americans that he would tweak the federal law to make it work better. Did he plan to run it through the required legal process before changing it? He didn’t present it that way.
But even if the president does act unilaterally regarding the law, he can’t talk his way out of the national mess of the Affordable Care Act. This time, style won’t trump substance. Instead of insuring the uninsured, Obamacare is causing millions to lose their insurance. Despite broken promises and a website failure, the ACA is actually positioned to fine those who lost their insurance. How did we get into this mess?
Barack Obama won the office of president as an eloquent speaker who made an easy contrast of style with former President George W. Bush. Obama clearly came to office on style over substance. (He simply didn’t have enough experience to offer substance.) Yet he can’t be completely blamed because voters evidently wanted it this way.
President Obama has operated on style over substance all the way from election to re-election. Like the contrast with Bush, neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney, the Republicans who challenged Obama and lost, offered much of a challenge. They got “out-styled.”
Now enter N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, and watch how the left becomes nervous. Here is a man who has his own style, and after years of the conceal-and-deal, smoke-and-mirrors of an Obama administration, Christie’s no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is approach might appeal to Americans. His style could easily be a threat to a Washington establishment figure like Hillary Clinton, who doesn’t have a lot of style herself. Imagine a Christie-Clinton debate.
The left wasted no time launching attacks against Christie. But they might be facing more than they realize in Christie. He has never been one to worry much about clamoring little voices. Whatever one thinks of Christie, the deeper concern should be a need for voter interest in substance over style. It’s not enough for Americans to wake up because they’ve been hit in their wallets or deceived about their health care.
This is not a time to celebrate our president’s failure through partisan eyes, but to take inventory as to how we got here in the first place. We face a clash of visions for this country like never before in our short history. What kind of nation do we want for our children and grandchildren?
We cannot expect to flourish in the freedom and prosperity we’ve enjoyed if we continue to do everything possible to deny the God of our forefathers. A wise teacher warned that, “where there is no revelation from God, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction” (Proverbs 29:18).
Although we are a pluralistic nation with freedom of religion, let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can continue to flourish in freedom without the influence of the law of Christ that shaped the founding of this great country. Let’s not fall for a distortion of the original intention of keeping the state from controlling the church into some mythical notion of total freedom from religion.
Don’t let anyone deceive you. Each person’s vision for this nation has connections with a moral and religious perspective — even if it’s atheistic. The final question is which perspective we will choose to shape our laws and our common life.
Steven W. Cornell is senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church. He also is a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc.