None of the things in this title are necessarily related, and yet, they probably are in some way.
The 2014 Mid-Term Election
If you think that the 2014 mid-term was either a repudiation of the Obama administration’s policies, or an indication of a swing of the political pendulum back to the right, you’d be wrong on both counts. Nor was it a “landslide” or a “mandate” as some media outlets are reporting. Let’s look at this factually and honestly.
Across the board, the Republicans picked up some targeted senate seats. In fact, they put the bulk of their PAC money into the races in Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Alaska, several of those being considered “Red” states with a rising Democratic voter base. Outspending the Democrats and their PACs in those states by about a 10 to 1 margin, they were successful in all but two, Virginia and New Hampshire. In those states, ironically, the candidates tied their re-election bid to the President and his policies, and won, and both of those states are considered swing states, not reliably blue, though they have been moving that direction. In Colorado, Senator Udall decided to distance himself from the President, and lost, while Governor Hickenlooper tied his re-election bid to the Obama administration, and wound up winning by five points.
Overall, the total Republican vote on that November, 2014 first Tuesday, was not in the range of a landslide. Across the country, they picked up just 2 percent more of the generic vote than Democrats did. And in some states, including some that are deep red, the Democrats picked up some wins, such as Nebraska and Arizona, where tea party candidates were defeated, and of course, in swing state Pennsylvania. So I think what we have in this mid-term is a typical mid-term, and a milder response than in some recent mid-terms. Every two term President since Reagan has faced a shift in power during mid-term elections, some of them much more dramatic than this one. Keep in mind, in the elections of 2008 and 2012, when more than twice as many voters went to the polls, the Democrats had outstanding nights, both solid presidential wins and significant congressional gains. We seem to be in a pattern now where quick and sudden change is becoming a regular part of the electoral cycle, which to me indicates a growing selfishness among voters. It’s no longer about issues with long term effect, it’s about what affects me tomorrow.
The first time I ever went to St. Louis, as a student summer missionary in 1977, there were racial issues in North St. Louis, and across the city limits line in St. Louis County. The African American population there is large, and in the 70’s was concentrated in the northern part of the city of St. Louis, and was spilling over into the older suburban areas between the city and the airport. Ferguson was an upper middle class, predominantly white community back then, though it did have an African American minority. In the 70’s, there was still a lot of tension from school integration. For North St. Louis county, it doesn’t seem like it has ever gone away. And as the African American community has migrated to the north, and Ferguson has become a predominantly African American community with a predominantly white police force, it is now the epicenter of the tension.
This is 2014. And while the tension has been built around a tragedy, there is an opportunity here to get beyond the problems, work through them, and set an example for the rest of us to follow. There are voices, including Michael Brown’s family, who are advocating for a peaceful resolution to the problem, and a way forward. Regardless of the outcome of the grand jury hearing, there are people who have the power in their hands to take this issue away from the agitators and from those who are looking to capitalize on it for their own benefit, and make it a turning point in America’s racial history. May God empower them.
Executive Orders on Immigration Reform
I think it is pretty clear that a President’s executive orders are not the ideal way to bring about immigration reform in 2014. But it’s the only way progress is made with regard to this issue. And it’s not just the current president that has had to take action this way. It’s hypocritical to criticize this action, which is one of the better attempts at getting this issue under control and back under the law than previous ways of enforcing immigration policy have been, and not take note of the fact that virtually every President since Reagan has had to take executive action on some aspect of immigration policy. They’ve not been popular actions, they are mainly stopgap measures, but that’s been the direction we’ve gone. Why?
In modern American history, immigration laws have taken on a draconian and pernicious character. We’ve either done an extremely poor job of teaching history (which we have), or we have short memories. Either way, we have forgotten that this country is a nation of immigrants, from its very foundations and beginnings, and the unity that has come out of that diversity has produced a strength that has made this country into the greatest one in the world. Somehow, people seem to think that their kind has always been here, and that anyone who doesn’t share their cultural, religious, and even economic heritage and values doesn’t belong here, and is some kind of foreigner. And while a third of our population had relatives that came through Ellis Island, the rest had relatives that came from somewhere else, unless they are native Americans, and even their ancestors migrated from Asia. I don’t understand why we can’t get this right.
Obviously, current immigration law is not adequate to handle the issue. The United States has been, for a long time, the bright hope of mankind. It’s certainly not perfect, but the world would be a much different place today than it is, if it weren’t for America’s development and influence. And while things have become more complicated by available communication and technology, this foundational element of American history and development needs to be fixed. The existing laws and the problems they create are a clear indication of this. If existing laws are not working, and are, in effect, creating circumstances that make them difficult, if not impossible, to enforce, then that is an indication of their ineffectiveness, and the need for change. This is, after all, a constitutional republic.
Some of what I consider to be the greatest moral failings of America as a nation relate to immigration. We certainly talk a lot about the Nazi’s, their racial policy, and particularly their murderous rampage against the Jews of Europe. But how much talk do we do about the tragedy of US immigration policy which prevented tens of thousands of European Jews from seeking refuge in the United States. Immigration law from the previous era, designed to restrict Southern and Eastern Europeans from coming to the US in large numbers, and then, to slow down the numbers altogether when economic prosperity gave way to the depression during the Hoover administration, became a virtually immovable obstacle to Jewish immigration. In spite of the fact that, among all potential immigrants, Jews would have been the easiest to take, because the American Jewish community was willing to produce the resources to care for them in almost any magnitude. Even after the war began, the US could have taken in large numbers of Jews who fled German-occupied countries, and landed in Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Portugal, opening up “room in the lifeboat” for those who were still able to reach their borders, but we didn’t do that. The President, and the Congress, focused their attention and resources on a strategy for winning the war. Immigration fell through the cracks.
I’m not going to argue the merits of the President’s executive orders. All of his predecessors, back to Reagan, issued executive orders related to immigration policy and some of them, most notably George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, were more aggressive and less consistent with existing law than this policy is. Until I hear fair and balanced criticism of their actions, including Reagan’s signing an amnesty bill, this aspect of the issue isn’t worth discussing.
The Middle East, Syria, Iraq and ISIS
For most of my adult life, we’ve been dealing with Islamic terrorism, insurgencies, and some kind of war in the Middle East. It’s the nature of the region, and its historical, religious heritage. It has been exacerbated by British imperialism and European colonialism, because the region provides important trade routes to China and East Asia, and now, in modern history, because of its oil reserves and mineral wealth. With few exceptions, most notably the Israeli-Egyptian accord negotiated by President Carter, US efforts to bring the peace have either failed to accomplish their objective, or have made things worse.
Obviously, the second Iraq War, the one we got into on the heels of the emotion from 9-11, which Iraq had nothing to do with, is the major cause of the current insurgency. The Assad regime in Syria has certainly been a contributor, but the second Iraq war left the door open for the Sunni Muslims, who were under Saddam’s control, to become renegade jihadists. The question is, what happens if the US, and the British, stay out? Islamic insurgencies are aimed at eliminating population groups, including Muslim population groups, that don’t accept their totalitarian authority, or hold different religious views. Can we allow something like that to commit mass murder while standing by, doing nothing? That’s a tough question.
If we go back in there with our military boots on the ground, how far ahead are we thinking? We will defeat ISIS, or at least, scatter them and weaken them, and to do that, we will have to go into Syria as well. Then what? Do we fight Assad as well, since fighting ISIS will benefit his regime? And what happens in the vacuum that will be created after that? Do we try to put another unsuccessful puppet regime in power, in both Iraq and Syria? Or will our involvement just contribute to the further destabilization of the region, and bring the problems right to Israel’s doorstep?
The world we live in needs the presence of the Prince of Peace.