Friday, November 11, 2016

This Is Not The End

One of the most contentious and vicious presidential election years is now officially behind us.

The President-Elect is Donald J. Trump.

The House of Representatives is under Republican Control.

The U.S. Senate is under Republican Control.

Presidential hopeful Hillary R. Clinton gave a very nice concession speech.

Current President Barack Obama stated that he has accepted the results.

So naturally, it's all over, right?

Sadly, for many people, this is not the end of the season of fear they walked into when Trump became the Republican nominee. These folks are focused upon the rhetoric that came out of Trump's campaign, and the horrible things stated in Clinton's campaign advertisements. They are looking at Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, and his alleged affiliation with various groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. They are replaying in their minds the things stated about Muslims, homosexuals, lesbians, Hispanics, and certain women during the campaign.

For these people, this is the end of the world- Or their world, at least.

Friends, I would like to bring to you today some very good news: This Is Not The End.

President-Elect Donald Trump

Yes, Donald Trump ran a nasty, spiteful and inflammatory campaign. He managed to anger nearly every societal and cultural group in the nation. He exhibited some of the worst behavior ever seen in a presidential candidate in the history of the nation.

I will say that at least he didn't challenge his opponent to a duel as happened a couple times in the late 1700's, but that's not really saying anything, is it?

Nevertheless, let us be encouraged by the fact that our government is structured in such a way as to prevent Trump from being able to enact or implement much of what he said he wanted to do. Moreover, those things he spoke of which would be beneficial for the U.S. economy, tax code, and more- These things will be examined and scrutinized. The checks and balances of this country are in place for just this sort of event, and as such, I look forward with a great deal of hope.

More on why this is a little later.

Hillary Clinton

While Clinton began her concession speech saying that the results were "...painful, and will be for a long time," she also went on to say that the citizens of the United States "...owe him an open mind and the chance to lead." She went on to encourage her supporters to remain involved with the political process, stating "...let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear. Making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet. And breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams. ...our responsibility as citizens is to keep doing our part to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek. "

Clinton ran a campaign that was, in many respects, as dirty and nasty as Trump's. If you are a regular reader, you know that I supported neither major candidate; I always vote my conscience, and I always will. With that being said, much of what Clinton had to say Wednesday morning was excellent; it was encouraging; and though she did talk about the pain of losing, she also spoke a great deal about hope.

Once more, I find myself agreeing with Clinton; moreover, I applaud her intestinal fortitude and her refusal to sink to the lows that supporters from both sides have seen and surpassed.

President Barack Obama 

"I had a chance to talk to President-elect Trump last night -- about 3:30 in the morning, I think it was -- to congratulate him on winning the election. And I had a chance to invite him to come to the White House tomorrow to talk about making sure that there is a successful transition between our presidencies.

"Now, it is no secret that the President-elect and I have some pretty significant differences. But remember, eight years ago, President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences. But President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running. And one thing you realize quickly in this job is that the presidency, and the vice presidency, is bigger than any of us.

"So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the President-elect -- because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world.

"...I'm confident that this incredible journey that we're on as Americans will go on. And I am looking forward to doing everything that I can to make sure that the next President is successful in that. I have said before, I think of this job as being a relay runner -- you take the baton, you run your best race, and hopefully, by the time you hand it off you're a little further ahead, you've made a little progress. And I can say that we've done that, and I want to make sure that handoff is well-executed, because ultimately we're all on the same team."

Genuinely speaking, this is the proudest I have ever been of our current president. All that I can say is well done, Mr. President. Well said, and well done.

The U.S. Senate

The Senate of the United States had 36 seats open to change this past election cycle, and though largely eclipsed by the presidential election, the race for Senate was just as contentious in some places. In the end, the Republican party maintained control of the Senate, which was a joy for some, and a painful defeat for others.

Republican control of the Senate has had many people concerned over the direction the nation could turn, given the election of Donald Trump. With one party holding control of Senate and the White House, there has been speculation that the United States is about to undergo tremendous change; and potentially not the sort that they'd want to see. Verbalized fears of border walls, banned homosexuality, criminalized abortion, and deported Muslims have been the most common that I have overheard.

However, there is reason for hope, my friends. I'll get into why before too much longer, but believe me when I say that things are not as bleak as they may appear.

The House of Representatives

Not many networks talked about this much, and mainly due to the fact that they were too busy covering the antics of the presidential candidates. Nevertheless, all 435 seats in the House were open to change in this past election. Just as with the Senate race, the competition between Representative hopefuls was quite a spectacle in its own right.

When the dust cleared, the Democrats had won 192 seats in the House. The Republicans took 239 seats, holding onto their majority control. Again, this has caused a great deal of fear in the hearts and minds of many people, for the same reasons as the Republican controlled Senate raises.

What is important to note in the wake of this Republican "sweep" (as some have called it), is that many of these Representatives have a track record. Why is that important, you may ask; it is important for the same reasons as the track record of Senators and Presidential candidates: The track record tells the story that people and various media sources will try to hide.

Where's The Good News?

If you are a Democrat, a Liberal, or like me are simply fed up with both major parties, you may be asking exactly where the good news in all of this resides. Where is it? More importantly: What is it?

To begin with we live in the United States of America, which is perhaps the best place that an election result such as this one could possibly happen. I'm not promoting some hyper-exceptionalism or ultra-nationalistic pride when I write this. What I am saying is that our government is set up in such a way as to almost perfectly handle such events. Look at this diagram with me.

According to some folks I have spoken with, their children's schools are not teaching the structure of the United States government. (I have heard from some teachers that this is not taught until high school, but I'm sure it depends upon districts and school systems.) So whether you never learned this; or if you are like a few friends of mine who actually requested I include this section as a refresher; here is a simplified layout of how our government's branches work.

This is called the system of checks and balances, and this is what keeps everyone playing by the rules, more or less. A President does have the ability to introduce legislation to be made law; but Congress must approve that legislation both in the House and in the Senate. Congress can introduce and pass legislation with the intent of making it law, but the President must first sign it before it actually becomes law. The court system, specifically the Supreme Court, can declare laws unconstitutional; and contrary to popular opinion, they can do so without a case coming before them. A President can utilize Executive Orders, (and these are among the "presidential acts" in the diagram), but the Supreme Court can render them invalid by declaring them unconstitutional.

So let's look at a few of the scenarios that people are most concerned about under a Trump administration:

  • Trump Introduces Legislation To Build A Wall - Many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree that this country has an immigration issue. Many also agree that part of that issue is illegal immigration, or people crossing into the United States without proper documentation. Much of that illegal immigration does come from Mexico, though there are illegal immigrants in the United States from all over the world. However, most lawmakers do not support the building of a wall along the Mexican-U.S. border. As President, Trump could introduce legislation providing for the building of a wall, but based upon the track records of those in Congress, it would never become law; they would instead debate, argue and haggle for some other method of immigration control, and we would likely see the issue die on the House floor, never making it to Senate. 

  • Trump Issues An Executive Order Banning Homosexuality - Due to the nature of his campaign, many people are concerned about the issue of homosexuality and the free practice thereof. (For the sake of this illustration, I am addressing homosexual practices only, and will explain why shortly.) Let us say that as President, Trump issues an Executive Order that bans homosexuality. It would certainly create a public outcry, but it would have no effect- Why? Because the Supreme Court has already ruled in a number of cases involving homosexuality, homosexual practices, and the rights of homosexual men and women. As a result, the moment that the Order is issued, the Supreme Court would immediately declare it unconstitutional and render it void. This also applies to any attempt by Trump to criminalize abortion.

  • Trump Demands Congress Deport All Muslims - Let us imagine that out of all the vitriol that came from the Trump campaign, the expressed desire to deport Muslims actually materializes in the form of a President Trump ordering Congress to find a way  to do just that. At this point, Congress will almost unanimously laugh at him. The orders of a President are not the same as those from a King or Emperor: In short, they do not have to be followed in the same manner. Could Congress work something out that Trump would sign into law, such as a national registry, a public identifier or a special tax? They most certainly could, but in that unlikely event the Supreme Court would step in declaring the law unconstitutional.

As we look forward in time to the administration of Donald J. Trump, I urge everyone to remember something important: The President of the United States has very little absolute power. The only absolute power that a President does have is his/her ability to pardon, and to a lesser extent, initiate foreign policy.

President Obama was able to accomplish what he did in his eight years because he had like-minded people in control of Congress; he didn't do it on his own. His Executive Orders crossed lines of propriety in many respects, but the large majority of them stopped just shy of snubbing the Constitution of the United States.

Trump does have a Republican controlled Congress, but he does not have a Congress controlled by like-minded people. Unless he proves himself a much more capable leader than he presented during his run, it unlikely that he will ever get such a Congress, let alone a second term.

If you still feel the need to take refuge in Canada, that is entirely your decision; I understand that there are a couple people I'm acquainted with who are planning that move now. I do not condone such action, as I personally see it as a type of cowardice; however, neither will I condemn it in such broad strokes as to suggest that everyone holds my view. If your last act as a U.S. citizen is to run, then my response is "May your legs not grow weary, may your heart never faint, and may you find what you seek." To further clarify: If I were to run, I would consider myself a coward, for that is my personal standard; if others choose to run, I wish them the best.

But make no mistake: This is not the end.

NOTE: If you are a Christian, the following section is especially important.

How Christians Should Respond

As believers in Christ, we know the Bible tells us that we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of peace, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We are told that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). We know that we are also told not to worry about what is to come (Luke 12:25-31), and that God is ultimately in control (Psalm 27:1; Romans 8:38-39; John 16:33). Finally, by way of reassurance, we are told that God exerts authority over our rulers (Proverbs 21:1).

We are also told that we are to be lights in a dark world (Matthew 5:14-16). Paul encourages us to live at peace with one another (Romans 12:18) and not to be a stumbling block to our brethren (1 Corinthians 8:9) or to anyone else (1 Corinthians 10:32)! We are also told to share in another's joy and in their sorrow (Romans 12:15), not to treat anyone as beneath us (Romans 12:16), and not to repay evil for evil (Romans 12:17).

Bearing all of these things in mind; taking into account that we as followers of Christ are to be His reflections on earth; factoring in that we who believe are often the only Gospel that some people will ever read; I believe it is our solemn and sacred duty to look at this time in history not as a burden, but as a time to shoulder the burdens of others. We ought not look upon these coming four years with fear, but with hope in our God, who alone can change and turn the hearts of men. We should not gloat over the despair and despondency of those who mourn, but seek to comfort, encourage and uplift them.

Doing anything less than this is to misrepresent Christ and place ourselves as a stumbling block before a world seeking Him- Though they know not what they seek.

In conclusion, Christians: We must behave and respond as Christ. He exemplified Isaiah 61:1, and promoted justice as Isaiah 1:17 said- He stood for the oppressed, championed the widow and provided for the orphan (even if symbolically). Christ then told His disciples, and by extension all who believe: "These things and more shall you do." (John 14:12) He did not say that we would do things He did not do and not do things He did; or more clearly stated, "some of these things and less." We are to follow His example- Period.

So let's start today by bringing hope to those in despair.