Sunday, April 17, 2016

How Mormons Should Think About The Presidential Election

Previously: Where I Went Wrong On My Mission

We latter-day Saints are fond of saying our religion is "not just a religion, but a way of life."  Funny then, how often religion and morality get tossed out the window the moment some Mormons become politically engaged.  Their sacred "way of life" is set aside for the sake of political expediency and national pride.

Four years ago I pointed out in a post that didn't go over well with some members, that even one of our own, Mitt Romney, promised that if elected he would carry out policies that were clearly inimical to the will of God as revealed in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants.  Surprisingly, no one proposed withdrawing the hand of fellowship from Brother Romney for being a traitor to the faith; instead many believing members labored diligently to get him elected, in the mistaken belief that Romney would uphold conservative values. [1]

Luckily for the sake of Mitt Romney's eternal soul, he lost the presidential bid to a man whose presidency turned out to be just as destructive to the country as Romney's would have been.  So though once again Americans got the opposite of the hope and change they were expecting, at least they couldn't put the blame on a Mormon.
[1] Mitt Romney is "anything but a conservative," which is why the modern Republican Party backed his nomination.  Party operatives had long since jettisoned any pretense to conservatism in favor of a Neo-Con infused brand of Statism. 

Circus Act
Recently Ted Cruz declared that "a Donald Trump nomination would be a train wreck."

Well, duh.

What Cruz left unsaid was that a Ted Cruz nomination would also be a train wreck. As would a Hillary Clinton nomination. Or the nomination of Bernie Sanders, or John Kasich. No matter which of these circus acts ends up being the president, it's going to be a disaster for America. And who can't see it coming?

Well, I guess political partisans can't.  On April 4th, liberal CongressLady Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was a guest on the Daily Show, where she referenced the "clown car" that was the Republican race for president. That was an apt description, but she neglected to note that the democratic candidates also represent two additional clowns crowded into that same car; that the car is speeding inexorably off a high cliff; and that the only thing the Bozos inside the vehicle are quarreling about is "who gets to drive?"

So how should a believing latter-day Saint think about the current presidential contest?

I recommend detached amusement.

Detaching ourselves from the circus that is the presidential race sounds almost blasphemous to those of us raised on the importance of participating in the political process. But let's get real here. None of it matters.

Well, it does matter, of course. Standing by while our freedoms keep getting flushed down the toilet is no cause for giddiness.  But the fix is already in. At this point in the waning days of the American Republic, there's nothing you or I can do to prevent one of these frauds from becoming the next petty tyrant; it's come down to a question of voting for one person in order to make certain the other doesn't get in. No matter which of these clowns you were to vote for, your vote would be a Hobson's choice. It's been that way ever since I was first old enough to vote in 1972, and Richard Nixon was supposedly the good guy in the race: a choice between the lesser of two evils.

But if our choices represent one evil over another, is it proper that a devoted follower of Christ participate in such a charade?

And if you do, are you not violating several key tenets of your religion?

The Political Religion Of The Latter-Day Saints
Some people are fond of saying that religion and politics shouldn't mix. But since 71 percent of the bible is concerned with governmental abuse and political intrigue, it would appear the topic of how we are to allow ourselves to be governed here on earth is one God wants us to carefully ponder.

There is, in fact, a political facet to Mormonism, and it has nothing to do with being a Republican or a Democrat.  Politics is defined as the making of a common decision for a group of people.  Naturally then, the Golden Rule applies in the political arena, just as it does between neighbors.  Anyone deciding to enter government "service" would do well to have that rule spelled out to them in words they can more easily understand:

Don't Hurt People.
And Don't Take Their Stuff.

The Bible is chock full of warnings of what happens when governments hurt people and take their stuff. Eventually even the best governments become oppressive, as occurred time and again in the long centuries covered in the Book of Mormon.  Too bad many Mormons tend to miss the key lessons in that book.

Very early on, one of the kings in this land, whose name was Mosiah, went before his people and announced he was deliberately giving up the throne. Mosiah had been an exceptionally benevolent king, so when he announced his retirement from politics, his subjects, said, "Aw, no! Please don't quit!"

But king Mosiah explained that if a kingship were to continue as the accepted form of government, some future king might possibly arise and abuse the power given him. So better there be no king at all than the possibility of a future tyranny. Besides, what need was there for a king among people who recognized the sovereignty of God?  Laws already existed stating it was wrong to hurt people and take their stuff. Mosiah therefore proposed the people abandon the idea of a mortal lawgiver and ruler, and select instead a group of judges whose job it would be to decide cases that might come up whenever some person hurt someone else or tried to take their stuff.  You may recall that simple system of government resulted in a lengthy period of peace in the new world.

I would suggest that the problem with presidential elections in modern times is that the American people have come to believe their political responsibility involves electing themselves some sort of king. Granted, this king is only intended to rule for four to eight years, but every election cycle the citizens angrily side against each other in a desperate effort to get their particular "king" into power. This ritual is always pitched as the last great hope for the country: if our candidate gets in, America will be great again, but if their candidate gets in, it will be a disaster.

Well, it's been a disaster every four years since 1930. The end is not just near; it's already begun.  Yet every four years, Americans keep convincing themselves that this time things will be different. I suggest we stop wasting our energy on a false paradigm. The problem isn't which "king" gets elected. The problem is this obsession with wanting a king in the first place. Each side foolishly believes that this time their guy will set eveything right. This time their king will save the country.

And every single time, they are disappointed.

Worse yet, the guy or gal who aspires to the office of King or Queen of America actually believes they have the power and ability to save. And when it comes to the idea of salvation by government, Mormons are no more circumspect than everyone else, because they have forgotten one very important truth spoken by the mouth of God: "when the wicked rule, the people mourn."

That truism is just one line of a revelation from Jesus that contains what could rightfully be called the political religion of the latter-day saints. That political religion, which includes God's rules of engagement regarding war, is mostly encapsulated in Doctrine and Covenants section 98.

In that revelation, the Lord instructs His people that they are to look to the U.S. Constitution as their formula for successful governing. He tells us the constitution was actually His idea in the first place; that he established it by the hands of wise men whom he raised up for the very purpose of ensuring all who dwell on the land shall remain free.

But it only works if we force our elected officials to adhere to the constitution to the letter. The constitution is not a document the people have an obligation to obey; it's our government employees who have to obey it. If we allow them to veer either to the right or to the left of what that document authorizes them to do, then our freedoms could be gone in one or two generations.

God tells us that any action instituted by politicians is forbidden if it is not in strict conformity with the constitution.  It was created specifically to impose limits on them, not on us. The rest of us are free to do as we please, but government employees are not. That document is the measuring stick by which we keep our servant's feet to the fire. "Anything more or less than this," says the Lord Jesus, "cometh of evil."

That's a pretty harsh assertion. There's not a lot of wiggle room there. Either we learn to keep our government servants out of mischief by limiting them to those tasks enumerated in the constitution, or their actions are born of evil.  Which is why He also warns us it's imperative we seek only good, and honest, and wise men to place in positions of power, "otherwise whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil" too.

I don't think there are many Americans today who believe the current crop of presidential candidates is good or honest. Certainly none of them are wise; that much is clear. This crop of clowns doesn't exactly represent the best and brightest of the land. We have come to that point in our history when people will be voting for a candidate for the sole purpose of voting against another.

So indulge me, if you will, for a discussion on how we got into the present mess.

"Give Us A King!"
The scriptures teach us that the law of Christ is "the perfect law of liberty," and if we adhere to it in all our dealings, we "shall be blessed." (James 1:25) Jesus Christ is a benevolent ruler. Generally speaking, he allows us our free choice in how we live our lives. If we stray from His counsel, he does not immediately answer with bolts of lightning to get us back in line. We are allowed our personal mistakes.

So as individuals we can trust Him to rule over us with love and patience. What makes our heavenly King superior to earthly rulers is that He is infinitely fair. As Isaiah taught, "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, [and] the Lord is our king." (Isaiah 33:22) All three of those functions of government originate with God, and He rules with perfect justice.  Unlike the way things often work under earthly rulers, the Son has made us free. (John 8:36).

Ancient Israel's acceptance of God as their judge, lawgiver, and king is the reason that nation prospered above all others. They had no mortal king because they didn't need one. God told them they were His own, "a peculiar people." (Deuteronomy 26:18)

Well, if you've ever been a teenager, the last thing you ever want to be called is peculiar -even if it's God himself thinking he's paying you a compliment. Eventually the Israelites, an ungrateful group of adolescents if ever there was one, grew self-conscious at the thought of being different. So they went to God's spokesman, Samuel, and demanded he "give us a king like all the other nations."

Samuel was alarmed at their desire for a radical change in their form of government. But God believes in giving men their free agency, so He told Samuel to go ahead and let them have a king if that's what they wanted.  However, Samuel was to warn the fools that one day they'd be sorry, and to that end God had Samuel recite a list of oppressive acts they could expect their new king to burden them with.  It's all there in 1st Samuel Chapter 8, and none of it sounds very pleasant.

After Samuel rehearsed the full litany of difficulties God's people were unwittingly asking to be laid on them, he told them that one day they would cry out to God in anguish because of the oppression their kings would bring upon them. But by then it would be too late, for "the Lord will not hear you in that day."

The people didn't care. They wanted the status that came with having a king on the throne. "We will have a king over us," they insisted, "that we might be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us and fight our battles."

Well, now.

These poor saps learned too late that kings are more than willing to judge them, but kings rarely judge fairly. And how stupid were they to think the king would go out and fight their battles for them? Everybody knows it's not the king who goes out and fights the battles for the people; it's always the people who have to go out and fight the battles for the king.

Where was George W. Bush when he sent your sons and brothers into harm's way in Iraq? Safe and sound at home, that's where; protected by a platoon of marines and cadres of secret service agents in the king's White House Castle Fortress.  When our brave president finally got close to the place where hostilities had previously taken place, the most dangerous thing he encountered was a flying shoe.

Can you spot the heel in this picture?

Well, we know what eventually happened to the Israelites. Their enemies overran and conquered the land, the useless kings were killed, and the people who weren't slaughtered were enslaved and carried off to parts unknown.  Not the happiest of endings. And as the prophecy foretold, when they cried out to the Lord in their anguish, the Lord did not hear them.

No King But Jesus
Throughout history, in country after country, kings tended to usurp the three main governing powers that had properly belonged to a loving god: namely the role of lawgiver, the role of judge, and the role of executive. At the time of the American founding, all three functions resided in the British Monarch, and the colonists noticed that putting all that power in the hands of one man had not done anything positive for their liberties.

The American colonists were a literate, bible-reading bunch. The preachers of the day took particular note of the event described in Samuel 8, recognizing it as the point where the Israelites took the first wrong turn that would eventually lead to the downfall of that once great nation.

The lesson of the Israelite captivity was not lost on the American colonists. The resulting disdain the colonists felt for the king's authority greatly disturbed the colonial governors who had been sent to America to represent the King of England:
"Most crown-appointed governors remained committed to their king, and one wrote to the Board of Trade in England: 'If you ask an American, who is his master? He will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ.' Which may have given rise to the cry which was soon passed up and down the length of America by the Committees of Corespondence: 'No king but King Jesus!' " ( Marshall and Manuel, The Light and the Glory, pg 267)
After the colonists won their independence and a convention was held to draft a constitution, the Founders decided to look into a way where God's three governing functions -lawgiver, judge, and executive- could be spread out so that no one man could be in charge of the people's new government.

When they were pondering the duties of the president, what they were decidedly not looking for was a way to elect the right person to represent the people.

They never intended the President of the United States to represent the American people.  Far from it. What they did instead was set up a system of government so that there would be a distinct governmental body whose job it would be to directly represent the people. Those functionaries are called...get ready for it..."Representatives."

Hard as it may be to grasp in a day when the media whips us into a fury about how important it is to elect the right president, if you want responsive government, you're never going to get it from the guy who is protected from you by walls of secret service agents and uniformed marines.  You're never going to get near that guy, so forget about him responding to your concerns.

It's not his job anyway.

If you want good government, you should be paying closer attention to who gets elected to the House of Representatives.  That's the body the Founders designed to actually do the governing. They are the lawgivers.  And because it is the people who will have to live under any laws passed by their government, it stands to reason those laws should originate with the people, who instruct their representatives regarding what laws they do or don't want passed.

The representatives are supposed to represent the people's will.  Does it work that way today? Far from it. That's why we should have paid attention to Jesus when he strongly cautioned us to support wise and honest men; and not to simply "uphold" them, but to "observe and uphold." In other words, keep an eye on them.  Unfortunately, few Americans even know the names of their own representatives, but they sure as hell know who they want to be president.

Separate from the House of Representatives is a second body that is supposed to act as representatives of the individual states against usurpation by the federal government, and that body is called the Senate. So the House represents the people, and the Senate represents the individual states. Together, the House and the Senate make up the Congress.

The members you elect to the House are the only people who can decide how and where your money is spent. The president has nothing to do with you. That's why its laughable to hear these clowns making all these promises they have no power to fulfill.

A president can't hand out free college educations.  A president has no ability to wave his royal scepter and "make America great" or turn us into winners. There is no system of levers and switches in the White House by which the president is able to jiggle the economy to get it working right.  A king might be able to accomplish something that looks like he's making a difference, but in order to do so he would have to hurt some people and take their stuff.

The president doesn't have the power to make any laws. He can't even decide to take the country to war. Your representatives in congress are the only ones who can decide whether or not America goes to war.  You know why?  Because not even the people's representatives have the authority to send Americans into harm's way until the people instruct their representatives that's what they want. The reason the people have to instruct the congress to authorize war is because it won't be congress or the president who will be fighting those wars. It will be the people themselves.[2]
[2] (Cue "Fortunate Son" by Creedence)
Once the people instruct their representatives that they want to go to war, those representatives make a formal and unmistakable Declaration of War. The House of Representatives then allocates the money to pay for the war, because if the people say they want a war, they are also giving their representatives permission to tax them extra to pay for it. The president then directs the war.

Unfortunately, today it's the representatives telling the people how things are gonna be, see, and if you don't like it, see, you can lump it, see.

Wouldn't it be nice if we still operated under God's perfect law of liberty? The way I just described it is how the government was set up to work.  But if you don't know that, and you're focused instead on what the president is up to, you're less likely to pay attention to the character traits of those who get elected to the House of Representatives. Then you end up with a lazy congress like the one on duty in the early part of the 21st century, who shirked their responsibility and instead allowed the president to do whatever he wanted without supervision.  They allowed George Bush to believe he was the King of America. Just as they had permitted Bill Clinton to usurp the people's sovereignty eight years previously, and Barack Obama since.

The legacy of a government no longer accountable to the people can be seen in the increased loss of individual liberty, the decline of prosperity, and the massive number of maimed and crippled returning from the wars in the middle east; wounded warriors who gave their all in what they were told by their government had something to do with "defending our freedoms," but which instead created new and endless enemies who slipped in and took advantage of the power vacuum caused by those wars.

When you read the warnings God gave the Israelites through the prophet Samuel, they seem eerily familiar when applied to us today.  The founders thought they were designing a government without a king, but they did not foresee our illimitable proclivity toward idol worship. Every four years, Americans cry anew, "give us a king!"

How It's Supposed To Work
After the founders hammered out what the duties of the lawgivers were to be, they set to work defining the very limited powers of the executive.  As far as his relationship to the people, the president is a distant third, after the people's representatives, and after the state senate.  The president's primary role was to act as a kind of figurehead for the federal government, a limited entity often referred to as the "United States."   (When we refer to the 50 contiguous, geographical states, where most Americans live, we do not capitalize the words:, i.e. "these united states."  These states are plural, whereas "the United States" is shorthand for the federal government. (See Hooven & Allison Co. vs Evatt, 324 U.S. 652 ; also helpful is Modeleski, The Federal Zone, Chapter 4)

Therefore the president was never meant to rule over the people who lived within the states. He is not a king or a dictator.  He merely presides; he is the "preside-ant."  He presides over the federal government; he does not preside over the American people.

(This is often a difficult concept for many people to grasp, Mormons included. But then Mormons also have a difficult time understanding what is meant by the word "church." When Joseph Smith or Jesus referred to "the church" back in the day, they were referencing the people, the general membership. But when Church leaders today make mention of "the Church," they're usually talking about themselves.)

The average American is a citizen of his or her respective state. That means they are under the political protection of the government of the state in which they are domiciled.

The president does not preside over the state governments, or over the people residing within those states.  His jurisdiction is limited to the ten square miles that make up the District of Columbia, along with its territories, and federal enclaves.  The president does not govern you. He does not represent you. He does not have jurisdiction over you. He is the president of the United States Government, not the president of the people of these united states.  And he is king over absolutely nothing.

It should also go without saying that the president of the United States is decidedly not "the leader of the free world." That's a meaningless phrase coined by some ignorant dunderhead during the cold war. None of the countries that make up "the free world" ever elected the U.S. president to lead them. Referring to the president as the leader of the free world is as nonsensical as it is offensive.

You'll notice in a reading of Article II of the constitution that the president really isn't given much power at all. What authority the president does have requires the advice and consent of congress; he can make few decisions on his own. The founders were concerned about the potential for the position of president to devolve into something resembling a king, so they tied his hands at every opportunity. It might surprise many Americans to learn that the president's primary job is not to protect the country, but to protect and defend the constitution. That's the only duty he swears an oath to perform.

By way of illustration as to how little power a president was actually intended to have, he is generally out of his jurisdiction when he leaves Washington, D.C.  He enters into one of the several states only by the good graces of the governor of that state.  The reality is that if the people of a particular county were to decide they do not want the president of the United States visiting in their area, the county sheriff has the legal authority to prevent that visit, even to the point of placing the president, his entourage, and all the secret service agents under arrest if necessary. (See Anderson, A Treatise On The Law Of Sheriffs, Coroners, and Constables; 2 volumes, 1940)  To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever occurred, but I find it comforting to know the people have the lawful right to oppose federal incursion onto their lands if they so choose.

It is also widely believed that when a person is elected President of the United States, he automatically becomes the Commander-in-Chief.  Not so. The president does not have authority to act as commander of the armed forces until the army, navy, and militia are "called into actual service" -that is, once the people's representatives have officially declared for war. (Article II, Sec.2, Clause 1; see also The Founder's Constitution, Vol 4, "Commander In Chief;" and Whiting, The War Powers of the President, 1862.)  And even then, his job is only to direct the operations of the war.  He is never the commander-in-chief of you or me. We owe the president no allegiance whatsoever.

Who Do You Trust?
You may have thought my inclusion of that cartoon at the top of the page featuring Bob Thierren's Screaming Man was put there facetiously. It is not. The declaration by the angels in that drawing just happens to comport nicely with the political religion of the latter-day saints.  The prophet Nephi couldn't make the case enough that trusting in men was foolhardy, and trusting men who make up a political collective is dangerous indeed. Nephi promises God, "I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh." (2 Nephi 4:34)

Why not? Because "I know that cursed is he who putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man."

Do you get the sneaking feeling that our country has been cursed? That the hand of providence has ceased to bless this once great nation? Maybe that's because we took to putting all our trust in politicians when we should have put our trust in God.

"Do Not Trust The Government" is the underlying text of the constitution, and the very reason for its creation.  "Do Not Trust The Government" was also the primary message of George Washington's farewell address, and the warning given in numerous writings left by the men who created this same government. To a man, the mantra was: "Here is your new government. Now don't turn your back on it."

In 1907, a quote appeared in the Christian Science Journal that was attributed to George Washington:
"Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is fire! And like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
It has not been confirmed whether Washington ever said those words, but he certainly shared those sentiments.

Dwight Eisenhower went further. In 1961 he was already seeing the seeds of a corporate/government collusion taking root when he warned of "the unwarranted influence of an emerging military industrial complex" that had the potential to one day convert the Republic into a fascist kakocracy.[3]
[3] The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, father of the fascist movement, defined "fascism" as the merger of the state with corporate power. Mussolini ended up getting stabbed to death on the street by an angry mob of former admirers over what his policies did to their country; but America appears to be have picked up Mussolini's fallen baton. Somewhere deep in hell, Mussolini is watching us on closed-circuit television and having a good laugh.

That counsel of Nephi's against putting our trust in men is echoed throughout the standard works, from the Old Testament to the Doctrine & Covenants. When something is repeated that frequently in scripture, we ought to pay it heed.

But we seldom do.  Having a king of any sort is reassuring. It saves us effort. It spares us accountability. It puts the hard choices on someone else.

When have you ever known a president who was both honest and wise? There have been none in my lifetime. The last great president in modern times was Calvin Coolidge.

Yes, that's right. I said Calvin Coolidge.

Establishment historians would scoff at that suggestion, because to them Calvin Coolidge accomplished nothing of note. His presidency was virtually invisible. It's true he did not distinguish himself with accomplishments and honors, but in terms of honoring his oath of office, "Silent Cal" was The Man.

                                     Coolidge was a Jeffersonian, and like Thomas Jefferson,
Coolidge was not full of himself.  He did not concern himself with how his presidency would be remembered.  Coolidge's greatest legacy was that he did not aspire to leave a legacy. Also like Jefferson, he understood that personal ambition had no place in the oval office.  That is what made Coolidge one of the good guys.   And surprise! The nation experienced unparalleled prosperity under his restrained leadership.

Emergence Of The Hustling Candidate
James Madison, writing in Federalist No. 10, warned against the possibility of what he called "factions" emerging; the tendency of people to group together and take sides against others to the benefit of their own selfish interests. George Washington, already witnessing the divisive nature of factions beginning to form near the end of his own presidency, also warned against the practice in his farewell address to the nation, as factions tended to divide the country over arguments about whose side was to wield political power.

In our day those factions are represented by political parties. It would greatly surprise-and disappoint- America's founding fathers to learn that most Americans today believe the current practice of dividing the people into political parties is considered a natural and acceptable part of the democratic process.

The overriding purpose of having a constitution was to restrain human nature; specifically the natural tendency some have to want to benefit themselves at the expense of others.  To that end, the founders deliberately embedded safeguards and obstacles into the rules for their fledgling government; safeguards designed to make it more difficult for a demagogue to obtain the presidency. That is the purpose of the Electoral College, a necessarily convoluted process that provides for the indirect election of the president, rather than by popular vote, thus helping to assure the president does not assume the throne by pandering directly to the masses. The founders feared that if some demagogue were to promise the people all kinds of wonderful results in exchange for their votes, the majority might be swayed to elect him or her to the presidency, to the detriment of the common good.

Alexander Tytler, an 18th century Scottish professor of Greek and Roman antiquities, and a contemporary of America's founders, explained how factions destroyed the democracy of ancient Greece:
"They were perpetually divided into factions, which servilely ranked themselves under the banners of the contending demagogues; and these maintained their influence over their partisans by the most shameful corruption and bribery, of which the means were supplied alone by the plunder of the public money." (Political Reflections Arising From the History of Greece, pg 216 of Book 1, Chapter VI of Tytler's Universal History.)

In a statement often attributed to Tytler, but whose actual authorship has been lost to time, we are reminded that "a democracy is always temporary in nature";
"It simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves largess. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate who promises the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by dictatorship."
The provisions of the Electoral College were just the final safeguard against corruption attaining to the presidency. The other provision is that each state was to make their own rules regarding who would be nominated for that office, and how.  Americans are just now waking up to the realization that their votes in the primary election don't mean a thing, and this news is leaving them dumbfounded. They've lived their lives under the delusion that their vote in the primaries was a sacred and necessary part of the election process.

Well, it's not.  Primary voting is just a system the privately run political parties use to manipulate the people. It's a way of "focus-grouping" the masses so they can gauge which of their pre-selected candidates is likely to garner the most interest. The party big-wigs (and that isn't you) may not have the ultimate say in who becomes president, but they do have final choice in who gets the nomination for their party. Their club, their rules.

It wasn't supposed to work this way. The system was originally designed to weed out the corrupt and ambitious, not to guarantee their victory. But again, the people were asleep at the parapet, and while they were sleeping special interests slipped in and captured their selection system. It used to be that Americans were intent on electing statesmen. Today we've traded statesmen for politicians.

Well, what is a statesman, anyway? If you were to look up "Statesman" on Wikipedia, you'll see that whoever wrote that entry got it wrong:
"A statesman or stateswoman is usually a politician, diplomat or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career at the national or international level."
Not so. That ain't no statesman. But it's a pretty accurate description of a career politician. If you're not sure what a statesman is, look to George Washington for your example. He was a man of impeccable character who did not seek office; but he also did not shy away when his country called. He served his brief time as president, then rejected the pull of further fame and accolades, and went home to resume the life of a farmer.  Most of the founders who held public office -Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe- were statesmen like George Washington, refusing to linger in public office any longer than necessary.  They were truly self-less and self-sacrificing.  As James Freeman Clarke noted, "A politician looks to the next election; a statesman looks to the next generation."

A politician is someone who deliberately seeks office, and makes a career out of it if he can. Radio personality Bob Edwards may have had the Wikipedia definition in mind when he quipped,
"Now I know what a statesman is; he's a dead politician. We need more statesmen."
The concept of career politicians who pander to get elected over and over was foreign to our founders, as was the idea that congress would find reasons to be in session for more than a few weeks out of the year.  The founders envisioned a government comprised of selfless individuals who served for a short period for modest compensation, then went back to live among the same people who elected them and resumed their lives as farmers, shopkeepers, blacksmiths, and the like.

Today, the idea of having a politician as a neighbor who lives the same modest existence as the rest of us would seem novel and surreal. We tend to think of them as somehow in a superior class from the rest of us. Just look at the reaction when the sitting president -or even a wannabe presidential candidate like Hillary Clinton- makes an appearance on a late-night talk show or pops in for a cameo on Saturday Night Live.  The crowd goes absolutely nuts! -Jumping to their feet, shouting, applauding, and swooning with joy as if they had just found themselves within touching distance of God or the Pope.

The presidential nominating system actually did work quite properly until recent years.  Here's how professor John F. Reynolds explains the process in olden times:
"Raw political ambition was still a vice in the eyes of many nineteenth century Americans. They continued to honor republican precepts that envisioned a civic-minded citizenry and an even more virtuous elite. It was unseemly for candidates for major offices – representative, governor, and certainly president – to explicitly solicit support from the public. 
"Ideally, it was the convention’s function to recruit worthy men to public service. It deliberated over the qualifications of prospective officeholders and called upon the ones deemed most fit. An avid pursuit of public office was interpreted as evidence of a lack of public virtue. In Michigan the editor of the Grange Visitor put all such candidates on notice in 1880: 'Our state conventions will do a good thing for the people by following the example of the national conventions in ignoring every candidate for official position, who has spent time and money, and had their agents perambulating the state to pack delegations in their behalf.' ” (Reynolds, The Demise of the American Convention System, 1880-1911, pg 62-63 emphasis added.)
That was back in the day when the men charged with finding appropriate candidates to fill the office of president were themselves sober, selfless, and deliberative men of character and integrity, and not the wealthy power-and-fame-obsessed celebrities we have today.

Today the fix is in. The reason John Reynolds titled his book "The Demise of the American Convention System" is because for the most part conventions are a mere formality now; candidates are no longer proposed, promoted, and debated over at the conventions before being nominated. These days the operatives in both parties select their presumptive nominee long before the convention begins, thereby tricking the voters into thinking they had a hand in the selection.

An exception this time around will surely be the Republican Convention, because party leaders were not expecting Donald Trump to garner the popular support he has.  At this late date it's a bit awkward for the party insiders to admit the whole process was a sham.  So the powerful and privileged have already met in secret to conspire for a way to dump Trump without offending Trump's enthusiastic supporters, because pissing off that maddened horde will surely bring their own house of cards crashing in on them.

Good luck with that, I say.

Meanwhile, things are going according to plan with the Democrats. Hillary Clinton was foreordained by her party, but because she is widely despised by rank and file democrats, including a surprising number of women, Bernie Sanders, a relative unknown, has been permitted to arrive on the scene to play the role of adversary to give the democrats a supposed alternative.  Giving the people the illusion of "choice" is exactly what happened last election cycle when Hillary was expected to have the nomination in the bag.  Back then she was also widely disliked, so out of nowhere comes an unknown entity, one Barack Hussein Obama, to serve as an alternative choice to the voters. Whether democrats ultimately elected Hillary or Obama, it was all the same to the party bosses. As long as either one of them won the election, the entrenched Party big-wigs were the victors.

A similar game was played when Hillary's husband came out of nowhere years earlier when Democratic leaders couldn't get the public excited about the existing roster of candidates. All anybody knew about this complete unknown was one night he showed up on the Tonight Show and played his saxophone. He was incredibly charismatic, and next thing anybody knows, he was the next presidential candidate, poised to save the country from the economic mess left by George Herbert Walker Bush.

Eight years later, George Bush the Younger comes out of nowhere to save the country from the mess Bill Clinton made. And after the Bush catastrophe it was another unknown, Obama, who changed clothes in a phone booth and flew to the rescue of a grateful nation.

And so it goes.

The appearance of Bernie Sanders on the scene will give democrats who don't like Hillary Clinton the illusion they have a choice, but it's just a way to get the hopeful suckers to waste more time and energy working hard to make sure at least one of the democrats gets elected.

What may happen in the end is that Hillary and Bernie will make a show of burying their differences and agree to share the party ticket, with Sanders as Vice President. This show of unity will be meaningless, of course, as the vice president has no discernible authority, and Bernie will be too old to run for president after Hillary gets done tearing up the furniture.  But a Clinton/Sanders ticket would mollify the millennials and keep the democrats coming to the polls on election Tuesday to prevent a Republican win. And to the boys in the back room, that's all that matters.

Click Here for the exciting conclusion to this fascinating essay.  (Featuring The Fonz!)


I previously recommended Rob Smith's important new book, Teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men, but there were complaints about a number of typographical errors found within its pages.  I'm happy to announce that a 2nd edition is now available on Amazon, and this one appears to be typo free.  I immediately ordered myself a new copy, and the other news is that you can get also get a Kindle edition for only 99 cents.  So if you haven't done your due diligence, I hope you'll do so now.  Like I said before, if every devout Mormon were to read this book along with Denver Snuffer's Preserving the Restoration, we would have the reformation this religion sorely needs.

You won't find an indication on Amazon about this one being the 2nd edition, but Rob assures me that what you order from Amazon, whether the physical copy or the Kindle version, will be the latest and greatest.  This is must reading, folks, so don't let any more time pass. The price has even gone down; at the moment it is $10.79, down from around 13 dollars.

(I can tell you from experience that the author does not have control over Amazon's pricing algorithm; sometimes the price of my own book would increase or decrease from day to day, going up or down by as little as a penny. So get this one before that weird algorithm sends the price back up.)