Thursday, January 10, 2008

Betting on the Presidential Race

As we approached the New Hampshire presidential primaries on Tuesday, the pollsters, pundits, and other experts assured us that we should expect a clear victory by Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Indeed, they assured us that Obama would likely win by double digits.

When the dust had cleared on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton had won a narrow victory over Obama. So far as I know, every group of experts got it wrong.

Every group except one, that is. As was pointed out on MSNBC on Wednesday morning, the Las Vegas odds-makers got it right. They had posted Clinton as the favorite going into the primary. When one of those Vegas bookmakers was asked how they got it right when everybody else got it wrong, he said that getting such things right was how odds-makers make their living. Money is made or lost depending on how well they do their job.

I do not, of course, recommend that we follow the bookmakers’ guidance in deciding for whom we are going to vote. I also do not recommend taking our hard-earned money and placing bets on political or any other kinds of races.

Many people who don’t place wagers in Las Vegas nonetheless place bets on the presidential race. I suspect that many of us would be amazed at the amount of money, time, and energy that is expended by people on the candidate of their choice. Those who make such investments are hoping to parlay their investment into something that they regard as profitable.

Some folks are true believers. They hope that their expenditures will help their candidate get elected and that the candidate will then steer the country in a direction that they believe will be better. So, someone who believes that we need to do more to enhance national security might invest in one candidate while someone who believes that our health care system needs overhauling might invest in another candidate while someone who believes that a conservative social agenda is important might invest in yet another candidate.

Some folks are angle players. Their agenda is personal or corporate benefit and their motive is enhancing their bottom line. So, a person or group that is involved in this industry might support this candidate while a person or group that is involved in that business might support that candidate. Sometimes such folks will even contribute to more than one campaign and sometimes even to candidates in different parties, hoping to have some influence regardless of who gets elected.

Most of us, though, are the rank and file voters who listen to the candidates, who try to sift out the fluff from the facts in media reports, who might make a small donation to the candidate that strikes us as the best choice, and who go into the voting booth and pull the lever, hoping and praying that the process works well enough that we will have a decent leader for the next four years who really believes in government of the people, for the people, and by the people, who understands that he or she is the president of all Americans, and who takes with utmost seriousness his or her pledge to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

In a way, we’re all gambling to some extent when we support and vote for a particular candidate. We’re betting—or at least hoping—that our vote will count and that our wager will pay off in having a leader who will leave our country better off than he or she found it.

As for me, I invest more of my time and energy in prayer than in anything that I might do to help someone get elected. I pray that the good Lord will show favor to us and give us a leader who will understand the principles of freedom and justice that have made and will continue to make America great. I pray that God will grant us mercy and give us a leader who will understand that the world is changing and that the United States must change in our approaches to international relations while holding true to our principles.

Besides, I’m betting that the Old Testament prophets are right in their repeated insistence that God’s people not put their ultimate trust in princes—and these days they would add princesses to that admonition, I’m sure.

I confess that I get pretty cynical about the process sometimes, even to the point of feeling sorry for folks who are so convinced that one particular person is going to make all that much of a difference if he or she is elected President of the United States.

But I never stop believing in the basic greatness of this nation or in the basic goodness of its people.

And what I really never stop believing in is the grace and providence of God.

When all is said and done, God will work his purposes out.

Not that you can and not that you should, but…you can bet on that.

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