Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ike and the Weekend

Every now and then, Life likes to look at my carefully planned schedule, rip it into shreds and laugh in my face. But .. at least there are often exciting and interesting events when that happens. I had planned to continue my series of articles on polls, especially building towards a decent and reasonably readable guide on how to find a good one. But Life, well Life had other ideas. First of all, there’s my real world, where I have a ton of work and a couple courses as I work towards my MBA, and the professors and my boss would really appreciate it if I did what they tell me. Also, my wife and daughter have this funny idea that I should spend some time with my family. Come to that, so do my dogs. The dogs have a simple tool – if I ignore them, they dig up the internet cable.

And then there was Ike.

Look, I am not particularly afraid of a little wind, and a nice bit of rain would mean I did not have to spend that hour watering my lawn every day for a while. But … 20 foot tide swells and 120 mph winds, OK that means taping and boarding up the house, bringing in every loose object within a quarter-mile, and checking the list to make sure we have everything. Of course we don’t. There’s always something else you need, and so off we go to get ice, extra dog food, and more bottled water. Then we will check the list again, although most of the stores are closed tomorrow.

See you Monday, if the waters subside by then …

On This Day

On this day then, evil came to America and murdered thousands of people, men and women, child and adult, soldier and civilian, Christian and Muslim and Atheist and Agnostic, in hopes of destroying Liberty.

On this day now, our soldiers fight to create Liberty in the very nations which spawned the evil which attacked us.

On this day then, thousands of our enemies cheered the death and pain brought about by villainy.

On this day now, millions of our new friends live in freedom and prosperity because of the efforts of Americans.

On this day then, monsters targeted people they knew to be innocent, in hopes of creating despair.

On this day now, our troops have destroyed many of the worst terrorists in the region, yet are careful to spare innocents, in hopes of fighting justly.

On this day then, the last long war America had fought was Vietnam.

On this day now, the world understands we can fight anyone, anywhere.

On this day then, the makers of terror believed they were immune from the consequences of their evil.

On this day now, we have obliterated the majority of Al Qaeda’s leadership, along with the network which coordinated plans and attacks for more than a dozen terrorist groups.

On this day then, some in America chose to side with the terrorists.

On this day now, sadly some in America still side with the terrorists.

On this day then, many in America supported the troops only in words.

On this day now, many in America support the troops only in words.

On this day then, the enemy thought to take over the world by chasing America out of where it wanted to go.

On this day now, the enemy hides in holes and lives in constant fear of discovery by our troops and the sure destruction our men bring to them.

On this day then, our enemy thought us weak and timid.

On this day now, we stand stronger than before, and surer of our precepts and prouder of our soldiers.

On this day now, more Americans than ever believe in our nation’s ideals, its value, and its promise.

On this day now, we remain resolved to destroy the tools and makers of terrorism, and to establish and protect Liberty throughout the world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ken Obama

It occurred to me this morning, that Senator Barack Obama is a lot like the late Enron founder and CEO Ken Lay. Ken Lay, when you examine his life, was man who seemed to do everything right and best in everything he did. Lay went to the University of Missouri, where he was the president of the Zeta Phi chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Lay earned a PhD in Economics from the University of Houston, and went on to work at Exxon Mobil. Lay was enormously successful and in short order served as a federal energy regulator and became undersecretary for the Department of the Interior before joining Florida Gas. Lay was experienced and in perfect position to build his new company, originally named Houston Natural Gas but renamed Enron in 1985. Basically, for decades Ken Lay had the golden touch, never putting a foot wrong and succeeding at everything he did.

Until he finally found a situation out of his control. And rather than deal with Reality and accept the damage needed to survive, Lay instead drove the company into the ground all the harder. Lay never meant to hurt anyone, I do believe that. But he did hurt a lot of people, anyway, precisely because he could not deal with a situation out of his control. Lay had never accepted that he could lose at something, and when he was faced with that reality he started lying and cheating, anything to evade the scenario he could not control.

Barack Obama is turning out to be like that, himself. Obama has enjoyed a fortunate role in every major undertaking of his life. His education included the prestigious Punahou Academy, Occidental College in Los Angeles, then Columbia. Immediately upon graduation, Obama was mentored by major political figures in Chicago, and he joined the Trinity United Church of Christ, whose pastor, Jeremiah Wright, became a defining influence for Obama by his own account (prior to his recent run for President). Obama then entered the Harvard Law School, and graduated magna cum laude. Obama was then hired by Miner, Barnhill, & Galland. Obama has been involved in politics since his community activist work in the 1980s, and his volunteer work for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for President. Overall, like Ken Lay before him, Barack Obama has worked hard and been tremendously successful at everything he tried, never tasting defeat at all. Obama’s meteoric political rise to the top of the Democratic Party ticket has been nothing short of Enron-like in its speed and scale, given his thin resume and lack of accomplishments. Just a few weeks ago, it seemed that nothing could stop Barack Obama from becoming the next President of the United States.

Enron, however, was never as solid as its image. Accountants inside the company warned of serious, fundamental, problems with the company’s structure and cash flow, warnings that were ignored or out and out quashed. So, when Enron finally came crashing to earth it did so with little hope of financial survivors; even half a decade later, forensic auditors have been largely disappointed in their efforts to find a functional sector or salvageable property or resource. It is now become apparent that the Obama campaign is similarly hollow and rotted-out. Initially, there were some questions about the details of Obama’s policies, and inconsistencies between what Obama had said in different places. Rather than clarify his position and expand on his plans, Obama became evasive, even dismissive. The problem was made worse when Hillary Clinton’s eighteen million supporters demanded he show public respect for her efforts and the historical significance of her campaign. Obama was so busy making sure he got props for his own campaign (which was not, by the way, the first, second, or even third time that a black candidate had run for President), that he spent no real effort at all praising the significance of a major female presidential candidate. Obama then ignored a promise he made to help Clinton clear up campaign debts, and refused to even extend the courtesy of vetting Clinton for the VP nominee short list.

Then McCain tapped Sarah Palin to be his running mate, and the cracks in Obama’s campaign became gaping holes. All those PUMAs Obama insulted and ignored began to rethink their support for the Democrat, and a bunch of women who thought this election had nothing of meaning for them decided that Sarah Palin made their support important.

The collective thought in Hopeychangeland?


Or various phrases with similar meanings.

You can learn some things about a person by their triumphs and victories. But you also learn about them, by how they address their mistakes, their setbacks, and their difficult times. John McCain screwed up his first marriage, he’s been very honest about that. But while he and Carol did not remarry, they did reconcile and she is very supportive of him. John McCain lost a bitter primary battle to George W. Bush in 2000. But he and President Bush worked out their differences and are solid allies who respect each other on many issues, even where they disagree. And John McCain spent over five years in a virtual hell, where he was physically and psychologically tortured, but during which time his fellow prisoners have said he was an outstanding leader and symbol of courage. That tells us some important things about John McCain.

Barack Obama has enjoyed many opportunities and advantages in his life, and there’s not a thing wrong in that. But we have not seen how he deals with his mistakes, how Barack Obama handles defeat, or how he faces serious adversity. But we can see what happened when a similar ‘golden boy’, Ken Lay, finally came face to face with something greater than his capabilities; Lay was just not up to the moral challenge.

The funny thing about Lay, is that he left Enron once, in pretty good shape. He came back to it when things were getting bad, and at that time he could have made a difference, when he actually could have saved the company and the investments of so many people.

But he could not handle a crisis of that type and scale, especially since it would have required him to admit that mistakes had been made, and that lies had been told. Instead, Ken Lay tried to cover them up and to protect his buddies. Ken Lay was inadequate to the task. His behavior over the past week indicates that Barack Obama is also inadequate for the role he desires to assume. When he found out that Sarah Palin had been nominated for Vice-President by the Republican Party, in spite of McCain’s congratulations the previous week Obama could not return the favor at first. Obama’s first impulse was to insult and attack, a practice he has repeated over and over again as he falls in the polls. Despite sending lawyers to Alaska to try to dig up something he could use to smear Palin, Obama’s campaign has only found lies and insults to use, and these only work against Obama. The promise of rising above petty bickering has been forgotten as Obama desperately seeks a way to slap down his opponent. Like a bad swimmer drowning in a riptide, Obama becomes more and more frantic in his behavior, first spewing puerile insults, then feigning innocence when called on it. He obsesses with his inability to counter the opposing party’s Vice-presidential nominee to such a degree that he completely ignores the issues and debates between himself and the GOP’s top-ticket nominee. The Democrats can do little more than stand by and watch in despair as their self-anointed Messiah proves no more than just another charlatan. When the test came, for all his expensive suits and crafted speech, Barack Obama was simply unready and ill-suited.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Poor Attempt at a Poll

The Obama people, I am told, have been much encouraged by the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll, pretty much because it is the only major poll right now which shows Barack Obama with the lead.

A one point lead.

With seven percent undecided.

And with an admitted margin of error between 4.7 and 5.0 percent on the major questions.

Further on, the polling group, Hart/Newhouse, tries to claim that the overall margin of error is +/- 3.3%, but the fact is a poll is only as reliable as its largest margin of error. One is left to consider whether Hart/Newhouse does not understand the significance of the math involved, or whether they simply wish to look better than they have done in preparing the poll. At best, they are being sloppy.

That sloppiness continues in the fact that there is no statement of methodology, nor are any of the internal demographics provided, much less the weighting. In terms of credibility, this is a poor effort.

Before looking further, I should note as well that if one visits NBC’s site (as I did to try to find the internals for the poll), the page for “Decision 08” includes a photo of Sarah Palin and the caption ”How many controversies can Sarah Palin’s candidacy survive?”. That, folks, is prima facia evidence that NBC (like MSNBC) is in the tank for Obama. This conclusion is supported by statements from the poll release, like this one from the third paragraph in the spin piece by Mark Murray; The findings from this survey … are consistent with other recent national polls showing the race to essentially be tied after the conventions and vice presidential selections.”

I have no doubt that Mister Murray would like the race to be tied in all the major polls. But he’s wrong. ABC News and the Washington Post admit McCain is up by 2 points, which is also what CBS News is saying, and Gallup’s Daily Tracking has McCain up by 5 and says he’s been up that much for four days straight. In fact, USA Today and Gallup’s regular poll says that among likely voters, McCain is up by 10 points.

What’s significant about these polls is that all of them show McCain’s campaign as much stronger than before, while Obama has lost some ground. NBC/WSJ has not released a lot of head-to-head polls between Obama and McCain, but in general they have shown support as high as most polls for Obama, while generally suppressing McCain’s numbers relative to other polls. Consequently, if the NBC poll is admitting that McCain is within striking distance, they have admitted that McCain has gained strength compared to their own previous numbers. No NBC poll this year has shown McCain within 1 point of Obama before.

So, in summary, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll should be noted in these respects:

[] They have been consistently anti-McCain relative to other polls released at the same time

[] They have refused to release their internal data and weighting

[] They have made statements in their poll release which are factually incorrect, exhibiting either poor fact-checking or deliberate deceit.

And yet, the Obama campaign can find no better hope for its hype. That is significant, itself.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Weight Room

I wondered about the way the polls came out in the past week. Maybe I’m just a suspicious type, but from what I could tell, a lot of voters had made up their minds before the conventions, and while I think Sarah Palin is going to make a big difference in the election, I did not expect a lot of voters to come over right away; I figure they want to find out more, first. The reason I say this, is that I found it strange to see poll numbers change so quickly. At least part of the answer, I found, was that the results were spun by fooling around with the weighting.

I visited Real Clear Politics, where I noted the new polls. Looking through them, I found two which provided the details on their party affiliation weighting; ABC News/Washington Post, and CBS News. Here’s how they cast the last two poll results:

ABC News/Washington Post
Sept. 7 (RV)____________Aug. 21 (RV)
McCain : 46%____________43%
Obama : 47%_____________49%
Republicans: 28%________26%
Democrats: 36%__________36%
Independents: 32%_______33%

I ignored “likely voter” results, because CBS News only tracked registered voters, and I wanted as much apples-to-apples as possible.

Demographics from (registration required)

CBS News
Sept. 7 (RV)____________Aug. 19 (RV)
McCain: 46%_____________42%
Obama: 44%______________45%
Republicans: 30.6%______28.8%
Democrats: 36.8%________36.3%
Independents: 32.5%_____35.0%

Both polls increased the weight of Republicans in the new poll. Should it surprise anyone then, that McCain’s numbers improved?

Let’s play a little game to show how this works. Working back the numbers, it appears that the following matrices of support can be shown using the data provided:

ABC News/Washington Post
August 21 (26% Rep, 36% Dem, 33% Ind)
Republicans: 7% Obama, 88% McCain
Democrats: 87% Obama, 8% McCain
Independents: 49% Obama, 51% McCain
TALLY – 49.31% Obama, 42.59% McCain

September 7 (28% Rep, 36% Dem, 32% Ind)
Republicans: 5% Obama, 92% McCain
Democrats: 87% Obama, 8% McCain
Independents: 46% Obama, 53% McCain
TALLY – 47.44% Obama, 45.60% McCain

CBS News
August 19 (28.8% Rep, 36.3% Dem, 35.0% Ind)
Republicans: 3% Obama, 87% McCain
Democrats: 84% Obama, 4% McCain
Independents: 40% Obama, 45% McCain
TALLY – 45.356% Obama, 42.258% McCain

September 7(30.6% Rep, 36.8% Dem, 32.5% Ind)
Republicans: 3% Obama, 93% McCain
Democrats: 84% Obama, 4% McCain
Independents: 38% Obama, 49% McCain
TALLY – 44.180% Obama, 45.855% McCain

I would point out that I am not making those numbers up – they come from actual poll internals I have been reading, and for this exercise you can see that if you plug them into the weights, you get the results published, more or less. Now, let’s take the average weighting of the four weights used, and apply it consistently, and then let’s see what happens to the published results:

[averaged weighting 28.35% Rep, 36.0275% Dem, 33.125% Ind]

ABC News/Washington Post
August 21, 49-43 Obama becomes 50-45 Obama
September 7, 47-46 Obama becomes 48-47 Obama

CBS News
August 19, 45-42 Obama becomes 44-41 Obama
September 7, 46-44 McCain becomes 44-44 tie.

This is not to say that these ‘revised’ numbers reflect a more accurate picture of voter support, but it does show that changing the party affiliation weighting can have a significant effect on the published results, especially in the headline which is all that most people read.

The problem with the weighting used in these and other polls, is that there is no science behind the weighting assigned to party identification. ABC/WaPo and CBS are just using whatever affiliation weighting they want to use, on no basis other than they chose to plug in that number. That’s fine for fooling around with the settings on a video game when you just want to have some fun, but it is hardly credible for a - purportedly - professional group to do this sort of thing. This kind of squirrelling around with internal controls on a poll is one reason, I think, why polls are so fragmented. I mean, Gallup does its own polls but also teamed up with USA Today. CBS News hires an agency for its own polls, but cooperates with the New York Times for a different poll. Disagreement on key demographic questions would explain that behavior, I think. I had a nice private discussion with one of Gallup’s executives back in 2004, and he agreed that the party identification problem is one of the big three for polling groups, largely because there is no consensus on what weighting should be used. Call me silly, but the best metric I have found to use, is the actual voter preferences from national elections.

In 2006, the National Exit Poll showed that 38% of voters considered themselves Democrats, 36% considered themselves Republicans, and 26% considered themselves Independent or supporting another party.

In 2004, the National Exit Poll showed that 37% of voters considered themselves Democrats, 37% considered themselves Republicans, and 26% considered themselves Independent or supporting another party.

In 2002, the National Exit Poll showed that 39% of voters considered themselves Democrats, 38% considered themselves Republicans, and 23% considered themselves Independent or supporting another party.

In 2000, the National Exit Poll showed that 39% of voters considered themselves Democrats, 35% considered themselves Republicans, and 27% considered themselves Independent or supporting another party.

In 1998, the National Exit Poll showed that 39% of voters considered themselves Democrats, 33% considered themselves Republicans, and 28% considered themselves Independent or supporting another party.

Those numbers look rather consistent to me, suggesting we could take an average of the last ten years of elections and get a practical idea of what to expect. Here’s how that shaped up:

Democrats: From 37 to 39 percent, average over the last ten years is 38.4%
Republicans: From 35 to 38 percent, average over the last ten years is 35.8%
Independents: From 23 to 28 percent, average over the last ten years is 26.0%

These numbers come from actual election exit polls from verified voters, and they demonstrate consistency over a decade of choice. They demonstrate that change does occur, but in small amounts and over time. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans should fear becoming a weak party anytime soon, nor should they fool themselves into thinking that their opponents are about to become irrelevant.

I cannot resist, however, applying these standardized party affiliations from known elections to the ABC/WaPo and CBS polls. Here’s how that worked out:

ABC News/Washington Post
August 21: 49-43 Obama original report. Historical weights indicate 49-48 Obama.
September 7: 47-46 Obama original report. Historical weights indicate 50-47 McCain .

CBS News
August 19: 45-42 Obama original report. Historical weights indicate 44-44 tie.
September 7: 46-44 McCain original report. Historical weights indicate 48-43 McCain.

I’m not saying you should count on those numbers, but I do think there’s better evidence for them.

The History of Bounce

Once again, I went trekking to one of my favorite archives, the records at Gallup for poll results during Presidential elections. There were no pre-convention poll results available for 1936 and 1940, so I had to begin with 1944. But there are some interesting numbers to look at, in terms of what value a post-convention “bounce” has for a candidate. The polls are for pre-both conventions, and after both conventions.

1944: Pre-conventions FDR 47, Dewey 45
Post-conventions FDR 47, Dewey 45
[ no bounce ]
Election result FDR 53.4%, Dewey 45.9%

1948: Pre-Conventions Dewey 49, Truman 38
Post-conventions Dewey 48, Truman 37
[ no bounce ]
Election result Truman 49.6%, Dewey 45.1%

1952: Pre-Conventions Eisenhower 59, Stevenson 31
Post-Conventions Eisenhower 50, Stevenson 43
[ Stevenson 21 point bounce ]
Election result Eisenhower 55.2%, Stevenson 44.3%

1956: Pre-Conventions Eisenhower 61, Stevenson 37
Post-Conventions Eisenhower 54, Stevenson 41
[ Stevenson 11 point bounce ]
Election result Eisenhower 57.4%, Stevenson 41.2%

1960: Pre-Conventions JFK 50, Nixon 44
Post-Conventions JFK 47, Nixon 47
[ Nixon 6 point bounce ]
Election result JFK 49.7%, Nixon 49.6%

1964: Pre-Conventions Johnson 76, Goldwater 20 (yes, 20 percent support)
Post-Conventions Johnson 65, Goldwater 32
[ Goldwater 23 point bounce ]
Election result Johnson 61.0%, Goldwater 38.5%

1968: Pre-Conventions Nixon 40, Humphrey 38
Post-Conventions Nixon 43, Humphrey 28
[ Nixon 13 point bounce ]
Election result Nixon 43.4%, Humphrey 42.7%

1972: Pre-Conventions Nixon 53, McGovern 37
Post-Conventions Nixon 61, McGovern 33
[ Nixon 12 point bounce ]
Election result Nixon 60.7%, McGovern 37.5%

1976: Pre-Conventions Carter 53, Ford 36
Post-Conventions Carter 51, Ford 40
[ Ford 6 point bounce ]
Election result Carter 50.1%, Ford 48.0%

1980: Pre-Conventions Reagan 37, Carter 34
Post-Conventions Reagan 39, Carter 38
[ Carter 2 point bounce ]
Election result Reagan 50.8%, Carter 41.0%

1984: Pre-Conventions Reagan 53, Mondale 39
Post-Conventions Reagan 56, Mondale 37
[ Reagan 5 point bounce ]
Election result Reagan 58.8%, Mondale 40.6%

1988: Pre-Conventions Dukakis 47, GH Bush 41
Post-Conventions GH Bush 48, Dukakis 44
[ GHW Bush 10 point bounce ]
Election result GH Bush 53.4%, Dukakis 45.7%

1992: Pre-Conventions Clinton 56, GH Bush 36
Post-Conventions Clinton 51, GH Bush 42
[ GHW Bush 11 point bounce ]
Election result Clinton 43.0%, GH Bush 37.5%

1996: Pre-Conventions Clinton 53, Dole 36
Post-Conventions Clinton 53, Dole 37
[ Dole 1 point bounce ]
Election result Clinton 49.2%, Dole 40.7%

2000: Pre-Conventions Gore 47, GW Bush 46
Post-Conventions Gore 47, GW Bush 45
[ Gore 1 point bounce ]
Election result GW Bush 47.9%, Gore 48.4%

2004: Pre-Conventions Kerry 49, GW Bush 47
Post-Conventions Kerry 48, GW Bush 47
[ GW Bush 1 point bounce ]
Election result GW Bush 50.8%, Kerry 48.3%

2008: Pre-Conventions Obama 45, McCain 45
Post-Conventions McCain 48, Obama 45
[ McCain 3 point bounce ]

Looking at these results, the following observations may be made:

In the sixteen elections for President between 1944 and 2004, in twelve of the sixteen the candidate leading after the conventions won the election. The conventions gave the aggregate bounce to the candidate who lost the election nine times, to the winner twice, and there was no aggregate bounce on two occasions. The 1988 election is the only time in the sixteen elections that the candidate who was trailing before the conventions went on to take the lead after the conventions on a bounce, and go on to win the general election. Of the nine times where the losing candidate enjoyed the best convention bounce, in six elections the trailing candidate was 17 points or more behind in the polls before the elections, and the bounce simply tightened the race. On average, the candidate leading in the polls after the conventions enjoyed election results 2.3 points higher than his poll support after the conventions, while the trailing candidate enjoyed election results 2.9 points higher than his poll support after the conventions.

Gallup was used exclusively for this examination, because only Gallup has consistent public results dating back to 1944, and only Gallup has maintained the same polling methodology for all of its election polling. When other poll agencies are similarly complete and consistent, I plan to start using their results as well.

UPDATE - What does it all mean?

Blogger does not let me attach Excel charts, which is a shame, because the graphic track is interesting. What happens on that track for the most part, is the candidate who wins the election tends to have strong (48%+) support during the end run of the race, while the loser, well, he is either far behind or slipping in his support (meaning he would have to spend a lot of effort shoring up his base). Timing is critical, in other words, and peaking too early really does kill your campaign.

Of course, I have to throw in some caveats. For a reasonable level of confidence, you really need 32 or more samples of data, and this gives only half that many, and there are a number of apparent outliers already. Truman appeared to come from way behind in 1948 to win, the only such case of the sixteen elections examined here. Also, 1944 and 1948 showed no apparent bounce from the conventions, but the 14 elections after them all showed a bounce effect. In most elections, the candidate ahead when the conventions began won the election, but in 2000 and 2004 the election winner was behind in the polls both before and after the conventions. It is all but impossible to know if there is significance this year in McCain's sudden lead after the convention, the first time since 1988 that a candidate went into the party conventions trailing but came out from the conventions with a clear lead.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Christians and Politics

Yesterday, my family and I went shopping, and in the parking lot of a superstore we passed a car with a bumper sticker which read, “Who Would Jesus Torture?” Like so many bumper stickers, this one was a trite attempt to suggest that Christians who support the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan are hypocrites. I could have written a lengthy article on why the bumper sticker was itself hypocritical and malicious, but there is a larger, more important issue to be examined here – the political character of the Christian in the United States.

Lately, it has become fashionable for Liberals to pretend that Jesus Christ would prefer Barack Obama to John McCain. In so far as everyone has a right to make their case and have an opinion that is fine, but when someone who is not a practicing Christian decides that they have the authority to speak for the Master who warned ”My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), they show a disappointing arrogance which cheapens their position. Also, there are dozens of significant denominations, and each holds strong beliefs which differ in various ways from other associations; the idea that a single political opinion on a controversial question would be monolithically held through all Christian churches betrays a simplistic and biased view of the Christian mind. Further, the American character of Christianity is distinct from the rest of the faith; not better or worse because of its differences, but ignoring those differences is to ignore History. American Christians have often taken stronger positions than other Christians on political issues, though in the main the decision has always been individual, not so much institutional. And in the past generation, those religious “leaders” who demand a specific political stance from their denomination have more and more been those individuals whose work has been almost exclusively political, and thoroughly lacking in pastoral acts of charity and, well, feeding their flock.

I have studied the Scriptures extensively, and from what I see it is very difficult to find a political position that is perfectly, hmm, ”Christ-like”. Take war, for example. Jesus is known colloquially as the “Prince of Peace”, and Scripture tells us that he warned His disciples, that “all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52). Yet it is also written that when a Roman Centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus not only did so, but strongly praised the faith of the Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13). What’s more, there is not a single verse in the Bible where a soldier is condemned or war itself is condemned. There are verses, actually, which suggest the Lord thinks well of honest soldiers (e.g. Exodus 15:3, Deuteronomy 20:1, Judges 3:10, Judges 6:12, Revelation 19:11). That is not to say that God thinks war is always a good thing, or even usually a good thing. But it is a fact of this world that wars happen, and that good men have to fight in them. From there, reasonable people can differ about the decision to go to war, or the decisions made by leaders. But it is plainly arrogant to claim that Christ sides with your own political position, especially if you are not a practicing Christian.

There are a lot of issues like that, where there is no clear political position which a person can properly say God advocates. It’s easy to rip out something you found in the Bible that seems to say what you want, but in many of those cases the actual context of the Scripture is less obvious, especially given twenty centuries or so between the time they were written and today.

Both major political parties have been guilty at one time or another with playing the ’God likes me better’ card. From where I sit, it may play out to a temporary advantage, but for the tens of millions of Christians who do their level best every day to walk in Christ’s teachings, it mocks who we are and what we stand for. It’s fine if you hold different beliefs from me and honestly express your own opinion, although I may say that I think you are wrong. But if you try to pretend that a faith you don’t even believe in teaches morality according to your political position, that is simply lying arrogance. And it’s not fooling the people you think it is.