It’s a presidential election like no other. The country, a few years removed from historic financial disaster and teetering on the brink of war, has two clear choices for president.
First is the widely-known Democratic powerhouse, running for what amounts to a third-term extension of the policies of the President’s last eight years, which has greatly expanded and stretched the Constitutional role of the President almost to the breaking point. On the other side is a Republican wildcard maverick businessman from New York with no prior elective experience, promising strong solutions and a new day. Each of these candidates is facing a divided country, one with strong sentiments of pacifism and socialism, running through the consciousness of many voters.
I’m talking about the 1940 presidential election. The major candidates are not Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but are FDR and Wendell Willkie. There indeed are these similarities between 1940 and 2016, but the differences are what offer us the most lessons.
/// Leadership gap. Whether you agree with his policies or not, Franklin Roosevelt was one of the most capable American presidents. FDR had a moral compass, a way of building consensus and led America to its greatest war time victory. Like them or not, Obama, Clinton and Trump have not had that same consensus-building ability, which the mark of true leadership.
/// Leadership reflects citizens’ values. 1940s America was not the perfect place. There was a lot of greed, racism and infidelity and other social sins. But generally speaking, the voting citizens were patriotic, and more community and family-minded. The overall character of the nation was of higher moral value, and the politicians reflected that value.
/// Same problems, different problems. Sometimes our current problems seem to dwarf those of prior generations. But that same generation that voted between FDR and Willkie would find itself plunged into war, followed by a decades-long struggle with communism and later the threat of nuclear war. Yes, the problems in 2016 are great, but each generation has its own set of challenges and opportunities.
The lessons from 1940 are stark for today. If you want a good leader, have a good citizenry, don’t assume we have it worse today. Pray more. You never know what challenges the next president will face.
In the end, God is in control of who is in power. We almost always get the leader we deserve. Let’s pray whomever is in the White House in 2017 will fear the Lord and unite the country behind goodness and the values that the 1940s generation worked so hard to pass on.