Two days after the greatest upset in United States political history, President-elect Harry S. Truman was handed a copy of the Chicago Tribune. The bold headline on the front page read, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” The photo of President Truman posing with the newspaper has become one of the most famous political photographs ever taken.
The headline—printed several hours before the election results were in—reflected the feeling that ran through much of the United States at the time. Thomas Dewey, the Republican governor of New York, was apparently unbeatable. Truman simply had no chance of winning the 1948 U.S. presidential election.
By election night several of Truman’s aides had left his campaign to accept jobs elsewhere. Truman’s poll numbers had been so low that some party officials at the Democrat National Convention wanted him dropped as their party’s nominee for president.
Truman simply wasn’t supposed to win against Dewey. But win he did, comfortably. It may have been the greatest upset of all time.
Every four years, United States citizens go to the polls. And—regardless of which candidate triumphs—the election result turns out to be a massive disappointment for roughly half the electorate.
This year’s presidential election is notable for several reasons. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the first major female presidential candidate in U.S. history. Businessman Donald Trump has never before run for public office. And Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two of the least popular presidential candidates in United States history.
It seems that every four years a group of people threaten to move to Canada if candidate X is elected president. What are people to do if their candidate comes up short in this year’s presidential election? Is it time to shop for Canadian real estate?
The future of the United States doesn’t actually depend on who wins the race for the White House.
It might be helpful to remember that the future of the United States doesn’t actually depend on who wins the race for the White House. Our system of local, state, and federal politics means that no president can unilaterally impose his or her will on the American people. In all reality, a president’s ultimate impact on life in the United States is not as remarkable as a presidential candidate might have us think.
But whomever is sworn in as the forty-fifth president of the United States will not prevent God from ultimately fulfilling His will.
In ancient Babylon, Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar that God “deposes kings and raises up others” (Dan. 2:21), that “the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people” (Dan. 4:17). Could God be preparing to set Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump up to lead one of the kingdoms of earth?
Stranger things have happened.
In the sixth century B.C. Nebuchadnezzar spent 40 years or so on the throne of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar was a bloodthirsty, power-hungry, megalomaniacal idol worshiper. Nebuchadnezzar sentenced his closest counselors to death because they couldn’t comply with a request that was both irrational and absurd (Dan. 2).
The contumacious Nebuchadnezzar built an image of gold and boastfully said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30).
Most people wouldn’t want someone with Nebuchadnezzar’s character anywhere near a position of power. Yet God called Nebuchadnezzar “my servant” (Jer. 25:9; 27:6).
Lest you think God didn’t really mean what He said, God not only used Nebuchadnezzar to further the advancement of His kingdom, but also saved Nebuchadnezzar to be part of that eternal kingdom.
While Nebuchadnezzar was conquering nations, destroying cities, and bowing before idols, God wasn’t finished with him. God saw Nebuchadnezzar not as he was but as he might be through the grace of God. God saw where Nebuchadnezzar fit into the big picture. He saw how he could affect the world in such a way that God would ultimately be glorified. As the wise man wrote: “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him” (Prov. 21:1).
Christians have a remarkable capacity to smile and say “God bless you” on cue, while at the same time espousing raw hatred for political figures.
Like them or not, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are children of God. Jesus died for them. While some might paraphrase David and say, “What are Clinton and Trump that you are mindful of them?” God sees in both candidates something so magnificent that He gave Jesus to die for them. They might not get your vote, but as candidates for eternity they get God’s vote. Whether or not Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump make it to the White House, God wants them in His house.
Whether or not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton succeed in their run for this country’s highest office, God’s plans for this earth will not be hindered. Believers’ reaction to the election results will speak far more of the depth of their Christianity than about the results themselves.
When the dust settles on this election, and the Obamas have moved out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Clintons or the Trumps have moved in, the greatest challenge facing our country will still remain. Jesus urged His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).
After the last vote has been cast in this year’s presidential election, the mission of the church remains unchanged. There is a world to win with the saving message of God’s unfailing grace.
Trump or Clinton? Clinton or Trump? More than half of the population will be disappointed with this year’s election results. But God won’t be taken by surprise. He still sits on the throne of heaven. He still knows the end from the beginning.
God has this covered.
John Bradshaw is speaker/director of It Is Written, a media ministry of the North American Division.