Articles, Essays & Sermons

On the character of persistence

Elizabeth Warren and the schooling of US politics

by Ken Sehested
5 March 2020

I’m glad that Senator Elizabeth Warren did not cry in her press interview outside her home this afternoon, announcing she was dropping out of the race for the Democratic nominee for president. Because I was already on the verge of tears.

I have supported more losing candidates for political office than I care to admit. The immediate, sensory evidence of victory—for those pursuing the Beloved Community—is typically piecemeal and prelude.

But hear this: Electioneering is not the same as politics, in the larger sense of pressing forward for the common good.

Therefore, if you lose electorally, do not give up. More is at stake; and more is possible. One of Lent’s disciplines is training the eye to see and ear to hear what, and who, is buried beneath the rubble.

None can escape the need to make electoral preferences—while sometimes holding your nose. On this, Bro. Niebuhr was correct. He called it “political realism.” We are always offering applause for a child’s first wobbly steps (knowing falls will come); for a baptismal candidate’s initial vows (knowing doubt will encroach); for lovers’ marital pledge (knowing toil and trials will unfold).

Electoral decisions are made in favor of fallible brokers of public trust, for both reasoned and intuitive considerations.  To be earnestly realistic about such choices, bridle your expectations, and orchestrate more forceful insistence for public character and righteous governance. As Bro. Douglass warned, power concedes nothing without demand.

Right: "Lenten Rose," linocut by Julie Lonneman.

Casting ballots is such a small part of civil engagement.

The basis for hope—beyond the coarse limitations of realism—is chosen not because of optimism but because of a beatific vision. Beauty, more than duty, will sustain resolve and sharpen clarity. Such hope remains steadfast—however buffeted, reviled, vilified, or scorned.

Devote yourself to a measurable acre. Conserve it, clear it, till it, plant it, protect it. Then rejoice in the bounty to come, even if the harvest arrives beyond your years. Be in the world, on the Way, buoyed by Spirit-heralds, living and dead, who blaze the trail “to that bright land to which we go.”

No doubt you will be “warned,” by lofty authority and credible threat, as Sis. Warren has been and likely will continue to be. Nevertheless, she persists. We can, too.

#  #  #

©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org