Burning Bush 2.0
06.03.14 9:45 AM ET
Judging by the GOP, God Can’t Pick a Campaign Winner
Herman Cain is just the latest in a long line of GOP candidates who say God told them to run for president—but apparently God never mentioned anything about winning.
Are you there, God? It’s Herman Cain—and the rest of The GOP is likely coming, too.
The Tea Party’s favorite pizza-preneur hit the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans on Saturday with a message for conservatives, but more importantly, for Jesus Christ: If called, he’s ready for another run at the presidency in 2016.
“I do not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future, and that’s God Almighty,” Cain said. “And in case someone is wondering, I don’t trust in government, I trust in God.”
He’s not the only one waiting for God’s go-ahead. “I believe God will make it clear to me if that’s something I’m supposed to do,” said Ben Carson on Fox News in August. The neurosurgeon earned plaudits from conservatives last year (the Wall Street Journal ran a “Ben Carson for President” editorial) following his scalding speech at the White House prayer breakfast.
But sadly for both, God has been known to endorse multiple candidates, and a push from the man upstairs doesn’t always add up to votes.
It’s no surprise that many GOP candidates invoke God in stump speeches; after Mormons, evangelicals are the most Republican religion and just one in 10 consider themselves liberal. But only a select few belong to the divine endorsement club.
Members include former Indiana State Sen. William Costas, who credited a “message from God” delivered by his wife for his ultimately unsuccessful 1986 Congressional run. That same year Richard Stokes lost a bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, along with his wife, when he quit his job as a middle school teacher after hearing the “very deep, very plain” voice of God at 3 a.m. telling him to launch a campaign that focused on abortion, homosexuality and Communism. And Jim Bob Duggar—hero of the Quiverfull movement and star of the reality series 19 Kids and Counting—said he was “called by God,” but didn’t make it past the Republican primary in his 2002 U.S. Senate attempt. Even Ronald Reagan heard the voice of God, according to his son, Michael, who wrote in his book, Hand of Providence, “He believed God had called him to run for president. He believed God had things for him to do.”
In 2012, at least five candidates claimed God had called them all the run.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity it would be “up to God and the American people,” whether he would seek the nomination.
Herman Cain is just awaiting a sign like the one handed down to him in 2011. Before throwing his hat in the ring, he said, “I felt like Moses when God said, ‘I want you to go into Egypt and lead my people out.’ Moses resisted. I resisted.… But you shouldn’t question God.”
Though Rick Santorum’s wife, Karen, told him, “God cannot possibly want you to do this,” he ultimately convinced her with prayer that God was leading him onto the presidential path. “After a while she saw the same thing I did.”
In 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry told a reporter, “I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs.” And after a string of bad luck pushed him into third place—offensive campaign ads, and laughable debate performances helped—his wife, Anita, likened him to Moses, and described his decision to run as heeding signs from above, relayed by her to her chosen husband. “He didn’t want to hear a thing about running for president,” she said. “He felt like he needed to see the burning bush. I said ‘Look, let me tell you something. You may not see that burning bush, but there are people seeing that burning bush for you.’”
And you can thank God for Michele Bachmann, too. In 2006, the Almighty ordered the mother of five to run for Congress. But He wasn’t finished, so in 2011 God urged her to run for the highest office. “Every decision that I make I pray about, as does my husband,” the Congresswoman explained. “And I can tell you, yes, I’ve had that calling and that tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do…”
These candidates all claimed that God was the impetus and continuing force behind their campaigns. And every one, save Rick Santorum, claims they never wanted to do it in the first place. According to their own admissions, they had to be convinced by God to do his will.
And they all lost.
But then again, God never mentioned anything about winning.
God’s favorite candidates can all take heart in the words of another famous loser, Pat Robertson, who claimed the White House was as good as his in the 1988 election. The televangelist was another who initially resisted God’s call to run, but eventually relented. “I heard the Lord,” Robertson whispered in front of a New Hampshire church congregation along the campaign trail, “saying ‘I have something else for you to do. I want you to run for president of the United States.’” He went on, “I assure you that I am going to be the next president of the United States.”
After finishing a distant third, Robertson says in his book, The Plan, that he questioned his faith. “I’ve been asked the question a hundred times: ‘Did you miss God?’ I asked over and over, ‘Did I miss Your leading, Father? … Did I hear You? … Why didn’t I win?’”
Robertson’s soul searching led him to draw a comparison between his loss and Jesus Christ himself, whom, he writes, “failed by human standards but was part of God’s perfect plan. Was He hurt? Of course he was. Will He be vindicated? Gloriously so.”
“I followed God’s plan for me, so in His eyes I did win.”