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As Patricia Schroeder cooked eggs for her children one morning in 1983, the Democratic congresswoman from Colorado contemplated her non-stick pan and created a moniker for President Ronald Reagan.
In a speech on the House floor, Schroeder called Reagan a “Teflon” president—nothing seemed to stick to him. Schroeder didn’t mean it as a compliment, but the nickname stuck. Admirers of Reagan later said he transcended criticism in part because of his calm demeanor.
Few would likely attribute a calm demeanor to President Donald Trump’s ability to survive controversy, but as the Senate acquitted him of impeachment charges on Feb. 5, Trump’s popularity rating hit 49 percent—the highest since he took office.
Democrats had a stickier week: Democratic Party officials in Iowa botched the state’s first-in-the-nation contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. It took nearly a week for officials to declare Pete Buttigieg the winner of the most delegates in the contest. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., finished a close second.
In New Hampshire, Sanders narrowly prevailed on Feb. 11, while Buttigieg came in second. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., finished just behind Buttigieg, setting up a potential showdown for voters looking for an alternative to Sanders.
The candidates now face a southern swing that will test their ability to woo a critical voting bloc: African American voters. Despite a poor showing in early primaries, former Vice President Joe Biden was leading polls ahead of South Carolina’s Feb. 29 primary, and he’s registered high support among black voters.
As 2020 unfolds, what can Christians do in an often-noxious environment?
African Americans have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates for decades, but President Trump used his State of the Union address on Feb. 4 to serve up a direct pitch to black supporters.
He also welcomed Venezuelan President Juan Guaido, amid Venezuela’s continued breakdown and Guaido’s inability to oust dictator Nicolas Maduro. Hours after Guaido’s appearance in Washington, D.C., Maduro’s intelligence service reportedly moved five Americans from house arrest to a Caracas prison.
The Maduro regime has detained the five U.S. citizens and one legal resident for more than two years. Officials charged the CITGO employees with corruption but haven’t given them a trial date.
In China, the deadly coronavirus continued to menace locked-down cities, and thousands of passengers on a cruise ship in Japan remained quarantined after the virus spread to 135 people aboard the vessel.
Meanwhile, England unstuck itself from the European Union, as the first stages of Brexit officially began.
Back in the United States, politics promised to remain sticky as the 2020 presidential elections began in earnest. If Trump continues his streak as a kind of Teflon president, it’s worth remembering a notable trait of Teflon: It isn’t indestructible. At extremely high temperatures, Teflon can break down and release fumes. People inhaling the fumes can fall ill with symptoms that mimic the flu.
When Trump attended the National Prayer Breakfast the morning after his Senate acquittal, the high heat of impeachment and anger at his political foes boiled over.
Arthur Brooks, a Catholic and a former president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, pleaded with the audience to pursue civility with each other, and he reminded them of Jesus words’: “Love your enemies.”
When Trump took the stage, he quipped: “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you.” He used the first part of the prayer event to hail his vindication and lash out at his foes. (He also took an apparent swipe at Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the only GOP senator to vote against acquittal.)
Democrats had displayed their own toxicity earlier in the week: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., dramatically ripped up her copy of Trump’s State of the Union address after he delivered the remarks to Congress.
As 2020 unfolds, what can Christians do in an often-noxious environment? One idea: We can pray we won’t release toxic fumes ourselves. Under the high heat of political disagreements, even with other believers, we can remember the Bible’s teaching about how God designs to use heat in a Christian’s life: to burn off dross and bring out gold.
It won’t be painless, but it can bring glory to God.