- Saturday, September 30, 2023

The second round of the Republican presidential debates is behind us, and by nearly all accounts, America is not impressed. Why?

Because the people on the stage just don’t inspire us. Even though we want to give these candidates the benefit of the doubt, we intuitively recognize their shallowness.

We see no conviction, consistency or integrity, and we rightly believe that if they can be so easily manipulated to parrot what their campaign consultants tell them to say, there is little reason to trust them.

The Pew Research Center tells us Americans deeply distrust our nation’s leaders. According to Pew, only about 20% report trusting those elected to state and national office.

“Trust in the government,” Pew says, “remains at or near historically low levels across generational lines.”

The root cause of these terrible numbers is obvious. It’s called lying.

An overwhelming majority of people believe that politicians will do and say anything to get elected. What they tell us means nothing. We assume there is zero commitment to keeping their word. And we are often proved right.

When you are known for your political calculations rather than personal conviction, guess what? People don’t trust you.

This kind of compromise is not leadership. It is choreographed puppetry and the opposite of what Americans want. Our nation is floundering right now, and the average citizen instinctively knows we need a leader, not a lemming.

One of the best examples of leadership comes from the Old Testament and the book of Joshua.

In the story, Moses had just died, and the nation of Israel needed to choose a new leader. Standing before them was Joshua as but one option of many.

The people of Israel had an important decision to make. Who would their next leader be, and what direction would they follow?

As Joshua spoke, he didn’t know if the people would choose him or not. If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, he understood there was a slim chance that the children of Israel would elect him and forsake the others clamoring to be Moses’ successor.

But despite the odds against him, Joshua refused to compromise. Rather than spouting political bromides, he stood before the crowd and called on them to make a choice. He knew his country was going in the wrong direction and that it was doomed if it didn’t change course.

Throw away the false gods that your people worshipped,” he shouted.

Joshua modeled conviction, and he expected the same from his people. He demanded that his nation repent and return to the truth that defined them in the first place.

But there was more. Joshua knew that real leadership is more than talk. He had to walk the walk, set an example. He understood that leaders are obligated to be men of integrity. There was no compromise in his words or his life.

“Follow others to your own destruction if you want,” he shouted. “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

Joshua didn’t consult his campaign manager. He didn’t allow his decisions to be influenced by the whims of his peers or the whispers of handlers and consultants.

He spoke with courage and conviction. He issued his challenge, and he revealed his character.

Come hell or high water, everyone understood Joshua was determined to do what was right. He showed his conviction by taking a stand.

This is the kind of leadership America needs. We stand at a juncture no less critical than that of the Israelites of old. Our country is begging for someone to lead us, someone with conviction, someone who will not compromise. If just one of the GOP candidates would dare to be a Joshua, they’d find a nation rushing to follow them.

We are sick of the equivocation and compromise. We want a leader, not a follower. We want someone — anyone — who is steadfast and immovable, someone with the courage to march forward in the face of adversity, someone who is willing to tell the people who he truly is. Give us that leader, and then stand back and be amazed at the tens of millions who will gladly follow.

America is begging for a Joshua. We’re ready to follow fresh, young, bold, honest leadership. We are tired of the geriatric class that has created the mess we’re in. We are weary of wandering around in the wilderness, and we are ready for someone — anyone — to step forward, call a spade a spade, and lead. If any of the current field of Republicans would do so, the nation would rally to the cause in overwhelming numbers.

As John Wesley once said, all you need to do to get someone to follow you is “set yourself afire, and people will come from miles around just to watch you burn.”

It’s time for someone in the GOP field of candidates to light a match.

• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host.

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