Tea Party and the Right

Why Do Conservatives Presume That God Wants Them to Run for President? (He Probably Doesn't)

Many GOPers refer getting a "call" from God to run for President. Is it crass pandering to the religious right, or their massive egos?

GOPers Receiving "Call" from On High to Run for Presidency

Over the years, while many have heard and heeded "the call," few have emerged victorious, which means that either they didn't really get the call, or the caller was more trickster than heavenly messenger.

George W. Bush did it; Michelle Bachmann has done it a number of times, and appears to be about to do it again; As Mormons, it is highly unlikely that Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman would dare do it; Newt Gingrich would do it if he thought there was a chance anyone would believe him; Tim Pawlenty's campaign manager did it only a few weeks ago; and, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump would likely be laughed off the stage if they even tried it.

IT is "The Call" from God to run for the presidency.

George W. Bush got 'The Call'

In 2000, while Governor of Texas, George W. Bush was considering a run for the presidency, "a story circulated that he had phoned televangelist James Robison" and said that he had "heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for president," Edmund D. Cohen pointed out in a piece in Free Inquiry magazine.

Author Stephen Mansfield expanded on the Bush story in his book, "The Faith of George W. Bush":

"On the day that the evangelist entered Bush's office, he was surprised to find political strategist Karl Rove there as well, and even more surprised at what Bush was about to say. 'My life is changed,' the governor said. 'I had a drinking problem. I won't say I was an alcoholic, but it affected my relationships, even with my kids. It could have destroyed me. But I've given my life to Christ.'

"Robison, who had heard rumors of Bush's conversion, was struck by the sincerity he sensed. He was not prepared, though, for what came next. 'I feel like God wants me to run for president,' Bush said. 'I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen, and, at that time, my country is going to need me. I know it won't be easy, on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.'


'In fact,' Bush continued, 'I really don't want to run. My father was president. My whole family has been affected by it. I know the price. I know what it will mean. I would be perfectly happy to have people point at me someday when I'm buying my fishing lures at Wal-Mart and say, "That was our governor." That's all I want. And if I run for president, that kind of life will be over. My life will never be the same. But I feel God wants me to do this, and I must do it.'"

A 'Call' nearly as old as God him/her self

"Politicians and operatives claiming that God spoke to them is as old as the hills," Frederick Clarkson, author of "Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy" told BuzzFlash. "Whether said in earnest or as a matter of crass pandering, when people say such things, they should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Not so much to question whether or not God spoke to them, but because they were so unwise as to say so."

This time around, the camps of at least two presidential hopefuls have signaled that "the call" is involved.

Although she hasn't yet formally tossed her hat into the ring, Minnesota Congressman Michelle Bachmann has indicated that she believes that she has a "calling" to run for the presidency. "I've had this calling and tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do," Bachmann said during a recent taping of the public television program, "Iowa Press."

Bachmann has plowed these fields before. According to Talking Point Memo's Eric Kleefeld, while running for Congress in 2006, "Bachmann revealed that she and her husband fasted and prayed for a couple days in order to receive word from God on whether or not to run."

At a megachurch event, Bachmann told the audience that "... God then called me to run for the United States Congress. And I thought, what in the world would that be for? And my husband said, 'You need to do this.' And I wasn't so sure. And we took three days, and we fasted and we prayed. And we said 'Lord, is this what you want? Is this Your will?' And after - along about the afternoon of day two - He made that calling sure. And it's been now 22 months that I've been running for United States Congress. Who in their right mind would spend two years to run for a job that lasts for two years? You'd have to be absolutely a fool to do that. You are now looking at a fool for Christ. This is a fool for Christ."

A few weeks back, Nick Ayers, Tim Pawlenty's 28-year-old wunderkind of a
campaign manager, acknowledged that before he joined Team Pawlenty, he "prayed deeply" over his future path. Ayers concluded that God had "called" him "to a higher purpose," and that higher purpose is leading Pawlenty to victory in November 2012.


"Over the years, God has been pressed into service as de facto manager for many political campaigns," Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst for Americans United told BuzzFlash. "Candidates from all parties and at various levels of office have sought divine sanction by claiming that God called them to run."

Boston pointed out that "There are a couple of problems with this claim, however: One, it's really hard to believe that the Supreme Being of the universe really cares who's occupying the mayor's office, a congressional seat or even the White House. There's just something arrogant about insisting that God wants you to run. Secondly, there is no way voters can be certain that the 'call' is really coming from God. Some of these messages, I suspect, spring from less lofty sources - like the candidates' massive egos."

'God made them do it'

As more GOP politicos consider making a presidential run, it will be interesting to see if any of the newbies (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Texas Gov. Rick Perry) cite the "call from God."

Frederick Clarkson, co-founder of the blog Talk2Action, added: "When the framers of the Constitution barred religious oaths and other 'tests' for public office (in Article 6), they were responding in part to the age old opportunism of politicians.

"The framers were wise enough to recognize and address the fact that pols don't necessarily mean everything that they say, and that many will say whatever is necessary to accomplish their ends. So when we hear contemporary pols and their employees claim that God made them do it, we might ask ourselves whether they are really any more credible than pols who in other contexts say that Satan made them do it."

In a recent interview with televangelist James Robison, The Family Research
Council's Tony Perkins asserted that "the reason government is corrupt is because there's not godly people in it." Robison heartily agreed with Perkins analysis.

As leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation become more immersed with the political activities of the Religious Right, it serves politicians well to cite a "call" from God, since that, in of itself, "becomes the most important factor qualifying him or her for the position of president," Rachel Tabachnick, an independent researcher who specializes in End Times narratives, told BuzzFlash.

Tabachnick added that "The apostles have become major leaders in the Religious Right and are becoming increasingly visible in politics, including working closely with a number of the leading Republican candidates. They participated in organizing resistance to the healthcare reform bill, helped organizing Glenn Beck's 'Restoring Honor' event in August 2010, and produced videos and campaign materials prior to the 2010 election."

Sometimes, however, in a world as unpredictable as the one we live in, the "calling from God" turns out to be a prank call. As Americans United's Rob Boston explained: "While we all know that God works in mysterious ways, his political endorsements have often been really baffling. Why did he call Pat Robertson to run for president in 1988 and let him suffer a humiliating defeat in the primaries?"

Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering right-wing groups and movements.