The GOP . . .
. . . is losing touch with its base? Is that because it is too conservative, or not? “Compassionate Conservatism” was theoretically socially conservative, fiscally moderate to left-moderate, and conservative on national defense. Yet social issues remain largely unchanged. Fiscal policy under the new administration has moved so far left that economic collapse is visible, albeit unlikely since some in Congress still have a brain. We changed parties as a nation this last time largely because the nation was unwilling to face the cost of defending itself. I don’t think anybody really knows what’s up here.
The extraordinarily rapid collapse of the current administration’s approval ratings shows a fickle and ideologically inconsistent nation. We seem to vote in the moment, and increasingly we vote in opposition to, not support of something. (Bush Derangement Syndrome.) That makes it pretty hard for a party to stick a stake in the ground. And yet, at some point, too much fluidity is simply chaos.
This is the real problem with the media age, with identity politics, and with the increasing secularization of our society. Media shortens our attention span, so we never examine things at a level where we might come up with a guiding philosophy. Identity politics makes it about who, not about the issues. That is truly a formula for eventual civil war since there is no clear majority “who.” And finally, religion, the traditional source for a person who is building a guiding philosophy, is waning in our society at the moment, even within the boundaries of religion as it too, particularly amongst Evangelicals, becomes increasing media- and sound bite-driven.
As if to make my point for me, a great post went up over the weekend at that new blog “Evangel” that I brought up last week. Consider:
Though there are undoubtedly individual exceptions to this, social conservatives are generally unable to comprehend the place of government beyond the life issues to which they properly draw our attention. Yet what if we were to succeed in enacting legal protections for the unborn? What if governments were to come to recognize that the legal redefinition of marriage and family lies outside their sphere of competence? What if even the thought of ending prematurely the lives of the frail and elderly were to be excluded from the realm of civilized discourse? What, in short, if every issue dear to the hearts of social conservatives were to be resolved in their favour? One suspects that many of today’s political activists would declare victory and go home.
Yet the political process is always animated by a genuine spiritual vision with profound ramifications for the doing of public justice. For that reason Christians cannot afford to abandon the realm of government, even if their pet issues were to be settled.
What does the social conservative believe? It’s not clear that she possesses, as such, the resources to answer this question. She may indeed have an opinion on the matter and she may express it publicly, but not as a social conservative. This is a principal reason why social conservatism is incapable of carrying the day over the long term: it fundamentally lacks the cohesiveness necessary to serve as a genuinely political philosophy. At most it can add up only to an ad hoc movement based on co-belligerency on concrete issues. If we seek a theory of justice based on a solid, spiritually discerning understanding of God’s world, of human society and of the place of the state within it, we shall have to go elsewhere.
Where elsewhere to go? Quite the conundrum . . . .
Speaking of Identity Politics . . .
Voter doldrums – especially among blacks far less energized than they were for Barack Obama’s historic presidential bid last year – pose problems for Democrats struggling in the governors’ races in Virginia and New Jersey.
Think about it.
Candidates . . .
Romney . . . continues to garner big discussion from his speech and op-ed in support of Israel last week. They liked in in Jerusalem, while Jennifer Rubin points out that his op-ed following the AIPAC speech was targeted at New Hampshire – not accidentally. Which brings us to . . .
Iowa . . .
Will Romney go? (John’s personal take: Oh &^%$ NO!) And Marc Ambinder is wondering about Pawlenty as well. I can remember a time when the Iowa caucuses were considered a warm-up act to New Hampshire, but the press in the last few cycles has made it a main event. That needs to be broken. Caucuses are not elections and Iowa is just too quirky to really serve as the trendsetter it has become. If we cannot change the scheduling to move it away from lead-off, we need to make it less important some other way.
Issues . . .
We talked about “guiding philosophy” in the first section. Without one, I agree with this on same-sex marriage. One of the reasons religion has to stop playing politics and start being religion. That, and we have to be smart enough to formulate our arguments without “commandments.”
Finally, deep thoughts . . .
This post from LDS & Evangelical Conversations is interesting and pretty much right on. I will say this – I think my evangelical brethren have stretched the whole critique thing too far – often it is attack instead of critique.
Where’s the outrage? Evangelicals were relentless in their examination of Romney’s Mormonism. And yet the Mormon Reids really are aiming at a genuine political dynasty and no one says a word. The anti-Mormon types out there should have double the ammo for the Reids – liberal and Mormon.
That says something very interesting about how Romney did and will play out. It is far less about Mormon or creedal theology and far more about identity: “I won’t be lead by one of them!” If that’s not bigotry, I don’t know what is.
Lowell Expounds and Adds:
Iowa is about to become the poster boy for John’s theory that Evangelicals who focus too much on identity are going to marginalize themselves. I think Romney and Pawlenty, and perhaps any GOP candidate who can’t command a strong Evangelical vote, will skip the Iowa caucuses in 2010. Maybe Iowa will become a Huckabee vs. Palin contest; if so, it may well end up being the Evangelical Sweepstakes. Rather than being more important than it should be, Iowa may well become less important than it should be.
LDS & Evangelical Conversations: I liked this bit from the post John links to:
This difference [in approach to giving and receiving critique of own's own faith] can mean that Mormon and Evangelical interactions can at times resemble something like a Southern gentleman meeting a New Yorker. The Evangelical is offering what to him is a normal give-and-take of critique and feedback while the Mormon has never heard anyone talk this way, much less about the doctrines and leaders of the LDS church. The Mormon reaction is “why are you criticizing us” and the Evangelical response is “because that’s what we’re all supposed to be doing”.
As we Mormons and Evangelicals try to figure out how to talk intelligently with each other, I think little nuggets like that are invaluable.
The Mormon Ethic of Civility: We noticed the appearance of this interesting statement on the Newsroom section of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ official web site. Its appearance there only a few days after the Dallin Oaks speech on threats to religious freedom is surely no coincidence. The entire statement is a must-read, but these two ’graphs jumped out at us:
The need for civility is perhaps most relevant in the realm of partisan politics. As the Church operates in countries around the world, it embraces the richness of pluralism. Thus, the political diversity of Latter-day Saints spans the ideological spectrum. Individual members are free to choose their own political philosophy and affiliation. Moreover, the Church itself is not aligned with any particular political ideology or movement. It defies category. Its moral values may be expressed in a number of parties and ideologies.
Furthermore, the Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible. As the Church begins to rise in prominence and its members achieve a higher public profile, a diversity of voices and opinions naturally follows. Some may even mistake these voices as being authoritative or representative of the Church. However, individual members think and speak for themselves. Only the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles speak for the whole Church.
(Emphasis added.) Among many other things, I think what we should hear in these words is, “Harry Reid, Glenn Beck, Mitt Romney and others may be Mormons but they don’t represent the Church and the Church does not endorse their views.” I have a hunch that as 2012 draws nearer, we and others will be referring back to the above statement a number of times.