Republicans are Always Evil Everywhere

I still remember my days at Harvard Divinity School when most if not all of my friends mocked Ronald Reagan as a boob and a divorcee who had snowed God’s faithful within the Moral Majority. In fact, every nominee of the GOP since Goldwater (in my memory) has been of dubious character and intellect. That makes evangelical support for Republicans the height of hypocrisy, not to mention a threat to the Republic.

I went to church with some of my friends on a number of occasions, mostly to see what they were teaching their followers. While I disagreed with much of it, I couldn’t help but like the people I met there and admire their sense of community and devotion to something bigger than themselves. I took part in discussion groups with church members too, and again, while I thought much of it was intellectually indefensible, the intent was genuine and their desire to do good in their communities laudable.

I could not for the life of me understand how these good people could vote for someone like George Bush and Dick Cheney — oil funded war hawks who spent their political careers wrecking social programs for the poor and doing everything in their power to trash the environment. The contradiction between their personal humility and willingness to vocally support and vote for greedy millionaires with a penchant for violence in the Middle East was completely alien to me.

So why be shocked if those same evangelical Protestants vote for Trump? Because he is so much more wicked?

White evangelical Christians came out in droves to support Donald Trump — a man who exemplifies literally everything Jesus Christ stood for. Trump is a rich braggart who has made a name for himself flaunting his wealth. He openly denigrates women, has a lurid history of sexual assault, insults minorities and holds petty grudges against anyone who speaks out against him. In no rational universe can these two completely contradictory beliefs be reconciled. If you believe that the gospels accurately depict the life of Christ, then supporting a man who calls women “pigs” and “dogs” and has spoken about grabbing them “by the pussy”, you cannot be called a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word.

Did this narrative of Republican depravity help either evangelicals or editors at the New York Times tell the difference between decent and vulgar GOP nominees? Not really, but one of the blessings of Trump is adding nuance to perceptions of the Republican Party (barely):

This uniquely American phenomenon of equating greed, misogyny and racism with moral righteousness appears to be getting more and more pronounced. In retrospect, George W. Bush was a shining example of moral virtue when compared with Donald Trump.

Hmm. What if the mainstream media had treated George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney — all persons who had served in public administration and were serious politicians (compared to Trump) — as real players in U.S. politics rather than benighted fools of questionable morals? Perhaps the electorate might have had the tools to discern the difference between Trump and John Kasich. Maybe some voters would not have sensed that they were damned no matter for which Republican they voted.

But from the perspective of the elite press rooms, spotting the difference among Republicans is as unusual as white Americans thinking Asian Americans look different.

I guess evangelicals are guilty of introducing self-righteousness into politics, but I blame the Puritans and all graduates of their universities, you know, the schools from which anyone worth a darn graduates (think Harvard and Yale).

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Republicans – The Party of Christian Charity

I don’t know why evangelical historians are so opposed to Trump. Have they not seen how forgiving Republicans are when it (thanks to one of our southern correspondents) comes to failed campaigns and the managers who run them?

The Republican Party has no natural defense mechanism against charlatans and saboteurs because politics is not what Republicans think about every second. Democrats love government. They spend their lives trying to maneuver themselves into a position to run other people’s lives. Republicans don’t want careers in government and give little thought to how to get there. Often they run for president only because they hope it will lead to more speaking gigs and TV appearances. […]

Anyone who hurts the Democrats’ electoral prospects is dead. Not so, the Republicans. If John Edwards, Ned Lamont, and Bill Bradley were Republicans, they’d have radio shows, TV gigs, and bestselling books.

What ever happened to Wesley Clark? Where’s Mike Gravel? Mike Huckabee has a TV show. If you want to know what the other former Republican presidential candidates are doing these days, just turn on the radio or TV. […]

No one gets rich by sabotaging the Democratic Party. But a lot of people get rich off losing races for the Republican Party. […]

There are no prizes in politics for caring the most, only for scoring the most. Devotion to the cause isn’t better than having a modicum of political savvy. If we’re serious about improving the country, we need candidates to be brutally honest about their own appeal. That’s if they really care about the team.

That sounds like conservatives are the truly loving and caring Americans.

Update:

Even when you fail, you win:

Fox News confirmed to The Daily Beast editor-at-large Lloyd Grove on Tuesday that beleagured chairman and CEO Roger Ailes will depart the cable news network following sexual harassment claims by former anchor Gretchen Carlson. According to a document obtained by the Drudge Report, Ailes will receive at least a $40 million buyout from the network. The news comes hours after New York Magazine reporter Gabe Sherman wrote that Fox News star Megyn Kelly told investigators hired by 21st Century Fox that Ailes had sexually harassed her ten years ago.

See how conservatives love one another?

Trump is What Conservatives Do (or have done since 1950)

Maybe Trump’s 45 minutes of fame (he certainly has more than the rest of us) are coming to an end. But I continue to be surprised by the woe-is-me-conservatism that accompanies his candidacy and appeal (and I am not going to vote for him — there). He is an insurgent, he is a populist, he is undignified, he’s a threat to the GOP establishment.

So was William F. Buckley, Jr. (and he was a traditionalist Roman Catholic).

First Rod Dreher’s hand-wringing:

What Trump has shown, and is showing every day, is how out of touch Conservatism, Inc., is with the people for whom it purports to speak. They haven’t had a chance to vote for someone like him in a long, long time because, as I’ve said, the GOP and Conservatism, Inc., gatekeepers kept them down. The conservative Christians who have gone to Washington and gotten invited to be in the inner Republican power circles? You think those professional Christians really speak for the people back home anymore?

Me, I’m in a weird and extremely unrepresentative place, politically and ideologically. I am mostly a cosmopolitan in my tastes, but I live by choice in deep Red America, and am a traditionalist by conviction. What Sean Trende says about the Republican and conservative elites living inside a cosmopolitan bubble is true — and the people who give money to the GOP and to the think-tank archipelago are Business Conservatives who, as we now know post-Indiana RFRA, regard we traditionalists are the problem.

Second, Michael Brendan Dougherty on the problem with the editors of National Review repudiating Donald Trump:

You could call it a freak out on the right.

National Review, the flagship journal of the conservative movement, published a surprisingly defensive symposium, asserting the continued relevance of conservative ideas against an election-year populist challenger, who promised to fight for American jobs and sovereignty. “The old guard threw everything they had at him, and their diminished power is now exposed,” wrote David Brooks. This crude challenger to the party’s status quo had to be stopped.

That was eight years ago. And it was Mike Huckabee, whose advisor Ed Rollins declared the Reagan coalition dead. The challenge was sufficiently contained, then. But it was the first time that I noticed that the anti-establishment kick reflex that the conservative movement had installed in its Frankenstein-coalition of voters had turned around and began kicking them.

Donald Trump and his coalition of voters kick a lot harder than Mike Huckabee. And so we have another symposium, now exclusively anti-Trump. But this time around, even movement-bred stalwarts are wondering if Ed Rollins had a point. Maybe the coalition is dead.

There’s something faintly comical about everyone in the Republican party shouting, “I’m not the establishment. That guy is.” The conservative movement long ago defeated the East Coast establishment of the party. It was a total rout; the last semi-moderate New England Republicans were defeated a decade ago. And yet, conservatives still insist that they are fighting some powerful establishment within the Republican Party.

The irony is that National Review’s founding editor, Buckley, had a lot to do with defeating the East Coast Establishment GOP. Garry Wills knows the score:

Joe Scarborough, in a recent book, The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics—and Can Again, claims that moderate conservatism is the real Republican orthodoxy, interrupted at times by “extremists” like Goldwater or the Tea Party.3 He suggests Dwight Eisenhower as the best model for Republicans to imitate. Yet Scarborough is also an admirer of Buckley, and his thesis does not explain—as Dionne’s thesis does—why Buckley despised Eisenhower. Eisenhower, as the first Republican elected president after the New Deal era of Roosevelt and Truman, was obliged in Buckley’s eyes to dismantle the New Deal programs, or at least to begin the dismantling. Buckley resembled the people today who think the first task of a Republican president succeeding Obama will be to repeal or take apart the Affordable Care Act.

Eisenhower, instead, adhered to the “Modern Republicanism” expounded by the law professor Arthur Larson, which accepted the New Deal as a part of American life. Eisenhower said, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.” It was to oppose that form of Republicanism that Buckley founded National Review in 1955, with a program statement that declared: “Middle-of-the-Road, qua Middle-of-the-Road is politically, intellectually, and morally repugnant.”

Buckley hated Eisenhower’s foreign policy as much as his domestic one. He said, “Eisenhower was above all a man unguided and hence unhampered by principle. Eisenhower undermines the Western resolution to stand up and defend what is ours.” When Russia put down the 1956 uprising in Hungary and Eisenhower did not intervene, National Review called for people to sign the Hungary Pledge—to have no dealings with iron curtain products or exchanges (Buckley’s wife had to give up Russian caviar).

Admittedly, Buckley did not, like Robert Welch (founder of the John Birch Society), think Eisenhower was a secret Communist (as many Republicans now think Obama is a secret Muslim). Buckley thought that Eisenhower had no greater purpose than his own success: “It has been the dominating ambition of Eisenhower’s Modern Republicanism to govern in such a fashion as to more or less please more or less everybody.”

The sense of betrayal by one’s own is a continuing theme in the Republican Party (a Fox News poll in September 2015 found that 62 percent of Republicans feel “betrayed” by their own party’s officeholders). The charges against Eisenhower were repeated against Nixon, who brought Kissingerian “détente” into his dealing with Russia and renewed diplomatic ties to China. On the domestic front, he imposed wage and price controls and sponsored the welfare schemes of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Buckley joined the effort to “primary” Nixon in 1972 by running John Ashbrook against him. Buckley campaigned for Ashbrook in New Hampshire, but he succumbed to pleas from Spiro Agnew (before his disgrace) and Henry Kissinger (a new friend of his) that he endorse Nixon for the general election.

Any American with conservative instincts should in the presence of Donald Trump act like we’ve been here before.

Don't Blame Secularism; Blame the GOP

Conservatives (religious and cultural) addicted to the notion that ideas have consequences are tempted to interpret the current trend toward the acceptance of gay marriage as the outworking of secularization and its moral relativism. This assessment seems to go with the philosophical cast of mind that afflicts both neo-Calvinists and Roman Catholic apologists, both of whom have found each other (as they did in 19th-century Netherlands) as allies in the contemporary “culture wars” against secularism.

But Daniel McCarthy’s piece in the current issue of the American Conservative lends support to my suspicion that the shift toward support for gay marriage has much less to do with marriage or tolerance than with a rejection of the Religious Right. Gay marriage is a perfect rejoinder to “family values.” Let’s see how firm your commitment to marriage is when gays want to become families. This was a move the Religious Right did not see coming. Whether the domestication of homosexuality, which used to thrive on being anti-bourgeois and counter-cultural, will last in its “family values” form is another matter. (Could it be that Jerry Falwell really did get the better of Andrew Sullivan by prompting gay advocates to follow Christian conventions of domesticity?)

Dan McCarthy extends this intuitive sense to compare the consequences of the Vietnam War for Democrats and the Iraq War for Republicans.

The root of the GOP’s problem now is the same as that of the Democrats in 1969: the party’s reputation has been ruined by a botched, unnecessary war—Vietnam in the case of the Democrats, Iraq for the GOP. This may sound implausible: every political scientist knows that Americans don’t care about foreign policy; certainly they don’t vote based on it. But foreign policy is not just about foreign policy: it’s also about culture.

That the “culture war”—as well as the “War on Drugs”—assumed its present shape in the wake of the Vietnam conflict is no accident. Vietnam polarized, realigned, and radicalized cultural factions. During the Lyndon Johnson administration, Republicans in Congress were still more likely than Democrats to support civil rights legislation. Attitudes toward abortion and homosexuality did not clearly divide left from right: Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, and even William F. Buckley favored liberalizing abortion laws in the early 1960s, while as late as 1972 Democratic vice presidential nominees Sargent Shriver and Thomas Eagleton were antiabortion. Few mainstream figures in either party supported gay rights, but it was clear enough from their social circles that right-wingers such as Reagan, Goldwater, and Buckley were not about to launch any witch-hunts.

Nor were attitudes toward drugs a mark of partisan distinction: Clare Booth Luce was an early evangelist for LSD. She urged her husband, Time proprietor Henry Luce, to try it, and he “did much more to popularize acid than Timothy Leary,” in Abbie Hoffman’s opinion. Buckley, of course, was a longtime supporter of marijuana decriminalization.

One could find many more right-wingers who took the opposite views—but one could find just as many Democrats who did as well. The civil rights movement and the sexual revolution had supporters and opponents on both sides of the aisle.

And in the early ’60s, Democrats still had a reputation for military prowess. Their party had led the country against Nazi Germany, and while Republicans blamed them for losing China to Communism, John F. Kennedy gained more traction against Richard Nixon in 1960 when he accused the Eisenhower administration of letting a (fictitious) “Missile Gap” open up with the Soviet Union. Republicans certainly weren’t the only party considered competent to handle foreign affairs.

That changed with Vietnam. President Johnson seemed to have started a war he couldn’t win or even end. It split his party and transformed the American left: until then, labor muscle and social-democratic brains were the left’s principal organs. They tended to support the war and oppose the cultural upheavals that coincided with it—positions diametrically opposite those of the student movement and nascent New Left.

McCarthy goes on to argue that the culture wars are simply hangovers from the Vietnam era and only make sense to baby boomers.

The “culture war” that Pat Buchanan spoke of at the 1992 Republican convention was, among other things, a symptom of Vietnam syndrome: a chance to right the wrongs of the 1960s and 1970s, if not in the rice paddies of Indochina then in the hearts and minds of Americans, turning back the clock to a more wholesome time before the war and its cultural coattails.

For younger voter cohorts, this couldn’t make sense. They were a postwar generation, culturally as well as militarily, and the idea of winning back what had been lost in the wars of the 1960s was emotionally incomprehensible. These voters lacked the psychological backdrop that pulled the Boomers toward the GOP after Vietnam. And over the next 20 years, as talk radio and Fox News continued to pitch the Republican message to Boomer ears, Americans born after 1975 simply tuned out.

This is why President Obama may be the real successor (for Democrats) to Ronald Reagan:

While Republicans wage a war on the past, Barack Obama has staked claim to the future—in the same way that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan once did. The reputation for competence in wielding power that Nixon (before Watergate) and Reagan accumulated now accrues to Obama’s advantage. He brought the troops home from Iraq—however reluctantly—and is on course to end the war in Afghanistan next year. His foreign policy, like Nixon’s and Reagan’s, involves plenty of military force. But like those Republicans, the incumbent Democrat has avoided debacles of the sort that characterized the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, Obama is winning the culture war because that war continues to be fought by the right in the terms of the Vietnam era. That mistake, coupled with the natural credit a leader gets from keeping the country out of quagmires, gives the president’s party a tremendous advantage among the rising generation. (Sixty percent of voters under 30 supported Obama in 2012, as did 52 percent of those age 30–44.) And older conservatives, seeing that generation’s disdain for the culture war, are apt to write them off completely. If you’re not outraged by same-sex marriage, how can you be any kind of conservative?

But the reason even young conservatives aren’t interested in those kinds of battles is that they’re fighting others closer to home. Americans born after 1975 have grown up in an environment in which, Todd Gitlin admits, “only the most sentimental ex-hippie could fail to recognize the prices paid on the road to the new freedom: the booming teenage pregnancy rate; the dread diseases that accompanied the surge in promiscuity; the damage done by drugs; the undermining of family commitment…”

Young adults who have come from home backgrounds marked by divorce, or from intact families that nonetheless never sat down at a dinner table, want to form stronger bonds than their parents did. Boomers who view post-Boomer attitudes toward sex in light of a “revolution” are doing it wrong. It was the Boomers, or at least a key cohort among them, who believed in free love as a salvific concept. Young American have grown up with promiscuity and knowledge of drugs, aren’t panicked about these things, but don’t see them as possessing redemptive significance either. Even most young progressives do not believe in personal “liberation” of the sort that was at the core of the ’60s left—just as no one today believes in the kind of “liberation” once associated with Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh.

The Republican Party may not be able to escape its McGovern phase, even if Democrats screw up (as they will) and we briefly get a Republican Carter. . . .

Ross Douthat agrees largely with McCarthy’s interpretation:

In a similar way, even though Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney weren’t culture warriors or evangelical Christians, in the popular imagination their legacy of incompetence has become a reason to reject social conservatism as well. Just as the post-Vietnam Democrats came to be regarded as incompetent, wimpy and dangerously radical all at once, since 2004 the Bush administration’s blunders — the missing W.M.D., the botched occupation — have been woven into a larger story about Youth and Science and Reason and Diversity triumphing over Old White Male Faith-Based Cluelessness.

Of all the Iraq war’s consequences for our politics, it’s this narrative that may be the war’s most lasting legacy, and the most difficult for conservatives to overcome.

Sometimes it makes more sense to look at what actually happened than at what people think.

Santorum, W— V—, and the Michigan Primary

Is it a coincidence that Rick Santorum, the former Senator from the virtuous commonwealth of Pennsylvania, has started to drop “w— v—” into his remarks this past week, a time when Grand Rapidians are deciding for whom to vote among the Republican contestants? First, Santorum questioned Obama’s w— v—. Then he attacked Obama’s plans to increase college enrollments because of the hostile w— v— students receive at college. The timing is striking.

But the appeal to w— v— has its limits and this video suggests what they are. It is of course biased toward Ron Paul and mocks Santorum. But it does remind me of how invoking w— v— often reassures and inspires instead of supplying answers to a society’s difficult questions. The key phrase is, “I like my w— v— a lot. It makes me happy” and can be found around the 3:15 mark in this video.

Can We Get a Little Moral Clarity Here?

In the light of Newt Gingrich’s recent surge in the polls, let’s see how the fortunes of the Religious Right are developing:

A weak week ago Mitt Romney was leading in the polls and some even talked about his sowing up the nomination after South Carolina and Florida.

Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife did an interview this week in which details of Newt’s infidelities were in full view.

South Carolina may be the most evangelical state in the union, prompting some to call for Christians to migrate to the Palmetto State.

Today, pundits are calling the South Carolina Republican primary a toss-up between Gingrich and Romney, despite Romney’s obvious practice of family values and Gingrich’s marital past.

So where does this lead? First, evangelicals rally behind Tim Tebow who disregards the fourth commandment. Second, evangelical leaders tried to identify Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic who doesn’t even number the Ten Commandments (let alone interpret them) as evangelicals do (or used to). Now, apparently some evangelicals are willing to overlook the seventh commandment in favor of a conservative Republican.

I personally don’t care how evangelicals vote. Voting is not an act of devotion and is a matter of Christian liberty. But I do grow weary of the constant refrain of faith’s importance for politics when it is so obviously untrue, when a paucity of political ideas forces believers to wrap politics in Christian language. All of us are hypocrites. But not all of us make such a big deal of calling attention to our hypocrisy. If the Religious Right wants the rest of America to take them seriously, they need to acknowledge and explain their selectivity. I have advice — adopt 2k theology which means that you recognize the fallenness of the world and its politicians and so make the best of a bad situation. But if you’re going to insist that religion forms the only adequate basis for morality, and if you’re going to demand political candidates who have a faith that produces the kind of character needed for holding public office, then you better have a ready explanation for your vote for candidates who openly violate the Ten Commandments.

And it would also be good to explain how your identification of political acts with Christian devotion is not a violation of the First Commandment. Admittedly, Karl Barth had his problems as an interpreter of the Reformed tradition. But he certainly recognized the damnable error of investing political parties with religious significance (beyond the indefinite meanings supplied by providence).

Two-Kingdom W— V— in Iowa

Mikelmann has been on a roll lately as the GOP hopefuls have rolled through Iowa. The inconsistencies that evangelical faith and w— v— convictions place upon Iowa’s citizens and the Republican’s candidates is indeed staggering. It even shows how faith-based political engagement is seriously hurting the integrity of Christ’s followers. But apparently the stakes in the greatest nation on God’s green earth are higher than those of kingdom of grace.

I draw attention to two particular posts. In the first, MM comments on the danger of divided political loyalties (as if the Republican candidates differ all that much) dividing the church:

After the election there will likely be groaning about how the evangelical vote broke up. But mourn not; it’s not always a bad thing to break up. Think of it as an opportunity. Think of it as an opportunity to see that there is no one way for a Christian to vote. Think of it as an opportunity to realize that looking at candidates from an alleged biblical worldview does not inexorably lead to one candidate or another. Maybe selecting political leaders isn’t the same as selecting church leaders. And for those who, like Michele Bachmann, want more political speech in the church maybe it’s a good demonstration of how folks get politically divided and a reminder that we shouldn’t bring that division into the church. Because breaking up a church over politics would be a bad thing.

In the second, MM observes the inadequacies of w—- v—-ism for finding the right candidate:

People who call themselves Evangelicals tend to have a bit of a bandwagon mentality – in part because of their self-perception of belonging under the Evangelical tent – and they may have hopped on board the Worldview Express with the general idea of living Christianly when, really, the worldview commitment is more specific and theologically loaded than that. . . .

The fault isn’t with the voters; it’s with worldview. What does worldview say about federal enforcement vs. state enforcement of marriage and abortion? What does it say about immigration? Does it tell us whether Iran should have nuclear weapons? Subsidies for ethanol? Tax reform? The answers are “nothing” and “no.”

Meanwhile, evangelical parachurch leaders are busily engaged in discussions to find a candidate who is not a Mormon. The last I checked, the U.S. Constitution forbade any religious tests for holding public office. Granted, the Constitution also grants citizens the freedom to use religious tests to oppose candidates. But the flip side of that freedom is the embarrassment to which Christian Americans are entitled when they observe such folly. If you don’t care for Romney’s policies or even his persona, fine. Don’t support him. But don’t use religion as an excuse to oppose the Mormon and then find reasons to support the divorced Roman Catholic. (Such hypocrisy is moving me to support Romney and even to feel a Chris Matthews tingle in my leg at the thought of the nation’s first Protestant president.)

The Forgotten Mark Hatfield

The governor of Oregon and U.S. Senator, Mark Hatfield, died last Sunday. For many evangelicals born after 1970, Hatfield’s name is obscure. But during the 1960s and 1970s he was a model for evangelical political engagement. Only after the rise of the Moral Majority under Jerry Falwell and the Reagan Revolution did Hatfield’s brand of liberal Republicanism disappear as an option for born-again Protestants. But now that a younger generation of evangelicals, recovering from Falwell and Bush fatigue, is looking for a less conservative and (even) more compassionate way of doing what Jesus would do in the public square, reflections on Hatfield’s legacy will likely be positive.

Hatfield makes an important appearance in From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin as a representative of what might have been had Falwell and the Moral Majority not come along. As important as Hatfield was, especially by inspiring the likes of Jim Wallis, he committed the same error as Falwell — baptizing politics in the name of Jesus. Here is an excerpt from the book:

Hatfield initiated any number of pieces of legislation on domestic and foreign policy that struck many as naively idealistic. From American consumption of food, and dependence on fossil fuels to the United States’ production of a nuclear arsenal, Hatfield was often ready with proposals that reflected his own understanding of what would Jesus do if he were an American Senator. Aside from legislative proposals, the Oregonian also used his own limited bully pulpit to prick the conscience of fellow Americans. Two resolutions from the 1970s stand out. In 1974 Hatfield called for a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer on which Americans would humble themselves, acknowledge their dependence on their creator, and “repent of their national sins.” The Senator’s home newspaper referred to the proposed day as the time “we all eat humble pie.” The same year, Hatfield proposed a “Thanksgiving Resolution” that would have called upon Americans to identify with the world’s hungry, and encouraged fasting on all holidays between Thanksgiving Days of 1974 and 1975. To publicize this resolution, Hatfield hosted a luncheon in the Senate where eaters were treated to a one-course meal consisting of a hard roll.

Hatfield’s political sensibility made no sense to conservatives leaders in the GOP but it resonated with the young evangelical desire for a religiously motivated politics. In several books, such as Between A Rock and A Hard Place, Hatfield insisted that politicians and citizens who followed Christ should be committed to four basic ideals: identifying with the poor and oppressed against exploitative institutions and social structures, opposition to all forms of violence and militancy, resisting a materialistic life-style, and understanding political authority as essentially a form not of rule but service. “Our witness within the political order must hold fast,” Hatfield wrote, “with uncompromised allegiance, to the vision of the New Order proclaimed by Christ.” As such, the role of the Christian politician was always prophetic — the Senator drew much inspiration from the case of the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah. “Our allegiance and hope rest fundamentally with [Christ’s] power, at work in the world through his Spirit, rather than in the efficacy of our world’s systems and structures to bring about social righteousness in the eyes of God.”

For Hatfield, whose close exposition of the Bible was more substantial than most of the evangelicals who were writing about politics, a fundamental tension existed between Christianity and politics. This world’s structures of governance and economic productivity were essentially corrupt. Rather than regarding the role of the civil magistrate as one of restraining such evil until the return of Christ and the establishment of a new order, Hatfield believed the Christian politician’s duty was to implement those longed-for patterns of justice and righteousness in the present. As utopian as such an ideal might appear, the Oregonian’s reliance on the Bible forced evangelicals to take him seriously. For the younger evangelicals, and especially those attracted to an alternative form of politics, Hatfield’s arguments expressed exactly the themes that should characterize Christian social concern. But even older evangelicals, who were more comfortable with the label of conservative and who channeled their political energies into the GOP, could not dismiss Hatfield because of his standing in the Senate and his appeal to Scripture. If evangelicals had actually been comfortable with political theories derived from reflection on human nature and the created order, they might have dismissed Hatfield as just one more radical idealist who happened to know his Bible. Because he spoke the language of Bible-based, Christ-centered social activism and political responsibility, Hatfield was another in a long line of American Protestants who thought he was doing the Lord’s work.

If the Gypsy Curse is “May You Receive What You Want”. . .

Is the evangelical curse, “May Your Vote Count”?

That seems to be the outcome from the Tea Party’s Revolution, according to number four in Christianity Today’s Top Ten Stories of 2010. Pro-life groups had targeted Democrats – even pro-life ones – who voted for President Obama’s health care package because of its apparent allowance of federal funding for abortion. The effect is to make the GOP the home of pro-life candidates, and to make abortion a more contested issue and therefore attract more publicity and debate.

This may be good for Republicans but if you want to restrict abortion, do you want it to be more partisan or might it be wiser for a consensus to emerge. As the CT story reported:

“To the extent that the pro-life movement tries to restrict the definition of being pro-life to the Republican Party, unless the stars realign and the Republican Party becomes two-thirds of the electorate, they’re cutting themselves off from the possibility of building the kinds of alliances that might be able to advance the pro-life agenda,” he said. “If you want to do something about stem-cell research, or make progress on the whole of the pro-life agenda, you’re going to need some Democrats to come along. Going after pro-life Democrats is not going to help the pro-life cause.”

And so after the elections, half of the approximately forty pro-life Democrats lost their seats. According to a story at Politics Daily:

. . . the same wave that swept GOP candidates to a takeover of the House on Tuesday also washed away half of the 40 or so pro-life Democrats who had given the movement unprecedented influence in their party and in Congress.

Moreover, many of those pro-life Democrats, including such stalwarts as Rep. Steve Dreihaus of Ohio’s 1st District and Kathleen Dahlkemper from Pennsylvania’s 3rd District, were in fact targeted for defeat by major pro-life organizations like the Susan B. Anthony List, which argued that those Democrats had betrayed their cause by backing health care reform and so deserved their fate.

Some of which is to say that politics is a very crude device for changing the world, two-party politics all the more so. So for those neo-Calvinists who think that having a vote is virtually the same has every Christian voter a Christian magistrate, they may want to re-think just how valuable democracy is for bringing Christian convictions to bear on public life. If my vote for a Republican pro-lifer only serves to ratchet up the divisiveness of abortion, am I actually making a difference?

Maybe a better strategy would be the old Southern one of gaining control of a state and seceding. California may not be the most desirable of places for pro-lifers to live, but given the state’s bleak economy, the United States may be willing to let the Golden State go.