TAG | Republican Party
Ross Douthat mourns (prematurely, I fear) ‘the end of a Catholic moment’:
The mid-2000s were the last time the Catholic vision of the good society — more egalitarian than American conservatism and more moralistic than American liberalism — enjoyed real influence in U.S. politics. At the time of John Paul’s death, the Republican Party’s agenda was still stamped by George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” which offered a right-of-center approach to Catholic ideas about social justice.
I have no particular objection to “faith-based initiatives” and the like (in fact, under the right circumstances they can be thoroughly good things), nor, for that matter, with the notion that the embrace of (ultimately disastrous) “compassionate conservatism” was what it took to win the 2000 election, but let’s be clear that Catholic ideas of “social justice” are part of a corporatist ideology that (as some of Benedict XVI’s pronouncements remind us) is very difficult indeed to square with traditional American notions of individualism and the free market. To his credit, I don’t think that’s what George W. Bush was trying to do.
Mr. Douthat continues:
Whereas eight years ago, a Catholic view of economics and culture represented a center that both parties hoped to claim, today’s Republicans are more likely to channel Ayn Rand than Thomas Aquinas, and a strident social liberalism holds the whip hand in the Democratic Party.
It’s interesting to read of a “Catholic view of economics and culture” (in the sense that Douthat defines those terms) as representing “a center” either now, or then. I have my doubts.
As for Rand or Aquinas, I would have distinct reservations about channeling either, although—if really forced to choose— I would prefer the former to the latter (I suspect that I would have even more reservations about old Aquinas, if I could ever bring myself to devote any time at all to his endless—and dreary— theological and philosophical musings, but life’s too short, and there’s only the one).
More importantly, I suspect that the broader point that Douthat is making about the GOP will turn out to be wrong. As he notes later on, “a synthesis of social conservatism and more egalitarian-minded economic policies could have a great deal of mass appeal”. That’s true, I reckon (so long as the social conservatism is more—so to speak—Edmund Burke than Todd Akin), and that is why the Republicans will end up, I have long thought (and Tea Party notwithstanding, still do), as an Americanized version of Europe’s Christian Democrats, with all the baggage that that will entail.
De Tocqueville would weep.
Writing in the Weekly Standard, here’s Katherine Mangu-Ward with an entertaining review of a new biography of Robert Ingersoll, the Great Agnostic:
While today’s GOP is associated with public displays of faith, the Republican party of Ingersoll’s day was more likely to be the home of freethinkers, such as the churchless Abraham Lincoln. The American public wasn’t ready for overt atheism in elected or appointed office, but Ingersoll’s talent on the stump made his endorsement valuable. Jacoby persuasively argues that Ingersoll fits into the classical liberal tradition, a thread that remains visible, if controversial, in the fabric of the modern Republican party…
His speeches were studded with jokes that played to American sensibilities: While explaining Charles Darwin’s still-controversial theory of evolution, he speculated how tough it would be for blood-proud European aristocrats to learn they were descended from “the duke Orang Outang, or the princess Chimpanzee.” Far from finding the prospect of a godless universe depressing, Ingersoll considered the theory of evolution a desirable replacement for the story of the Fall.
“I would rather belong to that race that commenced a skull-less vertebrate and produced Shakespeare, a race that has before it an infinite future, with an angel of progress leaning from the far horizon, beckoning men forward, upward, and onward forever—I had rather belong to such a race . . . than to have sprung from a perfect pair upon which the Lord has lost money every moment from that day to this.”
Read the whole thing.
The Washington Post reports:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview that he isn’t certain what the age of the earth is, and that parents should be able to teach their kids both scientific and religious attempts to answer the question.
“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States,” Rubio told GQ. “I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that.”
The U.S. Geological Survey notes that scientists have estimated the earth’s age to be about 4.5 billion years old. Rubio, who identifies himself as Catholic, noted there are both faith-based and scientific theories about the earth’s beginnings. He said that he is “not sure” we will ever be able to fully answer the question of how old our planet is.
“At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all,” he added. “I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”
Parents can, of course, teach their children whatever idiocy they may choose at home or in church, but as for the rest of what Rubio has to say, well…
Tampa, Florida (CNN) – Mike Huckabee participated in a conference call Friday night with hundreds of Baptist pastors and Christian talk radio hosts in Missouri that was organized to coordinate a robust defense of Rep. Todd Akin as he faces pressure from Washington Republicans to drop his Senate bid against Democrat Claire McCaskill…
Speaking harshly about establishment Republicans who have tried to force Akin from the Missouri race, Huckabee at one point compared the National Republican Senatorial Committee to “union goons” who “kneecap” their enemies.
The former Arkansas governor said party bosses were “opening up rounds and rounds” of ammunition on Akin and “then running over with tanks and trucks and leaving him to be ravaged by the other side.”
“This is unprecedented, to see to this orchestrated attempt to humiliate and devastate a fellow Republican,” Huckabee said of Akin, who has deep ties to the Christian conservative movement. Akin spent Thursday in Florida meeting with evangelical leaders and evaluating his political future.
All we need now is Santorum.
Via the Washington Post, but even so this is not, perhaps, the most surprising news:
The fragile gains Republicans had been making among female voters have been erased, a shift that has coincided with what has become a national shouting match over reproductive issues, potentially handing President Obama and the Democrats an enormous advantage this fall.
In the 2010 congressional midterm elections, Republican candidates ran evenly with Democrats among women, a break with long-established trends. That was a major reason the GOP regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Now, female voters appear to be swinging back to Democrats.
A number of polls show that Obama’s approval among women has risen significantly since December, even as it has remained flat among men. The same trend, which began before the controversy in recent weeks, is also showing up further down the ballot.
When a Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey asked in the summer which party should control Congress, 46 percent of women favored Democrats and 42 percent preferred Republican control.
But in a survey released Monday, compiling data since the beginning of the year, that figure had widened considerably to a 15-point advantage for the Democrats, according to polling by the team of Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff. Fifty-one percent favored Democratic control; only 36 percent wanted to see the Republicans in charge…
Both sides have tried to shape the narrative in this battle for and about women. But many Republicans are beginning to wish they had never waded into what has become a heated conversation over contraception, who should have it and what it says about people who use it.
GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s campaign, said Republicans need to return to pocketbook and fiscal issues. “We know what works,” she said, “and we need to get back to it.”
And even those who saw the “contraception” controversy as being over religious freedom rather than contraception should have realized the political dangers of the territory into which they were sailing, and navigated it with distinctly more skill than they have shown.
Terri Schiavo, part deux? We’ll have to see, but there can be no doubt that, under these circumstances, choosing Santorum, a character with strongly-held views on the , uh, perversity of contraception (“a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be”), as the GOP’s nominee would both drown out any argument over religious freedom and be an extraordinary act of electoral self-destruction.
A message from Texas governor, and possible GOP presidential hopeful, Rick Perry:
Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.
Some problems are beyond our power to solve, and according to the Book of Joel, Chapter 2, this historic hour demands a historic response. Therefore, on August 6, thousands will gather to pray for a historic breakthrough for our country and a renewed sense of moral purpose.
I sincerely hope you’ll join me in Houston on August 6th and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation. There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.
The language of politics will always reflect the traditions and the culture of the constituency to which it is designed to appeal, but, blimey…
Incidentally, check out Joel 2 (King James Version), if you haven’t already done so. It’s bonkers, of course, but rather beautiful.
After a thorough investigation, Daily Intel has discovered that God is separately backing at least three different contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. Over the course of the past few months and even years, God has sent signs and direct messages to each of these candidates encouraging them to run, presumably without telling them that he supports other candidates as well.
God has apparently thrown His weight behind Herman Cain, soon-to-be candidate Michele Bachmann and that strange Rick Santorum, a candidate for whom one electoral humiliation is not enough.
Under the circumstances, I can only conclude that God is a Democrat.
In the meantime, (via Mother Jones), there’s this:
…Huckabee has joked that he “answers” to “two Janets.” One is his wife, Janet Huckabee. The other is Janet Porter, the onetime co-chair of Huckabee’s Faith and Values Coalition. And Porter, the former governor has said, is his “prophetic voice.” But that voice has said some weird things over the years: Porter has maintained that Obama represents an “inhumane, sick, and sinister evil,” and she has warned that Democrats want to throw Christians in jail merely for practicing their faith. She’s attributed Haiti’s high poverty rate to the fact that the country is “dedicated to Satan,” and she suggested that gay marriage caused Noah’s Flood. And there’s this: In a 2009 column for conservative news site WorldNetDaily, Porter asserted that President Barack Obama is a Soviet secret agent, groomed since birth to destroy the United States from within.
Porter’s long history in the Christian right made her a natural ally for Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, as he laid the foundations for his presidential run in 2007. An acolyte of the late televangelist D. James Kennedy, Porter rose quickly through the ranks of the Christian right, first as director of the Ohio Right to Life chapter in the 1990s. Later, she founded and served as president of Faith2Action, a right-wing group that promotes a theory known as Christian Dominionism—in which Christians are duty-bound to control the instruments of government in advance of the second coming of Christ.
Porter, in turn, seemed enamored with the candidate. In WorldNetDaily, she lavished praise on Huckabee. At one point, she composed a medieval ballad in which Huckabee, referred to as “Sir Mike-A-Lot who we all Like a lot,” slayed Hillary Clinton (represented by the “the evil queen and her dragon of slaughter”). Huckabee eventually signed Porter up as co-chair of his Faith and Family Values Coalition, a prestigious group of evangelical who’s-who’s tasked with reaching out to religious voters.
Porter had strong words for Huckabee’s competition, as well. She publicly suggested that former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson might be the anti-Christ. In the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, she cut an ad attacking Huckabee’s two most serious rivals, Mitt Romney and John McCain. The ad was paid for by RoeGone, a short-lived 527 formed by a Porter deputy with the stated ambition of becoming the conservative MoveOn.org (it fizzled).
Porter’s most dramatic arguments for Huckabee centered on what she believed was the impending prohibition on Christianity—the subject of her 2004 book, The Criminalization of Christianity: Read This Book Before it Becomes Illegal! In her view, the 2008 election represented a make-or-break moment for people of faith. “I’m writing this letter from prison, where I’ve been since the beginning of 2010,” she began one column. “Since Hillary was elected in ’08, Christian persecution in America has gotten even worse than we predicted.”
Her efforts for Huckabee did not go overlooked by the candidate. In his campaign memoir, Do the Right Thing, he calls her a “prophetic voice,” and includes Porter on a short list of evangelicals—including Left Behind creator Tim LaHaye—who made his rise possible. He singles her out for praise for helping to organize the Values Voters Debate and credits her prayers and fasting with his strong performance at a “turning point” in the campaign…
If Huckabee actually believes any of this, he belongs in a straitjacket, not the White House.
Now, about those sermons….
Here’s the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin on Rick Santorum:
At the Republican presidential debate on Thursday Rick Santorum was asked about Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’s suggestion that there be a social truce. Santorum answered, “Anybody that would suggest we call a truce on moral issues doesn’t understand what America is all about.”
That is wrong. In fact, it’s the precise opposite of what America is about. As a matter of political tactics you can think a truce is a bad or good idea, but it does not define America or our system of government.
You can look to the Declaration or the Federalist papers or the Constitution and make a principled argument that America is about individual liberty or limited government (which secures the former). But it’s not about moral issues or any issue.
Our country was founded on the notion that limited government (bound by the rule of law and hemmed in by the separation of powers) is essential to maintain a free, diverse and prosperous people. It is precisely because we disagree on so many issues that we support a political system that tempers majority control with individual rights. It’s not about one side winning on certain issues or even demanding that certain issues be at the forefront of our agenda…
…Santorum’s assertion, quite frankly, reflects a certain constitutionally illiteracy and is at odds at a fundamental level with modern conservatism. Indeed, since the presidency requires that the chief executive “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” — which presupposes one understands what’s in it — Santorum has in the most concise way possible demonstrated his lack of qualifications to serve.
One can only agree. Next, please…
Read the whole thing.
Comments off · Posted by Andrew Stuttaford in politics