Monday, January 25, 2010

Building a New Coalition: A Way Ahead for the GOP

A friend and I were discussing the dividing line that occurs whenever Sarah Palin's name is mentioned or she appears on televsion: people either love or loathe her. Leftists see her as congenitally stupid.

We both agreed that thopugh she may not be an "intellectual,"--whatever that means-- she certainly is not stupid; so what explains the egregious hostility?

I told my friend it wouldn't matter if Sarah Palin were an Einstein, leftists would still loathe her because she is, among other things, deeply religious. Her core values are diametrically opposed to the left elite--indeed to some of the Republican elite. They hate her because of her faith.

It is a fact that many in political circles still buy into the enlightenment critcisms of faith; namely, that one who adheres to faith is superstitious and, well, so regrettably unenlightened; and, therefore, just not as smart as other, more educated people. Among such, if faith is tolerated, it is tolerated as purely personal and as having no bearing on the "real" world of politics. Politics and religion are seen as separate endeavors not to be mentioned in polite political circles.

As my friend noted, Palin's rise smashes such ideas, disrupting the very core of politcs as usual. She disturbed and continues to disturb the power grid of politics.

My friend and I went on to discuss the tendency for leadership of both parties to discriminate against people of faith. She noted that though such discrimination is forbidden in the work place as unconstitutional, it remains alive and well in political circles. Both Democrats and Republicans tend to have leaders who are most often led by a totally secular agenda, have found power within the secular paradigm and are loathe to give it up to or accommodate religious upstarts. If faith is noted, it most often is lip service.

[At this point, a disclaimer: The above is not to say there are not people of integrity and honor within GOP party leadership. If that were not true, I would have exited the GOP long ago. It is to say there is an underlying prejudice--a sort of vacuum, actually--against people of faith, especially people of faith who put their faith into practice in politics.]

But to put it bluntly, both parties tend to ignore or sideline--to their own peril--the 85% of Americans who derive their values from their religion, not from secularism. I suggest that as long as both parties conintue to embrace secularist ideals while jettisoning, sidelining or seducing religious people for poltical purposes, they do so unconstitutionally and to their own peril.

In the wake of the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts, some GOP leadership has felt encouraged to concentrate on building coalitions with "moderates" and independents, concentrating on the issues which Brown emphasized in his campaign: taxes, the health care plan and terrorism. While I certainly don't discourage outreach; once again, some in the GOP continue to think along the lines of a secular pragmatic politics which ignores or sidelines people of faith.

Brown managed to seize on populist issues which at least temporarily unified a diverse coalition which was dependent on the circumstances peculiar to Massachusetts. But none should be deluded into thinking such a coalition is permanent or a set template for future victories.

It is worth noting Brown had not one word of thanks for the Tea Partiers who helped elect him. Perhaps that is why more than one observer has cautioned against the GOP assuming that just because the Tea Partiers got behind the Scott Brown campaign, the partiers' enthusiasm can be co-opted by other campaigns supporting basically liberal candidates.

Tea Partiers and other conservative groups springing up all over the nation do not want a repeat of the times when the Republican establishment co-opted evangelical enthusiasm in the 1980's and 90's. Evangelicals soon found that issues important to them were ignored while the GOP leadership retained their grip on a party machinery terming itself "moderate" while dropping social and other evangelical values from their political agenda once victory was assured.

In sum, conservatives who are deeply motivated by religious convictions have felt ignored by, cynically used by and tehn dropped by the Republican Party, which they see as sidelining conservative candidates in favor of "moderates" who resemble liberal Democrats.

However, matters do not have to remain at such an impasse. The GOP has the opportunity to think about long term future strategy. It may well have an opportunity to form a new coalition. It may have the chance to get together people of faith and other conservatives by articulating and promoting core values consonant with those disaffected groups.

The GOP already has good leadership in the area of government transparency, growing the business middle class, growing jobs, belief in lowering the tax burdens on citizens, encouraging a climate of growth in industry, reforming our educational system and much else. None of those efforts has to be jettisoned. All are praiseworthy.

But to those excellent goals the GOP can articulate and support the right to life of the unborn. It can affirm the Western traditional definition of marriage without resorting to a persecutorial or prosecutorial attitude toward gays. It can grant increased tax relief to parents--and much more.

In sum, the party can put itself in the position of a chief reforming influence in society and can by so doing, gather together a broad coalition of likeminded people who will wrok to elect candidates who believe in core values and who will work to put those values into law.

For example, the issue of abortion is not just a moral question sitting out there in no man's land. It is not just a personal choice. Like the issue of slavery, it cuts into the moral and political fiber of our entire society. It is a political issue that needs to be addressed, not shelved.

While a worthy moral cause in it own right, it has deep political implications. Those implications can be translated into a political coalition that has the potential to split the Democratic party in two while uniting and gathering the energy of the new conservative movements springing up with the GOP.

About 55% of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong. Many of those Americans are Roman Catholics and evangelicals, who together comprise about 55% of the population. Both the Catholic Church and evangelicals are adamantly against abortion even though most of the Catholic Church members are Democrats. The GOP, if it takes a strong position against abortion, would also be in the position of being able to woo Catholics away from their support of the Democratic Party, which adheres strongly to a pro-abortion position. The church also resonates with traditional definition of family and marriage. Further, Hispanics and blacks are also overwhelmingly pro life and pro school choice. They could be part of the new coalition.

How to put the coaltion together? First, reach the churches. I repeat, reach out to the churches. The GOP would find the goals it already pays primary attention to (outlined above) are readily suported by almost all conservative leaning congregations. Adding to those goals the social issues which also motivate and stir Tea Partiers and other conservative movements would allow rapproachment and make the GOP a united and strong force for a much needed peaceful, and moral revolution in our beloved country.

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