October 4, 2006
Former Missouri GOP Sen. John Danforth, an ordained Episcopal minister, is touring the country promoting his new book, Faith and Politics: How the Moral Values Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together. He basically wants the Republican Party to adopt a more serious approach to solving problems, moving toward the center, rather than catering to the religious right. I am leery of making too many concessions to moderates, who are often blissfully ignorant of impending threats, but I do agree on the need to reestablish a strong center in American politics. Based on a Washington Post background story, I gave two thumbs up to Danforth's efforts on Feb. 2 (2nd item, scroll down). Danforth rejects the notion that he is calling for a "squishy," watered-down version of Christianity that demands nothing of its members. As quoted by the Christian Science Monitor:
I think [Christianity] is basically reconciling. I don't think there is anything squishy about following the admonition of St. Paul to be ministers of reconciliation. ... I don't think there is anything squishy about believing in a God who is bigger than our political agendas and who is the judge of our political agendas.... What is weak is the notion that our faith is the servant of our politics.
As an earnest practitioner of a conciliatory (but unapologetic) approach to politics, that sounds exactly on target to me, and I have no doubt that our party's virtual Founding Father, Abraham Lincoln, would heartily concur. Anyone who would doubt me on this should read Essays on Lincoln's Faith and Politics, by Hans Morgenthau and David Hein (University Press of America, 1983). Nevertheless, Bobby Eberle, who runs gopusa.com, is upset with the former senator for presuming to try "to save GOP from itself." Eberle retorts, "The GOP does not need to be saved from its conservative base. What it needs to be saved from is its leadership which has driven the base to apathy." I think he misses the point. To me, the problem is not trying to get one faction or the other to prevail, but rather trying to get the two factions to see how their respective agendas are best served by constructive collaboration. That is why I think it is imperative to broaden the party's base, which means including fresh, creative voices of conservative thought such as Rod Dreher (see Sept. 6). "You may say I'm a dreamer ... but I'm not the only one."
More generally, this highlights the basic problem the Republicans have in failing to reach out to moderate voters. Year after year, Republicans are losing key elections in states like Virginia where they have a natural advantage. Why? To me, it's pretty obvious that the focus on maximizing turnout among the hard-core conservative base is backfiring badly. So why are party leaders oblivious to this clear pattern of repeated failure?
Speaking of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in Virginia, which Danforth opposes, I wonder if anyone has responded to the Mark Foley scandal by calling for a constitutional amendment against having sex with pages or interns?
It looks like Sen. Allen has weathered the storm that followed his infamous "macaca" gaffe in mid-August. After another small stumble last week, he is now back on message, talking about issues. Today he made a brief, impromptu appearance at nearby Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport; see newsleader.com. On Monday evening, he made a two-minute televised address that was carried by most commercial TV stations around the Commonwealth, and was later shown on C-SPAN. You can see the whole video at Chad Dotson's Commonwealth Conservative blog. I was particularly pleased that Allen issued a sincere mea culpa: "Some of this I brought on myself." Well, that's what I said. Now, back to our regularly scheduled campaign...
For his part, James Webb made sure to alienate an even bigger portion of the Virginia electorate by appearing with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at a campaign fundraising event in Alexandria. See Washington Post. Of course, Mrs. Clinton has a strong, consistent record in making excuses for men who disparage and take advantage of women...