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Category: Politics

Joshua Treviño on what left and right are getting wrong about Nelson Mandela

Historical memory is malleable and imperfect. The truth about Nelson Mandela is that one may bring the full bill of charges against him and still find a great man: and that bill exists. The implacable critics on the right, and the post-facto triumphalists on the left, both forget Burke’s admonition.

Yes, Alan Jacobs is Conservative (just not a political one)

Over at the The American Conservative Alan Jacobs asks a somewhat rhetorical question: is he a conservative?  He makes the claim the he doesn’t know and doesn’t really care but goes on to offer some data so to speak.

I am not and never have been a Republican. I feel roughly as alienated from that party as I do from the Democratic Party. I hold a number of political views that strong-minded Republicans typically find appalling: I think racism is one of the greatest problems in American society today; I am not convinced that austerity programs are helpful in addressing our economic condition; I am absolutely convinced that what many Republicans call free-market capitalism is in fact crony capitalism, calculated to favor the extremely wealthy and immensely powerful multinational corporations; I think that for all of the flaws of Obamacare, it was at least an attempt to solve a drastically unjust and often morally corrupt network of medical care in this country; I dislike military adventurism, and believe that our various attempts at nation-building over the past decade were miscalculated from the outset.

But Jacobs goes on to lay out his “three overarching political commitments” that I believe count for far more that the above caveats:

  1. “The first is that I strive to be a consistently pro-life Christian.”
  2. “My second steady commitment is to the principle of subsidiarity.”
  3. “My third leading political conviction is that the wisdom of our ancestors is both deeply valuable and tragically neglected.”

I will let you read the paragraph descriptions of the above commitments for yourself but I think those three are deeply conservative and still very much relevant to today’s politics.

The problem is that conservatism is less and less defined by philosophical commitments and more and more by short term political and specific policy commitments. The typical triptych for modern conservative Republicans is limited government, “family values”, and a strong national defense.  This usually means low taxes, less regulation and America as the lone super power and an activist one.

Mark Sanford’s God

Didn’t get a chance to note this yesterday, but I recommend Ross Douthat’s post on Mark Sanford: Mark Sanford’s God.

If you think, as I obviously do, that we have more than enough Sanford-style religion in America, then the way he used the megaphone afforded by victory to do a little creative scriptural interpretation illustrates the problem with just bracketing a politician’s private life and saying “vote the party, not the man.” When that private life is already woven into the public narrative, a vote for the man is often a vote to ratify that narrative, and to lend one’s support not only to particular policies, but to a larger view of human behavior and affairs — encompassing, in this case, a theologically bankrupt and socially destructive understanding of what real redemption actually involves.

Yes, politicians are neither angels nor philosophers, and sometimes the political stakes are high enough to warrant voting for a man with Sanford’s baggage and beliefs. There’s no absolute rule for these things; they have to be navigated case by case. But a special election to fill out a term in a reliably-conservative seat seems like exactly the kind of high profile, low stakes contest where it makes sense to put moral and theological principle ahead of party. Unfortunately the voters of South Carolina disagreed.

I have to admit I would struggle with this were I a resident of South Carolina.  I tend to be brutally pragmatic about these things and sending a liberal Democrat to Congress seems clearly a bad choice.

How will United Methodists respond to Gosnell horror?

Matt O’Reilly tackles the important but admittedly difficult question of How will United Methodists respond to Gosnell horror?

First, O’Reilly makes the connection between Roe and Gosnell clear:

We must begin by recognizing that this tragic situation follows from the widespread efforts to normalize abortion in the United States. Not all will agree with that conclusion, but a variety of factors suggest its accuracy. Since abortion was declared a constitutional right in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the pro-choice movement has worked hard to undermine the full personhood of the preborn. We have been told again and again that the child in the womb is a fetus, not a baby. We are told that abortion is not the ending of a life; it is the termination of a pregnancy. This cold and detached terminology is intended to downplay any emotional reaction to abortion.

The problem is that if a preborn child in the eighth or ninth month of gestation does not have the moral status of a person, why should we think a change of geography from inside the womb to outside the womb suddenly establishes personhood? There is no substantive difference between the preborn and the newly born. If we are desensitized to the death of the former, it will lead us to be decreasingly sensitive to the latter. The road from Roe to Gosnell is a downhill slope.

[…]

United Methodists need to recognize that we are where we are because the Roe decision started us on a path of devaluing the sacred worth of human life. That path has led us to the trial of Kermit Gosnell.

Failing as a citizen, Republican and friend

I have a humble confession to make tonight: I forgot to vote.  This is something I try very hard not to do. As someone who works in politics and government I believe it is important to vote.  As a person who believes in engaged citizenship as a check against bad and overbearing government I realize it is important.  And as a Republican living in a difficult district I know it is important to support Republican candidates.

For this particular primary election it is a double failure as a friend and former colleague was on the ballot. Ouch.

As is so often the case, I had good intentions.  I remembered it was election day this morning but was late getting my daughter to school and so decided to vote after work. The polling place is just down the street from our house so I was sure to have plenty of time. I even check the Franklin County Republican Party website to make sure I had all the candidates in my head.

Alas, something came up at work and I had to stay a little later than usual. And then my gas light was on and so I had to stop for gas. And traffic was backed up so it took longer than usual.  And as soon as I got home I was inundated with kids wanting to play, helping get dinner on the table, eating dinner, discussing the events of the day with the family, etc.