Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Minnesota's Progressive Republican Tradition Explored on Public TV

Well, I guess someone thought it important to talk about the moderate wing of the GOP. I applaud it, even if it was put forward by liberals. Any port in the storm, as they say...

Anyway, Twin Cities Public Television has produced a documentary in conjunction with Growth and Justice a non-partisan think tank (in reality, it leans left). Here is what they say:

Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) will rebroadcast “Minnesota’s Progressive Republicans” Sunday, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. on TPT-Channel 17 on most broadcast television, satellite and cable systems, and channel 13 on Comcast in Minneapolis.

Co-produced with Growth & Justice, the documentary explores the strong progressive Republican tradition that has contributed to state’s success. It features speeches made by Govs. Quie and Carlson and U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad at a symposium hosted in September by Growth & Justice.

Of course, there are already conservative wags that are putting this down because it's being produced by liberals. I may not agree everything Growth and Justice puts forth, but if they are speaking the truth, then I will listen.

Here is a clip of the documentary:

If you live in Minnesota, try to catch it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunshine Conservatives No More and A Tragic President

If you want to read some of the best summaries on the current state of conservatism in the United States, you might want to read Mark Thompson's essays (here, here and here) over at Upturned Earth. He makes a good case for how the "sunny" conservatism of Ronald Reagan has given way to a more mean-spirited and dogmatic ideology.

There are many good thoughts, including the missed opportunities of President Bush. Liberals have painted him as a dunce or even evil, but I think that image is to simplistic. While there was a lot that he did do that was just wrong, the word that seems to mark the President to me is tragic. The tragedy is here is that Bush had several chances to help fashion the GOP into a more dynamic party and really make it a majority party. Instead, he ignored those opportunities and throw in a couple of stumbles like Hurricane Katrina, and we have a tragic presidency.

After the narrow and bitter victory that the President won in 2000, I had hoped he would chart a more moderate conservative course, one that would seek to heal the nation after the election and bring the GOP out of the vindictive Gingrich years of the 90s. But, sadly that didn't happen. Then came 9/11 and another chance to bring change. Instead, he followed a hard right course again.

After the 2004 election, he had another chance with his proposals to reform social security and immigration. But by this time, he had angered Democrats who blocked any talk of reform for Social Security, and his slowness in reforming immigration allowed time for conservatives in his own party to block that change.

I think President Bush is smarter than a lot of people give him credit for and I also think that he had it in him to change the tone of the Republican Party. But for some reason, he missed chances to do so, time and time again.

That's a tragedy...for us all.

"Dear Chip..."

An Open Letter to Mr. Chip Saltsman:

Hello, my name is Dennis Sanders. I'm not anyone special, just some guy in Minnesota who blogs from time to time. I wanted to write to you about your little storm that has been brewing since you sent a holiday CD with a little ditty called "Barack the Magic Negro."

I think the whole idea of sending out this CD was a major bad idea and isn't a good omen to what you might do as Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Yeah, I know: the idea came from an article by a liberal. But you know what? It doesn't matter. I'm not calling you a racist, I don't know you. But what you did was insensitive to African Americans and isn't going to help you if you want the party to grow and reach minorities...if that's something you really want to do.

You see, I'm African American. A lot of African Americans voted for Barack Obama and they really look up to him. For them, the impossible has happened: someone that looks like them, has been elected to the highest office in the land. After being basically second-class citizens for about three centuries, this is a big achievement even if you don't agree with Obama's politics.

So, calling Obama the "Magic Negro" isn't a good idea. Maybe you haven't noticed, but the GOP has a bit of a PR problem with blacks. Maybe that is not deserved, but when you have people like the late Jesse Helms, former Senator Trent Lott praising outgoing Senator Strom Thurmond in a way that seemed to support his anti-segregationist policies, and the whole Willie Horton thing have not helped your standing with African Americans.

There is nothing wrong with making fun of a president including the President Elect. That's a noble American tradition. But when the Commander in Chief is an African American, one must be sensitive in how make fun of someone. You weren't sensitive at all.

There used to be a time when African Americans largely casted their votes for Republicans. They did this because it was Republicans like Abe Lincoln that freed my ancestors. Overtime, the Democrats have become the party of civil rights, while the GOP has been considered- fairly or unfairly-the party of unreconstructed bigots.

If the GOP is to stay a national party, then it has to be more willing to reach out to people who aren't white. And that means being more sensitive to minorities, which means, stop sending silly CDs using race to make fun of the president.

So, if you really want to make the GOP strong, you should offer an apology. If you want the party to be a joke, then don't. Your choice, but I would hope you have the sense to know better.


Dennis Sanders

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Government is the Problem" Is Only the Half of It

Wise words from the Ripon Society...

In recent weeks, several members of the more conservative wing of the GOP have stated that the reason the party failed so miserably this election is because it turned its back on fiscal discipline by turning toward the political center. Perhaps conservative stalwart L. Brent Bozell put it most succinctly when he said, “The liberal wing of the GOP has caused the collapse of the Republican Party.” Make no mistake — Republicans did fail to rein in spending over the past eight years. But the GOP did not lose this election because it abandoned its small-government philosophy. Rather, the party lost the election because its small-government philosophy was incomplete...For years, Republicans have extolled the virtues of getting government off our backs and out of our lives. In doing so, they were echoing the words of Ronald Reagan, who famously stated in his first inaugural address that, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” But even Reagan knew that government has a role in our society. He understood that in addition to promising to make government smaller, Republicans also had an obligation to make sure government operated efficiently and effectively. “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding,” Reagan declared in this same inaugural address, “it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work.” For years, Republicans have had selective retention with regard to what Reagan espoused. They have embraced the small-government aspect of his philosophy at the expense of the smart government part of it. And for years, they have been able to get by with a message that promised tax relief and little else. But after the mismanagement of Iraq, the ineptitude of Katrina and the failure of Walter Reed, the chickens have come home to roost.

Read more.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dissin' Detroit and It's Consequences for Conservatism

Now that President Bush has decided to go over Congress' head and provide General Motors and Chrysler bridge loans through March, I think now is the time to see how the GOP and conservatives in general handled the issue. This is only my view and it's the view of a crank living in Minnesota. However, in the glorious age that we live in, with handy little computers connected to the internet, one crank can share his views with the whole world and that's what I am about to do.

In my opinion, I think the GOP and conservatism in general failed the test. We were correct on the merits: private businesses should not run to the government for help and should succeed and fail on their own. However, we failed in really looking at the situation around us and seeing if this we could apply this principle at this time. I think we were intellectually lazy, not willing to get from behind our computers and see what was actually happening on the ground. In the end, this shows a problem with conservativism in America in general and has hurt the GOP's chances to make a convincing case in the Midwest.

I've read enough from bloggers at how we should not support a declining industry. For example, this is what David Brooks (a columnist that I normally agree with) said about the bailout back in November:

This (the auto bailout) is a different sort of endeavor than the $750 billion bailout of Wall Street. That money was used to save the financial system itself. It was used to save the capital markets on which the process of creative destruction depends.

Granting immortality to Detroit’s Big Three does not enhance creative destruction. It retards it. It crosses a line, a bright line. It is not about saving a system; there will still be cars made and sold in America. It is about saving politically powerful corporations. A Detroit bailout would set a precedent for every single politically connected corporation in America. There already is a long line of lobbyists bidding for federal money. If Detroit gets money, then everyone would have a case. After all, are the employees of Circuit City or the newspaper industry inferior to the employees of Chrysler?

Brooks is think the danger here is that the government is going to try to save every failing company, thereby threatening capitalism itself. Give the money to these aging dinosuars and they will just misspend it and make the same mistakes over and over.

But is that what's going on here? Are liberals rushing in to end capitalism and create some new People's Republic?

No. Brooks and many others were looking at this from a philosophical standpoint and not a real time standpoint. They were talking about the vibrancy of the free market while at a time when the market is fragile and might not be able to mend so easily if one or more of the Big Three went down.

And that's been the problem here. I think conservatives have been more concerned about the letter of the law than its spirit. They have held fast to a rule and not noticed if the times warranted such close adherence.

In normal times, I think it would make sense to ignore the pleas of Detroit. In many ways, they got themselves into this mess. However, these are not normal times. The housing cum financial crisis has made this economy fragile. While I don't think we are rushing headlong into the Great Depression, Part II we are in a spot where doing the wrong thing could lead us down that road. Allowing the Big Three to fail would have created massive unemployment in states like Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. Those states would have to use already tapped resources to provide unemployment insurance. And it would have spread to suppliers as well. In some cases, that is already happening. A blogger at Autoblog sums up what is happening at a former workplace:

I've recently been in contact some former colleagues at TRW's headquarters complex in Livonia, MI. Since the start of 2008 there have apparently been five rounds of layoffs at the technical center. In the most recent round in mid-November, one former co-worker with 32 years of experience as a skilled technician was laid off as were numerous other engineers and technicians many with 25-30 years or more of experience.

Much of my former department has been let go, as the work they were doing has been consolidated at another facility. The most recent publicly available information about TRW indicated that the company had over 66,000 employees worldwide with 4,000 in the Detroit area, including 1,200 at the Livonia technical center. It's estimated that as many as one-third of the people in Livonia lost their jobs in the most recent round of layoffs. These are mostly college graduates with bachelors and masters degrees, and many of these same people are having a tough time finding jobs because every other company in the field is also letting people go.

These engineers are technicians are being fired because the vehicle programs they were involved in have been delayed or canceled outright. Lack of a paycheck means these people will be spending less money in the community in coming months, leading to cascading business failures and job losses. This is the real cost of the financial mess on Main St.

Any potential demise would also hurt suppliers, which would in turn, hurt the foreign automakers that have plants in the U.S. since they get their parts from the same suppliers.

If the government did nothing and the Big Three collasped, would we enter a depression? I don't know, I'm a pastor not an economist. But I do think that with the economy has fragile as it is and with rising unemployment, I wasn't interested in testing out that hypothesis.

In the end, I think conservatives did not do anyone a favor for not even trying to provide a solution and as the old saying goes, ideas have consequences. Don't be surprised if come 2010, the Democrats use this failure during the elections. The Dems and Unions will run commercials about how the GOP was willing to put this economy at risk and many people will remember. They will not care that these bloggers and politicians were sticking to principle, they will remember that the GOP tried to stick it to them.

The sad thing is that 30 years ago, it was the autoworkers that Ronald Reagan went after to win the Presidency. Back then, those autoworkers were disatisfed with the Democratic Party and started voting for the Republicans. It was in Macomb County a suburban county of Detroit where the term "Reagan Democrats" was coined. Three decades later, the GOP has basically told these people to drop dead and forced back into the arms of the Democrats. It's yet another sign of how tone deaf the GOP has become and so willing to write off total sectors of the American populace for a thin slice that they think will carry them to victory.

Maybe a "bailout" was a great idea, but the GOP wasn't that interested in presenting anything new. Creative destruction, as they say. Nevermind if this time the destruction was the Apocalyspe.

Again, I am not an expert, but I am the son of two autoworkers and have seen the hard times in my home state. In the past, I would have said this was the result of the economy and Michigan hasn't moved forward. And I still think that is true. The Big Three have been slow to change and again, if it were normal times, I would say they should go hang. But we live in risky times and the GOP failed to see that and was willing to gamble with the lives of tens of millions of people. I believe in the free market, but I wasn't willing to let such a massive calamity happen that could bring down the rest of the economy. I'm a conservative, but I am also loyal to my parents.

I don't know what the answer is for conservatives here. But before we start throwing out that "elitist" charge at liberals, we might want to check ourselves.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Towards A Progressive Conservatism, Revisited

About four years ago, I wrote something in an old blog based on a David Brooks essay from 2004. I called the post, "Towards a Progressive Conservatism" and it went something like this:

I've been reading the new book by Jim Wallis called , God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. In it, he talks about a essay written by New York Times columnist David Brooks last summer. I remember briefly looking at it, but not really getting around to reading it.

If you haven't read it, do so. Now. It's entitled, "How To Reinvent the GOP" and it's a provactive essay on how the Republican Party can reinvigorate itself. His basic argument is that the guiding principle of the GOP in recent decades, namely the size of government, is not an issue anymore. Socialism, which called for a big and interventionist government, is a spent force and the old conservative argument over the size of government is not the issue. Instead he argues for a limited and yet robust government that would spur empowerment among individuals who would in turn, empower the nation.

There's a lot more I should be saying, but it's close to eleven and time for bed. What I can say is that Brooks is advocating for a conservatism in the view of Teddy Roosevelt, a progressive conservatism. I think it's a great blueprint for the party and I could see it expressed in someone like Chuck Hagel.

Okay, so I was wrong on that whole Chuck Hagel thing, but having re-read the Brook's piece, I still think it is an great blueprint for the future of the GOP and it seems that some of these ideas were expressed in the book by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, called Grand New Party.

Give the article a read
. Here's a taste:

Nobody knows who the nominee will be that year. (He's referring to 2008.)It could be Bill Frist, Chuck Hagel, Rudy Giuliani, Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado or somebody else -- maybe even Arnold Schwarzenegger. But if the party is going to offer a positive, authoritative vision for the post-9/11 world, which is a world of conflict and anxiety, then it is going to have to develop a strong-government philosophy consistent with Republican principles. It will have to embrace a progressive conservative agenda more ambitious and fully developed than anything the Bush administration has so far articulated.

A candidate who does that would not need to launch an insurgency campaign against the Republican establishment, the way Goldwater did in 1964 or the way Reagan did in 1976. The fact is the Republican Party no longer has a coherent establishment left to inveigh against. Instead, a progressive conservative candidate would have to play a more constructive role. He would have to lay out a vision that would rebuild the bonds among free-market conservatives, who dream of liberty; social conservatives, who dream of decency; middle-class suburbanites, who dream of opportunity; and foreign-policy hawks, who dream of security and democracy. He would have to revive and update the governing philosophy that did bind these groups, and did offer such hope, in the early days of the G.O.P. Long before it was the party of Tom DeLay, the G.O.P. was a strong government/progressive conservative party. It was the party of Lincoln, and thus of Hamilton. Today, in other words, the Republican Party doesn't need another revolution. It just needs a revival. It needs to learn from the ideas that shaped the party when it was born.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Warren, Prayer and "Unity"

I know that as a gay man I should be joining like everyone else in condemning President-elect Obama in selecting Rick Warren to give a prayer at the inaugeration since he vigorously supported Prop 8 which banned same sex marriage in California, but I'm not.

I don't agree with Warren's views on this of course, but I'm not convinced that this is a fight we need to pick. Why? Well, I agree with Steven Waldman, Warren has done a lot to highlight and try to solve issues like global poverty and AIDS. He is trying to get other evangelical ministers to not focus so exclusively on gay marriage and abortion and really focus on "the least of these." He's still a social conservative, but he is one that takes the Biblical concern for the poor seriously. I can't ignore that and I think that is something that needs to be lifted up. The more people who are involved in try to solve poverty, the better and I don't care what their background is when dealing with an issue like poverty.

Second, many gays and lesbians seem to forget that Obama was about bringing people together. Let's go back to that speech that made him a household name in 2004:

It is that fundamental belief -- It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Now, politicians always talk about "bringing the country together" and then govern as a pure partisan. While I still have my doubts, I think Obama really means what he says. I think he really wants unity, to find some way to get beyond the petty partisan bickering and towards some true American consensus.

Many who are now angry at the Warren selection talked a good talk about coming together and unity. But unity for them meant being in totally agreement. In essence, it meant politics as usual, except with a liberal face instead of a conservative one.

The fact is, the guy is living what he said four years ago. He is trying to build bridges, not create new chasms.

I don't agree with Warren on same sex marriage. However, his work has shown that while he might not appease some gays and liberal interest groups on this one issue, he is not a James Dobson.

Besides, we gay folk need to pick our battles and not go after everyone who supported Prop 8. Objecting to a guy that goes to the Third World and feed sick kids makes us, not Warren look bad. Gays need to be about making the case for gay marriage, not acting as some kind of 'star chamber' for those who disagree with us.

I'm not saying we can't criticize Warren or any other person for their role. But lets show a bit of class, shall we?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Putting the Bible Aside for a While

In my last year of seminary, I took a class where one of our assignments one evening was to debate the issue of slavery. Both sides used the Bible to justify their arguments. When the exercise was done, the professor told the side that was against slavery (the side I was on) that it was a losing battle to use the Bible in your argument since the other side could back up their argument with Scripture that indicated that slavery was "okay."

With that in mind, I thought this post by Adam Walker Cleaveland was instructive. He argues that maybe those who back up their opposition to homosexuality with the Holy Book put their Bibles aside for a while and actually meet a real live gay person. I'm familiar with Adam and have met him. What makes this argument so interesting is that Adam is himself a recent graduate of seminary, works at a church as a youth minister and is readying to become a minister. Here's a snippet of his post:

...presenting a coherent biblical argument for why homosexuality is not a sin and why our gay brothers and sisters should be fully welcomed into all areas of the church and ministry is not my point here. I think many people have done just that (Jack Rogers and Stacy Johnson come to mind), but they are easily dismissed by many because they apparently don’t have a “high enough view of scripture.”

Well - if that’s the problem - then I say, “Enough with the Bible already!”

Intrigued? Enraged? Delighted? Read more.

A Real 435 District Strategy

From former Governor Christine Todd Whitman:

To fully understand the importance of centrist Republican candidates in the 2008 elections, it is important to take a look at the results of this year’s hard fought Republican primaries and see how these candidates performed in the general election. It is in primaries, after all, where the voters must choose the candidate that best represents their own positions on the issues, the District at large, and the chances for victory in November. Their performance in the fall is, therefore, a good indication of the types of Republicans that can win tough campaigns...

...For the purposes of building our Party, expanding the coalition, and winning elections, it is best for Republican candidates to fit the Districts they represent – often a centrist agenda - rather than conform to a rigid ideology that pleases only those on the fringe.

That makes a lot more sense than trying to run someone against gay marriage in a place like San Francisco.

Conservatives Lose Another Vote

But of course it doesn't matter, since he's gay...

I am a registered Republican in my Junior year of college .... I love my country, believe in limited government and low taxes. I am a strong and believing Christian. I am also gay. ... No one chooses to be like this, and the least that we deserve is a level of respect instead of a constant bashing. All that I want to do is be able to marry the person I love, adopt and raise children with him and live a life like any other American. I just want to be left alone, without a government that stands in my way of equality, be it from discrimination or be it from basic rights that heterosexuals have to protect their families that many take for granted. ...

I should be the perfect type of person that the Republican party can appeal to; I am a student of business, own a gun, watch football and understand and wish to help eliminate the threat of radical Islam to the West. Why does the party hate me? Why do conservatives want to make my life harder than it already has been? ...

On November 4th this year, I did something that two years ago I would never have dreamed of doing. I voted for a Democrat for President. ... I have a feeling that I will be doing it for a long time.

Sadly he will be until the Republicans wise up, which isn't likely anytime soon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Left My Brain in San Francisco

In the wake of the recent victory by Joseph Cao, the folks over at The Next Right envision what it might be to run a Cao type candidate in San Francisco. They name this guy, who is Korean, Rob Wong (I thought Wong was Chinese name).It's an interesting and even appealing read until you get to the last few paragaphs:

At the same time, this Gay Marriage stuff has gotten under Rob's skin. While he has gay friends, and doesn't really have a problem with Gay Marriage, he was appalled by the arrogance of the CA supreme court decision and quietly voted against Prop 8. He thought that was the end of it. He was wrong. Nothing prepared him for the circus following Prop 8.

All this has left Rob Wong livid and ready to take it out on the incumbant leadership in his home city. He's decided to run for the House and he needs your help.

So let me get this straight: a Republican is going to run for Congress in San Francisco, against gay marriage? San Francisco. Known for being a "gay mecca."

I'd like to know what planet or alternative universe are these folks living in.

Nevermind that Cao, who the fictional Wong is patterned after, has said that he doesn't like church and state mixing together, these folks somehow believe that a man who voted agaist Prop 8 has a fighting chance in an area that is about as gay as one can get.

How removed from reality can you be?

The fact is, no matter how much one might agree with his economic platform, the fictional Wong has a snowball's chance in hell to even be competative because of his stance on an issue like gay marriage.

The sad fact is, someone who was socially liberal, but also fiscally conservative would have a chance in the Bay Area. If you are going to run a candidate in Dem strongholds, you are going to have put up people who are more socially liberal since that is the premodominant ethos of the area. But that would be an anathema to those who hold fast to their socially conservative views. Here in Minneapolis, we have had socially conservative candidates run for Congress and get trounced everytime.

I think this shows how addicted some are to social conservatism in the GOP. Instead of trying to moderate those views in Democratic leaning areas to put forth competative candidates, they basically think they can just put forth and attractive package like being a minority and still have the same socially conservative views.

If people even think that someone opposed to gay marriage could have a shot in San Francisco, then it shows how out of touch conservatism has become.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Auto Bailout Fails in Senate

The Detroit News is reporting that the bailout deal has failed in the Senate.

In the weeks since this has become an issue, I've gone from saying let them hang, to doing what we can to help the Big Three, to thinking that maybe bankruptcy wouldn't be such a bad idea. In normal times, I would say, no to any government help, but then these aren't normal times.

Maybe my fellow conservatives are correct that giving the big three money is just throwing good money after bad. But I keep having this bad feeling that we might be ideologically correct at the wrong time. I keep wondering if one of the automakers goes under, what it will do to an already sinking economy.

But tonight I keep thinking about my native Michigan and all those families wondering what will happen next.

The GOP's "God Problem," Part Four

A reader responds to a post on Rod Dreher's blog:

I am that, which for many American conservative and or literalistic and or fundamentalist Christians, does not exist: A gay man who is a Christian.

And that is a big part of their problem. Beginning roughly in the late Nixon era and increasing by leaps and bounds, a very intolerant, totalitarian faction of Christians shouted down all other Christian voices in the republican party. Just as anyone who dared to argue that torture was not an American way to conduct war was screamed down as unpatriotic, just as anyone who dared suggest our enemies were the the people who declared war on us on 9/11 and not Irak, was labeled a traitor, so any Christian who dared to point out that the republican party was not God's Only Party was hastily shown the door.

I believe it was the sad Shiavao death in Florida which ultimately forced other genuine Christians to come out of their ecclesiastical closets, stop muttering "but they are only a very loud minority, they don't speak for my Christianity" and say: Enough.

It is not so much that the voters left the republicans, it is the republicans who left the voters. Look at the number of conservative thinkers who were tossed under the bus, fired from their editorial chairs and roundly reviled in the months leading up to the election. George Will was made out to be somewhere to the left of a Marxist-Leninist-Fascist-pinko-commie. Chris Buckley (not over fond of him personally, but I know good writing when I read it) was reviled as some sort of Trojan horse at best, a turncoat most likely. I could go on for hours, even Douthat got a pretty rough trouncing for daring to apply reasoned analysis to the mess.

Instead of seeking a dialog, these Christians have vilified everyone who does not share their goals exactly . I am gay, therefor any recognition of my civil rights must mandate that the church be forced to marry me. If someone suggests we could reduce abortion by providing teen-age girls with better sex-education, it is equated with opening a neighborhood brothel and making daddy's little girl put on those fish-net hose and stand on the corner.
When a vaccine is offered which will reduce a young woman's chances of dying a horrid death from cancer is brought to market, both the manufacturer and those who advocate saving women from cancer are typecast as the spawn of satan...

OK, I will stop there. Speaking directly to these fundamentalists, now:

I believe in monogamy, committed life-long marriage and find no-fault divorce a horribly bad idea. Abortion appalls me. Guess what? Instead of making me your ally, you strip me of my rights, equate me with the most debased of criminals and try to have children adopted by gays and lesbians stripped from them. You have made enemies of us, and done so in God's name. There's a pretty severe injunction on that...oops, forgot, it being OT, it no longer applies. Right, only those texts in the Bible which support your views count. And anyway, what is the word of God's son against Paul's Christianity? Goodness, in the end, Jesus was only God incarnate as a Jewish Rabbi who ran around offering salvation and the joy that comes of knowing God. What is that when you can push hatred and intolerance? They work, for a while. Eventually, they always fail. And that is exactly what has happened.

Fine, you say - but since I'm gay, who cares? Well, the republican party says only somewhere between 1.7 and 2 million of us gays voted republican this year. By their own estimate, at least 2/3 of us voted against you or stayed home. Now add in all the other Christians you booted out, all those who actually were awake and present in Macro and Micro Economics 101, all those who oppose torture and senseless wars...and there you have your problem.

In all honesty, if Sarah Palin is the future of the republican party in the eyes of fundamentalist and or literalistic and or conservative Christians, that alone should tell you it's time to read those parts of the Bible which talk about Jesus message of love. You have re-interpreted the Bible's message and Christianity to mean what you want it to mean. For the first time in quite a while, the Americans didn't fall for it.

I couldn't have said it better.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Michael Steele Shows Some...Steele

While I don't agree with him on every issue, I have like Michael Steele. The former Lt. Governor of Maryland is running for the leadership of the GOP. There have been rumblings from some "true believers" that because of his work in reviving the moderate Republican Leadership Council (a group I support) that he would make a bad leader for the Republican party. For a while, he was trying to distance himself from the RLC and all things moderate. Now he seems to be changing his tune:

“They have been beating me upside the head with it and let me give it to you straight on: Wake up people. I mean what are you going to do? Are you going to kick these folks out of the party? I have watched this party self disintegrate for the last four or five years. I’ve watched this party isolate itself from itself.”

“This may be a unique opportunity to build a relationship or a bridge between the conservatives and the moderates in our party and so she asked me to serve on her board and I said well this will be good. It’ll be a pro-life conservative voice on a board with a pro-choice leadership that is looking to elect moderates. We have to elect moderates in the party.”

I applaud Mr. Steele for showing some backbone and standing up to those who want to diss him because he dares to try to widen the party. But I have to sadly agree with Justin Gardner, I don't think the people who really control the party are in the mood to really expand the party and actually make a case. In the view of many, anyone that isn't sufficiently pro-life or incredibly anti-gay is not fit to be a proper Republican.

Social conservatives like to pretend that they have no power in the party. They love to play the part of victim (the right knows how to play victim politics as well as the left) even though they have this party by the you-know-what. Case in point, many think John McCain wanted to pick either Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge for veep, but the mere mention that he would consider a pro-choice candidate (both politicians from "blue states") brought howls of protest from the "so-cons." In the end he picked Sarah Palin, who was wonderful on their issues and fired up social conservatives, but did little to win the center.

Still, Steele is to be commended for his honesty. It might have doomed his candidacy, but he still has his pride.

Bravo, Mr. Steele.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Conservatives for Gay Marriage

There are conservatives out there that actually are for gay marriage and are also willing to call a spade a spade:

The supporters of traditional family values are afraid of giving same sex couples equal protection under the law because they wonder if the next law we’ll want will allow traditional family values people like Warren Jeffs to do what they do legally. Last time I checked, the bible (which I generally consider to be a fairly authoritative source for “traditional family values”) had many, many examples of righteous men who took multiple wives when they were as young as 13 years old.

You want to know if legalizing same sex marriage is going to lead to pedophilia and polygamy? It won’t. Traditional family values legislation might – but gay marriage won’t.

I don’t know about you, but I have some measure of self control. When my brain sees an issue of equal civil rights, it doesn’t think, “Dude, I would totally love to nail that goat! Let’s legalize it!” Does yours? No? Then can we drop this rediculous line of thought? Please?

Read the whole thing.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Letter from a Gay Christian Conservative

It's not often that I start to write something shaking in anger, but two fellow conservatives, Joe Carter and Daniel Larison have done just that with their callous response to a Newsweek cover story on gay marriage. What's so callous about it, is that their words are written without understanding the life of gay person, who isn't interested in tearing down society, but just wants that he and his partner have the same rights that Joe and Daniel have. What makes me mad is that they are so willing to judge me and those who favor gay rights as something beyond the pale, as heretical to the Christian faith that I have belonged to since I was a child, a traitor to conservatism, when I have in choosing a partner for life, done what is most conservative.

But first you have to know something about me. First, I am a devout Christian. I grew up in the black Baptist church and also in evangelicalism. I am proud of that heritage. As I grew older I knew that I was different, that I felt different. But back then, I didn't think one could or should be gay, I thought it a sin. As I graduated from colllege I decided to do some real studying on the issue; being an evangelical, I thought it important to do what I was taught to do: study scripture. It was there that I learned more about what the Bible really said about homosexuality. I came to wonder if what I was taught was totally correct. I made some cautious steps to start to wonder if what was said was in the Bible was really there after all. I remember one day, lying in bed thinking on all these things, when I felt like I was in the presence of God. I felt as if I revealed to God that I was bisexual (I could only accept that I was bisexual at the time, more caution). I felt God's answer as total warmth. There was no hate or anger, just love.

Now, I am not that much of a mystic, but I have to believe that experience was from God.

Skipping a few years, I was now fully accepting of being gay and then another thing happened: I have a call to be a minister. This time, I went forward in faith, knowing that it was God through the Holy Spirit that calls people to a life of service. I went into seminary and was ordained in 2002. It was hard at first because of restrictions for openly gay clergy, but today I am an out person serving God as a minister.

In 2005, I met my partner Daniel. He's the son of a Lutheran pastor and still works in the church as a church musician. After two years of dating, Daniel wanted to get married. I didn't understand why one would want to go through such an endeavor, but he did. Daniel is a big political liberal, I am a conservative and yet, it was the liberal that wanted a ceremony, a way of publicly expressing our love and mutual joy for each other, to care for each other.

In many ways, we are opposites: he's white, I'm black. He's an extrovert, I'm an introvert. He grew up in small towns in North Dakota, I grew up in a small city near Detroit. But the thing is, we are there for each other. We support each other and care for one another.

Larison makes a case that those of us in favor of gay marriage and homosexuality in general are playing fast and loose with the Bible. But if what God's word is what it is, if it is unchanging, then we shouldn't eat shrimp, or wear mixed fabrics, or get a divorce. If God's Word is "unchanging" then I guess as an African American, I should still be a slave.

I find all of this hyperactivity concerning homosexuality among fellow conservatives with sadness. I wish that instead of hiding behind the Bible, they would listen for God. I wish they would talk to gay people. I wish they could listen to how we have been hounded out of families and churches.

The fact is, this kind of fear is devasting to the conservative movement. Gay marriage is not about destroying hetrosexual marriage. It is instead about gays doing something most conservative, entering into a long standing tradition. Traditions change over time, but they are still traditions.

Conservatives have much to be proud of. We have defeated communism and worked for a smaller government. But I fear that the stain of homohobia will hamper our movement for decades to come.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The GOP's "God Problem," Part Two

Conservative columnist Rod Dreher, has an interesting column in today's USA Today, where he defends the role of religious conservatives in the Republican Party. What's interesting about the piece is how yet again, a religious conservative paints themselves as the victim and bashes anyone that complains about them as being a stooge of liberals.

But maybe what is more fascinating still is how much these religious conservatives live in a cocoon, thinking that what is popular in GOP circles is what is popular among the whole nation.

Take Dreher's notion on how important the Religious Right is to the GOP:

Republicans interested in rebuilding the party would be fools to shun us. White evangelicals (and, to a lesser extent, Mass-going Catholics) are the GOP's backbone. Just more than a third of President Bush's 2004 vote came from white evangelicals — and they turned out for McCain in comparable numbers. Cut social conservatives loose and you get a GOP that, as blogger Daniel Larison archly puts it, is "the party of all the remaining Episcopalians, Californians and New Yorkers who prefer lower taxes."

In the opinion of Dreher and others, religious conservatives aren't just a part of the GOP, but they are the GOP. Take them out, and all you have is a little coalition that couldn't win dogcatcher.

But Dreher is only focusing on the percentage of white evangelicals that make up the Republican vote. He forgets that there is a wider public out there and the Republicans are losing that vote. Remember those white evangelicals that Dreher says are the "backbone" of the GOP? Well, they are shrinking:

In 2000, according to CNN’s exit polls, 42% of voters claimed to attend church on a weekly basis. That number remained steady in 2004, but dropped to 39% in 2008. 55% of those voters supported McCain in 2008. About 60% of them supported Bush in 2004 and 2000. With most young voters thinking that the church is too involved in politics and incorrect on the issue of homosexuality (most young voters support gay marriage, too), what is the Christian Right to do?

Additionally, religious candidates are increasingly marginalized as regional candidates. With the weird exception of Iowa, Mike Huckabee was only able to win Southern states in the Republican primary season. Sarah Palin’s favorability ratings were only in the positives in the South by the end of the election season. The two of them are religious populists, very appealing to a niche section of the base, but with absolutely no ability to attract independents, Northeasterners, or people on the coasts. Whether one wants to assail them as “elitists” or not, they did just decimate our candidates and we need to appeal to them if we’re going to be a majority party.

And by the way, those elitist jerks were voting for our candidates just a few cycles ago.

Let's take a look at the youth vote, which Obama won:

voters ages 18 to 29, almost one-fifth of the electorate, went better than 2-to-1 for Obama.

Here, too, the trends in the past couple of elections have been all Democratic. Some of that is because there are more minorities among younger voters; some of it is the lousy economy, and some the opposition to the Iraq War.

But interviews and survey data suggest that another reason is tolerance, and the feeling that on matters like gay rights and race relations, Republicans are out of step. Most young people have no trouble with gay relationships.

Cultural conservatives celebrated that three states, California, Arizona and Florida, voted last month to ban gay marriage. They will learn these were pyrrhic victories much like the anti-immigration measure California Republicans rode to electoral success in 1994, where they won an election and lost a generation.

Research suggests that once young people cast a few votes for one political party, it’s often a lifetime habit.

Did John McCain lose soley because of the Religious Right? No. Dreher is correct that there are a lot of reasons that McCain lost. But the fact is, the Religious Right did play a role in loss nevertheless. Americans still have the whole Terry Schiavo fiasco in their minds, and young people don't understand why people who claim to be religious are so interested in banning same sex marriage or not allowing women to get an abortion if they are raped, or banning embryonic stem cell research, when a loved one is dealing with Alzheimers or diabetes. Conservatives are correct when they say culture matters; it's just that the GOP is on the losing side.

Conservatives have long believed that faith has a role in our civic life. I have no problem with that, being a person of faith myself. What is wrong is that American conservatism has held too long to a narrow understanding of faith and has given it too high a place of honor. Religious conservatives seem to only notice their own faith and not realize that we are a multi-religious society. They really believe that the GOP stands for "God's Own Party" instead of realizing that a sucessful political party has to be willing to reach out to all Americans, even those that may have a different faith or none at all.

The problem with Dreher and others like him is that their conservativism is too myopic. It doesn't see a need to expand the tent and appeal to the center.

Until that happens, the Republicans will be destined to be a regional party.