Wednesday, March 30, 2005

John Danforth on "God's Own Party"

More and more, you are starting to see Republicans speak out against the far right and their control of our party. We've seen it in the efforts of former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman and now we see it in an op-ed in today's New York Times by former Senator JOhn Danforth of Missouri.

Danforth comes out swinging when he boldly says this:

BY a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.

He goes on to state that the current GOP is taking on the Religious Right's agenda at the expense of what were once crucial GOP values:

During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

Indeed. The current GOP spends money, as John McCain would say, like drunken sailors. At times, they seem more concerned with two men getting married than they are with, say, I Queda.

It should be noted that Senator Danforth also goes by another name: Reverend Danforth, since he is an Episcopal priest. The good reverend has no problems with people of faith engaging in political action, but he does have problems when a party identifies too closely with a sectarian agenda. He writes:

When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another.

Danforth ends saying that the party needs to get back to its roots.

In the Bible, there is a story about Jacob and Essau, two brothers. Essau was a man's man and liked to hunt and fish. Jacob was more quiet and pretty much a mama's boy. Since Essau was born first, he had the birthright, meaning he stood to inherit his father's fortune. One day, Essau comes in from hunting famished. Jacob, who was a good cook, had made a wonderful stew. Essau is so hungry, that Jacob tricks him into selling his birthright for a bowl of stew. You can tell which one had the brains in the family.

The GOP sold its birthright, in this case, its soul to get the bowl of stew or power. The Republicans might appear to be powerful, but it's power without conscience, without the very essence that make the GOP the Party of Lincoln. It's good to see Danforth, Whitman and Shays act as lonely prophets calling the party back to what it once was. However, we won't get anywhere until rank and file Republicans of conscience get off their duffs, get angry and take the party back from the theocons.

Please do so.


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