Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Other Side of the Hill(ary)

I just finished reading my brother's thought provoking piece about the sea change taking place in American politics and found it good as far as it went, but incomplete.  The impression that is given from the article is that the Republican Party alone is affected by the shift of tides and current while the Democrats are largely unaffected.  I think this is incorrect and this election cycle will be remembered as the one where the American people as a whole, in both parties, finally got a look behind the curtain and were appalled at what they saw.

Before I jump into that though, I wanted to briefly comment about Mark's remarks about the neighborhood we lived in growing up.  He is absolutely correct in the neighborhood was largely homogeneous and, for me, was a great place to grow up because my closest friends were literally just around the corner.  We knew everyone in the neighborhood because everyone has some sort of relational aspect as someone's brother, sister or the mean man down the street who jealously guarded his yard against all intruders.  In short, it was the suburbia of legend.

Despite the fact we all looked the same though, there was a wide divergence of opinion and I disagree with the characterization that all signs would point to Trump.  I am a Christian conservative, but one of my good friends was an atheist who succeeded in his life ambition to become an astrophysicist.  My best friend in junior high school became a very successful public school teacher and high school football coach.  He also unfriended me on Facebook because I took exception to some NEA propaganda he posted.  But at the time, all of this was in the future.

I mention this for two reasons: first, there is an unfortunate tendency today to view diversity exclusively in terms of race, which is an external characteristic instead of as a diversity of ideas.  I am greatly saddened to hear that there is none of the contact between neighbors that existed in the old neighborhood.  Gone entirely is a sense of community, instead it is replaced by everyone tending what is theirs carefully without regard for the others around them. I am not sure if Mark views this as progress, but I certainly do not.  I will take the unkempt shrubs with block parties to the neatly groomed cloisters.

In a sense this is what has happened to our country as a whole.  We value and prize a superficial diversity at the price of community.  To me this loss is tragic.  Take college campuses for example.  If you were to define the product of an institution of higher learning, you would rightly conclude it was supposed to be a marketplace of ideas.  Yet as a recent article in the Washington Post points out, the tendency is for one point of view to be expressed and anyone who disagrees with this point of view to be suppressed. Diversity search committees prize criteria like sex, race, enableness, sexual orientation, but all are just differently packaged group think.  It is like having five different patterns on your Kleenex box:  the external trappings do not change the contents.

I believe it was Bob Dole in the 1996 presidential campaign who lamented the notion of "hyphenated Americans" and I agree.  We have become so balkanized and distrustful of each other that there are some, usually Democrats, who genuinely fear that if Trump loses then the election outcome will lead to mass violence and revolution.  Personally I think this is a silly notion.  Every election I have been able to vote in since 1980 has always been presented as THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION EVER!!! and that voting the wrong way would lead to Armageddon.  The thing I like best about Mark's historical account is that what is happening now is really nothing new and the dynamic of American politics is always in flux.  As a Christian, I am reminded today that regardless of the outcome my mission of sharing the Gospel will remain unchanged and that God will remain unshaken on the throne of the universe.  In the cosmic scheme of things, this is strictly small potatoes.

This type of thinking, which has emerged in this election cycle for the first time in a big way, represents a changing of the guard from the old time "Moral Majority" adherents with their top down approach to the nation's ills.  What is being said by the new generation, like Russell Moore, is that doing so essentially makes us no different from the secularist who relies on the "horses and chariots" of the political process instead of putting our faith first and foremost.  There are two problems with the idea of using the political process: first, it puts us in danger of adopting the Marxist philosophy of "proletarian morality".  In Marxist thought, this is the idea that the triumph of Marxism is so important that anything done to advance its cause is by definition good and anything that opposes it is bad.  This is the modus operendi of the secular mindset and is easy to fall into if you feel winning is everything.  Second, the top down approach ignores the reality that "politics is downstream to culture".  By compromising our principles for political viability, we have been largely ineffective in opposing forces that largely pushed aside many of our beliefs.  Some, like Moore, argue this is a good thing because it ends a type of cultural Babylonian captivity and refocuses us on the proper task at hand.  I hope this is true and, regardless of today's outcome, this is the task confronting us.

What is a stake are multiple competing visions of America on everything from the role of government to whether some rights are more inalienable than others.  I say multiple because Trump is not an exclusive standard bearer of thought, but neither is Hillary.  Christians need to remain engaged in politics and not retreat from it.  As Charles Finney, the 19th c. evangelist observed:

"The Church must take right ground in regard to politics... Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this and Christians must do their duty to the country as part of their duty to God...God will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics".

So, since the culture creates the climate for the election, the Christian's role in politics should be to ensure seed falls in well tended soil.  We need to do a better job of challenging the cultural assumptions and mores of the day.

Finally, the part I think Mark omitted was that the rain that has come with this election has gotten everyone wet.  The Republican establishment, with its persistent and seemingly suicidal opposition to Trump, is being exposed for what it is, an organization more concerned with staying in power and serving the donor class than its own constituency.  The DNC and the Democrat establishment, through the revelations of Wikileaks and other clandestine efforts like Project Veritas, is shown to have done everything in its power to suppress Bernie Sanders and to use any and all means necessary to win.  They too are more concerned with staying in power and pleasing the donor class than their own constituency which, as these revelations show, they view as "useful idiots".

It would be naive to say that the political process has not always been a messy one and that email exchanges are just the modern form of the "smoke filled back room" where things really get decided. But, like watching someone get beaten to death by "Lucille" on the Walking Dead, it may be that its grossness is finally being realized for what it is and the wizard pulling the levers has revealed.  This is where I think some good will come out of this election, no matter the result.

This morning I plunked down my government issued ID (driver's license) and voted for Trump.  I did this because of the platform primarily, though listening to him at his campaign stops for the last month has made me much more comfortable with who he is and his vision.  I think that the act of voting is the important takeaway of today.  Thanks to the electoral college system, I cannot even say that my vote cancelled out Mark's:  he lives in Ohio and I in Kentucky.  But each one of us voted based on what we feel is best for the future of our common nation.  That is the ultimate common ground.

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