Saturday, November 8, 2008

The American Election: Silver Linings

The election of a hard-edged, liberal ideologue who stands firmly against the culture of life as the leader of a country in Europe is now so common as to be expected, but for it to happen in the United States of America is a shocking event. More pro-abortion even than Bill Clinton or any other Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama is by no means a centrist politican as defined by American politics. But does this mean that the center has shifted left in the US, as it has over the past 40 years in Canada? Was this election "transformational?" Should the pro-euthanasia activists, the re-definition of marriage activists and those advocating such things as cloning humans for spare parts all now stand shoulder to shoulder shouting "Yes we can"?

It has taken me four days to write this post because I wanted to put the election of Obama in the perspective of the election results as a whole. There is a lot of silver in the linings of this election, more in fact than one would expect after the American people had elected a man who stands for legalized private killing after a campaign in which the mainstream media actively campaigned for him to the point of comparing him to Lincoln.

There is no doubt that, in principle, it is a wonderful thing that the first African-American president has been elected. But the real story is that it is not that astonishing that a black man can be elected president. I really don't know how someone can be all that surprised. It speaks well of America that his policies, his abilities and his timing were all more important than his race - and it must be admitted that his race was actually a greater asset than liability in many quarters of America. And I'm not just talking about black America, but about white, liberal America where the eagerness to vote for a black president was extremely high. (I actually heard comments from white voters who were so excited to be able to vote for a black candidate that they were going to do so even though they disagreed with his policies!)

So what can we take from this election as positives for those who are neither Republicans or Democrats, but who are concerned to build a culture of life?

1. Obama Only Managed 52% of the Popular Vote:
In this election we had a Republican president with a 31% approval rating who had led the country into an unpopular war, run up a gigantic deficit, attacked civil liberties and squandered much of the good will in the world in which America has basked after 9/11. The big question the mainstream media will never ask, but which begs to be asked is "Why was the margin of victory so narrow?"

The answer is that the US was and remains a conservative-leaning (center-right) country. The abortion issue dragged Obama down and prevented a run-away win. McCain was nominated as a centrist Republican with a reputation for being a mavrick because the Republicans were trying to distance themselves from George Bush. Therefore, he did not excite the social conservatives within the Republican coalition and it took the choice of Sarah Palin to convince many social conservatives to vote this time. That decision, which was out of character for McCain, demonstrated that the Republican Party ignores the social conservatives at its peril because they represent a large part of the voting public. If McCain had chose Lieberman it likely would have been a blow-out for Obama.

2. Voters in California, Florida and Arizona Reject Same-sex "Marriage:"
Secondly, it is heartening that 30 states now have now enshrined the traditional definition of marriage in their constitutions. Activist federal judges be warned: America will not tolerate a repeat of the abortion scenario where 9 unelected citizens impose their morality (or lack thereof) on the nation.

The vote in California against same sex "marriage" happened despite the Obama landslide. In one of the most liberal states in the union in an election in which a Democrat opposing Proposition 8 is overwhelmingly elected, Proposition 8 should have been toast. Obama himself ran 13% higher than the campaign to support same sex "marriage," which strongly suggests that he was not elected with a moral revisionist mandate.

3. The Democrats Fall Short of the Super-Majority in the Senate:
This was close. If the Democrats (or the pro-abortionists of both parties) had gained 60 seats in the Senate, then the filibuster could have been over-ridden at a signal from Biden and Ried. But it looks right now that the Democrats have fallen just short of this threshold. This means the Republicans have at least one weapon to use to provide an effective opposition.

This development has huge implications for two crucial matters. First, it may mean that the Freedom of Choice Act will not be able to be passed. Or at the least, it may have to be watered down. This will be a major fight during the next 12 months. Second, it may put a little tiny brake on Obama's nominees for the Supreme Court. The good news is that the four anti-Roe votes on the court will likely survive the next four years, just as Ginsberg and Stevens have hung on to the end of the Bush years. Obama will only (we pray) have the opportunity to replace two liberal judges and no conservative ones. And without the Senate super-majority there will actually be a fight. Obama's nominees likely will be as far the left as Robert Bork was to the right and if the outcome is only that a slightly less liberal judge is appointed, that will be good for the country.

4. Obama did not win the Evangelical or Church-Going Catholic Vote:
Obama, for all that he had going for him, did not win the vote among those who actually practice Chrisitanity. He won among nominal Catholics and liberal Protestants, which is to be expected since he stands for what many of them believe in. But he did not win among those who read the Bible, attend worship, pray and try to live a Christian life. Over 70% of white Evangelicals, for example, voted for McCain even though many required a clothespin on their noses in order to do it. As one British newspaper opined recently, Obama is the first secular president.

It would have simplified things if two elections could have been held: one in which everyone could vote for or against George Bush and then another in which everyone could vote on who should lead the country in the future. Many people did not vote for Obama but against Bush. Many Catholics and Evangelicals were as unhappy as the rest of the country with Bush's out of control spending, tax cuts for the rich and his ruinous war. But they couldn't see how electing the most liberal member of the senate was going to fix those problems. And the life and marriage issues were just too fundamental to ignore.

If the Democratic Party had moved to the center on moral issues by upholding traditional marriage and advocating strict limits on abortion, it could have won a thundrous majority. But my sense is that it would rather maintain its extreme left ideology and win 52% of the vote - enough to give it power but not enough to limit its ideology.

5. The Republican Party is Now Out of Power:
This in itself is a very good thing. The party is the only available vehicle for the pro-life and pro-family social conservative coalition to utilize at this stage of American politics and it is badly in need of being overhauled. Opposition is where it needs to be at this moment because it needs to rethink conservatism.

Conservatism does not mean invading countries on wild adventures like Napoleon spreading the ideals of liberty, equality and faternity at the point of a sword. The neo-cons hawks like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bolton and Wolfowitz should walk the plank. They are most responsible for the loss of power and they should be pariahs in the forseeable future.

Conservatism does not mean out of control pork-barrel spending while doling out tax cuts to those who don't need them. I know that many conservatives believe in cutting taxes in order to prevent overall government spending on entitlements to rise forever. But to use this as an excuse not to balance the budget is just reprehensible.

Conservatism does not mean extreme libertarianism. There is no future for the Republican Party if it repudiates its social conservative base in order to pander to a kind of libertarianism that joins forces with the cultural left on moral issues. Instead, Republicans need to give attention to how to strengthen families, appeal to the working class and be a balance to extreme, coastal, left-wing elites.

Being out of power is a good time to rethink these things.

6. Conservative Democrats May Constitute the Real Opposition to Obama:
One last silver lining is that many of the Democrats elected to the House in particular in 2006 and 2008 are well to the right of Obama. They won in parts of the countries that would never vote for the kind of liberal Obama is and yet they are Democrats. We will see how many of them will feel a need to oppose the most extreme aspects of the leftist social agenda that Obama and his inner circle will undoubtedly try to advance over the first two years of his mandate. (The first sign of how radical and determined Obama agenda will be is his choice for chief of staff.) These conservative Democrats in the House and Senate will need to keep an eye on their re-election prospects and they may prove to be something less than automatic votes for the Democratic leadership.

UPDATE: I have just learned that, in fact, 31 pro-life Democrats were elected to the House this time, 5 new ones and 26 re-elected. It was only the second time in 30 years that the number of pro-life Democrats in the House increased. This confirms my suspicion that if the Democratic Party wants to increase its majority it needs to come to terms with the reality that most of America is pro-life. And it confirms the suspicion that the most effective future opposition to the Democratic Party leadership may be the grassroots of the party itself. Such a development is probably a necessary step in the long-term fight against legalized private killing.

As usual in politics it is never as good or as bad as it seems. We pray now for the health and strength of the church in the United States, which is a more important factor than any parties, politicans or platforms. It is the church that constitutes a bulwark against social disintegration into hedonism, individualism and materialism. As weak and imperfect as it is, nevertheless it is the church that is the real vehicle for God's work in history. As the church goes, so goes the country.

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