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Religion and Implosion

December 10, 2011

The reentrance of Donald Trump into the Republican sideshow signals beyond doubt that the party is in trouble. We have been talking  for weeks of the seeming implosion of that party; now we have proof positive. The party’s breakdown into tea partiers, evangelicals, libertarians and such moderates as remain simply gives the party too many parts to put together into a coherent whole. The party’s problem is that they have no one to crack the whip and get some order out of their chaos. The success of Gingrich (to date) lends further credence to such a conclusion. Perhaps the disparate parts of that party cannot ever come together when you consider that their members have a divide stretching from the legalization of drugs (libertarian) to Jesus in the classroom (evangelical). To coin a phrase, that may be a divide too far.

As a lifelong liberal Democrat, I am aware of the old political maxim that when your opponents are fighting among themselves, get out of the way; but as an American, I believe in a robust two-party system. I do not want the Republican party to go away (like their predecessors, the Whigs). Both parties have historically gone to excess from time to time, and we each need the other to point this out to the electorate if our system is to be self-correcting. Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s better than all the others, as Churchill aptly noted.

The truth (and everyone in both parties is refusing to articulate it) is that evangelicals in the Republican party do not like Romney’s religion. The idea that they don’t want to vote for him because he is not a true conservative is a convenient cover, but the truth is that they don’t want a Mormon in the Oval Office. He is thought to be a member of a sect (which is precisely what Romans thought of early Christians). Our Constitution rules out a religious test for one’s candidacy for office, but that certainly doesn’t mean that voters don’t discriminate against candidates for any number of reasons, as any honest person reading this knows in his/her heart of hearts.

The goose that laid the golden egg is democracy; let’s not destroy democracy in our single-minded quest for the golden egg.

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