Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Yadda Yadda Yadda

John Danforth in today's New York Times:

"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.

Standing alone, each of these initiatives has its advocates, within the Republican Party and beyond. But the distinct elements do not stand alone. Rather they are parts of a larger package, an agenda of positions common to conservative Christians and the dominant wing of the Republican Party.
The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

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.
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.

The historic principles of the Republican Party offer America its best hope for a prosperous and secure future. Our current fixation on a religious agenda has turned us in the wrong direction. It is time for Republicans to rediscover our roots."

Read the whole thing, it's worth the price of free (for now) registration at the Times website. Danforth is right, of course, and his standing as an ordained Episcopalian minister in addition to being a senator certainly gives him the moral legitimacy to make his case.

But this brings to mind the thrust of Christine Todd Whitman's book about moderates taking back the Republican party. And my question whenever I hear this argument is, when the hell is this alleged majority of reasonable Republican voters and legislators going to stop acting like unicorns and show up to overthrow the fundies?

And another thing. Whilst riffing in righteous indignation, it might have been nice for Senator Danforth to apologize for sponsoring the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Thomas--as you probably do not recall, as it got next to zero attention in the Corporate Media--opined in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow last year that there is nothing in the constitution to prevent individual states from establishing state-sponsored religions.


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