Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Lament For The GOP

This year marks the point in my life where I have now lived as many years as a registered voter as a non-voter (at 36, it's 18 to 18). For the first 15 years of my life I was a registered Republican. All social factors pointed in that direction: I'm a suburban white Evangelical who grew up in Orange County during the age of Reagan. BTW, none of those factors have changed, but I did go on my own humble journey of "enlightenment" that has culminated in numerous conversations (speaking, but much more listening), books (writing, but much more reading) and an MA in Christian Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Now, I'm a member of the Democratic Party, and BTW, I'm proud to be a flip-flopper because I believe in what the legendary economist John Maynard Keynes proclaims: “When I receive new information, I change my views. What do you do, sir?”

This morning, Russell King wrote an extraordinarily researched open letter to conservative America that is a must-read for Americans all over the political spectrum. Although I haven't clicked on all the links he has provided, my initial reactions are that he is displaying (even "proving") what I have been observing and feeling for the past couple of years of my post-GOP hangover. Note King's non-patronizing invitation for the Republicans to re-join the political debate in the US: "Come back to us." Enough of the fear, vitriol, hyperbole and hyprocrisy. This is a sincere letter from someone who remembers what the Republican Party used to be. And it seems as though things aren't working out to well in regards to party membership:

Of course, the party that captures the hearts and minds of independent voters and gets their base to the voting booth will win elections and, perhaps, the GOP will pull it off in 2010. But what a grievous way to win, pandering to the well-documented emotions and ignorance of the American public.

Don't get me wrong. I've been plenty critical of Obama and the Dems this past year. After all, he/they doubled troop levels in Afghanistan, continued the presence in Iraq (there are still more troops there than in Afghanistan), the lack of leadership in the early and middle stages of the health care debate, the complete lack of financial reform for banks (nothing should be "too big to fail" in the US), the low priorities given to desperate poor and working people, the perseverance of Gitmo prison, his waffling on climate change policy at Copenhagen and that awkward Nobel Peace Prize (and, yes, I know that Obama himself is plenty embarrassed).

But seriously, what is going on with the GOP of my youth? Remember when I voted for George H in '92 during my freshman year in college and rejoiced with you during the '94 takeover of Congress and "Contract with America?" I echo King: "Come back to us." I still believe that the GOP's narrative of personal responsibility, godly values, hard work and accountability (when tempered with giving voice to the marginalized, striving for peaceful international solutions, regulating unjust economic systems and celebrating the diversity of humanity) has a vital role in our American landscape. This blend of virtue makes up the kind of 3rd way "Christian platform" that EasyYolk advocates for day in and day out on this blog and in the world. I continue to ask my GOP friends: what political leaders are communicating these virtues with integrity and vision? I'm not getting too much from them. I'm waiting by the computer for a response to King's letter and my own aching yearning for a better, critical political dialogue from Democrats...and Republicans.

--Theological Autopilot


  1. Tom - I'm interested to know what positions you find so compelling about the Democratic party that motivate you to be a member instead of merely abstaining from party membership.

    In other words, instead of just leaving the Republican party, why did you decide to leave the Republican party AND join the Democratic party?

  2. My conviction concerning membership in a political party comes from a theology of witness that pledges a primary allegiance to the reign of God and then works tirelessly to bring that life to all my "communities": marriage, extended family, workplace, marketplace, political party, etc. I want to "work within" the Democratic Party to prod it and coax it into advocating a more just, compassionate and life-giving platform (as reflected in a critical reading of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament). Because we live in a two-party system (different than other democracies), I've chosen the party that most reflects that kind of vision (albeit quite imperfect) of the American community.

  3. Is this an appropriate interpretation of your last sentence? You take the two party system as given and want to work from within the one party that is closer to your vision of American community.

    Why do you think it will be better to work from within the democratic party that to work from a position outside of either party?

  4. Sorry, I typoed. I meant to say "THAN to work..."