A Pity Obamas Faith Does Not Influence His Liberal Policies
Byline: RONAN MULLEN
HILLARY Clintons 1996 book on children and community values wasmemorably recalled in a Dayton Daily News cartoon last week. The drawing showsClinton clinging grimly to the Hillary for President podium even as severalparty activists struggle, tug-o-war style, to pull her away.
Shes right, pants an elder. It takes a village.
The events of recent weeks tell us, if we didnt know it already, that theformer First Lady is tenacious. Even though the game is up, she vows tocontinue on, insisting that she is the best qualified to unite the DemocraticParty in the November election.
Tenacity is normally seen as a virtue. Only those who fight on, through thickand thin, have the toughness to lead a country.
As a political virtue, however, toughness has been tarnishedby George W. Bush. His dogged determination, first to go to war in Iraq, andthen to stay the pace, has now lost favour with Americans. His approval ratingsare at an all-time low of 27 per cent.
The other problem with tenacity is that it can tip over into ruthlessness.
Hillary dismayed many when she talked up her support among working,hard-working Americans, white Americansa comment that appeared to play on race issues by equating hard-workingAmericans with white Americans.
Obama is just as bad. He will stop at nothing to convince people whose views heholds in contempt that he is the candidate who represents their views. A fewweeks ago, he slipped up by referring to small-town Americans who cling to gunsor religion or antipathy to people who arent like them. Since then, he has beentalking up his Christian credentialspartly as a response to rumours that hes a Muslim.
Leaflets distributed in Kentucky show Obama under the heading CommittedChristian. Another leaflet dubs him a Christian Leader. Best of all is theleaflet which shows him speaking from a pulpit with a cross behind him. Faith.Hope. Change, reads the heading.
The people who basked in the idea that the only thing wrong with Americanpolitics was the Republican Party and their obsessions with guns, God and thehigh moral ground, should now be smelling the coffee.
American politics is wonderful in some ways, truly appalling in others. On theplus side, the U.S. has a fascinating system of checks and balances to preventstates with larger populations from completely dominating smaller ones. Withineach state, too, the institutions of democracy are strong, with all but one ofthe 50 states having both a senate and a house of representatives, not tomention the offices of governor and various other officers whom people elect.
There is a high degree of interest in elections, and a strong sense of thegreatness of Americas democratic institutions.
Among the downsides are the influence of money on politics but, moresignificantly, the low level of political debate and high levels of hostilitythat now characterise elections. It shouldnt be about whether Barack Obama is asincere Christian or whether Hillary Clinton is more attractive to whitevoters. An honourable politics would steer clear of these issues. Butpoliticians and party handlers are ready to say and do whatever it takes to winelections.
With Obama, Americans are getting the worst of all worlds. They hear theChristian rhetoric spun out to attract devout voters. He does a lot of talk ofbringing people together and binding up wounds. But there is no commitment tovalues rooted in Christianity, which is what voters of all faiths and noneshould be interested in. When he was an Illinois State senator he opposedlegislation to protect babies who survived late-term abortions. He did notaccept, he said, that these babies, fully outside their mothers wombs, withbeating hearts and functioning lungs, were persons in the eyes of the law.
ITS bad enough that religious faith should be exploited in an electioncampaign. This politicises faith, damages the reputations of believers andturns people away from spirituality. But its ten times worse when those whovaunt their faith pursue policies that run contrary to the most basic ofreligious tenets. Because then people are being sold a false vision of the kindof life that religious believers are encouraged to lead.
Barack Obama, in other words, is doing a disservice to both faith and reason byflaunting faith and pursuing a liberal agenda at the same time.
Democratic strategists would not apolo-gise for this. They have just won twoseats in the U.S. House of Representatives by running conservative candidatesin southern states, even though the views of these candidates will carry noweight with the Democratic Party big-wigs when it comes to legislating inWashington. Democrats see themselves as playing a catch-up game in theso-called culture war. George W. Bush won in 2004 partly because he brought outthe evangelical vote, as people worried about issues such as gay marriagelooked to the Republicans to uphold traditional values. Now, with theRepublicans unpopular once more, the Democrats see the possibility of winningwithout embracing the values of the five million extra evangelicals whom KarlRove brought out to vote last time around. For Hillary, the strategy involvedmaking more conservative noises than previously on family values issues.
Obamas approach has been to pretend to be something he isnt. His promise ofpolitical faith-healing has been undermined by the fanatical pastor JeremiahWright.
SOME people, such as Boston College academic Alan Wolfe, have sought to playdown the idea of a culture war by showing that most Americans, while religious,are moderates or somewhat liberal when it comes to issues like abortion,euthanasia and same-sex partnership.
But that isnt really the point. The fact that a considerable number havesharply dividing views is enough to make a culture war. Former Clinton stafferBill Galston, says Americans are more polarised than they were 40 years ago.
The extremes are more densely populated, and the middle less densely populated,he argues. This, he says, is the backdrop to Obamas rhetorically appealingpromises to bring Americans together again.
Why are Americans so divided? Think Roe v. Wade. Liberals may point out thatmost Americans support some abortion, but the imposition of countrywideabortion on a people with such distinctive religious and ethical traditionsopened up a huge sore in American life in a way that may never be healed.Something in the body politic got corrupted once human beings were permitted toturn on their own offspring.
Many Americans who might support the Democrats are turned away because theywont swallow this pro-abortion, libertarian agenda that their party now insistson.
Others who might support the Republicans are turned-off, either by socialpolicies that dont appear to provide a safety net for poorer citizens, or bythe moronic talk radio that paints people into black and white corners. Americais divided. People now have such diverse social and moral outlooks that theycannot be fully reconciled.
We in Ireland can learn never to go there, politically speaking. We inhabit asmall country, and most shades of opinion can find a political home in one orother of the parties. We have a respect for political debate and we feel anobligation to focus on the real issues most of the time.
But we are experiencing the beginning of a social divide between people whopursue individualistic lifestyles and agendas and those who long for a morecommunitarian vision that cherishes both weak and strong.
As Brian Cowen leads us into the next phase of Irelands history, he will needto watch this carefully. Our emerging divisions must not become unbridgeablechasms.
Community values must be prized over individualistic values. And socialpolicies that would divide people forever and fatally should be studiouslyavoided.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: A Pity Obamas Faith Does Not Influence His Liberal Policies. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: May 21, 2008. Page number: 15. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.