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Are conservative Christian theology and liberal politics compatible?
Monday, 13 October 2008
A disgruntled Republican's problem with this election
Topic: idiosyncratic egotism

I've been a Republican for a long time--basically since I first voted in 1974.  I've been a party activist.  I was a precinct committeman for ten years.  Yet I'm not thrilled about the choices I'm offered in this election.  Both of the candidates have major problems for me.  As I will explain in greater detail below, I have come to realize that, when the "free market" rhetoric is stripped away,  the traditional Republican economic approach, which John McCain represents and supports, is really not so much that we ought to deregulate as that we ought to merely change the manner in which some highly regulated market sectors that affect us all intimately are regulated.  The traditional (at least since President Reagan) Republican approach is to change the regulations in favor of the wealthy and the corporations, eliminating protections for ordinary people in the hope that, as the corporations get richer, they will allow some of their wealth (derived from the labors of ordinary statistics) to "trickle down." My economic outlook has, thus, become closer to the Democrats.  However, on the big moral social issues, I'm much closer to the Republican positions.   But I find that the only way to have the one is to completely sell out the other.  The specific liabilities I see in the candidates' positions are set forth below:

Barack Obama's Liabilities

1. Position on Abortion. Sen. Obama openly supports abortion.  This is a big problem for me.  Of course the rhetoric used sounds SO good.  He  (and, in his defense, everyone in the official Democratic camp) wants to protect a "woman's right to choose."  However, here it is important to note the exact language used by abortion supporters.  You never hear an abortion supporter say that they want to protect "a woman's right to choose WHETHER to have an abortion."  Rather, what the Democratic Party wants to protect is a "woman's right TO HAVE an abortion."  It's conceived of as not being in many cases a "yes or no" choice, but simply as a "yes or very yes" choice.  Women who might want an abortion must be protected by law from any influence that might change their minds.   

The reason for this is quite simple.  Behind the rhetoric of protecting a woman's (one-sided) choice in the matter is the reality that what we are really protecting is the abortion provider's God-given constitutional right to market his or her services free of any interfering regulation.  This shows quite clearly in the Supreme Court decisions on the subject and also in the types of legislation that are said to impermissibly burden a  woman's right to choose.  Any requirement that might limit the sales appeals made by provider representatives or that move a woman to change her mind is too big a burden on the right.  So, for all the Democrats' fine rhetoric on this issue, it is plain to me that what they are in reality fighting so hard to protect is not women's rights but the economic interests of the abortion providers.  This remains a big problem for me in deciding to vote for Sen. Obama.   

2. Possible involvement of his friends in creating the housing bubble and subprime mortgage crisis. This potential problem is explained on a YouTube video at Burning Down the House: What Caused Our Economic Crisis. It appears that Sen. McCain actually attempted to warn of this problem and ssponsored unsuccessfullegislation that might have averted it.  Still, this is a problem of some of Sen. Obama's friends and supporters, not a problem of Sen. Obama himself (he hasn't been in Washington long enough to have much actual involvement).  This is another plus for Sen. McCain, though it isn't a very strong minus for Sen. Obama.

3.  Inexperience.

4. Possible threat to freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression. This would actually be my largest objection to Sen. Obama if I could substantiate it.  The Republican organizations and ALL of the religious right assure me that Sen. Obama has supported legislation that could be interpreted to criminalize the advocacy of certain opinions.  Once the camel's nose is in the tent, and the Supreme Court has agreed with Congress that the mere speaking of, say, homophobic opinions should be punished as a crime, there really are no limits on the process.  After homophobic opinions, expressions of Christian faith--which many find offensive--may likewise be prohibited.  Or opposition to the present orthodox position on economic recovery may be declared danerous to economic recovery.  Or opposition to the present methods of the war on terror may be declared terroristic.   But the great danger those in the Christian right point to is that all Christian opinion that isn't in strict agreement with official policy--including, of course, the highly offensive assertion that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only way of salvation--outside of church buildings may quite likely be suppressed if some of Sen. Obama's principal supporters have their way. 

I'm not saying that this is what Sen. Obama himself wants to do; indeed, he has issued public statements to the contrary (and, unlike many in the Religious Right, I consider him an honest man and believe him).  Moreover, the Religious Right's evidence that Sen. Obama is a threat to free speech and free exercise of religion consists exclusively of 1) the statements of some of his supporters in the past, usually years before they were involved with him, 2) the observation that he was educated for several years as a child in an Islamic religious school (though he has never professed Islam) and 3) his support of two bills that did not pass Congress, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (HR 3685, 110th Cong., 1st Sess.) and the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 1105, 110th Cong., 1st Sess.). 

The problem is that none of these arguments really substantiate the charge that Sen. Obama supports limitations on speech or religious expression.  The past statements of his supporters do not tend to prove his present opinion at all.  His training as a child in an Islamic school does not show that he wants to suppress all non-Islamic religious speech.  We all know many people who have rejected, partially or wholly, the religious instruction of their childhood. Moreover, Sen. Obama's vote for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill directly contradicts the assertion that he wishes to limit religiuos speech--the hate crimes bill would have made it a federal crime, among other things, to commit an act of willful violence against a person because of his or her religion.  Finally, neither of the two bills offered as evidence have anything to do with speech or religious expression.   ENDA would have prohibited most employers, unions, and employment agencies from discriminating against applicants, members or employees because of their sexual preference, but it would have excluded religious organizations from its coverage.  The Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill would have provided federal penalties and federal assistance with prosecution of violent crimes committed against victims because of their race, religion, disability, sex or sexual orientation, among other classifications.  The bill does not attempt to limit homophobic speech at all, only violent crimes.  Both bills were opposed by the Religious Right because they protected homosexuals.  Both were, unfortunately, falsely labeled as threats to free speech and free exercise of religion when, in fact, they would have had no such effect.  Sen. Obama's vote for them doesn't prove he wants to limit religious speech.  

John McCain's Liabilities 

1.  Position on health care. As I noted in my last entry on this blog, I'm already paying 42% of my net, after-tax income for family health insurance coverage plus the $5,000 per year high deductible.  Sen. McCain's plan would only make this worse.  First of all, by eliminating the tax benefit to my employer for paying for my individual coverage, Sen. McCain would require me to pay for my individual coverage. This would be about $500 extra per month, or $6,000 per year, and would increase the percentage of my net income that would be devoted to health care from 42% to 57%, assuming I was still able to get the same insurance I now have without the employer group.  However, I almost certainly would not be able to get my present coverage without the employer group.  Instead, I'd be required to go purchase an individualpolicy from an insurance company in another state--to be specific, in whatever state has laws that are most friendly to health insurance companies.  (Under Sen. McCain's plan, health insurance companies would operate only in that state; if they're free to write insurance nationwide, what incentive would they have to operate in any other state?).  Individual policies have a cost advantage for young, healthy people.  But I'm an older person with some health problems, and there have also been some health problems in my family.  I would probably not be able to obtain insurance at all.  Sen. McCain's plan would create real problems for me.   

2.  Position on economic recovery.  Sen. McCain's position on economic recovery appears to be more "trickle down."  If we help the rich get richer, we hope they'll let some of the bounty "trickle down" to the peons.  This works moderately well in good times.  But in times of economic distress, it doesn't work well at all.  Like everyone else, the rich get frightened and hold onto what they have tighter. In bad times, it can't be expected to "trickle down."

3.  Position on Iran.  "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," as Sen. McCain joked early in his campaign, just might be the worst mistake this country ever made.  It would start a very expensive war we could not possibly win, even if Iran's new friend Russia didn't come in on their side and "bomb, bomb, bomb" us.  Moreover, the results for the stability of the Islamic world would be catastrophic.  Do we really want World War III?

4.  Support for open-ended commitment to the war in Iraq.

Common Liabilities of Both Candidates

1.  They both voted for the bailout of the wealthy investors, in a plan that gave little or no debt relief to ordinary people, but merely made sure the wealthy won't lose too much money.  I have discussed why I believe this to be both wrong and dangerous in earlier postings on this blog, dated while the measure was still being debated.  It is not yet too late to propose changing the bailout program to provide both debt relief for ordinary people and the kind of basic structural changes that are needed in the ways debt is marketed and used in our economy.  But neither candidate is proposing such reforms.  Both seem interested mainly in giving money to the rich. 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 7:51 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 13 October 2008 9:01 PM EDT

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