2010 Midterm Elections


William D’Antonio, author of American Catholics Today: Realities of Their Faith and Their Church (2007) and chair of WNDC’s Religion and Politics task force had this to say about the differences between Republicans and Democrats on what it means to be religious. “The Democrats have been voting “the Biblical tradition from Abraham down through the great Jewish prophets to reach out to the needy, the foreigner, and remember ‘To whom much is given, much is expected’… So it is no surprise that Democrats brought us Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the G.I. Bill, early child education, raising the minimum wage, and other efforts to promote the general welfare… Rep Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Majority Leader, has one of if not the strongest record in support of legislation that reflects Jesus’s teachings that we have a moral responsibility to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and  provide shelter for the homeless.  In fact, she has voted for and supported legislation that clearly shows that her religion informs her political philosophy.”

Similarly the defeated Virginia congressman, Tom Periello, spent many years in Africa working for economic betterment of poor people.  As with Pelosi, legislating for the general welfare as a US Congressman was a perfect fit for his religious belief in public service.

Many on the Republican Right bring faith convictions to Congress, but their faith convictions are inimical to the idea of public service, and to the basic premise of democracy, that we can elect and hold accountable leaders who will work actively for the betterment of the community. Rep John Simkus (R-Il) who is vying for chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is a climate change denier on the grounds that “the Bible is the final word of God and that he has said the earth would not be destroyed by a flood…[Cap-and-trade legislation] is the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I’ve ever experienced.”

Given beliefs such as these, the religious sources of public policy positions must be on the table as we fight to hold on to Obama’s legislative achievements and move them forward.

(Note: watch for D’Antonio’s full statement in the upcoming Political Dispatch)

In the post election swirl, Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity/ and/or Fear” is likely to evaporate in the internet ether, but there are pointers to remember. Stewart was true to his appeal to the fact based political disposition talking mostly about a subject on which he is an expert: the media. ”The press is our immune system, if we overact to everything, we get sicker.”  At present, “the media is us through a fun house mirror”.  Then Stewart took up the “working together” theme.  Americans do work together to get things done, he said, except here in Washington and on cable.

Stewart did not even hint, though, at the real media story.  Tom Engelhardt spelled it out  on his TomDispatch.com.  Three billion dollars were spent on political ads in this election. The media was the corporate interest that raked that money. With the Citizens United Supreme Court decision the next election will have even more undisclosed donor money destroying our democratic institutions, and how will we know when our sources of information have a big stake in keeping the political money game going.

Normally, it is only sweet reason to talk about working together to get things done, but not in this political climate. It is not a game plan if you want to win this game.  But Stewart may have given us something useful for a game plan, however, in the “Sanity Rally” as a tactic.  Let us set up a whistle blower who will call us out to demonstrate every time the Republicans obstruct good programs or propose bad ones. Let us have a thousand “Sanity” demonstrations.

All the post election talk from politicians (including Democrats) and commentators on “the bipartisan future”, “working together” the way voters want, deciding on deficit reduction “sacrifices” and so forth, is a cover up for the real future:

1.The Republicans, fixated on 2012, don’t want anything done that could credit President Obama, therefore any “working together” has to look like his surrender, with a “working together” cover story.

2. The Republican agenda cannot improve the economy (extend tax cuts for the wealthy, which public opinion opposes, and is a $700 billion that could go a long way to reducing the deficit). Despite the fact that the “sacrifices” will all have been taken by voters sold the Republican bill of goods in 2010, we will arrive at 2012 with an economy in worse shape, Obama blamed, and the same voters persuaded to buy the same bill of goods.

The crucial election of 2010 is upon us.  In the less than two years of its existence the Obama Administration has produced extraordinary achievements to deal with extraordinary crises, and set us on a long-term path that will improve the lives of all Americans.  The voters may reject this record. Regardless of the outcome, it is crucial to the future of America to increase the challenge to the basic premises that lie under the drum beat of Republican slogans.  Among these premises:

  • Retribution and punishment are the moral trump cards.  When firefighters in South Fulton Tenn. let Lance Cradick’s house burn down because he had not paid his $75 fee for the county’s private firefighting company, his neighbors largely had no problem with that. One was quoted as wanting “people to suffer the consequences” of their actions. Punishment  trumps pragmatic decisions based on the betterment of all lives when communities make joint decisions on common problems.
  • Small government (no public fire companies) produces greater freedom for the individual.  It produces less. Smaller government means less democracy, because citizens have less ability to demand accountability – which is the essence of democracy – from fewer institutions responsive elected officials. Unaccountable powerful individuals and groups will make decisions affecting their lives.  Individuals are not free but at the mercy of secret forces, and random events with little ability to plan for productive and meaningful lives. Even the powerful individuals will have less freedom as the pursuit of individual self interest creates the chaos and breakdown of a Wall Street financial crisis.