Sarah Palin? Even if I had known who she was, I don’t think I would have seen that coming. I had been hearing the whispers of Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman as possibilities, and saw how McCain’s logic might have steered him toward them. He’s never really been conservative, and has always been ready to play the maverick, and I could see how he might consider the constituency-broadening appeal of a pro-choice running mate. I hate to say it, but I don’t think the prospect of a pro-choice VP would have concerned McCain. And it would have built bridges into new voting constituencies that would have made him very hard to beat this year.
Of course, the social conservatives would have been furious, but what could they do? They still would have voted for McCain (this year) – the alternative would be an Obama presidency (enough said). I could really see McCain doing this – it seemed like a move that would be right down his alley. It would have worked in 2008, but very possibly could have fractured the Republican base for years to come. It would have marked a potential parting of ways of the pro-life movement and the Republican party – a marriage that is more circumstantial that intrinsic to Republicanism, anyway.
I think there are a lot of Republicans who would like to be rid of true conservatism – much of what they consider the kooky religious right of the party – in order to pursue unmitigated Republicanism – which is really good old fashioned liberalism, as confusing as that may be to moderns who don’t have a grasp of European history over the last, say, 350 years. Some might argue that Libertarianism already offers that option – which is a pretty good argument, but I think most modern Republicans are looking for a greater level of social conservatism than Libertarianism embraces, even those who could do without the religious framework.
Anyway, so I got to wondering whether the Republican party or the pro-life movement (and traditionalism in general) would fare worse in such a split, if it were to turn radical. I wondered if the social conservative movement was coherent enough, apart from the Republican party, to pull together a political force that could compete for serious political office in this country. I’m not sure it is, but I do think such a scenario would have provided an opportunity to put a political platform together that was not so beholden to economic liberalism as the Republican party is. The idea that the corporate consequence of unmitigated personal greed and self-interest will somehow produce the common good is a rather idolatrous proposal, after all. I also wondered if it might provide an opportunity for the “religious right” to divest itself of the statism particular to political conservatism, which tends toward slavish subservience in the face of any form of state-sponsored violence, and seems incapable of honest, objective evaluations of judgment criteria such as just war theory.
So I saw a potential opportunity for social conservatism in the U.S. to cleanse itself of some dubious bedmates. More specifically, I saw a potential opportunity for the development of a political force that was rooted in Christian values that cut across the lines of modern liberalism and conservatism.
Since I know more than a few of them – including some very dear to me – I often wonder what it would take to get Christians out of the Democratic party, with its unabashed commitment to the destruction of innocent human life, its open hostility to marriage and the family, and its infatuation with using state power to achieve its ends – in a nutshell: with its relentless misanthropy. Honestly, I don’t know what it would take, because they usually think they are taking the moral high ground themselves, standing up for the little guy (as long as the guys aren’t too little I suppose, but we won’t go there, since many of these folks try very hard not to think about that much). Still, to offer them a political alternative that was not wedded to economic Darwinism might be enough to open the eyes of many of them to the innate misanthropy of the Democratic platform.
But all this may have been wishful thinking. It’s entirely possible that a Republican party divorced from its Christian conscience would only join forces with the Democrats in fostering a more and more radically progressive and intolerant form of political liberalism, hostile to any kind of religious values in the public square, and effectively outlawing Christianity as anything more than a privately held neurosis. Given the political vibrancy of the “values” constituency in the U.S., this might seem far-fetched, but one doesn’t need to look far to see its manifestations in countries not too different from the U.S. Making the outrageous claim that marriage is a covenantal bond between a man and a woman just might get you hauled before a Human Rights Commission on hate crime charges in Canada, and convincing a pregnant woman not to subject her baby to a brutal death in an abortion clinic will now apparently get you two years in prison in Great Britain. It’s a brave new world out there…
All of this is moot now, however – at least for the time being. McCain managed to make the kind of reach-across gesture I imagined him doing, but he did it without courting the pro-abortion vote. In fact, in picking a mother of a Down’s Syndrome baby, he picked the anti-Obama, a woman who could be the poster model for true human decency, respect, and dignity. You don’t build a bright new future by killing it one baby at a time, Mr. Obama. I don’t know much about Governor Palin yet, but I really like what I’ve seen so far, and I think this may have been a master stroke of political genius by McCain – a man I didn’t really expect that from. Before she’s done, Sarah Palin may be the first woman president of the United States. I can sure think of worse fates.