Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Don't DeLay--Morality's on the way?
Recently an African-American student asked me why the Republican kids at our Christian high school in suburban Atlanta treat her like she is immoral for speaking up for the Democrats. At times it's awkward being a black person in a red community. What would you tell her?

For example, take the recent rules change in the House. In 1993 the House Republicans wanted to show their moral superiority to the Democrats by saying that House leaders under federal indictment would not be allowed to keep their posts. But when Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader, and his friends were under investigation--the time came to change the rule. Certainly there was some spurious language in the accusations of DelLy's accuser, but the ethics problems for which he was reprimanded were not vacated. Juliet Eilperin's commentary The Trouble With Unity published in Sunday's Washington Post shows the manner in which House Republicans paved the high road. Check out this recent Washington Post editorial: On Rewriting Ethics History .

Back to my student. I told her that the there is a perception that the Republicans are more moral because their platform has a pro-life plank. Plus, the Republicans put an anti-gay marriage amendment up for a vote this summer. It’s always a quandary to know how to discuss such issues in class, because it is very important to be fair, sensitive, and honest. I think about the many sincere folks casting their votes for Bush with the phrases like “culture of life” ringing in their ears.

Here's what I believe: President Bush sincerely cares about abortion and is truly concerned about the social and moral issues related to homosexual marriage.The President will likely use his bully pulpit to continue the culture of life talk and the man and women make a marriage rhetoric for four more years. But the Republican Party? I do not believe we need have an African American shrinking violet in the classroom because her family perceives politics differently than her classmates. I believe this primarily because, in spite of Mr. Bush's personal proclivity for overturning Roe v. Wade and an anti-gay marriage amendment, no one should expect the Republican Party to establish the moral climate for which Christians pine. Because political parties are not about morality. Parties purvey political power. They are about winning elections and governing to continue winning elections.

This article by Dick Morris, political consultant and commentator on Fox News, from The Hill a newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress says to me that the pro-life vote for Bush may be illusionary.

“Thoughts on a Second Term”

Filibusters and judicial nominations. Beware of what happened to FDR in 1937 when, fresh from the most resounding reelection victory since the early days of the Republic, he became filled with hubris and proposed to pack the Supreme Court.

Despite overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, the public backlash not only killed the plan but doomed his entire second-term agenda to disaster and defeat. The imperial overreach of FDR’s second term is well-explained by Kenneth Davis in his book Into the Storm.

This election was not won over abortion. It was won over the war on terror primarily and gay marriage secondarily. If the right attempts to twist its meaning to suit its purposes and use it to defang the checks-and-balances system, it will be guilty of its own form of imperial overreach. A three-percentage-point win will not sustain such an overturning of the system on which people of both parties rely to assure moderation.

After giving no hint of so radical a step during the campaign — indeed after keeping it well-hidden — for President Bush to spring it now would be seen as an act of treachery by the many pro-choice voters who backed him because of his international leadership, confident that the filibuster would prevent him from going to extremes in his appointments.

Filibusters, obnoxious as they are to democracy, have acquired an accepted place in our democracy. Just as senators no longer feel obliged to vote against cloture, as they once did out of courtesy to one another, so the public no longer feels that the necessity to attract 60 votes for judicial nominations is too onerous.

If Bush jams through a ban on filibusters on nominations and then jams through Clarence Thomas as chief justice (by itself this would be OK) and then pushes a Thomas or Antonin Scalia clone for the open spot on the court, he will squander a huge segment of the political capital on which he is relying for more important tasks ahead.
If you find that impressive: read this more recent post by Morris: Evangelicals Support Comes at High Price

Back to my student--Her family sees racial healing and healthcare as high moral priorities. Shall I tell her the Republicans are more moral because they have higher standards on ethics? Or shall I say they will avoid treachery by using their political capital on the important tasks like cutting taxes and waging war? I could say it's the pro-life prank.

What would you say?


Keith Brenton said...

Ask her if a President who doesn't keep his fly zipped is more or less moral than a President who starts a war on false premises where thousands die and tens of thousands more are maimed and homeless and terrorized by their own neighbors.

Ask her if homosexuality is more or less moral than self-righteousness.

Or if abortion is more or less moral than abandoning the needs of the poor, those in the minority, those who have no voice.

Then encourage her to ask her friends.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

I am frankly puzzled by your response. I am wondering if you read the post, or if I failed to communicate. My student is a Democrat.

Keith Brenton said...

I just mean that no political party has a monopoly on morality ... that Republicans have some pretty squirrelly ideas about what's moral and right. And sometimes, so do we Democrats. Arguing that only one party is "right" will only produce, well, arguing. But your student-friend can build consensus if there are some points on which she and her classmates agree. Asking questions rather than defending is a way to get to some kind of consensus where there's more understanding and respect of others' views.

Thanks to people like our most recent former President, our country has made some strides in racial/religious reconciliation and in many other areas of conflict.

It'd be a shame to let the current President un-do all that and continue to divvy us up politically by claiming a patent on what is and is not "moral."

kentbrantly said...

Mrs. Dowdy,
Kent Brantly here. I just came across your blog tonight. You have enough food for thought on here to make one feel like a glutton. Hope you are doing well.
Kent <><

Travis said...

"What would you say?"

I'd say I agree. Looks like you steared your student right. I wish I had you as my high-school government teacher instead of the right-wing, NRA guy I had.

I have been particularly bothered over the racial divide in our political parties. I am one of the ministers at an African-American Church and most of our members are Democrats. When I hear my White brothers and sisters talking about how immoral Democrats are and "How could a Christian vote for a Democrat?" it really scares me. We still have enough problems with racism in the church today. The last thing we need to do is demonize a political party that has as members many of our African-American brothers and sisters.