Success Or Failure?

Some twenty years ago, at the Republican convention that nominated George H.W. Bush for his second term, Pat Buchanan made a speech essentially claiming that what he stood for was the beginning of a fight for the soul of the Republican Party.   That struggle has persisted for twenty years, and now the Republican Party platform seems largely in conformity to what Buchanan outlined.  Paradoxically, some opponents of Republican policies might claim that platform proves that the Party has no soul, but I don’t see anyone raising the larger question:  Should a political party aim to have “a soul”?

Over the more than two centuries since the U.S. Constitution was adopted, there have been more than a few disputes and scores of court cases involving the respective roles of religion and government in American society, the idea of separation of  church and state notwithstanding.  Yet doesn’t anyone else find it strange that, in a society that theoretically does not want government dictating what its people should believe, and in a land created to avoid just that, one of the major political parties has been striving to find its soul, when the very idea of a soul is a highly religious symbol?

Not only that, but the closer the Republican Party has come to adopting Buchanan’s positions, the more the partisans of this “soulful” party have attempted to force government to adhere to positions based on highly religious views – many of which are not shared by the majority of Americans.  And requiring a secular state, which the United States is, despite the “under God” phraseology, to require conduct based on religious views is diametrically opposed to what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Part of the reason for the growing push to embody “religious” ideas in statute is likely the fact that the United States has become more diverse, and many feel that the nation does not follow the “traditional” values and have reacted by attempting to prohibit any government program that they see as opposing or not supporting such traditional values. There have always been those who did not fully embrace such values, including such Founding Fathers as Thomas Jefferson, but the idea of using government to insist on such values in law, as opposed to defining acceptable conduct in secular terms, has continued to increase, particularly in the past twenty years.

Even if the United States continues to diversify, I suspect that the founders of this nation, who were largely skeptical of political parties, would be even more skeptical about fighting for the “soul” of a political party.


2 thoughts on “Success Or Failure?”

  1. Steve says:

    I went back and read the speech. There is no reference to soul of the party but rather to the soul of America.

    “My friends, this election is about much more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so, we have to come home, and stand beside him.”

    Although he touched upon the issues of homosexuality, abortion, school choice and evironmentalism he did not mention any specifics.

    The social issues of twenty years ago are similar to the social issues of today. The platforms of the respective parties are drawn along similar lines.

    Change the word “soul” to “heart” and it still reads the same. Remove the specific religion or denomination and a person may still feel strongly about abortion, pornography, gambling, sexual orientation or any of the other issues that have been taken up by religion.

    My political philosophy leans Libertarian and I believe that government should involve itself as little as possible in social issues. However, since the government is in up to its elbows in social issues I feel it is valid for people of all backgrounds, including religious, to argue their position.

  2. Joe says:

    If Mitt Romney’s blatant lying are anything to go by, the Republican party’s soul is well on its way to hell.

    Konrad Adenauer said “The art of politics consists in knowing precisely when it is necessary to hit an opponent slightly below the belt”. Romney neither gets the timing right nor is able to hit the spot. Not only does he politicize the death of an ambassador less than 12 hours after the guy dies, but he also lies about why the embassy in Cairo said that the US does not support denigrating other people’s religions when surrounded by an angry mob.

    It would be too easy to dismiss Romney as an idiot, but his many accomplishments, even if ruthless, prove he’s not. Instead he’s clearly trying to pander to his base. Hopefully he misjudged even their credulity, but I have to wonder. Hence my statement about the Republican party’s soul. And I wish this were not the case: the country needs an intelligent debate about the direction we need to choose moving forwards.

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