I’m not a Republican because I think Republicans are fun or especially good company. If I were looking for sociality or cordiality in my political party, I would look elsewhere.
I would also look elsewhere if the GOP ever turned its back on the issues that brought me into its fold in the first place: pro-life and pro-family matters. There is no question that the Republican Party and its platforms over the past 30 years have been closer to Catholic teaching on these issues than those of the Democrats.
When the Catholic apologists for the Democratic Party start to talk about poverty as the primary cause of abortion, they are merely spinning. When they point at the support of some GOP leaders for the death penalty, they are spinning. When they talk about “Bush’s War” they are spinning, and when they call the GOP “the party of the rich,” they are spinning.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Democrats make all this noise to distract attention from the simple fact (a fact well-documented by former Democratic activist David Carlin in Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?, Sophia Press, 2005) that the animating vision of their party is being supplied by 1960s radicals turned post-modernists. “Marriage is only a social construct” is the kind of thing that tells me all I need to know about Democrats. Their philosophy is simply bad.
Republicans aren’t perfect. Okay, I said it. There is always the possibility they will toss aside their Reagan-Bush patrimony for the sake of keeping the White House. Then the Catholic and Evangelical voice will become a voice of dissent within the GOP.
The GOP is a coalition of religious and social conservatives, economic conservatives, libertarians, and pro-business interests. The fault lines between the various groups are always visible and always in danger of widening.
What all of these groups have in common, however, is a sensible philosophy and an appreciation, at least, for the contribution of religion to human institutions. In other words, the deposit of natural law can be found emanating from the soul of the GOP.
When and if the GOP gives up its defense of life and marriage and makes faux-tolerance the summit of the virtues, at that point it will no longer matter what party you belong to. The only argument between the parties will be how much of our money should be spent on programs for social engineering.
If I sound detached, it’s because I have learned to be. There is the politics of Aristotle and the politics of America in the 21st century — and they aren’t the same. One instructs us on the wisdom of applying first principles to government; the other is where we struggle to keep our first principles in view.
The GOP is my political home because it comports most closely with my Catholic faith and its most basic principles. The great divide between the Democrats and the GOP is not tax cuts or the war in Iraq. These are prudential judgments that an administration and a Congress must make — they are not violations of principle. There will be taxes and there will be wars.
The Democrats treat matters of prudential judgment as if they were principles. That’s because they have abandoned principles and put habits of prudential judgments in their place: Spend more money on “programs,” tax the “rich” to pay for them, and blame America for the ills of the world.
Republicans may not always make the best prudential judgments, but they still hold onto the basic vision of human rights as stated in the Declaration. Those three inalienable rights are the core of the natural law tradition upon which this nation was founded, a tradition with religious roots.
Republicans still know the government cannot provide happiness for its citizenry; it can only make possible our right of pursuing it. Good government creates the conditions for the ordinate exercise of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But neither of these rights can exist without a life to bear them.
When that right — the right to life — is denied, then anything becomes morally possible, even a culture of death. And when a political party has become the “party of death,” as Ramesh Ponnuru believes the Democrats have (The Party of Death: the Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard of Human Life, Regnery, 2006), it cannot be a viable platform for social renewal.
Republicans have kept a sound philosophy underlying their politics; they have not yet taken the postmodern turn contra naturam. We can credit the infusion of conservative Christians into the GOP over the past 40 years with keeping the party from going the way of the Democrats. I was one of that breed, and I will remain so as long as the GOP stays on course.