Friday, September 15, 2006

Danforth For President, Anyone?

Former U.N. Ambassador John Danforth will take to task the Republican Party for its dangerous embrace of the extreme Christian right in his new book, Faith and Politics. Danforth, who was Bush's second choice for a running mate behind Dick Cheney, served four terms as a U.S. Senator from Missouri, as well as Missouri's Attorney General and Governor. His family founded Ralston Purina, and he is an ordained episcopal priest. From gay rights to the right to die, Danforth lays out his disagreement with the party's positions.

Danforth criticizes the party's embrace of the notion that America is a Christian nation as a Christian clergy himself. Danforth directly explains why we can't call ourselves a Christian nation:

Some people have asked me whether America is a Christian country. The answer must be no, for to call this a Christian country is to say that non-Christians are of some lesser order, not full fledged citizens of one nation.

Danforth attacks members of his party who sought to intervene in the Terri Schaivo case in an effort to prevent the severely brain-damaged woman from having life support removed. Danforth, describing it as "Big Brotherism", writes:

That the federal government could intervene in the Schiavo case was a threat to all the families that had seen their loved ones suffer through terminal illness. It was a threat to people who were terrified that their own lives might someday be artificially extended in nightmarish circumstances. It was a threat to some of our most heartfelt values. It was Big Brotherism in the extreme, an exercise of the raw and awesome power of the federal government. They intervened not in the name of principle, but at the expense of principle. They abandoned principle by deciding a medical question without any firsthand knowledge of what they were doing.

Danforth also advances the view that the party should be advancing gay rights instead of trying to block them. He eloquently and forcefully writes:

I believe that homosexuality is a matter of sexual orientation rather than preference. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is, in my view, comparable to discrimination on other civil rights grounds. It is wrong, and it should be prohibited by law. I think that the only purpose served by the campaign for the amendment is the humiliation of gay Americans, advocated by the Christian right and eagerly supported by its suitors in the Republican Party. In reality, it is gay bashing. Danforth then goes even further, saying supporters' assertions that the amendment would protect marriage is ludicrous. America's divorce rate is now over 50 percent, and marriage is under attack from a number of quarters: finances, promiscuity, alcohol and drugs, the pressures of work, cultural acceptance of divorce, et cetera. But it is incomprehensible that one of these threats is when someone else, whom we have never seen, in a place where we may have never been, has done something we don't like.

Spoken like a true believer in the party of Lincoln. Folks, I think we've found the right man to move the Republican Party back to its roots as the party of civil rights.


Anonymous said...

Danforth also was a considerable force in getting Clarence Thomas elected to the Supreme Court; they were friends and colleagues when Danforth was attorney general in Missouri. What I liked about Danforth during the Thomas trial was his loyalty and his principled stance and tireless dignity. What is attractive now is that he is no one-liner; he has layers as a human being and thinker and one would hope as a politician.
Veerry interesting....
Now if the Dems would only cough up somebody with some depth. Is Barack Obama really too young?

Anonymous said...

You took the words right out of my mouth, ruth! Well said.

Anonymous said...

I'm an avid Supreme Court watcher. Read their opinions for sport. Yeah, I know...get a life.

Clarence Thomas is one of the most dim-witted justices to ever sit on the Court. It's really not even open for debate. He opens his mouth, or takes pen in hand, and ignorance spews forth.

So, anyone who helped push him is suspect to me. Plus, I believe Anita Hill.

Plus, Danforth helped with the last two nominees, too...but a winning president has his choices to make. So be it.

Still, I'm willing to overlook Dnaforth's Thomas miscue. I will read this book. What I've read here is intriguing.

Thanks AI.

Anonymous said...

Danforth is indeed the model of Lincoln Republicanism. Another important critic is Kevin Phillips, who in the late 60's in the Nixon Administration laid out the Southern Strategy for GOP Dominance, not understanding then how that southern influence cultivated by the GOP would turn and bite down hard on the GOP, infecting it with the bigotry and reactionary impulses of the Old South. Phillips in the 1990's thought that Republican power would force the division between the Lincoln wing and the nativistist "know nothing" (an historic term, not my choice) as progressive libertarian tendancies of the one would conflict with the "big- government as desirable conservative social force" desires of the other. That conflict, he thought, would spell the end of Republican Dominance. (Phillips is, or was, Republican.)

Phillips now seems to be of the opinion that he underestimated the broad sweep of the religious right's march toward power, which he now considers to be a much graver threat to the American way of life in the future than he had thought. Phillips and Danforth philosphically seem to be on the same page. I think we'd find Gerald Ford, G.H.W. Bush, (Secretary of State) George Shultz, the late Bob Orr, and Lugar (to a lesser degree than Danforth) to be of similar mindsets.

Reagan's genius was in whipping the social conservative forces up and riding them, though he was not really of them, not being a church-goer, and being divorced himself. (The origin of the Log Cabin Republicans in California was in Reagan's gubernatorial opposition to an attempt to ban the service of gays in the state's schools.) Attending Princeton, where Reagan's clarity about the tyranny of soviet communism contrasted significantly with some faculty's apologia for it, it was easy for this Hoosier Republican to be ever more so.

Today, however, the Party is in a crisis, driven by the disgrace of social conservatism, which has given to conservatism the bad name that liberalism once had. "Knee-jerk Liberal" and tendancy toward socialism as a cultural icon for misgovernment has now been replaced by "Mindless Conservative" and tendency toward tyranny. The left wing threat to free enterprise has been beaten back, but replaced by the right wing threat to American freedom, religious and otherwise.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Ruth, Thomas has also worked on Danforth's Senate staff. While Danforth I think rightly stood by Thomas during the confirmation proceedings, I think he has expressed some disappointment with some of his opinions. What Democrats put Thomas through during his confirmation hearing was a low point in Senate confirmation hearings. The fact was that, even if everything Anita Hill said was true, her complaint would have been dismissed with a no cause finding by the very agency she and Thomas worked at--the EEOC. I have always felt that she felt scorned because he rebuffed her advances and had expressed disappointment to friends that he had married a white woman. He helped her get 2 different jobs after she left the EEOC, in addition to her job at the EEOC. I always suspected that the conversations she recounted were at least partially true, but I think she was a willing participant in such conversations. After she turned on Thomas, she used words against him, using them out of the context in which they were delivered. She left no other choice for him than to deny he said it. When you think about it, the same thing could have been done to many of us by anyone we know well.

Chris, well said. I would take issue with your inclusion of Lugar and George G.W. Bush in that grouping with Danforth. Bush, yes earlier in his career, but in his quest to be the GOP nominee for President, he completely through in with the Christian right. Lugar, yes earlier in his career as mayor, but not during his Senate career. He has a near perfect voting record with the Christian right.

Gary R. Welsh said...

That should say "George H.W. Bush." Another freudian slip.

Anonymous said...

Regarding George H.W. Bush, I agree with you that he pandered to the right... I think it was without conviction (and apparently not enough, which is why I think his son went alot further...) Bush Sr.'s effective foreign policy, especially with regard to the mideast, came in part because he had an independence from the religious right that Bush Jr. does not have.

Regarding Lugar, I think he has shown some daylight with the religious right, and a willingness to disagree. Those voting records are always carefully manufactured.. both with carefully worded bills and with careful selection of bills, so that respected people can be claimed as firm allies, and few votes are offered or forced that would demonstrate that the religious right does not have the support among the respected people they claim.

I know you and I may disagree on this next point, but I do feel it was clear that the Marriage amendment vote was a case in point... I think it was very clear, both from his public statements and private communications with lobbyists, that Lugar was content to have the vote go to the floor... where he was perfectly ready to vote against it. (I do grant Marla Stevens point that he should be prevailed upon to understand that even though he was known by insiders to be part of the bill's ultimate doom to defeat on the floor, letting it get to the floor furthered the aims of the religious right in producing a false election year dichotomy.)

But he also took public issue with anti-gay language flowing from Trent Lott, signed HRC's letter on workplace nondiscrimination with regard to sexual orientation, supported the addition of sexual orientation to the federal hate crimes bill, and I believe is willing to reconsider nondiscrimination legislation.

Should he be criticized for those actions wherein he pandered to the religious right, such as greetings to Miller's organization? Yes. (Did O'Bannon/Kernan appoint Micah Clark to the Education Roundtable? Yes. Should O'Bannon/Kernan therefore be characterized as religious right? No.) Should Lugar be protected from criticism for past votes? In my opinion is he of the religious right and incapable of evolving in opinion (as has the rest of the American population)? No.

(But I don't insist on these views, and have now been urged to abandon my computer for the sake of housework!)

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, Sat. aft. football and politics...Notre Dame is losing to Mich so all is right with the world.

Give GHWB some credit. He called Reagan's economic polices "voodoo economics" and by virtually all reasonable historical review, he was right in spades.

I have already ordered Danforth's book on Amazon...they said it was not in stock until Oct.1, but I sorta doubt that.

Chris is right. The architects of the GOP/far South/religious right alliance had no idea it would come back and bite them in the ass.

In terms of political courage, Danforth has shown some. I'll get over the Thomas thing. AI--I wouldn't have voted against Thomas solely for the Anita Hill thing, although I think it was beneath the conduct of a future Justice.

I'd have voted against him because he has shown, in his writing, to have the intellectual power of a Hoover vacuum. At best. His answers to questions from the Senate---I was there for two days of the hearings--were cantankerous and sophomoric.

And on the Court, his writings have been, well, an insult to Hoover vacuums.

Excellent thread.

Chris Douglas said...

Incidentally, I am not as forgiving of Thomas' sophomoric behavior as described by Hill. That all occurred shortly after I myself was witness to incredibly unacceptable treatment of a black female in a workplace. I thought the claims were credible, though not necessarily damning. If Thomas, aspiring to the highest court in the land, had owned up to it and been truthful and apologetic about his sophomorism, as we expect every witness in court to be swear to the truth no matter how painful, I might have been more impressed with him.

His subsequent jurisprudence has been an embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading this book. Having come of age politically just as the "Xtian right" was gaining ground, and making perhaps small but real changes in precisely the direction I didn't want to see, Danforth's observations explain well why I became and continue to be loyal to the Democratic party. In order to work to keep the likes of the Bosma crew out of power-- as much or more than keeping the Democrats in.

As a person of faith- yeah Episcopalianism!- it's refreshing to see someone stand up for our side. Yes, we can be and are committed to teachings of Christ, and also tolerant respectful and open to other paths, and also disgusted by the posers on Capitol Hill and in the Statehouse.