GREETINGS FROM THE PROGRESSIVE POLICY WORLD

It’s an honor and pleasure to be in dialogue with members of the Front Porch Republic. I heard about you from Patrick Deneen, who I met once for drinks in Washington D.C. after getting in touch about something Patrick wrote. The connection was easy to make given our shared disgruntlement about the stifling confines of “left” and “right” in American politics.

To be sure, I have spent most of my professional life in the “progressive” political world—the world of George Soros, the American Prospect, and the Obama “transformation.” Within that world, my views tend toward the left wing of progressive economic thinking (i.e. Galbraith, Greider, and, among the classicals, Polanyi and, yes, Marx). Yet at the same time I veer toward the “right” in other fundamental ways: I support school vouchers and “faith-based initiatives”; I embrace a Consistent Life Ethic; and I agree with my church history professor James Melvin Washington, who echoed Carle Zimmerman in teaching, from African-American experience, that the destruction of family bonds and family structure was the root condition of chattel slavery and will remain so for future forms of economic oppression.

While my small business-owning parents and many others in my extended family followed Ronald Reagan into the Republican Party in the 1980s, I followed my Catholic grandmother’s advice and stayed away from the “party of the rich.” I don’t think she would have been any happier about the other things I learned at college in the days of the Contra Wars, leveraged buyout kings, and Rust Belt depression. She never wavered in her intuitive populist disgust with Reagan and Bush-era Republicanism, and neither have I. My personal migration to the left while my family drifted right was entirely based on what I perceived to be (correctly, I still believe) the anti-worker, anti-family agenda of the Reagan Republicans. Of course, I also recognized that the Democrats were only marginally better and in some ways, particularly on finance, were the real innovators in undermining middle America.

Now I work at the New York City think tank Dēmos—best known for our research and advocacy on credit-card debt and working-class insecurity (see our latest report at insecurity http://www.demos.org/pubs/bat_5.pdf.). I live in West Harlem with my wife and two children, having come to New York for graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary in 1996. We stayed in the city and I became a writer on religion and politics (my wife Pam Rehm already was a writer—she is a widely published poet). Both of us having grown up far from city life—me in a cedar wood in rural upstate New York, she in a rapidly disappearing German farming community in south-central Pennsylvania—we live in terror of the lost sensibility and self-containment of such places even as education and professional dependencies keep us trapped in city life. I cannot say it is a perfect existence or anything close to perfect, being far from our families in a rough urban neighborhood and a grotesquely divided city, yet we would not trade it for suburbia and frankly do not know how we would make it someplace further out.

I’m afraid that my efforts now do not extend far beyond the elite public world of intellectual and policy work, even as I find myself pushing against the cultural and religious boundaries of that world and of the party I tend to vote for. Although I have reached many thousands of people through publishing, media interviews, and public appearances in recent months, for many at FPR my focus may be too much oriented toward national politics and issues of law and morality that relate to large, aggregate trends in society, like the decline of wages and the political dominance of big business. But the direction of all my work, at bottom, is toward a new family economy, something I believe we can achieve only by fundamentally reformulating American politics around ideas of community wealth and family economic protection. This is a politics that leverages families and communities against market compulsion using the resources and regulatory power of a conservative or “subsidiary” welfare state—one that supports and protects traditional social structures but does not usurp their functions or alter their God-given purposes. I argue for a family-based economy and a community-minded protective state, and it will be obvious to many that such a politics of community control and family economic protection derives, most broadly, from Catholic social teaching. But it can also be found among certain Protestant traditions, most notably the Reformed social tradition of Abraham Kuyper, with its American heritage in the upper Midwest.

Currently, I am working in three main areas, and I appreciate the chance to sketch my thinking in these areas for you to consider. First, I am beginning work on a book called The War at Home: American Business, Conservative Politics, and the Strategy of Family Decline, at the heart of which I propose a new legal theory and cultural politics for family-based economic policy. I also continue to write and speak in two other areas where I have already published: first, developing a new theory of distributive justice based on the collective nature of wealth creation (I began this work with Gar Alperovitz in the book Unjust Deserts, which was published last year); and second, exposing the libertarians’ claim to be reviving “Jeffersonian democracy” as the single worst intellectual scandal of the late twentieth century—this is the focus of another book I am working on, tentatively titled For the Many or the Few? How the Reagan Revolution Reinvented Limited Government and Betrayed Middle America in the Founders’ Name. I turn first to the area where I hope my work goes deepest.

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FAMILY WARFARE

I haven’t noticed much commentary about Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam’s book Grand New Party at Front Porch Republic. But I think it’s worth considering here. Most probably know that the book is an effort to redraw the map of Republican cultural politics around economic needs. In a review I published last fall in Boston Review (http://bostonreview.net/BR33.5/daly.php), I describe the main argument of the book as follows:

Well-conceived and craftily written, the central argument of Grand New Party is quite simple. Since the late 1960s, the Republican Party has pulled the working class away from the Democrats on social issues like crime, welfare, and affirmative action, but it has failed to deliver on bread-and-butter issues like wage growth and affordable health care, even as the social issues have receded from the political stage due to conservative success in those areas.

In the introduction to their book, Douthat and Salam argue that this inability to address economic needs has prevented Reagan- and Bush-era Republicanism from consolidating an enduring political majority:

Having turned class politics to its advantage on cultural matters, by highlighting the gulf between Middle American values and the mores of the liberal overclass, the conservative movement has missed opportunity after opportunity to do the same on the economic front—by confusing being pro-market with being pro-business, by failing to distinguish between spending that fosters dependency and spending that fosters independence and upward mobility, and by shrinking from the admittedly difficult task of reforming the welfare state so that it serves the interests of the working class rather than the affluent. In the process, the Right has (thus far) squandered the chance to forge a conservative class consciousness among working-class voters, a unity of political allegiance and socioeconomic identity that, in its liberal form, made the Roosevelt coalition so potent and enduring.

I go on to note that Douthat and Salam’s emphasis on social and cultural factors in national politics in recent decades shares an obvious kinship with Thomas Frank’s much-discussed argument in What’s the Matter with Kansas. Of course, they disagree strongly with Frank’s basically Marxian analysis of the culture war as an electoral diversion strategy designed to mobilize the working class against its own economic self-interest. Broken marriages, informal coupling, and single parenthood, all on the rise since the late 1960s, certainly reflect a type of cultural shift that one could interpret narrowly in terms of religion and morality, as the religious right has done. But “where these problems are most common, in lower income regions and communities,” I pointed out, “they are extremely destabilizing economically.” Thus, “contrary to Frank’s view that red-state cultural conservatism is irrational and self-defeating, a politics centered on family, neighborhood, and faith-based initiatives, one that ‘promises to shore up the institutions that provide stability’ [as Douthat and Salam put it] makes perfect sense in places where said institutions are weak or seem like all that stands in the way of total collapse.”

Unfortunately, their counterargument is underdeveloped and only superficially engages with what they correctly describe as the main cultural battleground of the last thirty years: family and community stability in a violent, greed-filled, narcissistic material age. Thus, even as they are correct about the limits of Frank’s (and Marx’s) shallow cultural functionalism, their alternative assessment fails to adequately recognize and challenge the economic sources of declining family cohesion and community welfare. Even in challenging Republicans to admit a larger role for the state in helping families, they do not really succeed in escaping the destructive logic of liberalism, because “like most Beltway conservatives,” I argued in my review, they “remain fully invested in a liberal worldview where it hurts families the most—in the marketplace”:

To their credit, Douthat and Salam fully recognize how economic pressures due to globalization and changing business strategy and norms contribute to family breakdown in ways that cannot be remedied by one-dimensional “cultural” approaches such as marriage promotion or fatherhood support groups, helpful as these may be on a case-by-case basis. This acknowledgment of the economic sources of social disarray is quite a leap forward from the Republicans’ behaviorist “family values” agenda of the 1990s. Yet, in contrast to European-influenced American conservatives such as Robert Nisbet and Christopher Lasch, Douthat and Salam only dimly recognize the deep interdependence of social liberalism and market rationality—the former working to erode the legal and political standing of families and communities as the latter drives business to commodify and wring a profit from every last vestige and function of traditional life and from every last productive person.

Many at FPR will probably agree with me that the cultural politics of “family values,” dominated by an anti-liberal narrative built around opposition to abortion, gay rights, and extreme church-state separationism, has failed to protect families broadly in our polity despite significant electoral success in recent decades. Of course, our most vocal and influential religious leaders have long argued that the family is under attack by a liberal “culture of death.” I agree that there is, in fact, a culture of death, but I diagnose it differently. For one thing, I would point to America’s advanced-world leadership in state executions and imprisonment, gun violence, substance abuse, gambling, and violent entertainment in order to more fully illustrate the thesis.

No religious person can seriously deny that many aspects of American culture threaten family life and the common humanity that binds families together in communities and as a citizenry. I agree that some “social issues” and related policies have weakened family life and coarsened American culture imprudently if not unjustly, and I support recent progressive efforts to develop “common ground” on reducing abortion, strengthening marriage, and developing a new moral regime of bioethical regulation. These efforts reflect a significant evolution beyond the culture wars of the past. Yet even as we begin to establish more common ground on these important social issues, a much bigger threat, pressing deeper and deeper against the structure and very cohesion of family life, has gone unchecked for decades and threatens us on a massive scale.

That threat, of course, is the American brand of unregulated free-market capitalism—an economic power structure in which families grow more and more vulnerable and unstable even as the drive to commodify family functions and consumerize children and young adults erodes the moral and psychological well-being of our home lives, removing the last significant counterweight to raw acquisitive market forces and selfish greed.

Assessing the Damage

What happened to America? The most basic trends are well-known among analysts and increasingly understood in public opinion: we’ve experienced a massive upward redistribution of assets, income, and security, leaving perhaps eighty percent of American households with little or no stake in the appreciating wealth of our society and none of the stability that comes with sufficient assets, good jobs, and a strong social safety net for when things go wrong. The average family is working more hours, for lower wages and fewer benefits, with less security and less public support in times of need. On average our children and our elders are the least well-supported such dependents in the advanced world.

The profound underlying weaknesses of too little earning power and too much consumer debt, already increasingly clear in the aftermath of 9/11, set the stage for the implosion of our economy as massive financial losses closed off the spigot of easy credit that had sustained the country for more than a decade. The slow unfolding catastrophe began in the mid-1990s, when both political parties agreed, essentially, to let good jobs disappear in America. Instead a developing a new jobs- and wage-policy to shore up working families against globalization, our political leaders took the easy way out by replacing real buying power with financial engineering and easy credit. As any middle-school math student could have predicted, they brought the whole system down by piling debt on top of falling wages. And yet, even as most of the day-to-day risk in our economy has been steadily shifted from government and employers to families and individuals, the government is now spending trillions of dollars in new public debt to cover Wall Street’s losses on mortgage debt and other consumer debt, compounding globalization’s downward wage pressures with fiscal burdens we’ve never seen before.

The picture that emerges from the well-known distributional trends of the last twenty years could not be more disturbing:

–In 1980, the top 1 percent of households had about 8 percent of total national income; now they have over 20 percent.

–Out of about $60 trillion in total private assets in our economy, the top 5 percent has $31 trillion or more than 50 percent; the bottom half of households, 150 million people, have less than 5 percent. Two men, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, have more stock wealth than the entire bottom half of the U.S. population.

–The wage-productivity gap has grown unabated for thirty years; this is the huge problem at the root of the current collapse, as wage decline created the need for easy credit. Median family income and productivity used to rise together. Between 1947 and 1973, productivity rose 103.7% and median family income rose 103.9%. Since the late 1970s, however, that convergence has been completely severed: between 1973 and 2005, productivity rose 79% but median family income rose only 22%. During the Bush years productivity rose 20 percent while average wages rose less than 1 percent. If wages had kept rising with productivity as they did in the past, average annual pay would be more than double what it is today.

–80 million people are either uninsured or underinsured.

–50 million live near or below the federal poverty line.

–Over the past two decades, the cost of living rose 90 percent, but for the bottom 60 percent of households wages only rose 5-15 percent.

–In 2008 alone, 2.6 million people lost their jobs; 850,000 homes were in foreclosure or mortgage delinquency; more than 1 million bankruptcies were filed. At the beginning of 2009, the daily rate of bankruptcy was over 5,000.

–As of 2006, before the asset implosions of 2008-2009, more than 70 percent of middle-class families were economically insecure according to a comprehensive index measuring financial risk.

–The average household workweek in 2000 was 66 hours compared to 55 hours in 1969. Many more unaccounted hours are devoted to serial “job caretaking” in today’s “flexible” job markets.

–In a middle class household, foregone wages for a parent who stays home with a preschool child and only works half-time during the child’s school years up to college equal approximately $824,000 over seventeen years.

–The United States has more child poverty than any other advanced country and our welfare policies have the lowest impact in terms of poverty reduction; as a share of federal domestic outlays, child welfare spending has fallen 20 percent since the early 1960s.

–One third of American children grow up in homes with no father present and the fatherless rate rises to 65 percent for African-American children.

–Childhood obesity has skyrocketed even among toddlers, rising from a rate of 5 percent to more than 12 percent since the 1970s. Among adolescents today the rate is 17.6 percent.

–Approximately 10 percent of pre-teen white males are medicated for attention problems today, and, overall, the prescription of stimulant drugs for attention and mood disorders has increased 2,000 percent in the last 15 years. The United States consumes 80% of the world production of such drugs.

A New Cultural Politics of Family Support

The Hebrew prophets linked idolatry to oppression of the poor. They were the first cultural critics of economic oppression. Today, the pathologies linking economic insecurity, family decline, and cultural nihilism should also be clear. Yet despite the richness of biblical tradition on these themes (see in particular the work of Albino Barrera and Enrique Nardoni on the smallholder family economy at the heart of biblical “justice”), the theological foundations, the ethical norms, and the language and style of a new cultural politics of family welfare do not seem ready to hand in the advocacy world or in the public square more generally. If the religious right was theologically serious, its political servility to market liberalism emptied God’s meaning from their theology; at the same time, if the religious left was closer to God’s meaning in its focus on economic security, its reflexive cultural liberalism on many issues and its theological shallowness actually worked to diminish the importance of such battles in our culture.

Our more conservative religious traditions, the ones that were growing as American families lost ground since the late 1970s, failed to prevent the free-market war on the family; ironically, those claiming to be the most religiously orthodox among us—and presumably, then, those with the most to lose as most families lost ground—in many ways promoted the free-market war on the family. This cultural reinforcement, where there should have been massive resistance, is one important reason why the United States today, in a time of so much insecurity and need, stands nearly alone among wealthy countries in recognizing no formal public responsibility for the well-being of the family and in having no basic laws for the purpose of strengthening the family.

A disturbing example of how our cultural politics failed working families is Gary Bauer’s work on White House “family policy” in the mid-1980s. It is a good illustration of the internalized economic liberalism at the heart of Reagan- and Bush-era conservatism. In his report for the Domestic Policy Council’s Working Group on the Family, The Family: Preserving America’s Future (1986), Bauer put “Family Economics” at the top of the list of family policy priorities. But he defined family economics, not as the economic policies most conducive to family cohesion and natural family functions such as nurturing children, but rather as the family’s central functional role in supporting a capitalist economy. “Family economics,” in Reagan’s policy circles, meant little more than the economic role of families in the sustaining the system of “democratic capitalism.” As Bauer put it, “The freedom to make our own lives—the essence of democratic capitalism—can flourish only where the family is strong. Strong families make economic progress possible by passing on the values central to a free economy.” Quoting the bizarrely influential George Gilder, the section on family economics concluded: “The family which is tied together with love is the source of all productivity and growth.” I’d also point out one particularly notable irony. Bauer highlighted the importance of families for developing the national savings we need for productive investment. He didn’t seem to recognize that, without a jobs-policy and wage-policy, neither of which is mentioned in his report, soon enough the only family savings available for future investment in America would be that of Japanese and Chinese families.

While reflecting on such examples can help us expose the covert economic liberalism in much conservative argument of recent decades, we should not abandon the idea of a cultural war and a new legal strategy for family protection. What we should do is extend the analytical reach of family protection beyond liberal politics and culture to the free-market core of American liberalism, defining a politics and law neither left nor right nor “centrist,” but explicitly and thoroughly family-centered. So the question I ask myself is this: is there a need and a desire for a family-centered politics that marries security-oriented economic progressivism with community-oriented cultural conservatism? This is “progressive” for focusing on economic structures and power; it is “conservative” for focusing on the problem of family cohesion as a national crisis; it is “cultural” for exposing market liberalism as a danger not only to family economic welfare but to non-market family functions like care for children and elders. Is there a viable politics in cutting across such boundaries?

If there is, in fact, a need and a desire for such a politics, we will need a substantial philosophical reconstruction to create the moral framework that sets it apart from conventional partisan debate, appealing to deeply held values in a consistent if challenging way. I have ideas about how to construct such a philosophy—from elements of Catholic social thought, comparative social law, and maternal feminism. But before turning to those ideas, in a future post, I am eager to hear what others generally think about the project I begin to outline here.

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Lew Daly is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Fellows Program at Dēmos in New York City (www.demos.org). A writer on religion, political development, and economic thought, Daly's recent books include (with Gar Alperovitz) Unjust Deserts: How the Rich are Taking our Common Inheritance (The New Press 2008), which proposes a new theory of distributive justice based on the collective nature of wealth creation; and God’s Economy (University of Chicago Press, 2009), a comparative study of church-state law and welfare governance in Europe and the United States. He is also the author of God and the Welfare State (The MIT Press, 2006), and has published articles, reviews, and commentary in many publications, including Dissent, Commonweal, Newsweek.com, The Boston Review, Theoria, The Journal of Markets & Morality, Sightings, and Church & Society. Daly was previously a fellow of the Schumann Center for Media & Democracy, where he worked closely with then-president Bill Moyers on special projects. He formerly worked as a research fellow with the Democracy Collaborative of the University of Maryland, and as a researcher and strategist on religious advocacy. In the mid-1990s, Daly did pastoral work in a federal prison as well as community organizing on labor issues. With a B.A. degree from Oberlin College, he holds advanced degrees from Brown University, the University at Buffalo, and Union Theological Seminary. Raised in central New York, he has lived in New York City with his family since 1996.

14 COMMENTS

  1. “If the religious right was theologically serious, its political servility to market liberalism emptied God’s meaning from their theology”

    Amen.

    Dismantling and repudiating the libertarian-traditionalist fusion that has so poisoned the mind of Evangelicalism (and, increasingly, Catholicism and Orthodoxy as well) is a project I can get behind.

  2. Mr. Daly,
    you weird tone makes it difficult to read the 1st half of your essay. Don’t worry about whether you fit in at FRR. Speak the truth and let the rest take care of itself. I know of no other political site that cares less about conventional labels.

  3. Welcome to the Porch, Lew.

    Most of the readers who write in offer intelligent comments, so sorry about “Chuck’s.” That said, his comment inadvertently shines a light upon a crucial question of perspective your essay hints at, even perhaps embraces (but with a loose grip). Catholic social thought is, and should remain, allergic to classical liberalism and should serve as the foundation for any critique of liberalism that cares about family, community, and, indeed, the priority of these things to the state. It is a challenge to present these compelling ideas in a society that is historically anti-Catholic and has grown more so as it has gone from being merely suspicious of Ecclesiastical authority to becoming maniacally phobic of all claims of moral and social authority period, save some bureaucratic ones. The Know Nothings of today are even more dangerous than the ones who burnt down Catholic convents and universities (including mine) in the nineteenth century, because they make the mistake of actually thinking they know something. But, to return to your essay . . .

    The substance of your essay goes to the heart of much of FPR: the insistence that American conservatism, like American liberalism, derives its principles, such as they are, from the canons of Classical liberalism. To make this critique, of course, entails being able to stand apart from that liberalism, and most of us at FPR have done so by standing upon the much older and more tested foundations of the various traditions of localism and distributism and, perhaps above all, the Catholic social doctrine of subsidiarity. I’ll be writing here on subsidiarity in the next month or so and look forward to reading your own reflections on what that tradition may teach us. I’d be particularly interested, beyond that, to read your engagements with the general attack on meritocracy and “cosmopolites” Deneen and Beer have offered us. My own doubts about what you have written above — few but serious though they are — will either be allayed or confirmed there.

  4. Lew,

    Welcome fellow upstate refugee. I enjoyed your thoughtful posting, and look forward to your writings on subsidiarity and Kuyper’s principle of sphere sovereignty (of which I was unawre until my relocation to Minnesota). These two traditions will be foundational for any sort of human scaled economy we can kraft in the future.

  5. “Is there a need and a desire for a family-centered politics that marries security-oriented economic progressivism with community-oriented cultural conservatism?”

    I am interested in exploring this. By wedding these two, are you suggesting that community-oriented cultural conservatism will temper the rationalistic and mechanistic aspects of security oriented economic progressivism?

    Great post BTW – much appreciated.

  6. Welcome to FPR, Mr. Daly. Thanks for your initial piece, which seems quite a substantive outline of your thoughts, and for putting it up here for feedback.

    I greatly appreciate your critique of free market capitalism and very much concur in your judgments concerning the destructive tendencies not merely of free market federal/state policies but of the particular mindset it engenders. I can’t say I agree with the trajectory of your proposed solution, which seems to me to be too reliant on politics, government programs, and policies which, while you would certainly not intend for them to displace families and local communities, I think nevertheless would do so. Surely it depends on the specific policies and programs suggested, in which case, perhaps you might indicate in future posts how your new cultural politics and policies would differ from those of President Carter, who also sought to build a socially responsible politics that supported the integrity of families and promote distributive economic justice.

    In general, references to history–other than the history of the failure of Reagan/Bush/Republican policies–would greatly strengthen your outline. Is there a reason why criticisms of the historical failures of the Carter and Clinton administrations, both founded upon particular precepts of liberalism and modernity, are conspicuously absent? One gets the sense from your piece that only Republicans are the bad guys. I do not think you believe that the flaws of modernity undermine the policies of only Reagan/Bushs rather than Carter/Reagan/Clinton/Bushs, but from the data reported in your piece, one could get that impression.

    Another reference to concrete history that might prove beneficial is to address the roles of science, technology and militarization in the past 40 years. The Cold War backdrop is essential to understanding the policies which you are critiquing, and dealing with communism’s failure would serve as a helpful reminder not to ignore criticisms of Marxist policies.

    Likewise, the social backdrop of the 60s/70s counterculture movement ought not be ignored because they were formative in the policies of those decades. You rightly point out that:

    The wage-productivity gap has grown unabated for thirty years; this is the huge problem at the root of the current collapse, as wage decline created the need for easy credit. Median family income and productivity used to rise together. Between 1947 and 1973, productivity rose 103.7% and median family income rose 103.9%. Since the late 1970s, however, that convergence has been completely severed: between 1973 and 2005, productivity rose 79% but median family income rose only 22%. During the Bush years productivity rose 20 percent while average wages rose less than 1 percent. If wages had kept rising with productivity as they did in the past, average annual pay would be more than double what it is today.

    … but it is impossible to understand the wage stagnation without taking account of the large scale entry of women into the workforce beginning in the 1970’s, concomitant with the equal rights movement in that period as well as the passage of Roe v. Wade (1973). More labor supply means lower wages across the board as a matter of economic fact and the necessity of both parents working to make up for the lower wages; if I understand “maternal feminism” correctly, this might be an inconvenient truth.

    My criticisms notwithstanding, it’s clear that things need to change, and I welcome the opportunity to engage with a thoughtful, albeit perhaps a bit differently minded, individual such as yourself.

    Welcome to FPR.

  7. Lew Daly’s commentary uses Gary Bauer as an example of a Christian leader advocating economic policy destructive to the American Family. In Gary’s own words:

    The religious Left increasingly is providing “cover” for the political Left’s attack on free enterprise and capitalism. They argue that free enterprise is immoral because some people will do very well financially while others will fail. Sadly some young Christians are falling for this class warfare dressed up in religious garb. As a Christian, I am called personally and through my church to help the poor. I am not called to use the power of Big Government to take someone else’s earnings and redistribute them to those who did not earn it.
    — Gary Bauer, May 1, 2009, “Is Capitalism Moral?”

    Of course the conflating of Patriotism, Economics, and Christianity can be traced back much further. The following resolution marked the beginnings of the politically activist Religious Right (providing fertile ground for the Patriot’s Bible, Prosperity theology, and other aspects of the Culture Wars).

    Southern Baptist Convention Resolution On Christian Citizenship
    June 1984

    WHEREAS, The Bible establishes three institutions as the foundation for society: the home, the church, and the government, all of which are to be God centered and established upon biblical principles, and

    WHEREAS, God has richly blessed America with a system of government and economics which has elevated her from infancy to world leadership in a period of just 200 years–a country which possesses much of the world’s monetary wealth and the trained personnel with which to evangelize the world, and furthermore, a country in which men may freely and openly preach the Word of God from the pulpits of the land and Christians openly share the joys of Christ with others, and

    WHEREAS, Political influence is that vehicle by which we set the agenda for debate, decide what issues are important for the guidance of the affairs of men and the meaning thereof, and furthermore, recognizing that many Bible-believing people have not participated in the political processes, now

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That we Southern Baptists commit ourselves to become wisely informed and appropriately active in the political processes of the United States at the national, state, and local levels to the end that men and women who subscribe to and are governed by moral principles based on biblical authority be elected to public office, and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this assembly reaffirm the doctrine of our forefathers of separation of church and state which should not be interpreted to mean, however, the separation of God from government.

    BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That we Southern Baptists pledge ourselves to urgently pray for and call our nation to repentance and to a return to the secure, reliable, and unchanging principles given to us by God in his inspired word.

    Apparently the belief that God was responsible for America’s good fortune led them to conclude that America’s policies were sanctioned by God and thus all good Christian citizens must witness the gospel of America.

  8. Discounting Thomas Frank’s assertion about a pre-meditated Bait and Switch on Cultural Conservatives by the scheming Roves of the GOP would seem to be a bit hasty to me. The GW Bush Administration was the apogee of a very long era of consolidating Cultural Conservative’s support in areas like abortion or the so-called Faith-Based initiatives (and doing essentially nothing about them aside from unctuous rhetoric) and then instituting financial policy or trade legislation in direct opposition to the interests of those same cultural conservatives. The Dixiecrat Plan found paydirt for the GOP in a new form of… not reconstruction but deconstruction that is demolition-centric across the country. There is indeed a kind of ressentiment at work here and it even has a national pastime called NASCAR and a War spreading from the Levant toward Pakistan. Is Frank’s assertion applicable in a wholesale manner across the board? Perhaps not but it is at work as …at the very least…a very effective strategy by the Mayberry Machiavellians with their Fear and Xenophobia Sideshow.

    My own skepticism about Faith-Based initiatives does not reflect a dismissive antipathy for the sentiments behind them but it needs to be said that Activist Government in concert with Religious Outreach found it’s first flowering in Indian missionary Schools. This history is usually put forth as a justification for modern applications but a brisk trip to the Rosebud Reservation will provide a look at how well this worked out for those who were the victims of the help. Admittedly, this is an oversimplification of a more complex issue but religion and government are strongest when they are respectful of one another at arms length and weakest when they cohabit. Kept apart yet respectful and informed by one another and they can flourish, join them and well….last call for the barflys is at hand.

    Authoritarianism…. in trade, military affairs, national security, civil rights, a host of social engineering boondoggles and government-corporate machinations …when added to a religion-state partnership will complete this little foray into Stars and Stripes Fascism fer ijits. This energetic urge to control everything, everywhere with the Pentagon as our single largest consumptive focus will chew up and spit out any effort at grafting morality or spirituality upon the Federal Government. Religion in the U.S. will come to rue the day it decided a dalliance with gluttonous militant government might be a good idea.

    Rather than dismiss or diminish Libertarians or secularists or cultural conservatives or labor-movement liberals or business first partisans or simply the reflexive anti-statist, I would assert we need them all in that classic Jeffersonian principle of Checks and Balances. Currently, we have Big Government Republicans and Big Government Democrats and any force arguing for fiscal probity is treated as a crazy uncle or worse. The Executive is stronger than at any time since the Depression. The Judiciary is increasingly a force of political expression. When there is no entity of strength arguing for chaste restraint by government and a countervailing strong and active independent religion propounding a fundamental moral force within the citizenry..and a dedicated Fourth Estate keeping everyone on their toes, you can be sure that morality and the life of the family is the first casualty. The people of the lapsed republic have been lulled into complacency and ennui by their acquiescence to the combination of Fiat Money, debt-centered Financialism wed to Energetic Federalism. This sorry denouement has elevated Irony to a State Religion and that is how torture becomes parsed in broad daylight by a culture with pretensions to morality. No Child Left Behind has it’s corollary in international relations ..or that thing we practice called democracy at gunpoint…. and it might be called ” No Peace Left Behind”.

  9. If Mr. Daly’s argument were correct, then “the family” ought to be doing better in social-democratic European countries with more regulation, higher taxes, more redistributive policies and generally less laissez-faire.

    But it isn’t, to put it quite mildly.

    More generally, the argument is based on an unexamined, assumption: that the period 1945-1965 represents “normalacy” (in income distribution, for example) and that we can somehow return to it.

    It wasn’t normal — it was a highly exceptional period — and we can’t return to it. That world is dead, as dead as the Big Three’s oglipoly and hence the UAW’s ability to command skilled-labor wages and benefits for unskilled labor.

    A couple of years ago I saw a German businessman interviewed. He was asked why German business wasn’t creating new jobs. He replied:

    “We have created millions of new jobs. Jobs in China, jobs in Brazil, even jobs in Poland and the Czech Republic. When they make it worth our while, we’ll create jobs here. Until then, the working class can kiss my ***.”

    The day when half or more of the world was imprisoned within Communist or subsistence-peasant economies is gone. All those people are now competing with us, and prices (for labor as well as other things) will seek their market clearing level. Trying to stop that is like trying to sweep back the ocean with a broom.

    There’s another big invisible dog here: the assumption that the alternative to “the market” making decisions is some sort of communitarian families-working-together-locally setup.

    It isn’t. The alternative, here on Planet Reality, is a federal government bureaucracy intensely hostile to traditional family arrangements. The people who brought you AFDC as we knew and loved it in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

    In one of his more felicitous moments Karl Marx observed that human beings make history, but they don’t make it just as they please.

    Most of the time we’re stuck with the social/political/cultural/global environment we’ve got and just have to make the best of it. The world is highly resistant to attempts at conscious shaping and planning, and the results of hubristic efforts to overcome these boundaries are rarely pretty.

  10. Nice piece. One minor complaint:

    >>Well-conceived and craftily written, the central argument of Grand New Party is quite simple.<<

    How did that grammatical howler get past Boston Review’s editors?!

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