For a large number of conservatives who were expecting Mitt Romney to win the election last week, day one of the Romney Presidency was also going to be day one of a concerted loyal opposition effort. A good deal of conservatives were unhappy with the Romney nomination. Not just the Ron Paul people, but also the Santorum-or-Gingrinch-or-anyone-but-Romney contingent. They feared that Romney was a big government moderate merely posing as a conservative. That is the main reason that enthusiasm for Romney among the Republican base was so tepid until the last month of the campaign. The conservative base, especially the “Tea Party” movement, was expecting Romney to go back on all of his major promises, such as lowering taxes across the board and repealing Obamacare. They were especially worried that his most important goals, lowering the deficit and balancing the budget, would fail to be acheived if he allowed himself to get mired in business-as-usual in Washington rather than holding fast to principle. As such, those who were willing to vote for him (more in opposition to Obama) were gearing up for a (loving) fight.
Before the election, and now in the days following, I have not seen this kind of principled committment coming in large measure from the Left. President Obama is still “their guy”, and the vibe I get is that opposition to those dangerous, wild-eyed conservatives is so important that showing anything less than total confidence in the Democrats’ agenda would be too harmful. One notable exception I’ve seen is this article in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf. Friedersdorf is a liberal and makes no secret of his loathing for Republicans, but he essentially says that when it comes to foreign policy and the dangerous misuse of executive power, President Obama is far worse than any Republican (including Bush) and a principled liberal cannot enthusiastically endorse him.
The election is over and Mr. Obama is President once more, so this is no longer a question of support through voting. Now the question is this: Will those on the Left be willing to oppose the President when his agenda, either foreign or domestic, does not coincide with their own values and principles? And more importantly, will liberals be willing to engage in the bipartisanship and compromise that they so often rail against the Right for failing to embrace? My hope is that they will.
To be clear, I am not simply asking for liberals to become conservatives. Those who believe in the necessary use of more government power, including increased taxes, for the common good of the people, especially the poor and disenfranchised, can still maintain that principle while refusing to accept as good every single use of that government power by those currently in office. You can support Obamacare without supporting the attendant HHS regulations that would violate the religious liberty of Catholic institutions by forcing them to pay for birth control and abortions. For that matter, you can fully support the availability and use of contraceptives without embracing wholesale the current narrative of the Left that any restrictions whatsoever on who has to provide and pay for them is a “war on women.” In that sense, I simply call on my brothers and sisters on the Left to show discretion and wisdom, and not get caught up in the sound bite culture of political discourse.
If you’re wondering why the title of this post is aimed specifically at Christians, the answer is two-fold. The first is abortion. All Christians, Left or Right, must affirm the infinite worth of the human soul as well as a Christian sexual ethic (sex only within the bonds of marriage, generally, though not exclusively, for procreation). There are still details that can be argued here. Christians can disagree, in good faith, about whether the soul enters the child’s body at conception or at some later point, and also about what “personhood” means scientifically and philosophically, so I don’t want to get bogged down in those things here. However, I believe that a general acceptance of the two things I just mentioned necessitate some form of pro-life view and a rejection of most of the assumptions of the pro-choice view. At the very least, I see no reason why professing Christians on the Left should oppose something like a partial-birth abortion ban, or why they would whole-heartedly embrace the attitude that there is nothing wrong with “elective” abortion (that is, abortion for no other reason than the current material convenience of the parents), especially in the second half of pregnancy.
Perhaps even more interesting is the question of why the Democratic party has become the pro-choice party to begin with. Democrats are (or claim to be) the party of the disenfranchised and those without a voice. They value community over individualism, the good of others over the absolute rights of self. Why on earth, when it comes to abortion, are they suddenly so radically individualistic (in the case of the mother) and absolutely uncaring toward the one party in the whole situation with no voice of her own?
In this light, abortion really ought to be the easiest point of agreement between Left and Right. Why isn’t it?
Second, as those who share a transcendent faith in Christ, Christians on the Left and the Right ought to be able to come together and view their political differences in light of their religious commonalities. In that sense, I actually think the church can set a good example for the rest of the country in how to engage in meaningful bipartisan cooperation.
My plea, then, is simple. To my Christian brothers and sisters on the Left, do not merely celebrate the victory of “your guy” and avoid the difficult work of being a light in a dark world. That darkness is present everywhere that Christ is not acknowledged as Lord, whether on the Right or the Left. Please let wisdom and discernment win out over a party politics run almost exclusively by secular agendas.
If “my guy” had won, I would want the same admonition, and I genuinely I hope I would listen.