Saturday, October 11, 2008

Values Need Reason

David Brooks is an astute observer of the Republican party, and his latest editorial offers insight into the disintegration of some of the recent McCain-Pain political rallies. What he says is crucial to the reconstitution of the party after this awful election.

Brooks recalls the conservative intellectual tradition, which included such greats as Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley. In Ronald Reagan's time, there was still an intellectual following with a preference for traditional values. Brooks observes that this has all changed recently.

Over the past 15 years, the same argument has been heard from a thousand politicians and a hundred television and talk-radio jocks. The nation is divided between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts.

What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.

Republicans developed their own leadership style. If Democratic leaders prized deliberation and self-examination, then Republicans would govern from the gut.
The Republican party, according to Brooks, has deliberately fostered this divide: "The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clichés took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin." Brooks goes on to show how in every category, educated people have been alienated out of the Republican party.

Brooks gives credit to Sarah Palin for being smart, but she also plays up this "class-warfare" card, as was painfully obvious even in her diction at the vice-presidential debate.

This inability to engage on the level of reason is a fundamental problem for the political party which espouses critical values for social survival. When Mike Huckabee stated we should change the Constitution to make it conform with the Bible, he wasn't extending the natural law argument for marriage which could convince Jews, Muslims and thoughtful non-believers.

This abandonment of reason happens because people of faith concede that faith is a personal preference, lived separately from the rest of life. Believers become a club of people who get it, as opposed to the majority who just don't. Faith is ghettoized, and it becomes easier to sneer than to do the hard work of thinking, arguing and reasoning with others toward an understanding of crucial human problems which ultimately we need to solve together.

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