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US/ Wake-up Call or Re-arranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic?

A Washington ‘insider’ shares some post-election insights on and off the campaign trail, some “tectonic shifts” observable, and hope for a new approach, especially among Christians

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A Washington ‘insider’ shares some post-election insights on and off the campaign trail, “tectonic shifts” observable in this dramatic election, and hope for a new approach, especially among Christians.

From your vantage point on Capitol Hill, can you tell us what feelings are in the mix since the re-election?

Well, among Obama supporters there is certainly a lot of euphoria; a sense of great triumph. And there is a disorientation and temptation to despair on the opposing side, but also stoic determination, and a decision to “get up off the floor” after having lost a “fair fight,” as was underscored by the immediate post-election congratulations extended by the Republican leaders. The conservatives are already “soldiering on”–as they had been doing.

What do you think of this attitude?

The fact that conservatives and Christians engaged in politics are planning to re-fight the same battles just lost —and repeatedly lost—raises the question of whether they are avoiding a necessary confrontation…with themselves. To be sure, the newspapers are full of articles on how the Republican campaign whiz-kids are already re-evaluating their tactics, sitting down with advertising consultants, assembling focus groups, etc., on how to broaden their coalition, change their “brand,” and so on. We will see whether this is just another re-arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

In any case, Republicans and conservatives are one thing, Christians engaged in politics should be another, and I see little evidence that the Christians are re-evaluating the basic goals and purposes of their politics or relation to the Republican Party. Not to use this dramatic moment to take a fearless and searching inventory, to look for unsalable merchandise that needs to be thrown out, shows a poverty of reason and a lack of attention to reality.

One factor for Christians to consider is that only once since 1988 has the Republican Party won a majority of the popular vote in a presidential election–that was Bush’s 2004 re-election. And even when the Republicans have won, they have had to be extremely timid about pursuing Republican policy goals on fiscal and social issues.

When Democrats have won, they’ve been able to pursue their vision aggressively–Obama most of all. After this latest defeat, which was particularly crushing in the Senate, we should at least ask the question whether Republicans are permanently losing their grip on American politics. Not to mention the fact that citizens are looking for more (from both parties!).

Has the playing field changed?

Obama has expanded the electorate–overwhelmingly winning and turning out unprecedented numbers of younger voters, Latinos, Asians, and of course African Americans. Their proportion of the electorate will continue to grow. The tectonic plates of demography, which were already shifting against the Republicans, seem to be picking up speed.