Things have gotten out of hand.
Recently in Slate, Jacob Weisberg wrote a description of today’s Republican Party that hit home with me. He said the GOP:
“…has moved to a mental Shangri-La, where unwanted problems (climate change, the need to pay the costs of running the government) can be wished away, prejudice trumps fact (Obama might just be Kenyan-born or a Muslim), expertise is evidence of error, and reality itself comes to be regarded as some kind of elitist plot.”
It stung a little to read that. And it stung, because even though it’s a bit melodramatic, it’s true. And even more true is the fact that the rabid GOP base commits open warfare on anyone brazen enough to break protocol in the most minor fashion. I’ve been watching and cringing this spring as respectable Governors like Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty, once champions of the environment, turn their backs on their former selves and on the natural world. Same thing with Mitt Romney on healthcare. And the list goes on.
These Republican leaders can’t go on the record to admit that there might be value in protecting the environment, or that immigrants might be people too; or that Romneycare and cap-and-trade both emanated from the Reagan administration and the Heritage Foundation. The reason they can’t is that the sane among us, the silent majority on the center-right, haven’t boldly stood up against the extremists to make the case for a pragmatic centrism based in traditional values.
That ends today as Michael Stafford begins what I hope will be a new era of sanity on the center-right with his book “An Upward Calling: Politics for the Common Good.” On issues like immigration, the environment, the budget and more, Mike lays out a case for ostracizing the demagogues in favor of a politics that works. Building on a foundation deeply rooted in his Catholic faith, Mike uses themes like agape – the Christian love of brother once referred to by Paolo Coehlo as “the love that consumes” – to make the case that we can do so much more together than we do when we see each other as enemies, as obstacles to avoid.
Many of the essays in An Upward Calling have been presented in various forms on sites like Coffee Party USA, Tommywonk and here at TSD. Each of them have been well-received, like a drink of water to a society parched by hateful extremism. But pulled together into one book, the essays are a call to something far better.
It’s time for us to ban the extremists to their mental Shangri-La, and return to a politics that sees the other not as an enemy, but as a possibility, and allow our leaders to seek the best solution, not the solution that pacifies the mob. It is that strength that is shown in this book, and it is a calling I plan to follow.
Disclosure: I was so moved by Mike’s writing that I created a company to publish this book. What that means is that if you go and purchase it, Mike and I each stand to make several dozen pennies. In fact, if we sell enough, we might become millionaires. Okay, not really, but we can realistically become quarteraires.