Monday, July 7, 2014
As I blogged back in April (here), the centuries-old American debate about the right size and proper role of government will carry forward for decades into the future, despite occasional nonsense from pundits that this or that political win for this or that set of politicians means that this or that side of the political spectrum would be forever banished into the political wilderness.
Those of us on the Mirror of Justice who are motivated in our public activities by faith and who share a Catholic understanding of the human person in community vary greatly on our evaluation of the wisdom of and the acceptable extent to central government programs to advance the common good. So too the general American public remains divided and insists on preventing one or the other viewpoint from dominating the political landscape for too long.
When President Obama was first elected in 2008, together with large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, many believed the stage was set for a new progressive era as conservative views about limited government receded into the past. But, as shown by the 2010 congressional elections and President Obama's thin 51-percent reelection, the charisma of liberty and skepticism about the competence (and moral legitimacy) of government mandates has sent the pendulum swinging hard to the other side yet again. As Marc Theissen writes in today's Washington Post:
"According to a December Gallup poll, the number of people who say that 'big government' is the greatest threat to the country has risen from 55 percent when Obama took office to 72 percent today — the highest that number has ever been in 50 years of polling. For the next quarter century, whenever a liberal politician proposes some new, big-government program, all conservatives will have to say to discredit it is: 'It’s just another Obamacare.'”
Of course, as I suggested earlier, this too shall pass — although the clunky implementation of Obamacare will have lasting implications (for at least a couple of election cycles). Even if Republicans win big this fall (and I'm still dubious that the huge shift of six Senate seats can be accomplished), and even if Republicans should take the White House again(an even bigger "if"), they too will make mistakes and overreach. At some point in the future, the pendulum will sweep back in the other direction.
While the swing of the pendulum will never stop altogether, Catholic public thinkers might be able to escape the back-and-forth by looking for ways to transcend old political divisions and trying to find ways to more "smartly" join governmental policies and public environments with social and religious organizations to enhance human thriving. By doing so, we may not only make the world (or at least our neighborhood) better but also strengthen the case once again for religious freedom and the plurality of initiatives that such freedom brings.