Tuesday, November 30, 2004
William Stuntz, a distinguished professor at Harvard Law School, has posted some typically insightful thoughts over at Tech Central Station. (Readers might also want to check out this essay of his, "Law and the Christian Story," published a few years ago in First Things). In "Faculty Clubs and Church Pews", Stuntz remarks:
The past few months have seen a lot of talk about red and blue
, mostly by people on one side of the partisan divide who find the other side a mystery.
It isn't a mystery to me, because I live on both sides. For the past twenty years, I've belonged to evangelical Protestant churches, the kind where George W. Bush rolled up huge majorities. And for the past eighteen years, I've worked in secular universities where one can hardly believe that Bush voters exist. Evangelical churches are red
at its reddest. And universities, especially the ones in
(where I work now), are as blue as the bluest sky.
Not surprisingly, each of these institutions is enemy territory to the other. But the enmity is needless. It may be a sign that I'm terminally weird, but I love them both, passionately. And I think that if my church friends and my university friends got to know each other, they'd find a lot to like and admire. More to the point, the representatives of each side would learn something important and useful from the other side. These institutions may be red and blue now. But their natural color is purple.
And, here is a passage that will -- I suspect -- warm Mark's heart:
Imagine a presidential campaign in which the two candidates seriously debated how a loving society should treat its poorest members. Helping the poor is supposed to be the left's central commitment, going back to the days of FDR and the New Deal. In practice, the commitment has all but disappeared from national politics. Judging by the speeches of liberal Democratic politicians, what poor people need most is free abortions. Anti-poverty programs tend to help middle-class government employees; the poor end up with a few scraps from the table. Teachers' unions have a stranglehold on failed urban school systems, even though fixing those schools would be the best anti-poverty program imaginable.
I don't think my liberal Democratic professor friends like this state of affairs. And -- here's a news flash -- neither do most evangelicals, who regard helping the poor as both a passion and a spiritual obligation, not just a political preference. . . . These men and women vote Republican not because they like the party's policy toward poverty -- cut taxes and hope for the best -- but because poverty isn't on the table anymore. In evangelical churches, elections are mostly about abortion. Neither party seems much concerned with giving a hand to those who most need it.
That could change. I can't prove it, but I think there is a large, latent pro-redistribution evangelical vote, ready to get behind the first politician to tap into it. (Barack Obama, are you listening?) If liberal Democratic academics believe the things they say they believe -- and I think they do -- there is an alliance here just waiting to happen.
Humility, love of serious ideas, commitment to helping the poor -- these are things my faculty friends and my church friends ought to be able to get together on. If they ever do, look out: American politics, and maybe American life, will be turned upside down. And all those politicians who can only speak in one color will be out of a job.