When examining the morality of a society or government, most people would probably argue that the most important thing to look at is how it acted. I would argue, however, that it is at least as important to look at how the society or government justifies its actions. Often, such an exploration of justification simply demonstrates a deep-seeded hypocrisy, but for all the incredible harm of hypocrisy, it does have the one redeeming quality that hypocrisy at least aspires to something better and recognizes what is right. It is true that hypocrisy is the only sin in the NT to receive a divine death penalty, but it at least stems from some minimal guilt in not doing the right thing. And where there is guilt, there can be repentance. And where there is repentance, there can be grace. So a hypocritical society/government at least still holds to the truth by the thinnest of threads, and because of that, there is still hope for redemption.
Believe it or not, that somewhat existential tangent resulted from my trying to understand my strong emotional reaction to the press coverage of the stimulus package. I have been deeply bothered by the Republican response to the stimulus, especially in the House. But despite my often-partisan vocation, Republicans seldom really upset me. I hail from those Democrats who chose that label because we believe that, on balance, Democrats get more things right…rather than from those Democrats who chose that label mostly because they hate or fear the other side. So the fact that I had such a strong emotional reaction to GOP messaging around the stimulus surprised me.
I spent several years on the Hill handling budget issues, and so I recognize that part of my reaction is due to the fact that suddenly the GOP is talking about the need for fiscal discipline…and I am frustrated a bit that Democrats are not taking every opportunity they can to remind the American people that Republicans only became fiscal conservatives when they lost the ability to spend taxpayer dollars. If you look at Regan, Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2, Bill Clinton was the only president to balance the budget and reduce the deficit. Compare that to President Bush who added more to the national debt than ALL previous presidents combined, wrecked our economy, and oversaw the largest expansion of the federal government since the New Deal…all with the blessing and encouragement of the GOP Congress. So the GOP’s donning of the “fiscal conservative” mantle would be a joke if the hypocrisy wasn’t so appalling.
But as I sought to discern my emotions, I came to understand that GOP fiscal hypocrisy wasn’t what upset me…what was really troubling me was both the absence of hypocrisy in the way the GOP leadership has been discussing their political strategy and the way the media has responded. GOP House Minority Leader John A. Boehner told colleagues on Wednesday that they could turn a loss on the stimulus package to their political advantage if they stood fast and united in their opposition to the bill. He argued that this would create a powerful political narrative and help redefine Republicans as fiscal conservatives, which they can use to differentiate and attack Democrats in 2010. So even though Republicans might take a short-term political hit by voting against the stimulus American people want, the long-term political benefits would far outweigh the short-term costs.
Let’s unpack that logic a minute. Congressional Republicans are working to prevent the creation of a truly bipartisan stimulus bill and plan to vote against legislation that would keep American families from having their homes foreclosed and workers from losing their jobs…so that Republicans can better justify their vote against the bill, which is intended to help them create a political narrative that they can use to attack Democrats two years from now.
And the media has become so obsessed with the horse race and strategic aspects of politics (I’ve read a number of commentators from Washington Post to Politico talking about how this could be a smart move for Republicans), that no one is pointing out how unbelievably screwed up that logic and the fact that they would make it public is!
We are not talking about a computer chess match but about people’s lives. This is not about numbers but about God’s children. But to help GOP campaigns write better attack ads in the next election, GOP “Representatives of the people” are choosing to vote to force American workers to face the soul-crushing responsibility of coming home to tell their family that they’ve lost their job and will lose their home…the house where they first carried their wife over the threshold …the one where they spent a weekend painting giraffes on the walls of the first baby’s bedroom…the place where they are part of a community and dreamed of raising their children with a future better than their own. The hopes and dreams of millions of Americans are being callously discarded by “strategists” so the GOP can tap into the despair that will follow to win voters in two years. And they are bragging about doing so and getting credit for their “discipline” by political commentators?!
When political leaders and those who report on them stop even pretending to care about doing the right thing in politics, there is no longer a chance that people will feel guilt for abusing their power and institutionalizing injustice. Without guilt, there can be no repentance, no grace, and we are left with little hope.
If Americans outside the political and media establishment do not immediately begin to raise a cry for our elected leaders to repent, I fear that our end may be truly near.