It’s a very easy thing to loathe politics; it can be a very loathsome thing, exposing as it does the basest of human interactions: petty jealousies, outsized egos; personal insults; the precedence of expediency over principle.
I do understand why people want to avoid it.
All along the political spectrum there are people who operate at the lowest level of morality and who seem to delight in tearing down those with whom they disagree. Some of those people do so purely for their own personal gain—it’s primarily just a selfish thing.
But there are others—true believers in a cause—who all too often get so wrapped up in their cause (and it can be a righteous cause) that they cast caution aside and act in ways that are actually detrimental to what they hope to achieve.
Frankly, I’m distressed over the turn politics has taken on the conservative side. Wait a minute, what about those liberals and their unsavory tactics? Are you ignoring them? Only someone who has never read this blog over the past nine years could think that. Yes, the liberal/progressive approach has almost always been loathsome.
What concerns me is that some conservatives now think they have to copy that loathsomeness in response. Whenever we do that, we lose—our principles, our character, and our long-term influence.
Need I say that it is also unchristian to act in that way?
I find history to be a guide. When the communist threat was very real back in the late 1940s, Whittaker Chambers sacrificed his great job, high salary, and reputation to expose what he knew from his time in the underground. He was actuated by the need to tell the truth, but he did so, as he noted, with pity and remorse. He didn’t hate anyone on the other side; he simply wanted to make sure the nation knew what was happening, so that the nation might respond appropriately and survive.
Then along came a man by the name of Joe McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin. He jumped into this fight with communism, but not with the Chambers attitude. While Chambers certainly fought with all he had against the evil of communism, he did so with the goal of restoration. McCarthy merely wanted to bring down the other side (and burnish his image in the process, of course).
We have, in letters Chambers wrote to William F. Buckley, a commentary on McCarthy’s approach to the communist threat. He felt McCarthy would ultimately fail. Why? Here are some excerpts:
As the picture unfolds, the awful sense begins to invade you, like a wave of fatigue, that the Senator is a bore. . . .
[McCarthy’s approach] is repetitious and unartful, and, with time, the repeated dull thud of the low blow may prove to be the real factor in his undoing. . . . He lacks variety, and, in the end, simply puts the audience to sleep.
I used to listen to and watch a number of conservative programs because it was refreshing to hear someone who believed what I believe—fresh voices in a media dominated by liberalism. After a while, though, I saw what Chambers saw in McCarthy, which is a tendency toward laborious repetition that numbs the soul. I don’t pay much attention to those programs anymore.
He is at bottom a naive and simple-hearted man. . . . I said long since that the crucial question about Senator McCarthy was not whether his aims are ultimately good or bad, but whether his intelligence is equal to his energy.
There are many conservatives who are simple-hearted (that part is good) with admirable aims, but I also wonder if their intelligence is equal to the task.
It is more and more my reluctant opinion that he is a tactician, rather than a strategist: that he continually, by reflex rather than calculation, sacrifices the long view for the short pull.
Certain tactics may get you a short-term win, but at what price? Does anyone see a current example of this?
Finally, there was this warning that Chambers sounded, a warning that became prophetic because it went just the way he warned:
All of us, to one degree or another, have slowly come to question his judgment and to fear acutely that his flair for the sensational, his inaccuracies and distortions, his tendency to sacrifice the greater objective for the momentary effect, will lead him and us into trouble.
In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that we live in terror that Senator McCarthy will one day make some irreparable blunder which will play directly into the hands of our common enemy and discredit the whole anti-Communist effort for a long while to come.
That’s exactly what happened, and the term “McCarthyism” has never left our political vocabulary; it’s always whipped out to taint conservatives whenever we try to point out the evil nature of socialism/communism or any other threat to the nation.
Why do I write this at this time in our history?
I have the same fear that Chambers expressed in those letters. I see conservatives (and Christian conservatives as well) throwing away principles and embracing expediency, going for the short-term gain while blinded to the long-term loss of using those tactics, and eventually discrediting all efforts to return the nation to its basic Biblical morality and constitutionally conservative concepts.
We are not to be like the other side. We are to be the calm, reasoned voices, calling people back to the only truths that will sustain a culture.
Will we fulfill that calling or succumb to the temptation of typical politics? Frankly, I don’t know the answer to that. All I can say is that I’m seriously disappointed in the trend I now see.
May God have mercy on us.