Last time I sat down and completely articulated my personal political beliefs was on October 31, 2004, shortly before the 2004 elections. At the time, I was a supporter of President Bush and a semi-partisan Republican. This is not meant to be a complete articulation as that post was, but it is meant to articulate changes that have occurred within me.
A lot has changed in 4 years.
While I do not condemn President Bush, neither am I a supporter. In fact, I am somewhat embarrassed by my support of him. While I stand by my statements that he was a better choice than John Kerry; for any number of reasons; I do not like him. But that is past.
Over the past several years, I have come to a slow and painful realization. Actually, I think I knew it before, but I never really acknowledged it. Conservativism is not the way of the future as I once thought it was. Neither is Liberalism or Progressivism. All of them contain some element of truth that allows them to be palatable, but none of them will work alone.
Teaching and learning about the Catholic faith has shown me something that I knew dimly before, but is now brillantly obvious. The Catholic Church stands in a unique position in terms of politics. Morally and ethically, it is a conservative institution. See the Church's position on abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality (which is misunderstood as I believe I mentioned before), sexual ethics, etc. Socially, it is a liberal institution standing for the right of the people to be cared for and calling for the support of the poor and oppressed.
To my knowledge; which is admittedly sparse and not exactly unbiased; no other church stands astride the political spectrum in quite the same way. Most that are politically active are either very conservative or very liberal. Now, I may be wrong and there could very well be other churches or religions that take the same stands. If I am wrong, I have no intention of impugning or ignoring any of them. Rather, since I am Catholic, that informs much of my knowledge. If I am wrong, please enlighten me. I will appreciate the education if it is given in a spirit of love and gentle reproof.
As I have said several times, for the first time this year, I found myself in the unenviable position of being unsure as to whom I would vote for. While I did vote for McCain (see my October 27th entry for reasons), I was very unhappy about it. I do support Obama and was happy to see him win, if only because I feel that it crosses a historical threshold that we as a country needed to cross. Having a minority elected as President has certainly brought out the crazies, but it is forcing us to confront certain realities about race relations. While I do not think we are as bad off as some suggest, we certainly have a way to go. Hopefully, Obama's election will give us a good shove in that direction.
In my aforementioned October 27th post, I mentioned that I think we need an equivalent of a Christian Democratic party. Basically; if my memory is serving me correctly; this party stood for social justice and for more traditional values and ethics. This seems to me to be the best party. I am not talking about a Church sponsored party; obviously for Constitutional reasons; but rather a party that takes the social justice aspects of the Democratic party- good wages, care for the poor and less fortunate, etc.- and combines it with the more traditional ethical and moral values of the Republican Party. In a certain sense, it would be the opposing side to the Libertarian party which is liberal ethically and morally and conservative economically (social justice sort of falls under this).
None of this is a cure-all for the ultimate problem, and that is the ideologues who currently run the political debate in America. Whether they are bloggers, pundits, obnoxious talk show hosts like Limbaugh or O'Reilly, members of the media, members of special interest groups, or what not, these ideologues show us a world where there are only two sides and an uncrossable chasm in between. Whether there is socialism and capitalism or there is progressive democracy and fascism, these ideologues show no sense of shading. They take everything and boil it down to "us v. them" which is quite possibly the most lazy and dangerous paradigm for us to use. Things are not that simple. There are always shades in between these two points. This is where I have to; though it totally galls me; admire Bill Clinton. Although an unprincipled and morally bankrupt man, he tried to walk a path between the two sides. And for the most part, he was remarkably successful.
This is what I hope Obama can do for us. From what I have seen and heard about him, he is a principled man who sincerely wants to change things. I hope he can do it. We need public and healthy debate of issues to keep America strong and on the right path. We need people to see that there are ways to compromise without ignoring your principles. We need to banish the ideologues to their proper places on the fringes of society. Heard of course, but not running the debate as they do now. We need to work together as one country to fix what Bush and his failed policies have broken. We need to stop blaming everyone but ourselves for our troubles.
At this point, I want to say that if Maryland had an open primary, I would change my party affiliation to Independent. As it is, I am in serious consideration as to whether or not I should become a Democrat. I really don't know.
Over the last several years, my political paradigm has shifted dramatically in certain ways and not so much in others. It is going to take time for me to assimilate the changes and come to a rational and reasoned decision. Will keep you apprised.