Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Danforth's Dose of Sanity

In case you missed it, John Danforth had a tremendous op-ed in the New York Times this morning. Titled "In the Name of Politics," the brief essay offers an important criticism of today's Republican party, one which I have been trying to make (not nearly as eloquently) for a long time.

"By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians," Danforth writes, giving as examples GOP support for an unprecedented constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to most forms of stem cell research, and the recent "extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube." These initiatives, which Danforth correctly deems departures from Republican principles, "can rightfully be interpreted as yielding to the pressure of religious power blocs." And this is from a man who's an ordained Episcopal minister!

Danforth makes an important point in recognizing that blame does not lie with religious conservatives who choose to be politically active. That is their right, just as it is the right of all Americans - while you or I may disagree with those views, conservatives certainly have every right to express them. The problem is instead "with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement." In a nutshell: the current Republican Party leaders have allowed the principles of Protestant evangelicals to preempt the fundamental tenets of Republican philosophy.

One of Danforth's best quips comes in the penultimate paragraph of his column: "As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around." There's no 'seems' about it, but you get the drift.

Danforth is just the kind of person who needs to be out in front saying things like this. A senator from Missouri for 18 years, he was most recently Ambassador to the UN - his unfortunate decision to resign is what resulted in the nomination of John Bolton as his replacement. His credentials as a Republican leader are unassailable, and maybe his criticisms will actually get through to those who don't already feel the same.


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