I was going to write you a short note to congratulate you (I guess) for becoming the first officially-announced candidate for president…in a primary season whose first election is still more than a year away, for a general election even more distant than that. But we both know that I wouldn’t have been sincere, so I didn’t do it. I know how you hate the phoniness that’s unfortunately so typical of politics, and God knows I don’t want to add to it.
I think I understand why you announced when you did—to try to get commitments from big money donors before they sign up with Jeb, and to capitalize on any remaining Tea Party fervor that hasn’t just naturally bubbled off since November. I take it you feel that was worth the chance, even if it flies in the face of the fact that in recent times the first person to announce does not end up winning. And I guess I understand why you announced where you did—forsaking stages in both the nation’s capital as well as your state’s capital, and even your hometown here in Houston, you chose a setting deep in the heart of the Christian extremist movement to say loud and clear, I am here to be the president of Born Again America and the rest of you better watch your step.
What the hell, it’s your campaign…do it however you want. I will note that while you have the advantage of at least being an alternative to another Clinton, or yet another Bush—a not insubstantial advantage, to my mind—you are also following in the footsteps of Barack Obama by aiming for the top after having barely dipped your toe in an elective office. Your hubris is showing, buddy, and I imagine they had something to say about that back at Faith West Academy and Second Baptist.
Can you win? There is so much time before anyone casts the first vote that actually means something, and so many unknowns that could go one way or another during that time—and that’s both the known unknowns as well as the unknown ones—it’s impossible to say. So sure, I guess you could win…and I could finally break 80 on the golf course. I can get you the names of some folks who can help quantify that possibility for you, if you’re interested.
So as you set off on this adventure, no doubt intensely secure in your belief in yourself, I’d suggest looking out for this one way that you might be able to expand your appeal: try to be less of an asshole. It couldn’t hurt.
I used to be completely enamored of politics. I was interested in the government issues that were discussed, and intrigued by how professional politicians figured out how to win support from their colleagues and the voters, and proud to see how the system was used to pass laws meant to support the rights and freedoms upon which our country was established. But the system has moved away from me over the years.
For me America’s politics has become more and more grating as it’s become less about political issues and more about Christian fundamentalism. I learned about government and politics in a time and a place where government and politics were not seen as a means to enforce some any religious orthodoxy through law; since the law said everyone had freedom to practice their faith, or not to practice one at all, it didn’t occur to me that religions had anything to worry about.
The veil started lifting from my eyes in the 1980 election campaign. I was a recent college graduate and news reporter trying to comprehend the strident religious rhetoric from the Rev. Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority: wasn’t it out-of-place for this preacher to be mixing religion and politics? In time I came to understand that a group interest based on religious belief was as valid as any other group interest in an election, but I was never comfortable with the sub rosa assurances from Falwell and his colleagues that their political position came with a Holy Imprimatur (“I’m God, and I approve this message.”)
Today, I see that a goodly portion of the people whom we politely refer to as social conservatives would more accurately characterized as Christian extremists who would like nothing more than to live in a semi-fundamentalist Christian theocracy, despite their declared love for the United States Constitution which expressly forbids that. Granted, they have shown some, uh, flexibility in insisting they support the original intent of the document throughout, but cherry-picking those passages that support their position on an issue while ignoring all those which don’t. But I give them credit: they played within the system, they played by the rules, and they’ve all but taken over the Republican Party.
Today I found this thoughtful video editorial at The Daily Beast: Michelle Goldberg gives some props to the religious right while gently scolding the pouters on the left who say they’ve given up on President Obama and electoral politics because they haven’t gotten everything they wanted since he was elected.
Maybe it was the Reagan Revolution; maybe it was the Goldwater Generation; but conservatives have made the very vivid point that persistence pays off–there are elements at home today in the GOP’s ever-narrowing tent that neither Reagan nor Goldwater would have ever thought would be accommodated. It’s an object lesson that the Republican fiscal conservatives, and the moderate-progressive-liberal-independent plurality of American citizens, need to take to heart.