I have, for the longest time, been convinced that the Republican candidates have a very slim chance of beating Barack Obama without a struggling economy. And while I still think it is true, I think the Democrats have handed the GOP a gift that could be turned into victory if the GOP plays its cards well.We are entering deja vu all over again.On September 12, 2009, Janet Hook wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “[s]ome Republicans worry that the healthcare debate is reinforcing an unflattering image of them as the ‘Party of No.'” Bob Inglis (R-SC), who would go down to defeat in a primary at the hands of the tea party in 2010, gave voice to many Republican leaders at the time when he said, “People are upset, but they expect leaders to remain calm and find solutions. . . . If you don’t have a plan about how to lead, why would anyone give you the majority?”By the end of the year it was taken as objective fact. Being the “Party of No” would kill the GOP in 2010. On television objective analysts, Democratic partisans, reporters, and “Republican leaders on background” all spoke of pending disaster for a Republican Party that refused to work with Barack Obama and said “no” to everything.On February 15, 2010, Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post wrote of Fred Malek, an aide to President Nixon and big Republican donor starting a group called “American Action.” In an interview with the Washington Post, Malek openly fretted, “We are a center-right-majority nation, but we are not getting through to the American public and we are becoming increasingly defined as a party of ‘no’.”About this time, the full chorus of Republican operatives tied to the establishment, Democratic partisans, and objective analysts were all in a bubble predicting doom for the Party of No.On July 15, 2010, giving voice to many inside the beltway, columnist Doyle McManus wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Without that kind of clear, near-unanimous statement, Cantor and his allies argue, Republicans leave themselves vulnerable to being painted by Democrats as the “party of no” — and, worse, as the party that voters rejected in 2008.”Democrats went so far as to turn out polls showing voters really, actually did approve of Obamacare and would punish Republicans for voting against it. Republican leaders chewed their fingernails on background in the Washington Post, which over the campaign season ran 82 stories about the dreaded “Party of No.” The New York Times ran even more.We know how 2010 turned out. It turned out the voters wanted a party of no. The Democratic losses in November of 2010, down to the municipal level across the country, were the most devastating since the late 1800’s.Fast forward to the present. Objective analysts, Democratic partisans, and “Republican leaders on background” are worried about the GOP defending religious organizations against the Health and Human Services mandate to provide contraception and abortifacient drugs for free for female employees. According to those in the know, 99% of women (a statistic from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute treated as gospel by every right thinking person) use birth control and this is a “women’s health issue.” Those women are trending against the social conservative constraints of the GOP. This is going to be bad.Oh, and there is even polling — just like with Obamacare. This is the Party of No all over again.
The Gang of 500 and Republican Leaders who openly pondered the disaster that awaited in 2010 because of the Party of No label are openly pondering the fate of the GOP now for siding with the all male bishops.Except outside the beltway and away from the spin of women predisposed anyway to vote for Barack Obama, it is not as clear cut. Most employees at these institutions recognize they are there by choice. Many share the values of the organization. Other Christians, already convinced Barack Obama is at war with their faith, are speaking up for Catholics in venues and ways rarely seen in this country. A weird alliance of Orthodox Jews and Christians, Muslims, Catholics, Lutherans, and Southern Baptists have condemned the President’s regulation and rebuffed his “compromise” as semantics.But the Beltway Crowd knows it is a women’s issue, not a religious liberty issue. They know it is harmful to the GOP. But it might soon become a jobs issue — a jobs issue that hurts the Democrats, though everyone in Washington will, I suspect, still see it as a women’s health issue.This past weekend, Cardinal George of Chicago announced the Catholic Church would be shutting down its charities, adoption agencies, and hospitals rather than sell out or give in.
What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down. . . .If you haven’t already purchased the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012, I would suggest you get one as a souvenir. On page L-3, there is a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, administrators and religious sponsors. Each name signifies the love of Christ to people of all classes and races and religions. Two Lents from now, unless something changes, that page will be blank.
Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia likewise hints at the same in strong terms about good versus evil.
The American Jesuit scholar Father John Courtney Murray once said that “Anyone who really believes in God must set God, and the truth of God, above all other considerations.” Here’s what that means. Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics. God will demand an accounting. Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family. God will demand an accounting. And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation’s life. God will demand an accounting. As individuals, we can claim to believe whatever we want. We can posture, and rationalize our choices, and make alibis with each other all day long — but no excuse for our lack of honesty and zeal will work with the God who made us. God knows our hearts better than we do. If we don’t conform our hearts and actions to the faith we claim to believe, we’re only fooling ourselves. . . .Catholics need to wake up from the illusion that the America we now live in – not the America of our nostalgia or imagination or best ideals, but the real America we live in here and now – is somehow friendly to our faith. What we’re watching emerge in this country is a new kind of paganism, an atheism with air-conditioning and digital TV. And it is neither tolerant nor morally neutral.As the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb observed more than a decade ago, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized.” But even more importantly, she added, “As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant. The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral – the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called – is now seen as pathological” and exclusionary, concealing the worst forms of psychic and physical oppression.My point is this: Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God.
At Democratic Representative Kathy Hochul’s town hall meeting in New York State, the Congresswoman informed her constituents that “we’re not looking to the Constitution” regarding the HHS regulation. She was confronted by angry male and female constituents livid over what they see as an attack on religious liberty in the country.But reporters, analysts, most pundits, and even some Republican Leaders, trapped in the hyper educated bubble of D.C., are ignoring it all, just as they did what was really happening with the “Party of No.”Now today, just as many Christians are locking in that Barack Obama is at war with their faith, Senator Dick Durbin is accusing the GOP of being at war with Islam. Couple Democratic attacks on religious organizations and accusations that the GOP is at war with Islam and I suspect we’re seeing a strategic opening for the GOP to win the White House back on, of all things, the culture issue.But they’ll have to play their cards right and not shy away from attacking President Obama and the Democrats on these issues. I do really wonder if we might yet see a silent majority rear its head again in 2012 reaffirming the center-right nature of the United States.