Governing is more difficult than agitating. Our current leaders, like all their predecessors, are finding the realities of domestic demands and global conflagrations more challenging than the academic and policy papers they serenely composed before their ascent to power.
Tea Party Leaders and other aspiring conservatives who "want their country back" need to think deeply about what person-centered, principled, and positive solutions they offer in contrast to current policies. It is easy to oppose and react - and much more difficult to dig out of a half-century hole both parties have dug for the country.
Everyone is angry. Obama supporters accuse their opponents of premature judgment. After all, Obama inherited the Republican mess. Some leftists think that anyone who opposes Obama's policies is a closet racist. On the right, people are angry at the unaccountable use of TARP dollars, unemployment and housing realities and government takeover of institutions.
We must turn anger in to action, not merely agitation. Rallies are fine and emotions are not evil, but they are not enough. Let's stop all the nonsensical overstatements about "civility." We DO need more civility and less name-calling - this is a theme I have written about for seven years. But it is disingenuous of the left to excoriate the right about their "intemperate and violent" language while they are barely two years away from calling for Bush's assassination and honoring former terrorists as important social activists. It is not helpful to the conservative cause to label opponents without evaluating their ideas and policies - and offering real alternatives.
Here are my challenges to activists on both sides of the political debate:
1. We must find a center of moral values and personal responsibility that is an irreducible minimum for social coherence. We can argue on economics and health care; however, we must hold each other and our children accountable for attitudes and actions. We must honor compassion and virtue and marginalize narcissism and immoral behavior. Self-control, marital fidelity, generosity, partnership and liberty need to return to the center of our thinking.
2. Conservatives must offer solutions that rebuild infrastructure, hospitably receive immigrants, unleash wealth creation and provide basic necessities for the aspiring and the needy. The federal government still matters, but local and state ingenuity can be reinvigorated.
3. Liberals must demonstrate fiscal responsibility, including the reality that private enterprise (yes, properly overseen) is vital to the future. Overtaxing the productive will only reduce opportunity. Liberals must also understand (as Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy did) that military strength still matters and militant Islam is our greatest threat.
4. Deficit spending must end today. There is enough money to meet basic needs without more red ink. Ending the federal credit card will recharge the economy and prevent us from being a complete vassal to China and other global interests who do not share our values.
5. Conservatives must eschew and renounce all forms of ideology that marginalize any race or religion. Liberals must do the same, apologizing for their mistreatment of Catholics, Evangelicals, and Orthodox Jews. Conservatives and liberals must unite against all forms of totalitarianism and invite people of all faiths or none to join in creating a world free from fear.
6. Americans overwhelmingly support the traditional definition of family AND want everyone to have equal civil liberties. We can create categories of adult relationships that enable non-traditional folks to have all the access to care and the legal protections they need, without forcing Americans to agree with their private choices. This will require both sides cooling their rhetoric. As a traditionalist on marriage, I am not homophobic. As a minister, I do not want my exposition of Scripture labeled "hate speech." Conversely, I do not want my LGBT neighbors to live in fear or have less freedom. We can find a way forward if we have the courage.
7. We must stop the holocaust of abortion and stem the coming genocide of the elderly. Access to non-lethal birth control, adoption and community embrace of moms and families along with serious ethical reflection on the end of life must be part of our future. We must stand against all active euthanasia while recognizing the challenges and costs of end-of-life care. It is never someone's "duty to die" (contra the former Governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm). We must not criminalize those who choose abortion, while creating the environment that makes that choice undesirable.
8. We do not need to be the world's policeman, but we must be ready to defend liberty (including helping our allies) and confront terrorism. A mobile, well-equipped and judiciously deployed military is a cornerstone of freedom. Conservatives need to sharpen their pencils on defense spending waste as well as welfare fraud.
"Anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires." St. James was right. We can do better if we will take a few deep breaths, reach out our hands and get to work.