Common Ground Isn’t Always on the Right
A recent Mother Jones article (not yet online) about Hillary Clinton’s membership in the secretive Fellowship prayer group and the relationship between her faith and her politics makes some fair observations, but it is also laden with misunderstanding and insinuation.
A conspicuous example is the contention that when the Fellowship “convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics…the politics always move rightward.â€
By its very nature, a politics that transcends left and right requires an ideological flexibility and innovative mindset that enables us to find common ground. This can incorporate several dynamics: liberals moving right, conservatives moving left, finding original solutions, recognizing shared ideals, or any combination of these. To say that among Senate coreligionists the politics always moves rightward ignores not only these other possibilities, but also the recent record of distinctly leftward shifts.
Take health care. Conservatives will always stick to their rhetorical guns about health savings accounts, consumer choice and such, but look at their votes. Shortly before the August recess, 18 Republicans voted for a Democratic program to spend $35 billion to cover 9 million uninsured children, not with tax credits or subsidized health savings accounts, but at the full expense of federal and state governments. That is a leftward swing, even if it’s not universal healthcare.
Take global warming. While we don’t yet have greenhouse gas emission caps or a carbon tax, religious groups and scientific consensus are pressing Republican Senators leftward into the realm of reality. James Inhofe is a stalwart of climate change denial, but only a few years ago his was considered a mainstream conservative position. Talk is cheap, but it’s hard to say there’s been a rightward swing when their entire frame on the most pressing and financially consequential issue of our era has been discredited.
It is certainly possible for a shadowy religious group to exert rightward pressure on liberal members who seek common ground solutions. The Mother Jones article even provides a couple of examples. However, to say that these liberals bridge builders always become more conservative is to ignore the fact that the common ground isn’t always found on the right.