The Elephant Party sent me a letter to let me know how important my commitment and support are "as we approach an election that will be a watershed moment in our nation's history." It seems like this must be the third, or is it the fourth, election in a row billed as a "watershed moment" so I have really gotten over being very impressed with the "historic" nature of our choices, which the letter goes on to inform me are "crucial" and involve "two very different visions for the future of our country."
Now we come to the bullet points, three of them, in which these crucial differences between the Republican's "vision" and that of the Democrats are to be laid out. I already know what I think the crucial differences are because the last time I checked, the Republican Party platform contained the following principles and goals with regard to abortion, destruction of embryos for research, and other life issues:
Promote adoption and abstinence, not abortion clinic referrals.
Human Life Amendment to the Constitution.
Ethical research - yes; embryo cells - no; cloning - no.
ABC for AIDS: Abstinence, Be faithful, Change behavior.
No assisted suicide.
In contrast, these are the statements of the Democrats on the some of the same issues:
We will defend the dignity of all Americans against those who would undermine it. Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare….
President Bush has rejected the calls from Nancy Reagan, Christopher Reeve and Americans across the land for assistance with embryonic stem cell research. We will reverse his wrongheaded policy. Stem cell therapy offers hope to more than 100 million Americans who have serious illnesses — from Alzheimer's to heart disease to juvenile diabetes to Parkinson's. We will pursue this research under the strictest ethical guidelines, but we will not walk away from the chance to save lives and reduce human suffering.
Where families are concerned the Republican Party platform offers the following outline:
Families are the cornerstone of our culture.
States should not recognize gay marriage from other states.
Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.
While the Democrats have this to say:
We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families…. We repudiate President Bush's divisive effort to politicize the Constitution by pursuing a "Federal Marriage Amendment." Our goal is to bring Americans together, not drive them apart.
Given the virulence of the homosexual agenda being pursued in so many public schools, there is another element of the Republican platform I also consider to be very important:
Promote school choice and home-schooling.
None of these things were mentioned in the letter. Not one. There was not so much as a nod in the direction of life issues; there was not even a vague reference to "traditional values" or "family values." Of the three bullet points two were essentially about money:
It's a choice between keeping taxes low… and creating new jobs… or bigger government and higher taxes.
It's a choice between giving individuals more freedom to decide how best to spend their money, choose their own health care and retirement… or allowing [Washington] to make decisions for you.
The third was about winning the war on terror versus, in an unimaginative display of over-the-top rhetoric, "surrender[ing]" to our enemies.
Now don't get me wrong. I think money is important. I think having lower taxes matters, because of the way taxes impact families. Family-friendly tax policies in this country could go a long way toward enabling more mothers to stay home with their children. Having a strong economy with good jobs is something else that is important to families. After all, if the family — with its rich web of connections — is the cornerstone of our culture, then every other policy point should be given its justification and context in relation to the family – shouldn't it?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly denotes this as an obligation of the civil authorites:
The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society….
The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family….
The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty "to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality, and promote domestic prosperity."
The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure… the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family… (CCC 2207-2211).
In light of this there are some aspects of the Republican Party platform that are questionable concerning families. Regarding immigration the platform says:
Only legal immigrants, through tightly controlled borders.
Amnesty encourages illegal immigration.
I certainly agree that we must secure our borders, but I want the integrity of the family ties of immigrants given priority and protection, whether they are here legally or illegally.
Regarding welfare and poverty the platform says:
Faith-based welfare grants equal with secular groups.
Move more welfare recipients off the welfare rolls.
Once again I wonder how the integrity of the family is here impacted. Faith-based groups often do a better job of encouraging marriage and family stability along with the morality that contributes to healthy families, so that is a plus. The Bush administration had some achievements in eliminating the government bias against allowing faith-based organizations to compete on a level playing field with secular ones in contracting to provide social services. Faith-based programs that have received funding include those for mentoring children of prisoners, drug treatment, prisoner re-entry, maternity group-homes, gang prevention as well as assisting the homeless. But public policy on aid to the poor has yet to embrace fully a pro-marriage and pro-family agenda that would put the necessary emphasis on fatherhood even though the need to do so has been evident for many years, as a small excerpt from this 2000 article demonstrates:
Part of the reason for the current focus on welfare-to-work strategies is that we know much more about promoting work than we do about helping couples to form and sustain healthy, mutually satisfying marriages. Moreover, marriage is something about which Americans are considerably ambivalent. Because fatherhood and marriage frequently touch upon difficult, painful, and highly personal decisions, policymakers have been reluctant to address them through public policy reforms. In addition, the awful specter of domestic violence has led some to conclude that marriage is a trap for women. Consequently, welfare reform efforts rarely have included policies to promote marriage. Instead, most efforts have proceeded with what many proponents concede is ultimately a secondary but attainable strategy: improving the way in which we help single parents in their struggle for self-sufficiency….
The problem is that strategies for promoting fatherhood and marriage are, to some extent, in conflict with those that seek to help single mothers achieve self-sufficiency through work. Indeed, a welfare system that helps single mothers become employed but ignores the need to promote fatherhood and marriage may serve only to enable unmarried women to rear children without the presence of the father. Yet, despite increasing public concern about the problems of out-of-wedlock childbearing and the absence of fathers, most welfare reform efforts to date have focused almost exclusively on moving unwed mothers into the paid labor force….
Although the public paid little attention to welfare reform's emphasis on unwed parenting, reversing the tide of fatherlessness was, indeed, a central concern of federal reform. In fact, the opening passages of the bill that established TANF addressed the need to promote marriage and responsible fatherhood. Federal legislators clearly felt that reforms should help to promote stable two-parent families. While few provisions in that law specifically addressed family structure, the bill did include a twenty-million-dollar bonus program for states that reduced out-of-wedlock births without increasing the number of abortions….
Today, the greatest single threat to the long-term well-being of our children and our communities is the increasing number of children being raised without a responsible, loving father. Our nation is known for its optimism and fondness for reforms that promise to make society safer, stronger, and richer. Yet all the social reforms we have attempted in the past, or may attempt in the future, will likely pale in comparison to the good that would come if we could turn back the tide of fatherlessness.
This is where one of the Catholic non-negotiable life issues comes in to play. Only an insanely schizoid society could pretend to be able to pursue strengthening marriage and promoting responsible (i.e. married) fatherhood while simultaneously flirting with "gay marriage," allowing homosexual adoption, and creating the civil fiction that homosexual relationships are the moral equivalent of heterosexual relationships.
Nevertheless, how to achieve immigration and welfare reform are matters about which Catholics may disagree. What I was looking for in this letter was some indication that at least one party in this country gets it when it comes to the life issues — the ones that are non-negotiable because they are based on the natural law knowable to everyone. So I carefully read this letter from the Republican National Committee only to end up shaking my head. Why did they send me this letter? Surely some cross-tabulation of databases would indicate that mine is a very pro-life household. Doesn't anyone at that party recognize that I am among the voters for whom the life issues are make it or break it? I know there are Republicans who are mere "fiscal conservatives" and who are not energized in the least by social issues, but I am not one of them and they weren't the ones who propelled Bush to two terms in the White House.
And what about the Supreme Court? Since that non-elected body has usurped legislative powers, the only way voters can affect its de facto legislating actions is through the election of the president who appoints them. In this letter there was not a single word from the RNC about the crying need for us to have people on the Supreme Court who can make sure that the Constitutional blessings of liberty are truly secured both for ourselves and our posterity — posterity who can enjoy no blessings at all from our country if they are killed while still in the womb. I remember that, before the 2004 election, getting judges on the court who might be inclined to end judicial usurpation of legislative functions and possibly overturn Roe v. Wade was a big selling point for the party. I remember, but maybe the Elephant has forgotten.