Commenting on Pat Robertson’s latest outrage may seem like the blogospheric equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, but I will try to add a bit of value by offering a theological perspective on the Rev’s persistent habit of asserting that God Almighty will smite anyone who disagrees with Robertson’s views on society and politics. Certainly every religious person of any faith tries to do God’s will, and to humbly try to discern it in all public and private decisions. But it’s a peculiarity of fundamentalists (again, of every faith), and of the Christian Right in particular, to embrace their own interpretations of God’s Will as clear, certain and infallible, and to attribute a willful disobedience towards the divine order to anyone who might happen to hold a different interpretation. In the end, this tendency leads its practitioners dangerously close to the position that they literally speak for God on any matter they decide to talk about. In Pat Robertson’s case, he’s gone well over that line, and apparently thinks his judgments and God’s are identical, which to my point of view is self-idolatrous and indeed blasphemous. I’ve speculated at length elsewhere that this fanatical certainty that God has a clear position on every secular matter–and that dissenters know this and are consciously in rebellion against God–reflects the dire spiritual danger today’s cultural warriors have risked by providing religious sanction to the entirely secular conservative agenda they have chosen to emphasize over every task. After all, if they’re wrong in thinking that the clear lesson of Holy Scripture for today’s Christians is to criminalize abortion, demonize gay people, and reverse the changing gender roles of recent centuries, then they are the kind of “false prophets” that Holy Scripture warns us all to fear and reject, right? In that sense, Robertson stands out less for the breathtaking arrogance of his pronouncements, than for his remarkable lack of discretion in broadcasting them regularly.Still, you have to wish he’d finally retire and share his views less broadly, if only because of the scandal he so often brings to his faith and his country. (Wikipedia has an excellent summary of his fatuous fatwahs over the years).When I first heard that the Rev had breezily announced Ariel Sharon’s stroke was a direct Act of God, like many Christians, and many Americans, my first thought was please shut up. Or, to quote one of the preachers in the repertoire of the late Richard Pryor: “How long? How long? How long–must this b—s— go on?”
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
I read a Thomas Friedman column this week that really required a smackdown. So I supplied one at New York:
How much political capital should Democrats invest in a probably doomed effort to save the political career of Liz Cheney? Earlier this week, Never Trump Republican Linda Chavez penned a column urging Wyoming Democrats to take a dive this November in order to give the incumbent a chance to survive as an independent, assuming (as it safe) that Cheney will be purged in her own party’s primary. And now, in an apparent coincidence, in comes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggesting a far more radical step by Democrats to align themselves with the small slice of Republicans who follow Cheney’s example in repudiating Donald Trump. He wrote:
“Is that what America needs in 2024 — a ticket of Joe Biden and Liz Cheney? Or Joe Biden and Lisa Murkowski, or Kamala Harris and Mitt Romney, or Stacey Abrams and Liz Cheney, or Amy Klobuchar and Liz Cheney? Or any other such combination.”
Friedman phrases this as a question, but clearly he thinks it’s a good idea given the “existential moment” America would face if Trump is allowed to regain the presidency in 2024. It’s a bit of a loaded question, too, since it postulates that nothing short of a previously unimaginable “sacrifice” by Democrats and Never Trump Republicans alike can stop Trump — and that it would, in fact, succeed in stopping Trump.
I certainly agree that Democrats dumping Kamala Harris to give their vice-presidential nomination to a conservative Republican who opposes legalized abortion and is a militarist by conviction and heredity would be a “sacrifice,” to put it very mildly. It would also be very, very weird. Friedman cites the recent establishment of a mind-bending coalition government in Israel to thwart Bibi Netanyahu as a development comparable to what he is suggesting. But as he acknowledges, Israel has a parliamentary system in which multiparty coalitions are the rule rather than the exception. A presidential system in which parties invariably run separate tickets for the top job is another thing altogether.
The U.S. has had exactly one example of multiparty fusionism in a presidential election. In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Republicans nominated Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee — then serving as U.S. military governor of Tennessee — to run with Lincoln on a “Union” ticket. The experiment did not turn out well, beginning with Johnson’s drunken inaugural address in 1865 and continuing with the racist solidarity he exhibited toward ex-Confederates after Lincoln’s assassination, culminating in his impeachment and near removal from office. There are important reasons politicians sort themselves out into major parties, which should be apparent in an era of polarization over issues other than the scofflaw behavior of Donald Trump.
Is the threat of Trump’s return to the White House the equivalent of the U.S. Civil War? Not in itself, I would contend, though that horrific development could lead eventually to grave conditions comparable if not equal to a civil war. The premise that a Biden-Cheney fusion ticket would uniquely doom Trump to failure is even more dubious. There has never been much evidence of a mass following for Never Trump Republicans, and such as it is, it is mostly composed of people who would (and did in 2020) gladly vote for Biden and Harris. The baleful effect that replacing Harris with Cheney on the ticket would have on Democratic turnout could easily offset or exceed the alleged benefits of bipartisan and trans-ideological fusion.
So Democrats should say thanks, but no thanks, to Friedman for the idea of submitting their party to some sort of unwieldy and unnatural coalition of national salvation, so long as there is the slightest possibility of beating Trump the old-fashioned way. Liz Cheney deserves great respect for the courage she has shown in defying Trump at the expense of her own career, and if Biden is reelected with her support, perhaps she deserves an ambassadorship, a minor Cabinet post, or a major sub-Cabinet position. But she has no business being at the top of the line of succession to a Democratic president.