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Friday, January 04, 2008

I've been a long time away, but it is the night after the caucuses in Iowa, and we had two big winners: Barack Obama, and Mike Huckabee. To me, they are the most likable of all the candidates. If they should win their parties' nominations, it would demonstrate that the young evangelicals have arrived. We are still figuring ourselves out politically; enormous shifts may still occur. Many of us are just learning that the scope of God's redemptive concern goes beyond the personal salvation of individuals. As a consequence, we should expect a statist, leftish hue to both nominees backed by evangelicals. The first step for many of us is to realize that God is not single-issue anything. The next phase is the realization that candidates on offer in the past may not have been holistic in their concern. The third phase would be the continuing wrestling with individual issues, abandonment of certain reductionisms adopted in idealistic and religious zeal. For an economic conservative, this is the phase where Christian statism is abandoned, and we come to terms with the notion that simply caring about a problem is not enough; zeal is no shield for error, in theology or politics. Many have overreacted to the heavy reliance of the GOP on evangelicals in my lifetime by simply becoming Democrats, out of an infantile need to be contrarian. If the Democrats remain committed to statism, (not to mention abortion) the dreams of these hesitantly liberal young evangelicals will wither. And the GOP has moved toward statism as well; the dreams of its fiscally liberal young evangelicals will be dashed as well. Statism never has been vindicated, in the sense that in America, it recedes in response to political pressure. I think that a future President Huckabee would face a pretty stiff primary challenge from the right on economic issues, if he governs as expected. I think a President Obama is destined to disillusion evangelicals on social and economic issues. If the Republicans fail to repudiate their statism this year, or in four years, expect the Democrats to move right to take up the slack. (It would be a shock if the parties swapped bases like this, but parties exist solely to win elections, not to carry ideological banners.) Obama may already be doing this; wait and see.
President Bush is not now, nor ever was, a conservative in the economic sense. He is, at best, a Kennedy "growth liberal," to borrow a phrase from (I think) history professor Dr. Robert Collins of the University of Missouri--a mix of pro-growth initiatives (especially on taxes) with welfare statism. Christians voted enthusiastically for him. (Whether they'd do so again if they could depends largely on their view of economics.) Incidentally, the JFK similarities don't end there; Bush's foreign policy has echoes of JFK's muscular internationalism; compare JFK's Inaugural Address with Bush's Second Inaugural if you don't believe me.
It's axiomatic that America leans center-right, but the question is: which right?