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These are discouraging times to be a moral conservative and the
temptation to turn away from politics is real and apparently growing
stronger. Moral conservatives seem to be particularly tempted to turn
away from Republican politics. I believe this would be a fatal mistake
because, for all the halcyon calmness of today’s peace and prosperity,
we are operating now in what I think is a fateful moment for American
politics and history. It is a moment that will decide the fate of the
Republican Party and will, in so doing, contribute greatly to deciding
— for better or worse — the fate of liberty in this nation.
It’s time we saw what’s coming. The Republican Party is in trouble.
Many people in its leadership do not understand the depth of that
trouble and if they don’t wake up before it’s too late, the party will,
in this election, be destroyed. The Republican Party leadership now
closing ranks around George W. Bush appears to believe that it can
abandon our national moral principles. They are attempting to jettison
the pro-life plank and place a pro-abortion nominee on the national
ticket, believing that the Republican ground troops and the American
people overall will still support the GOP because it is the ‘lesser of
The correct word for this attitude is “presumption.” The Republican
Party backroom strategists are presuming that the party’s conservative
base will ultimately choose to seek political victory even at the
expense of abandoning the deepest moral principles of American life.
They may be surprised to find out just how stubborn a people of faith
can be when its leaders attempt to lead it into sin.
I, for one, would rather merely watch the triumph of evil in sorrow
than be implicated in helping bring about that triumph. There are
millions of other Americans who understand that, whether as man or as
citizen, our responsibility requires that we stand firm where God wants
us to stand. If the Republican Party refuses to stand there, we will
not join them in their abandonment of truth.
But this is just what people of faith have always been like. Why do
the Republican bosses think they can convince us otherwise this time?
One reason is that moral conservative leaders have encouraged them to
think so. In fact, I will say bluntly that of the nationally known
moral conservative leaders in America — those who are explicitly
identified as prominent representatives of the moral conservative
position on political matters — Jim Dobson is the only one left whose
judgment I trust.
You can go right down the list of the others. Pat Robertson sold the
Family Channel to the Fox Network and has, along with Jerry Falwell,
announced his willingness to look the other way as a pro-abortion
nominee goes on the ticket. Gary Bauer’s abandonment of principle in
endorsing pro-choice John McCain remains incomprehensible to me but it
remains equally undeniable. Republican Machiavellis looking for reasons
to believe that they can abandon moral principle and still keep moral
conservatives in the fold have received ample encouragement from
“leaders” like these.
But it is to Dr. Dobson, who still represents the epitome of moral
conservative integrity, that we should look for our example. He has
made clear his unwavering resolve to stand where God wants us to stand,
including to not support the Republican Party or vote for its nominee if
the pro-life plank is gutted.
I know that fear of Al Gore is supposed to keep us on the
reservation. We are told that if we only give-up a little bit of the
truth and sacrifice a bit of principle we can get most of what we want.
But the abandonment of principle will eventually receive its just
recompense; the laws of nature and of a just God simply will not permit
a people that has abandoned the discipline of justice to continue
enjoying the blessings of liberty. The only thing that we will
accomplish by voting for a squishy compromise that has abandoned the
truth is to stand on the day after judgment on the wrong side of God’s
We must believe that if we find it in our hearts to stand firm we
will find also a strength sufficient to move this nation in the right
direction. There is no other solution. Putting a pro-abort on the
ticket or weakening the pro-life plank in order to attract new voters to
join the lukewarm Republican Party will not work. It will bring us
instead the dual defeat of moral collapse and electoral disaster. And
the only fruit of our willingness to “compromise” will be that, instead
of being proud of upholding a standard that we trust will ultimately
prevail, we’ll just have to be ashamed of ourselves.
I’d rather stand for what’s right — even if that cause temporarily
loses — and wake-up the day after an election knowing that my soul is
still in God’s hands. That’s an infinitely better course than to
compromise what’s right, lose anyway, and wake-up after an election
having neither victory nor God’s favor.
The truth we must face is that there is no lukewarm and comfortable
way to stand within the tradition of the American Founders, who elevated
our national politics by founding human justice on God’s will. There is
no merely expedient and safe way to embrace the great principle that our
rights and dignity do not depend on human calculation but on our
convicted willingness to act in faith on the truth that God is the
source of right and dignity. There is no coward’s way to turn to these
truths and still receive the courage we need to stand together in their
name and prevail. If we seriously intend to attempt the preservation of
any of this patrimony of American liberty, then we must attempt it with
a whole heart and with a whole will. Now, more than ever, it is up to
people of faith to carry this wholeheartedness, in every way we possibly
can, into the deliberations of our party.
Some will suggest that in speaking this way, at the moment of G. W.
Bush’s apparent triumph, I am somehow turning against the Republican
Party. In fact, I speak from the deepest love of this party. I revere
the tremendous role the Republican Party has played, from its very
beginning, in helping Americans understand who we are and must be.
Through Lincoln’s wisdom, the Republican Party was born as a great
national teacher of the supreme importance of the great principles of
the Declaration. It has been one of the chief institutional defenders
of the truths that define our national character and enable us to remain
one nation in spite of our enormous diversity. I love the party that
stands for these things in the same way I love my country — because
each is, in its way, a providential vessel of the truths of nature and
God that are the most important things in life. But that very love
requires that I not stand silently by while those providential vessels
are gutted of their soul. It is no act of affection to remain passive
and silent while the one you love is lobotomized.
Everything I have heard about the preparations for the Republican
Convention in Philadelphia tells me that it is fixing to go the wrong
way. As things stand now, the convention this summer will be the scene
of an attempted hijacking of the Party of Lincoln. That’s why, however
many delegates G. W. Bush has, all Republicans who care about the future
of the country should spend the next few months working as hard as we
can to make sure that the convention is not the disaster it is shaping
up to be. We must do the work necessary to force the convention
planners to respect our heartfelt commitment. The dedication of people
at the grass roots to the conservative views and principles that are
grounded in the bedrock truths of our nation’s founding must be
represented at the convention. If it is not, the party will not come
out of Philadelphia alive.
Those of us who take pride in the moral conservative label need to
remember now that at the heart of morality is virtue, and that virtuous
people do the right thing consistently — in season and out of season.
Virtuous people work hard when others feel like quitting. We need to
show our virtue — our mettle — right now. We need to communicate with
those wielding influence within the Republican leadership — at the RNC,
in the Congress, in the campaigns of Bush and others. We must
demonstrate that the moral conservative grass roots is watching and
cannot be taken for granted. We will succeed only if we make the
powerbrokers around Bush understand that if they abandon the truth,
then, when the smoke clears in November, many millions of voters they
are counting on will have abandoned them. We must make clear to them
that a Republican Party which abandons conservative principle will never
again win a major election in this country.
If we get this message across to them, we may be able to pull them
back from the brink. If we soften it, they will think that we are
signaling our intention to join them in the compromise of principle
which they so desperately want all of us to make.
Our battle is not just to save the Republican Party but to preserve a
political instrument that is today probably the only one capable of the
principled action on a national scale necessary to preserve our liberty.
We must work to save the Republican Party from choosing the path of
cowardly and senile self-destruction because we know that it has a
higher calling — and can have a better destiny. The Party of Lincoln
can once again offer the nation the opportunity to return to the track
of principle which will secure our better future. That is why, however
tempting it is to turn away from the distasteful task of demanding
attention from the empty suits planning the Bush coronation, our humble
politicking in the days to come can really make a difference in keeping
alive the hope that liberty and self-government will still be the legacy
that we leave for our children.