I have an urgent message in my heart, and I will speak plainly about it, as I feel I must. It concerns Tuesday’s recall election in California. First, two unhappy facts must be faced.
On all the matters that touch upon the critical moral issues, Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the evil side. This is a fact. A mere list of the positions he supports is enough to make this plain: abortion as a “right,” cloning of human beings, governmental classification of citizens by race, public benefits for sexual partners outside of marriage, disrespect for property rights against environmental extremism, repudiation of the right to bear arms – no more need be said to show that this candidate is wrong where human decency, human rights and human responsibility bear directly on political issues.
A second fact is this: Unnaturally divorced from these issues, conservatism mutates into mere immoral greed, to match the immoral lust of contemporary liberalism.
Accordingly, there is no choice in the California Recall race for people of good conscience except Sen. Tom McClintock.
But many good people – and especially conservatives in California – are in denial. They do not, or will not, see that they have but one choice.
What makes this so hard for some who profess to be conservatives to understand? Apparently, it is fair-seeming, “pragmatic” arguments that we must grasp a victory for “our party,” and that it is shrewd for Californians in the present election to choose the “lesser of two evils.” Let us consider the wisdom of these arguments.
First, as to our “victory.” Last week, we saw Schwarzenegger does not deny habitual crude offenses against young women. Rather, he theatrically, vaguely and impersonally apologizes for them, before a roaring crowd of adoring fans, admitting neither any connection between action and character, nor any need for genuine penance or reformation. Arnold had, he says, no “intention to offend.” And he “apologizes” from the stage while his hired guns blame the whole thing on a vast left-wing conspiracy. Cheers. Adulation. Let’s move on.
Does this remind you of anything? The Republicans who vote for Schwarzenegger will owe Bill Clinton an apology for having given the nation the impression that they sincerely believed character to be an issue for those claiming high office.
Our “pragmatic” fellow Republicans, yearning for Arnold to be governor because of what they imagine he will do on this or that particular policy of secondary importance, seem quite willing to forget what Washington, the Father of this Republic, always kept in mind – that the most powerful education our children get is the good or bad example of those in authority.
Such “pragmatism” seeks foolishly to raise to the level of grave responsibility and high leadership in the Republican Party a man whose prominence will establish in the public mind the false notion that Republican attacks on Clinton’s lack of character were simply partisan ploys. The problem with “speaking no ill” of fellow Republicans, and expressly shielding such “leaders” as this man, is that we must be ever after silent in the face of the very defects we would loudly and rightly call to account in a Democrat, a Libertarian or anyone else.
Such silence reduces all talk of morality to a cynical, partisan show – which precisely serves the purposes of those who are trying to drive every shred of moral concern from our political discussions. This outcome is an enduring defeat that overshadows any transitory victory of office-holding.
Now, as for the “lesser of two evils.” It is true that we must sometimes act so as to accept something bad, intending to avoid something worse. But this truth does not apply to the California Recall for two reasons. There is not merely an acceptable, but an outstanding third option before the state’s voters; and a victory for Arnold will be worse than a failure to replace the Democrats, bad as they have been.
“Republicans” like Schwarzenegger enjoying power and prestige are a worse evil than the Democrats. Because they wear the Republican label, they defuse the opposition that would otherwise be roused against the positions they take. They operate in politics as the AIDS virus operates in the body – it fools the cell into thinking it is a defender against infection, all the while silently reprogramming that same cell to work for the death of the man.
A sign of the extent of this infection is the position many who think of themselves as principled conservatives are now taking in California. Not long ago, the question facing conservatives was whether to support candidates whose commitment on the most critical moral issues was in doubt. Now many so-called conservatives are eagerly surrendering to the political triumph of a man who aggressively advertises himself as an enthusiastic liberal on the most important of these issues, the matter of life and death.
Failure to address fundamental moral issues has already brought this republic to the brink of death. The issue of abortion, for instance, does not present us with a challenge of “more or less,” in which we can rest content with only marginal progress, much less accept stalemate or conduct a limited retreat. Such a strategy may well be the permanently wisest course in some economic, or diplomatic matters.
But a nation that sanctions abortion as America does now has crossed fundamentally from blessings to curses. If we do not correct our course, we live in the last era of true liberty in America. To be a moral conservative in our time is to understand this fact, and its implications for our politics. This deep truth, not ephemeral poll numbers, is what the truly practical statesman must keep in mind.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is of the party of surrender on the question of life. Indeed, he stands with, and has always stood with, the enemy. He asserts that there is a fundamental “right to choose” death for the innocent unborn. The justification offered by his collaborators for allowing such a surrender by a “leader” of the GOP, our national pro-life party, is that the evils of a Schwarzenegger victory will be less than the evils of a Davis or Bustamante victory. This justification cannot be defended by anyone who truly believes that moral issues are of critical importance.
The essential primacy of the moral issues is precisely what conservatives supporting Schwarzenegger are forgetting, for all their alleged political shrewdness. This forgetfulness suggests a profound lack of wisdom, a loss of vision of the truly big things. In these days of fateful decision for self-government, loss of vision of the end is a worse fault than the lack of shrewdness about the means.
The Schwarzenegger corruption of the Republican Party – and apparently, of a significant portion of the conservative leadership of that party – in the name of victory threatens to undermine the very reason for the party’s existence.
The worst enemy Republicans face in the political realm is not the Democrats, but the power of evil that lurks in all hearts. In the context of this true reality, the decision to vote for Schwarzenegger is not a clever tactical calculation. It is a strategic blunder. Troy did not fall until the Trojans brought the horse into their city. The Greeks offered them a false victory, and so destroyed them. The leadership of the California Republican Party does not appear much wiser than the Trojans’, nor, I fear, will its fate be any happier.
Why have Arnold’s “conservative” supporters been so sure from the beginning that the apparent electoral weakness of McClintock, the choice of merit, was not due to their failure to support him, as they bowed before an idol of false pragmatism?
It seems that many California Republican leaders never even seriously considered the recall as an opportunity to make their real case to the people of California. As I write this, the under-funded and under-reported McClintock defeats Bustamante in head-to-head polls, with Arnold off the ballot. A vast majority in the state understands even now that Tom McClintock is the candidate most able to handle California’s fiscal crisis. Californians told pollsters, by a two-to-one margin, that McClintock won the debate, that two-thirds of them also said would be crucial to their choice on Oct. 7.
The recall had providentially presented Californians with the prospect of electing a principled moral conservative statesman to handle a crisis of government fiscal and budget policy that he has spent his entire career preparing to face. McClintock’s predictable surge in the polls from an asterisk to nearly 20 percent, as voters began to focus on the question of who would replace Davis, and before his widely watched victory in the debate, positioned him for a final surge to victory.
California Republican leaders could have viewed this moment of opportunity through the lens of the statesman, not of the director of sitcom casting. But instead of uniting behind the obvious man of the hour, they increasingly viewed McClintock’s surge as a problem, and have done their best to sabotage it.
All the clever calculations of “conservatives for Arnold” utterly disregard the demoralizing effect of such pragmatism on those who do respect their moral obligations – voters and prospective candidates alike. Such game-playing feeds the cynical reaction that disparages stands of principle as unrealistic and impractical. It tempts those who should rally round the courageous leaders raising the standard of principle to abandon them instead. All the while, our pragmatists mouth hollow words of praise for those, such as McClintock, who have consistently demonstrated their willingness to do what is right.
Tom’s supporters are called arrogant for persisting in making moral judgments. Think about that for a moment. Why is it “arrogant” to act on what human beings can know, rather than to act as if we had knowledge that can only belong to God? Is it humble to have more faith in what the pollsters extrapolate in the present, and consultants predict about the future, than in what the Lord and reason have revealed to us all as the unchanging moral truth?
We cannot know the future. We cannot even be sure of how things stand at the moment. But one thing we can know with certainty is that many California Republicans now openly prefer a candidate they acknowledge to represent evil (the “lesser” of evils, as they call it, is evil still) over one who represents what they know to be good. Only God can have full and certain knowledge of the circumstances, of who is winning and a more viable candidate. The future lies in the care of Providence. But decent men can have certain knowledge of the right, of which candidate stands for moral truth and which against it.
Instead, the “pragmatic tough-mindedness” of our strategists of Republican “victory” leaves a good, courageous and decent leader like McClintock to his own devices, and studiously avoids examining the hard consequences of that abandonment. What could still be a moment of principled Republican unity behind a candidate uniquely qualified to address the crisis in California, threatens to become instead a nationally watched step in the moral suicide of a great party.
And here the circle of surrender is completed. Conservative leaders abandoning both principle – and principled men – do so, they say, because a decent political agenda cannot win at the polls. And yet, by this very abandonment, they pursue a persistent and thoughtless course destined to ensure the very scarcity of moral leadership they claim drives them to vote for Arnold. Surely there is no foolishness like the wisdom of the proud.
So much for the strategists, and their specious arguments. Now, one brief word to the citizens.
At the end of the day, it will not be leaders, but citizens, bold to vote their consciences, who will prevail. Or, not daring to do so, who will prove the ultimate cause of defeat and disarray. No religious conservative can deny that it is a serious moral obligation of religious political leaders to stand against abortion. And yet pro-life Christians voting for Arnold would neglect the obvious corollary – that it is the moral obligation of Christian voters to support pro-life leaders, such as Tom McClintock, when they take the right stand, especially against so-called Christian politicians like Schwarzenegger, a professed Roman Catholic, who is violating this obligation of his professed faith.
This nation desperately needs leaders who have the courage and integrity to stand without apology for policies that are morally right. If we have any such leaders left, it is surely thanks to God’s grace and providence – and no thanks to the wisdom of self-terminating conservatives.
I pray to God that decent citizens will choose one of the few such men left to us in this hour of judgment for California and America.