The 2004 presidential election has been depicted as pitting those of faith against secularists. But this is really inaccurate. Every human being has faith. No one could function without it. It is not faith that distinguishes one person from another, but what it is they have faith in.
I call it the "faith factor" that now distinguishes many in the Republican Party from many in the Democratic Party, and it's the key factor that Democrats should be examining as they assess the crisis of existence that they now have on their hands.
The "faith factor" problem of some Democrats is not that they do not have faith. It is that some have faith in the wrong things.
The Democratic gospel preaches an all-encompassing faith that politics and government will solve our personal problems. Not earning enough money? Don't have a high-school diploma? Not happy with your insurance policy or retirement plan? Is your daughter pregnant? Feel in general that your life is out of control? Turn to President, Senator or Congressman Democrat and get it solved.
Many Democratic leaders and pundits are expressing consternation at Republican Party claims that it is the party of values. They claim that Democrats have the moral high ground and that their problem is communication. But check out what they call values: Government-run health care, government-run schools, government-run personal retirement and a politically defined and managed overall sense of social justice.
This stuff simply doesn't work, and more and more Americans understand this. The Democratic Party is now perceived, for good reason, like a late-night infomercial selling products that will make you instantaneously rich, thin and beautiful. All that you need is faith that the salesman is telling the truth and a credit card.
Social Security is a perfect issue to look at to understand the difference between the Republican and Democratic takes on the world and to understand the great Democratic credibility gap.
Edward Prescott, this year's winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, recently summed up the problem with our Social Security system this way: "Government has made promises it can't keep." Prescott then goes on to accurately convey what Americans have been hearing from business-as-usual politicians about this issue: "Don't worry. We'll figure something out. You'll get your Social Security payments. Trust us."
This is exactly what Americans heard from John Kerry about Social Security in this recent presidential campaign and this is what they are hearing from the Democratic Party today.
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