Quick - - where were you on May 15th of this year?
I might just as easily ask “where were you when you learned that Jerry Falwell had died?”
In the days immediately after his death, I know where I was - - on radio talk shows throughout the United States and Canada as a “guest expert” from Townhall.com. My role in those venues was to explain in two to three minutes the impact that Falwell had on American public life (American politics in particular), and why it mattered.
This was an especially interesting task when I appeared on FM Rock radio shows with 20 and 30-something hosts, many of whom had very little knowledge of, or interest in, Fallwell. They just knew that his death was a “big news story,” and that they needed to talk about it on their shows, at least a little bit, and I was the guy available to provide the content they needed - - which was fine with me.
But whether I was being interviewed by “FM rockers,” or News Talk radio hosts, or somebody at XM or Sirius Satellite Radio, one question in particular came up on nearly every show that I did: now that Falwell is gone, who in the future is going to provide leadership on cultural and political issues for the conservative Christians in America?
It was a good question then, and still is today. And it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about for years - - since long before Mr. Falwell’s death.
At some point, I might attempt to answer this “who“ question. But today, I’m beginning a dialog about the “what” question - - that is, I am going to point out what it is that leaders among the socially conservative right need to be talking about.
This is only “part one” of my list. I will have much more to say on this subject beyond today‘s column. But if you fancy yourself a leader in this arena, either on a national, state-wide, or local level, consider what I have to say.
Starting NOW, social conservatives must “thinking economically.” I’ve talked with social conservatives who, when I ask them about economic policies, will say “I’m focused on the moral issues, not economics.”
And since when is the distribution of wealth, and goods, and services NOT a moral issue? And how could the issues of wealth creation, and caring for the poor, NOT be both economic and moral issues?
Social conservatives must consider what components of marriage, parenting, education, and individual wellbeing are NOT impacted by economic considerations. Whether it’s parents being harmed by unduly high tax burdens as they raise responsible children, or children being held hostage in failed public schools because state and local governments refuse to allow parents any choices with how their educational dollars are spent - - we’re talking about the family, AND we’re talking about economics. And they both matter.
If you still don’t think economic issues matter here, or if you don’t think there are moral, and even “spiritual” dimensions to economic concerns, then ask yourself this: How would you respond to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John Edwards, and their assertions that a “compassionate” society would never let anyone be without healthcare?
Caring for the needy is, obviously, a Judeo-Christian imperative, and when American liberals articulate their utopian visions of “universal healthcare,” it has a profound emotional appeal. Further, when they dress up these kinds of policy positions with lots of “What Would Jesus Do?” type rhetoric (as they have lately), the policies become compelling for plenty of people in the pews.
But what about the economics that underly this vision? Will government agencies really improve healthcare, and make healthcare distribution more efficient, more equitable, more just? And is it “justice” to make people more dependent upon government agencies?
Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton has already said that America has failed to create economic justice, and the solution is for government to take away wealth from certain groups of people and give away wealth to certain other groups (she has even singled-out churches in this failure - - see my Townhall column of June 11, 2007). Is that just? Is that moral? Is that a real solution to our problems?
Healthcare is but one issue, and economics is but one category of issues, that we all will face in the next election. Yet economics, as a broad category, underlies just about everything that matters. To learn more on the moral dimensions of economics, get acquainted with the Acton Institute of Grand Rapids, MI (www.acton.org). And to learn how America has tried, and failed, and succeeded with different economic policies, get Michael Barone’s book “Hard America - Soft America” and start reading now.
And stay tuned - - we have more issues to address.