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 Are You “Ready”? 

November 9, 2004 
As the Democrats reflect on their shockingly broad defeat last week, Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Senator Barbara Boxer of California has unwittingly explained one reason for it: The country, she says, isn’t “ready” for same-sex marriage.

Notice her choice of words. She didn’t say the idea is wrong, or immoral, or self-contradictory, or just nuts. It’s only, well, premature. The Democrats will keep pushing for it, wearing down resistance until the courts can impose it on us. This is the way they do business.

John Kerry didn’t exactly repudiate the idea either. He just said he and John Edwards believe that marriage is between a man and a woman (though they favor civil unions for homosexuals). He didn’t slam the door on the notion once and for all. The missing word — the one millions of voters wanted to hear — was Never! They heard it from President Bush.

Now the Democrats are talking about their need to say more about “faith” and “values.” Good luck. The country has learned to decode their attempts to appropriate red-state shibboleths. Kerry’s faith-talk didn’t fool many Catholics (more than half the Catholic votes went to the Protestant candidate), and his soldier-talk didn’t fool many hawks.

The Democrats’ real problem is not so much what they talk about, as the disingenuous way they talk about matters of faith and morals. Abortion is not killing; it’s just “choice,” though the aborted child gets no choice. Don’t they know how phony they sound? They yell about constitutional rights (equating specious court decisions with the U.S. Constitution) and the separation of church and state (which they misconstrue) and keeping government out of the bedroom (abortions aren’t performed in bedrooms) and on and on, in dogged slogans, clichés, and fallacies.

Their approach to this matter, which haunts every campaign even when it isn’t openly discussed, includes smearing their opponents as “religious fanatics.” For a party that’s forever urging tolerance, pluralism, and diversity, this is an odd tactic: The Democrats tolerate no diversity among themselves on abortion. Even Teresa Heinz Kerry had to stop expressing qualms about it early in the campaign, and no anti-abortion speakers were permitted at the last few Democrat conventions. Winning back religious voters will take more than a superficial charm offensive. It will take a kind of conviction the Democrats don’t have.

[Breaker quote: The Democrats' search for faith]]After more than 30 years, the country still isn’t quite “ready” for legal abortion. And the Democrats think they can win Christians over with new, Christian-friendly slogans which they obviously don’t mean? They are proving only their contempt for the Christian vote they have done so much to alienate for decades.

C.S. Lewis once said he had never known a convinced Christian who didn’t have a strong belief in Hell. Christianity is much more than the belief that we should all be nice to each other; it’s a belief about the ultimate stakes of life, salvation and damnation. But it’s not considered nice to talk about this grave subject in public, so politicians naturally avoid it.

Still, most people sensed that Bush took it seriously and Kerry didn’t. Bush also believed that things — marriage and human life, for example — had firm definitions and Kerry thought they were more or less negotiable. Some voters preferred Bush’s attitude, others preferred Kerry’s; but it was an essential difference between them that finally worked in Bush’s favor. He didn’t ask whether the country was “ready” for the distinction between right and wrong.

Not that Bush always applied the distinction properly; far from it. He stuck stubbornly to defending his dubious war. But at least he didn’t exude the stale moral relativism and secular humanism that made Kerry so uninspiring. Bush believed in Hell.

The Democrats nominated Kerry in the very mundane belief that he was the candidate likeliest to defeat Bush, not because he stood for any positive principle. Now their theme is that they believe in something higher, but they can’t decide what it is. Having condemned Bush as a religious zealot, will they adopt a touch of zealotry too?

It’s doubtful that the 2008 Democratic platform will affirm the entire Apostles’ Creed. Nobody would believe they really meant it, for one thing. On the other hand, the returns seem to indicate that America still isn’t “ready” for secular humanism.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
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