Bill Murchison of the Dallas Morning News examines the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president and concludes that we are faced with a Gandalf moment: Frodo the Hobbit remarks, as darkness descends on Middle Earth, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” “So do I…,” the wizard replies. “But that is not for [us] to decide. All that we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” It’s another way of saying that life, especially political life, can be urgent and challenging.
For a rock-solid Reagan conservative, we’re faced with a series of bad choices. There’s the pro-abortion, anti-gun Rudy Giuliani and the apparently flip-flopping Mitt Romney and the free-speech-impairing media darling John McCain. Or if you want to stand on principle, you can support a candidate who would make a great president but lags far behind in visibility and finances, like Sam Brownback. And the sad fact is that a year from now, the decision will most likely have been made for us and we’ll have to hold our nose and vote for someone we really don’t want because the Democratic alternative would be even worse. (For those of you not from Massachusetts, trust me: Conservatives in this state have lots of practice doing that.)
The problem, as Murchison notes, is that as we hold our nose and compromise our principles for the sake of victory, we slip ever further away from the society we envision, not least because politics has usurped the realm of moral absolutes.
A previous supposition had been that politicians and judges generally left moral matters to the regulation of the community at large, meaning pastors, parents and the like. It was only with the school prayer decisions of the 1960s that government added moral and philosophical questions to its agenda.
You can see the problem. If politics indeed is the art of compromise, what does it mean when politicians address the moral absolutes, as with the matter of unborn human life? You compromise—how? By making abortion sometimes illegal, sometimes not? And in the process outrage everyone? It is thus with gay marriage. Where lies the possible compromise?
Exactly. Such “compromises” are in fact the surrender by one side or another because if you believe marriage is one man and one woman, what compromise can there be? Likewise if you believe an unborn child is fully human with all rights and dignities, what compromise on abortion can you make?
So that’s what us Reagan conservatives—those of who put our Catholic beliefs about the just ordering of society into practice in our political action—are facing: How much will we have to surrender in November 2008 to prevent an even greater defeat?