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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Santorum, Savonarola and The Pending Apocalypse of The Republican Party

Girolamo Savonarola by Fra Bartolomeo
Painted shortly before death at the stake in 1498


Dear John,

Nothing would be more restorative to The Body Politic than widespread realization that democratic process is intrinsically compromised (and intrinsically compromising) and that all of us -- even "The Most Principled" -- are called upon to participate in less-than-perfect trade-offs.

Lacking this humility, The Body Politic will hurtle, ever faster, toward terminal decline.

Again: "The terrible thing about our time is precisely the ease with which theories can be put into practice.  The more perfect, the more idealistic the theories, the more dreadful is their realization.  We are at last beginning to rediscover what perhaps men knew better in very ancient times, in primitive times before utopias were thought of: that liberty is bound up with imperfection, and that limitations, imperfections, errors are not only unavoidable but also salutary. The best is not the ideal.  Where what is theoretically best is imposed on everyone as the norm, then there is no longer any room even to be good.  The best, imposed as a norm, becomes evil.”  Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander  
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Merton

Life is not about perfection - at least not in the mathematical, geometrical sense that Americans (mistakenly) construe perfection. ("Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" would be more accurately translated: "Be ye complete as your heavenly Father is complete.")

Life is muddle. And it is our station in life to muddle through to "something better" even if "better" proves (in the near term) nothing more than forfending decline. (In the long run, I envision ongoing Revelation that will insure the replacement of humankind's "dominance-submission hierarchies" by even-handed enlightenment - social, intellectual and spiritual.)

As Italo-latinate cultures well know, our lives are not about mistaken notions of "mathematical" perfection. 

When imperfect people insist on perfection, "the fan" gets hit by an unusually large load. 

Read the following cautionary tale of Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola, who - despite his impeccable personal life - brought disaster to 15th century Firenze. 

Just four years after taking office, Savonarola's "righteous" rule of Florence crashed and burned, another "Bonfire of the Vanities" - this time his own.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girolamo_Savonarola 

At bottom, Savonarola evoked catastrophe by being "too true to be good." (No typo.) 

You can only bang the bible so long - and so hard - before it becomes a weapon.

Then, as night follows day, bibliolatry lays waste to the First Commandment

The prissiness, presumption and unfailing self-righteousness of Christian conservatives are at least as dangerous as militant Islamists to whom they bear striking resemblance. 

Christian Pharisees might wisely contemplate "The Woe Passages" - http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2023:%2013-39&version=NIV

***

"The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it." 

Such simple-mindedness reveals self-lobotomization by ice pick jammed in one's eye.

"When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

If Santorum (Savonarola) wins, everyone will be pounded by the hammer of Impossible Purity.

Grant us, Lord, the indispensable gift of Felix Culpa.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exsultet

Pax on both houses

Alan

***

Rick Santorum could take Republicans down with him



Republicans haven’t quite thrown away what they see as a winnable presidential election, at least not yet. But they’re trying their best.
In GOP circles, there is more than a whiff of panic in the air. Unemployment is still painfully high, Americans remain dissatisfied with the country’s direction, even the most favorable polls show President Obama’s approval at barely 50 percent — and yet there is a sense that the Republicans’ odds of winning back the White House grow longer day by day.
Eugene Robinson
Writes about politics and culture in twice-a-week columns and on the PostPartisan blog.


Mitt Romney, whose main selling point is his supposed ability to beat Obama in November, has shown himself incapable of putting away a couple of — let’s face it — political has-beens whose glory days were in the previous century.
Romney was crushed by Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, which has a history of picking the Republican nominee — perhaps because the party’s most loyal voters, as well as its heart and soul, reside in the South. Romney was beaten by Rick Santorum, of all people, in the heartland states of Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri, as well as in Colorado, a key swing state.
And, according to the polls, Romney is in grave danger of losing to Santorum next week in Michigan, the state where Romney was born and raised. If this were to occur, Santorum’s tentative status as the new front-runner for the nomination would be confirmed. Hence the wave of fear that is washing over the GOP establishment.
The prospect of a Romney flame-out has given rise to crazy talk about a brokered convention at which an attempt is made to dragoon somebody else, into accepting the nomination — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, just about anybody.
This remote scenario would probably lead to a debacle. The last contested GOP convention was in 1976, when incumbent Gerald Ford narrowly defeated insurgent Ronald Reagan — and then lost to Jimmy Carter in the fall. Back then, the establishment still had the clout to impose its will on the party. Today, restive constituencies such as the Tea Party refuse to get pushed around by — to use a Gingrich term — political “elites.” The convention hall in Tampa would be a battle zone. (Alan here... I am increasingly persuaded that current usage of "elite" targets any intelligent person who exercises intellectual rigor in the service of Reason. It is flabbergasting how stupid Americans have become. Abortion notwithstanding, this side of theocracy every issue can - and should - be debated. By trying to impose what is theoretically best... on everyone as the norm, there is no longer any room even to be good." And so, "the best, imposed as a norm, becomes evil.” Ironically, those Americans who think themselves the "very best Christians" - or, at least, the "only real Christians" - are fast becoming active allies of evil. The profoundest truths are paradoxical. "Perfection" becomes the enemy of goodness.)
But what's the alternative? At the moment, Gingrich seems to be fading. This could change in March if he does well on Super Tuesday, but for now it looks like a race between Romney, who has trouble communicating with voters, and Santorum, whose message is alarmingly clear.
At times, it seems as if Santorum is running to become theologian in chief. He made the bizarre allegation Saturday that Obama’s actions are motivated by “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible.” On Sunday, he said by way of clarification that he understands Obama is a Christian, but that the president was somehow misinterpreting God’s truth — as revealed to Rick Santorum — about our duty to be stewards of the Earth.
This is not customary fodder for a presidential campaign. Nor is Santorum’s obvious obsession with women’s reproductive issues — not just his absolute opposition to abortion but his criticism of contraception and prenatal testing as well.
Santorum’s social conservatism is a huge iceberg, and his views on women and childbearing are just the tip. He not only opposes gay marriage but has criticized the Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-sodomy laws and declared that “I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts.” That alone would be enough to put him well outside the mainstream. But his Ozzie-and-Harriet ideas about family life place him in a different solar system.
In his 2005 book, “It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good,” he lectured women who choose to work outside the home, writing that “the purported need to provide things for their children simply provides a convenient rationalization for pursuing a gratifying career outside the home.”
Convenient rationalization? Given all the money Santorum has made as a Washington insider since leaving office, perhaps he forgets that most American families need two incomes just to put food on the table.
The issue, for Republicans, is not just that Santorum would lose in November. It’s that he could be a drag on House and Senate candidates as well. Imagine, say, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) trying to explain to his constituents why someone who doesn’t fully understand women’s participation in the workforce should be president.
Listen closely and you can hear the anguished cries: “Mitch! Chris! Jeb! Help!”


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