Tim Farron

libdemIf you are like me, you would not have recognized the name “Tim Farron” until the last few days.

Mr. Farron was the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, and, it is apparent, is a committed Christ-follower.  He decided that it was not entirely possible to be both, but in so doing, I think he encourages us not to give up on the task of living in a world that is not our home.

This is his resignation letter.


Dear Deidre,

This last two years have seen the Liberal Democrats recover since the devastation of the 2015 election.

That recovery was never inevitable but we have seen the doubling of our party membership, growth in council elections, our first parliamentary by-election win for more than a decade, and most recently our growth at the 2017 general election.

Most importantly the Liberal Democrats have established ourselves with a significant and distinctive role – passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy.

No one else occupies that space. Against all the odds, the Liberal Democrats matter again.

*We can be proud of the progress we have made together, although there is much more we need to do.*

From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again – asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

Journalists have every right to ask what they see fit. The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.

I’m a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.

Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I intend to serve until the parliamentary recess begins next month, at which point there will be a leadership election according to the party’s rules.

This is a historic time in British politics. What happens in the next months and years will shape our country for generations.

My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.

The cause of British liberalism has never been needed more. People who will fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate are needed more than ever before.

That is the challenge our party and my successor faces and the opportunity I am certain that they will rise to.

I want to say one more thing: I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party.

Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour.

In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something ‘so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all’.

Thank you,

Tim

Judges and partisans

ScreenShot164This is certainly on point:

It has long been frustrating to me that the only criterion by which Americans — almost without exception — evaluate judges is: Did he or she make decisions that produce results I’d like to see? Virtually no one asks whether the judge has rightly interpreted existing law, which is of course what the judge is formally required to do. Americans — again, almost without exception — want judges to be politicians and advocates. The idea that a judge should strive to interpret existing law regardless of whether it does or doesn’t promote politically desirable ends never crosses anyone’s mind, and if by some strange chance it did, the person whose mind was so crossed would reject the proposal indignantly. Americans in this respect resemble toddlers and their own President: they evaluate everything in terms of whether it helps or hinders them in getting what they want.

This devaluation of interpretation amounts to a dismissal of the task of understanding: everything that matters is already understood, so the person who would strive to understand is not only useless, but an impediment to the realization of my political vision. To the partisan, the absence of partisanship is always a sin, and perhaps the gravest of sins.

Alan Jacobs, “Judging Judges,” Snakes and Ladders (Jan 31, 2017) [link].

A kind of hope

ScreenShot142An opinion piece from The National Review with is worth reading in full:

It’s hard to ignore the hideous character failings at the core of the man, and for this purpose maybe especially his fundamental infidelity toward all who rely on his word, which makes it hard to take seriously any assurances. He has sometimes shown himself capable of sticking to script or obeying the teleprompter, and when he does that he raises the possibility that he may be containable. But when Trump is given a chance to reveal something of himself, he without fail reveals a terrifying emptiness. The idea that such a man would be improved by being handed immense power simply refuses to be believed. Even wishful thinking supercharged by a justified dread of what a Hillary Clinton administration could do to the American republic can only go so far—certainly far enough not to vote for her, but for this voter not nearly far enough to vote for him. Neither major-party option in this election is worthy of affirmation, and no amount of wishing it were otherwise is likely to change that. All we can do, it seems to me, is hope and work for a Congress able and inclined to counterbalance a dangerous executive.

*     *     *

But whoever wins in November, this will not be the launch of a new political order in America. It will rather be the reason we decide it’s time for a change, and turn our politics into an argument about what that change must be. 2016 should leave Americans of all stripes thinking that our great nation can surely do much better than this.

Yuval Levin, “The Final Stretch,” National Review (Sept. 7, 2016) [link].

Any ideas on who we are going to be writing in?

“That’s one of the hazards here.”

From Marvin Olasky’s interview of Hadley Arkes:

hadley-arkes-facebook1[Olasky] What’s the major way students have changed in 50 years?  [Arkes] One notable change: They have trouble doing sit-down exams and giving an account of what they’ve read. They have not been required to read closely. How does the writer’s argument move? What are the supporting points of evidence? How does he reach the culmination? They can’t do that, except the very best.

Would both major presidential candidates get an F on one of your exams? I don’t think I could get from Donald Trump a precise account of anything he reads. Hillary Clinton would give me the party line: Whatever the subject, we need gun control.

You say we have a choice between “the brutal sure thing,” Hillary Clinton, and “the wild card,” Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is not a question mark. For her and the left, the “right to abortion” is the first freedom, displacing freedom of religion and freedom of speech anchoring axioms.

You’re for the wild card, particularly because of Supreme Court appointments? I am, but it’s not merely about replacing justices. With Clinton, the lower federal courts that handle most of the cases—the points of first entry—will be filled with characters from the academic left who favor theories that ordinary folk take as bizarre.

*    *    *

Does [Trump] care about judges? I don’t think he cares overly much about the courts and the Supreme Court. He certainly hasn’t troubled to read much about them. He depends on other people. That’s one of the hazards here.

“Hadley Arkes: Life and politics” World (August 18, 2016) [link] (emphasis added).

I’m still not convinced — sounds more pragmatic than principled — but I have a good deal of respect for Professor Arkes (who has taught Political Philosophy at Amherst for 50 years).

RIP GOP?

ScreenShot164Alan Jacobs writes this recent post:

“My friend Ross Douthat disagrees, mostly, with Avik Roy’s contention that the Republican Party is dead, but by contrast I suspect that Roy is too optimistic. He thinks that some kind of renewed GOP will eventually rise from the ashes, but I doubt that. I don’t think that the rise of Trump marked the end of the Republican Party as we know it, but rather that the party’s incoherent and brainlessly reflexive responses to Trump, whether positive or negative, were the equivalent of the last few electrochemical twitches of a corpse. The current donor base will pay for one or two more decades of artificial respiration, but no more, and I suspect that as early as 2024 the GOP will be completely irrelevant to American politics, at least at the national level.

At that point we’ll still have a two-party system, but the two parties will be the Neoliberal and the Socialist — basically, the two main wings of the current Democratic Party. And I’m not sure that, when that happens, we’ll be any worse off than we are now.

Alan Jacobs, “Two parties,” Snakes and Ladders (July 25, 2016) [link].  (That last line may be fairly discouraging to many, but I think AJ means it to be encouraging — it is not going to be much worse.)

Jacobs is referring to an article in Vox about Republican strategist Avik Roy’s dismal predictions regarding the GOP:

“The work of conservative intellectuals today, [Roy] argues, is to devise a new conservatism — a political vision that adheres to limited government principles but genuinely appeals to a more diverse America.

“I think it’s incredibly important to take stock,” he says, “and build a new conservative movement that is genuinely about individual liberty.”

Zack Beauchamp, “A Republican intellectual explains why the Republican Party is going to die,” Vox (July 25, 2016) [link].

I think believers can pray that an American political party will rise from the ashes that is committed to social justice as well as limited government.  I wonder what it will be called?  Compassionate Realism?

“Dummy” candidates

(or Why I can’t leave the Republican Party, yet)

It makes sense that political parties choose their own candidates — until it doesn’t.

ScreenShot142In American politics, parties usually choose their candidates by primary voting and then each party’s  winner competes in the general election.  Everyone can vote in the general election, but usually only party members can vote in the primary.* This is plausible, in that fairness suggests that each party should have a chance at self-definition.**

Nevertheless, historically, there have been many times in which belonging to the minority party was tantamount to self-disenfranchisement.  If you belonged to Party A, you could certainly vote in the general election, but the winner might be a foregone conclusion if Party A accounted for only a small percentage of the electorate.  In such circumstances, the pragmatic strategy would be to join  Party B so as to have a say in the primary election (where there might be two relatively strong candidates) rather than wait for an essentially meaningless general election.

In order to avoid this situation, there are times when primaries are open, such as when Party B puts up no candidate at all.  In that situation, everyone can vote in the primary.***

Unless.

Unless someone runs a write-in campaign and thus gets on the ballot for the general election.

That is actually occurring in Duval County in 2016, in two very important races — for State Attorney and for Public Defender.   The incumbent State Attorney and incumbent Public Defender have highly publicized problems, mostly self-caused. These problems brought strong, well-qualified Republican opponents into each race.

However, in order to “protect” the incumbents, sham write-in candidates (“dummy candidates”) have entered the races to close the Republican primaries.

So I’ll keep my “R” until after the local primaries — these races are too important (and the choices are too clear) to stand on the sideline.  My Trump-exit will have to wait.


*Open primaries, as are held in some circumstances, allow voting without regard to party affiliation.

**Most people would agree that it would be “unfair” for the Tea Party supporters at a University to all join the College Democrats and take over the College Democrats’ platform so as to undermine the “real” Democratic agenda.  (It might not seem so unfair for the Tea Party group to try this with the College Republicans.)

***In Florida, we actually have a Constitutional provision to assure this. Florida Constitution, Article VI, Sec. 5(b) [link] (“If all candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the general election, all qualified electors, regardless of party affiliation, may vote in the primary elections for that office.“)

****I know some lifelong Democrats who are going to change temporarily, too.  It is actually pretty easy, but needs to be done soon.

No political options

ScreenShot164Another thought piece on why believers may simply have to sit out the 2016 presidential election, this one by Alan Noble:

There are no good political options for evangelical Christians in 2016, but we have a critical opportunity to stand by the convictions we have proclaimed and to do so in a way that offers other Americans an alternative political imagination, one committed to principled pluralism, to the flourishing of local communities, and to the common good.

Alan Noble, “Evangelicals like me can’t vote for Trump ∼ or Clinton.  Here’s what we can do instead,” Vox (June 7, 2016) [link].

We better be praying, people.

 

Tyranny coming?

ScreenShot196An interesting and frightening take on the 2016 election (in light of Plato, Sinclair Lewis, the Constitution, Eric Hoffer, and others), in which Andrew Sullivan says:

Trump tells the crowd he’d like to punch a protester in the face or have him carried out on a stretcher. No modern politician who has come this close to the presidency has championed violence in this way. It would be disqualifying if our hyper­democracy hadn’t already abolished disqualifications.

Andrew Sullivan, “Democracies end when they are too democratic: And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny,” New York Magazine (May 2, 2016). [link]

This article is very long — and very worrisome — but well worth reading.

A[nother] Republican defector?

ScreenShot142I was proud to be a Republican. The GOP I worked for, fundraised for and fundamentally believed in put forward candidates who reflected my values. But now? I’m embarrassed to be a Republican because of who is leading in the polls. We’ve become a party that preys on the discouraged, not one that fosters hope. We’re incentivizing anger, not integrity. We tear down others to promote ourselves.

T.T. Robinson, “Why I’m no longer proud to be Republican” Washington Post (April 25, 2016) [link].

Don’t despair, T.T.  There are a lot of Republicans who agree, and who will continue to be “compassionate, innovative and enthusiastic . . . . woven together by our common belief in . . . the importance of character.”  Of course, this group may have to become “former Republicans” to make a point.

“No, I don’t” [link]  “To be clear . . .” [link]