Our Emerging Two Party System – Authoritarians VS Totalitarians

Last week offered two news stories that reveal the political future of America.

Story 1: a middle school teacher here in Florida was revealed to be a white nationalist. As first reported by the Huffington Post, a Crystal River teacher named Dayanna Volitich hosted a podcast and Twitter account (under an alias) in which she routinely voiced the typical positions of the Alt-Right, targeting blacks, Jews, and Muslims. Once her secret identity was revealed, Ms. Volitich claimed that her opinions were merely a form of satire. That seems unlikely, given her previous comments, and really – it is beside the point. There are many people for whom such opinions are deadly serious.

Story 2: former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was forced to resign from the charitable foundation of the Country Music Association because of the policy positions he espoused regarding issues like same-sex marriage. Various LGBTQ activists expressed indignation that someone like Huckabee would serve on the board of this foundation that focuses on music education in schools, despite his proven track record in education reform as a governor (which one of the critics conceded). Even though he was clearly qualified to serve on such a board, his traditional Christian views regarding matters like same-sex marriage disqualified him from service in the eyes of some activists. And it is clear that for growing numbers of people on the Hard Left, no one who holds similar views (evangelical Protestants, confessing Catholics, orthodox Jews, mainstream Muslims) should have a voice in public life. In their mind, the moral tradition of the monotheistic religions is simple “hatred.”

This is where we are headed as a nation. On the Alt-Right we have authoritarians who are fixated on tribal loyalty and racial superiority. And on the Hard Left we have totalitarians who are determined to coerce everyone to accept their radical redefinitions of marriage, gender, and personhood. Both extremes reflect the worst kinds of bigotry that have plagued America (racial and religious). The only difference is that the Alt-Right proudly embraces its bigotry, while the Hard Left is self-righteously blind to its bigotry. And since neither extreme acknowledges any sort of transcendent truth, what drives both is the pursuit of and exercise of raw power. That explains the growing phenomenon of Neo-Nazi violence by the Alt Right, and violent campus protests by the Hard Left.

Ideally, fair-minded people on both sides of the political aisle would call out and confront the radicalism that is emerging from their end of the ideological spectrum. There are indeed many conservative commentators who have denounced the Alt-Right (such as Ben Shapiro, David French, Rod Dreher). There are far fewer liberal commentators who have challenged the Hard Left (Jonathan Haidt being the rare exception). This is because (as Pew data shows) the Left has lurched far more to its extreme than has the Right. But we don’t need polling to confirm this. In the mid 90’s, the Defense of Marriage Act passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support and was signed into law by a Democrat president who also declared that the “era of big government is over” and that abortion should be “rare.” That seems like ancient history. Today’s liberals aren’t calling out the Hard Left because they increasingly are the Hard Left. The net result is that both extremes are feeding each other.

And for those of us who are committed to following Christ, this increasingly polarized political environment is going to place us in the crosshairs of both extremes. The Alt-Right has made it clear that it detests the Christian commitment to brotherly love that knows no racial, ethnic, or national boundaries. And the Hard Left equally despises the Christian commitment to the Lordship of Christ rather than personal autonomy in matters of sexual ethics.

This is nothing new, though. Christianity is just as counter-cultural in the 21st century as it was in the first century when tribalism and relativism were also dominant. And as we declare and display the gospel with Jesus’ mix of conviction and compassion, we can call people to an identity that rises above race and tribe, and that transcends lust and gratification. Is this going to be easy? No. It requires tough-minded love. But tough-minded love is what the cross Jesus bore and we have chosen to bear is all about.

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Shane, your main point is well stated and I agree: increased polarization between the parties and the lack of a moderate center is destructive to our national dialogue, and the antithesis of true Christianity.

    However, a couple of things did raise my eyebrows:

    1) Private organizations can decide what values they want to espouse, and then choose to accept or reject board membership based on those values. If the CMA foundation has values that are incompatible with Mr. Huckabee’s stated values, it is not unreasonable to ask him to resign. Imagine if the NRA’s charitable foundation asked someone like Dianne Feinstein to resign (setting aside the question of whether she would have ever been asked to serve on an NRA board in the first place). It is perfectly logical and acceptable to require the members of a board to espouse the values of the board. If the CMA decided it wanted to publicly espouse values incompatible with Mr. Huckabee, then I see no issue with their actions.

    2) Your statement that more liberals have become the “Hard Left” than conservatives have become “Alt-Right” is completely outside my experience. There may be a contingent of reasonable, moderate conservatives somewhere, but they are silent for the most part. In my opinion, the right has become an increasingly Hard Right, just as much (or more so) than the left. The article you referenced above is an example – the article itself is written by someone who clearly hates liberals, and is interpreting the data in a partisan way. (“Democrats and their water carriers…”) What the author leaves out includes, for example, that the reason the shift seems greater for the Democrats over the past six years is that the massive Republican shift to the right happened sooner – in the six years prior. So while Democrats have shifted more than the Republicans in the last six years, Republicans shifted more than the Democrats in the years before that. The article cherry picked the data from the original Pew poll to make a highly partisan point.

    I do not argue that political division continues to grow. I do not argue that as political division bleeds over into our faith communities, the cause of Christ is harmed. What I do argue is that as Christians, we should not respond as so many of my brothers and sisters seem to have done – by wiping our brow with relief that at least *our* political tribe hasn’t done as badly as the other political tribe. We should be responding with sackcloth and ashes that we support either tribe’s corrupt worldly system that is rooted in the kingdom of the world instead of the kingdom of our Lord.

    • Shane

      March 6, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      Hey Kevin, thanks for your reply. Some quick comments:
      1) The issue with Huckabee is that here is someone who is clearly qualified to work on behalf of music ed, regardless of his politics (which I am not a fan of in many ways). Feinstein would not be on the NRA board precisely because her policy beliefs would be relevant in that case. This was a simple case of religious bigotry, and we need to call it out when it happens.
      2) Your experience is your experience, but we can’t let anecdotal experience stand in the way of the research, and the research on the leftward drift of the left is very clear (if you haven’t check out Haidt’s work, it is very interesting). On some issues the right has indeed lurched rightward (I’m thinking especially of the environment). But on others, there has always been a variety of opinions (libertarian, hawks, traditionalists, etc).

      Finally, no one who read this article or this blog could draw the conclusion that I am relieved about anything politically!

      • We’ll have to disagree about Mr. Huckabee. It’s a difficult thing to determine whether you are going to allow someone on a board whose oft-stated views are the opposite of your own (in the name of free speech), or if you are going to cave to pressure (because of incompatibility). Surely there’s a line somewhere; we clearly disagree about whether Mr. Huckabee has crossed that line. That’s okay.

        I know you are not happy about the current political climate. What I was referencing was people who will read this blog post, but identify most with the paragraph in which you place most of the blame for polarization on the Left, while calling attention to all of the fair-minded conservatives. I think your blog post would have been just as powerful, and left no room for the “relief” of your readers, if that paragraph weren’t there.

        I would be interested in seeing if any research has been done to determine if conservatives, rather than becoming more conservative ideologically, have instead become *meaner*. I hate the fact that so often, if I express anything other than hard right opinions, I have words like “libtard”, “snowflake”, and “cuck” thrown onto my wall. It’s discouraging. Maybe that’s what I’m thinking about when I think of my own experience, rather than ideological positions.

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