Taking the Cookies Off the Table, Pt. II

September 2010

What a difference one year makes! The prattle among the chattering class in this election cycle is all about the economy. “More Jobs for Maine Families” says LePage on his website. “We can create jobs if we govern from the center” claims Cutler on his. Shawn Moody declares, “I am committed to dropping Maine’s unemployment rate to less than 6%,” talking with both hands moving for emphasis. Not to be outdone, Kevin Scott urges innovative budget solutions and a 32-hour workweek as the hope for Maine’s future. Libby Mitchell is the only one who lists so-called “Civil Rights” atop her list of the pressing issues of her candidacy, but I think it is only because the list is alphabetical. The first line of her “vision” for Maine is “Life in Maine is as simple as the soft feel of a newborn…” so one might surmise that Libby is pro-life. But then, her career is built upon sugary deceptions.

As I pointed out in Part I, Libby Mitchell represents the most ideologically extreme of the field of five, building her base of support from the recent failed attempt to redefine marriage in Maine. Attending a Libby Mitchell campaign rally is like going to a “Gay Pride” parade. She cannot get through a stump speech without emphasizing her commitment to overturning the will of the Maine people who voted for the protection of marriage, saying on her web site, “And as Governor, I will work to make sure legislation for marriage equality reaches my desk, and I will sign it without hesitation.”

So, what’s with all this talk about moving beyond the social issues? Recent episodes of this egalitarian exchange of acquiescence on these divisive, oh-so-unpleasant issues are increasing, both locally and around the nation.

Naran Row-Spaulding, the moderator of As Maine Goes, a popular conservative web site in Maine, has suggested this advice, “If the GOP wants to win more seats, it’s time to stop hammering on the social issues and concentrate on the fiscal issues.”

An acquaintance who travels in political circles and fancies himself a bit of a conservative, “Kingfish” recently sent around this e-mail missive, “If the LePage campaign is smart they will put a big old muzzle on the Maine Family Policy Council. It is about time that the issue of abortion and gay rights be shelved for good. Funny thing about the so-called Christian vote: They are hard to court and even harder to please. Enough is never enough with this Voting Bloc. Tell the folks at the MFPC to keep their myopic ideas to themselves.”

The more notable Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana, whose name occasionally comes up on the list of potential conservative GOP candidates for president in 2012, concurs. The governor has proven his social-conservative credentials. So when Daniels says the next president, whoever he is, should “call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until the economic issues are resolved, his statement rightly causes concern among conservative voters. Daniels is pro-life himself, and he has benefitted from the support of conservative religious groups in his home state. An active member of the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church for fifty years, Daniels and his wife founded a Christian school, The Oaks Academy, in a roughshod downtown neighborhood that has such a reputation for violence that it is known as “Dodge City” by local police. This inner city school provides more than 300 children with a classical education, beginning with Latin in third grade, moving on to logic in middle school and rhetorical debate in eighth grade. Would that American public schools dare to take students on such an in-depth intellectual exploration of Western Civilization, we might not need to have this discussion.

So Governor Daniels wants a truce on the social issues, eh? He might just have someone in Maine to help him hoist the white flag, if not an unlikely aide. Paul LePage, Republican nominee for Governor, campaigned hard as a social conservative and rode to an overwhelming Primary victory on the backs of the Tea Party activists, the same activists who wrote the platform adopted at the Maine Republican Convention and contains very strong pro-life and traditional marriage language. Says Republican Standard Bearer LePage, “But I’ll tell you in all honesty, if the next governor of the State of Maine takes on social issues as his primary objective, or if he puts them high on his priority list, then I believe the State of Maine is doomed.” (http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid35031947001?bctid=90014288001)

If a Governor LePage has his way, Maine will join the growing movement to take these cookies off the table. And he’ll have a growing chorus of support from GOP leaders and laymen alike.

Self-professed Republican Dick Brooks weighed in with a letter to the editors of the Lewiston Sun Journal with this warning about, of all people, Paul LePage: “We Republicans have shot ourselves in the foot, again… I cannot vote for a man who thinks that humans and dinosaurs coexisted on Earth when it was suddenly formed 6,000 years ago. If he kept those views private, that would be fine, but he wants (creationism) taught in the public schools.” I am guessing that Mr. Brooks did not get LePage’s social issues surrender memo.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who recently came to Maine to stump for LePage at a white wine and cocktail fundraiser, has gone on record as saying, “Any issue that takes people’s eye off of unemployment, job creation, economic growth, taxes, spending, deficits, debts is taking your eye off the ball,” according to a Daily Caller report. Such white flag waving makes Barbour the latest prominent conservative Republican to suggest that social issues like abortion and gay “marriage” should be taken off the table while we all join hands and focus on pocketbook issues. Barbour says that those who focus on social issues are taking the GOP off message this election cycle. Heaven forefend protecting the unborn should force GOP candidates off message!

The chorus of wimpy Republicans willing to wither on the moral cornerstones of Western Civilization and have the “Values Voter” be the one to hide in the closet includes no less than former vice-Chair of the Maine Republican Party Scott Kauffman. Kauffman came out in support of Libby Mitchell’s candidacy for governor in a recent column in Maine’s largest newspaper. While not referencing abortion or gay “marriage” specifically, keeping his comments more focused on environmental issues and his palpable fear of the Tea Party activists who managed to smuggle LePage into the General Election, Kauffman did deliver this coded message, “I will gladly support, work for and embrace any candidate who will stand up and say that all people are equal and deserve equality in every area of life.” Those “in the know” realized that this equality-speak was as much a public coming out for Mr. Kauffman’s own recent lifestyle choice as it was an endorsement for Mz. Mitchell. Nonetheless, a innocent reader on the fencepost might find such soft-pedaling on social issues from a prominent Republican more soothing than the thought of another referendum or protracted siege… it’s just all so unpleasant, dontcha know?

As home to Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, I trust that conservative Maine Catholics have long since stopped looking to Republican leaders in this state to exhibit any firmness of backbone on the issues that should be important to values voters. Our question is, “What exactly should be the Catholic perspective on all this?” We believe the words of John Paul II when he said, “As the family goes, so goes the Nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”  These “social” issues are foundational elements without which the rest quickly becomes meaningless. Daniels, Barbour, LePage and all the rest need to realize that a truce requires both warring parties to come to the table. This has not happened, nor should we harbor any hope that it will.

For conservatives and Catholics to declare a unilateral truce must be considered the equivalent of forfeiting the fight. The shelving of our priority of protecting the life of the unborn and the ongoing battle to protect of the sanctity of marriage cannot be put on hold, not for a second. If we shelve them on our side, we effectively concede defeat on those issues, saying instead, “We will not discuss the fact that our Constitution protects your right to kill unborn Americans and we will not protect marriage as the bedrock of Western Civilization. Damn it, we’ve got taxes to cut!! We trust you will do the same.” Readers, it won’t happen that way.

Just this week, EqualityMaine, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and whatever else activist group, announced it is endorsing Mz. Mitchell in the governor’s race. No big surprise, as I’ve said, Mitchell’s campaign rallies are more like gay “marriage” rallies. EqualityMaine executive director Betsy Smith routinely touts the group’s goal of defeating Paul LePage in fundraising appeals. I do not see the EqualityMaine folks and their benefactors calling for an end to their legislative push for same-sex “marriage” so that we can all focus on the economic issues of the day. The pro-abortion lobbying group Emily’s List, with their singular mission of helping elect pro-abortion female candidates, is not taking this election off to brush up on jobs creation legislation.

In fact, Emily’s List reports having raised close to two million dollars this year alone for the sole purpose of keeping pro-abortion ladies like Barbara Boxer and Chellie Pingree in office. Obama’s own private army, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) donated a quarter-of-a-million dollars to the effort to keep abortion safe and legal and a top priority this election cycle.

So, how about that truce while we focus on fiscal matters? While Maine Republicans contritely contort into a compromising position, EqualityMaine has hired a full squad to canvass the entire State of Maine, “to achieve the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, including winning marriage equality in Maine.” Are we, as Catholics, comfortable to take the social issues off the table?

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