Saturday, December 19, 2020

Musings on Finding a Path to Reconcile America's Polarized Partisan Democracy

    By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

The efforts of President Trump and his Republican Party to overturn the 2020 elections came to an end with the vote of the Electoral College on December 14.  Afterward Senator Mitch McConnell acknowledged Joe Biden as President-Elect, and Biden responded, “It is time to turn the page.  To unite. To heal.”  But how can a divided America be reconciled and healed?

Political unity may be expecting too much.  Political reconciliation acknowledges deep political differences, but requires consensus on the values that define political legitimacy.  Most Americans claim to be Christians, but churches have lost their moral compass and failed to promote the altruistic values taught by Jesus that are needed for a politics of reconciliation.

The altruistic values needed to provide for the common good in America’s pluralistic but polarized democracy are summarized in the greatest commandment to love others, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves.  It’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus and is accepted by Islamic scholars as a common word of faith.  

The irony is that the church has subordinated the moral teachings of Jesus to exclusivist church doctrines that make Jesus the alter ego of God.  That’s blasphemous in both Judaism and Islam; but the popularity of the church depends on its exclusivist beliefs, so it’s unlikely that the church will restore the primacy of the moral teachings of Jesus over its exclusivist doctrines.

Altruism in a pluralistic democracy requires a willingness to share political power based on diverse points of view, but most white Christians have refused to accept America’s increasing religious and political diversity.  Instead it’s “my way or no way,” and that has produced an “us versus them” form of political tribalism that threatens the fabric of America’s democracy.

The altruistic moral values that mandate providing for the common good in politics are embedded in the Constitution and are at the foundation of our rule of law.  In rejecting the spurious claims of Trump and his Republican Party to overturn 2020 election results, the Supreme Court, including Trump’s appointees, affirmed that legal and moral mandate.

The problem will not be resolved when Trump leaves the White House.  His millions of supporters will continue to polarize our politics without a moral reformation that makes a politics of reconciliation possible.  While democracy makes us masters of our political destiny, it also makes us our own worst enemies.  Pogo said it best: “We have met the enemy and it’s us.”

If Republicans expect their party to be competitive in the future, they must renounce their loyalty to Trump and reaffirm their commitment to provide for the common good and uphold and defend the Constitution and its rule of law.  If they don't, the Republican Party will remain a minority Trump Party, and America will need a third party to find a path to reconcile its polarized partisan democracy.


Amber Phillips has commented on Joe Biden’s “remarkably optimistic view” about the politics that will follow his election.  “Biden has seemed to go out of his way to give Republicans the benefit of the doubt that they’re just stuck in a bad political situation while Trump’s still in office. ‘There have been more than several sitting Republican senators privately called and congratulated,’ Biden told CNN more recently. ‘I understand the situation they find themselves in.  In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,’ he said. ‘We the people voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And so, now it is time to turn the page. To unite. To heal.’”

“...That’s not how other top Democrats desire to write one of the last pages of the extraordinary past five weeks in American electoral history. They want to make sure Republicans get blamed in the history books for their actions.  Biden’s more optimistic approach to Republicans consistent with how he’s handled politics much of his career. He talked frequently on the campaign trail about keeping his word and respecting where his opponent is coming from and not questioning his or her motives. Giving the other side the benefit of the doubt is part of his political DNA.  He may also be looking at this pragmatically. Biden has to work with Republican lawmakers next year, especially if they keep the Senate majority.  So why antagonize them, even if they’re actively antagonizing his presidency and centuries-old democratic norms?

They’ll come around when this is all over, Biden has said and seems to be saying now of Republicans.  ...So far, Biden is the only one on either side publicly saying as much.”  See

David French is less optimistic of the future than Biden, citing the dangerous idolatry of Christian Trumpism.  He cited Eric Metaxas, a prominent Christian evangelist and radio host who made a series of stunning statements at the Jericho March in Washington on December 12: “It’s like stealing the heart and soul of America. It’s like holding a rusty knife to the throat of Lady Liberty.”  “You might as well spit on the grave of George Washington.”  “This is evil. It’s like somebody has been raped or murdered. … This is like that times a thousand.” 

“And here’s what [Metaxas] says about Americans who disagree, who believe that Trump lost the election: Everybody who is not hopped up about this … you are the Germans that looked the other way when Hitler was preparing to do what he was preparing to do. Unfortunately, I don’t see how you can see it any other way.  That’s right, you’re like the Germans who didn’t object to the rise of Hitler. And is this deep conviction built on unassailable evidence of mass fraud? No, not at all. He doesn’t even really care about the courts: So who cares what I can prove in the courts? This is right. This happened, and I am going to do anything I can to uncover this horror, this evil. Later he says, “We need to fight to the death, to the last drop of blood, because it’s worth it.”  At the Jericho March itself, the founder rested his convictions on a vision in which God “poked him in the side and woke him up. "God said it's not over." Then God showed him a vision of the Jericho Marches. Then God introduced him to a woman who had the same vision. None of this, you understand, can be questioned. It's revealed. December 12th 2020.”

David French went onto say, “Important Evangelical leaders still support calls for state legislators to unilaterally defy their own voters to appoint pro-Trump electors. And when the Supreme Court ruled Friday night, the head of the Texas GOP called for a separatist “union of states that will abide by the Constitution: Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.” 

When I wrote in my book that American politics were growing so toxic that important political leaders may soon call for division, I did not envision that “soon” would be “now.”

Language like Metaxas’s, and like the Texas GOP’s embody a form of fanaticism that can lead to deadly violence. There isn’t a theological defense for it. Indeed, its fury and slander directly contradict biblical commands. ...Idolatry is the result.

We’re way, way past concerns for the church’s “public witness.” We’re way past concerns over whether the “reputation” of the church will survive this wave of insanity. ...A significant movement of American Christians—encouraged by the president himself—is now directly threatening the rule of law, the Constitution, and the peace and unity of the American republic.

It’s clear now that when many of those people declared Trump to be “God’s anointed” they did not mean that his presidency was “instituted by God” in the same manner as other governing authorities, as described in Romans 13. (By conventional Christian reasoning, Joe Biden’s upcoming presidency is also instituted by God.) No, they believe that Trump had a special purpose and a special calling, and that this election defeat is nothing less than a manifestation of a Satanic effort to disrupt God’s plan for this nation. They were not “holding their nose” to support him. They were deeply, spiritually, and personally invested in his political success.           

"You can be called up as the militia to support & defend the Constitution... if he does not do it now while he's commander in chief, we're gonna have to do it ourselves later in a much more desperate, much more bloody war. Even as the Jericho Rally stoked fury and threatened violence, it still found space for the grift: Eric spoke of a vision a few days ago. ‘When God gives you a vision, you don't need to know anything else.’" That's his approach to this entire thing. He just asked to use the code ERIC when they buy a MyPillow. Now Mike Lindell is talking.

I’m not writing to engage in a serious theological debate with those who’ve committed themselves to dreams and visions of dark conspiracies. I’m writing as a warning and as a call for action. Here’s the warning: While I hope and pray that protests remain peaceful and that seditious statements are confined to social media, we’d be fools to presume that peace will reign.  Here’s the call to action: It’s time for conservative Christian leaders to shed any form of fear and to speak against conspiracies and against slander with the same boldness that many of them spoke for Trump. This isn’t just about “witness.” It’s about justice. It’s about law. It’s about peace.”  See

The Editors of America Magazine, The Jesuit Review, noted the shameful participation of Catholic leaders in Trump’s attempt to steal the election.  A bishop from Texas, Joseph E. Strickland, was scheduled to speak by video at the Jericho March “praying for the walls of corruption and election fraud to fall down. Several other Catholic figures were scheduled to appear as well. Bishop Strickland’s choice to lend episcopal support to this effort brings disrepute upon his office. We hope and pray that his brother bishops may exercise a ministry of fraternal correction by publicly clarifying for the faithful that the American bishops as a whole have not taken sides against the will of the voters in our democracy.”  See

A day after Alan Wilson, the Attorney General for South Carolina, had lunch with Trump, Wilson joined the lawsuit of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the 62 Electoral College votes of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  The Editorial Staff of The Charleston Post and Courier  condemned the act.  “We wonder how Mr. Wilson would like it if attorneys general in Democratic-majority states asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out South Carolina’s election results. After all, one claim in the Texas suit is that someone other than legislators told election officials they couldn’t throw out absentee ballots in Georgia because they didn’t think the signature matched the one on file — which also happened in South Carolina. Any attempt by other states to invalidate South Carolina’s election results would have precisely the same amount of merit as this one: zero. We aren’t worried that Mr. Wilson’s intervention will sway the Supreme Court to disenfranchise millions of voters. We have no reason to believe that the court, with or without Mr. Wilson’s intervention, will agree even to hear the lawsuit. If anything, the avalanche of meritless lawsuits seeking to overturn a legitimate American election is giving the Supreme Court’s newest members a chance to demonstrate their integrity and independence.

Our concern is that the campaign to delegitimize the election results damages the foundation of our republic. This danger is compounded each time another elected official lends credence to the meritless claims. Mr. Wilson certainly isn’t the only S.C. elected official who has participated in this obsequious effort to placate a defeated president. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham leaps to mind, particularly but not exclusively in his conversation with Georgia’s top election official, who said Sen. Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to reject legal ballots.

But Mr. Graham and other Republicans have merely lent rhetorical support to the defeated president. Mr. Wilson is using the power of his office to try to overturn the results of a valid election and undermine public confidence in our republic, and he is dragging our state into the fray. That’s a stain on his reputation that Mr. Wilson will have to live with for the rest of his career.”  A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Paxton and Wilson’s claim. Hopefully S.C. voters will retire Wilson if he runs for reelection in 2 years.  See

Joe Wilson wasn’t alone in joining Paxton’s seditious claim to invalidate the electoral votes of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  He was joined by 16 other state attorneys general, his father, Representative Joe Wilson, and 125 other Republican congressmen.  Voters need to remember who they were in November 2022.  The Washington Post listed them at

Politico reported that Evan McMullen, who mounted a conservative third-party presidential bid in 2016, said “Just keeping the never-Trump coalition together will be a challenge in and of itself,”  “The Republican Party’s attempts to overturn the election results, including a coming last-ditch effort on the House floor and threats of violence by GOP officials, stunned never-Trumpers. It spurred McMullin to ask in a New York Times op-ed this week whether it was time to form a new conservative party. ‘I wouldn’t advocate for starting a new party without the support of some sitting officials in Congress or elsewhere,’ McMullin said. ‘We’re inching closer to a point in which that might be possible.’” See

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