Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Politics of Reconciliation with Liberty and Justice for All

  By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

            At the beginning of each session members of Congress put their hands over their hearts and pledge allegiance to the flag …and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  That’s a pledge for liberty and justice for all, not just a favored few.

            Partisan politics in the U.S. have been divisive and polarizing, with each party mobilizing its constituents with hot-button issues that have strained the fabric of democracy to the breaking point.  Bipolar politics have produced enough disaffected and dysfunctional voters to make Donald Trump the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.  It is a political aberration that has undermined the legitimacy of the GOP and denied sensible voters a choice for President.

            A politics of reconciliation is needed to save our democracy from self-destruction.  It was predicted by Plato, Edmund Burke (In a democracy, your forge your own shackles) and by other philosophers—including Pogo the Possum, who observed, We have met the enemy and it is us.

            A politics of reconciliation is based on the religious or secular ideal to provide liberty and justice for all, and that requires balancing individual rights and special interests with providing for the common good.  If a majority of voters seek to promote their individual rights or special interests for some to the exclusion of liberty and justice for all, then democracy will fail.

            The Orlando massacre last week produced public reactions that were as negative and divisive as they were positive and reconciling.  The President predictably infuriated gun advocates when he emphasized the need for gun control. Donald Trump used the tragedy to shamelessly take credit for his past anti-Muslim sentiments, continuing to fan the flames of religious division and hate.  And a fundamentalist Baptist preacher in California preached a hateful tirade on the killing of homosexuals as God’s will.     

            There is a means of reconciliation that can counter such dark forces of hate.  The three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—all share the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors as ourselves.  To love our neighbors as ourselves in today’s world requires a politics of reconciliation to overcome discrimination based on race, religion and sexual preference to enable us to be one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

            Michael Gerson noted that the Orlando massacre would likely produce more divisiveness than reconciliation because of “…our strong tendency is to employ events to reaffirm our convictions.”  And our conflicting convictions—whether on immigration, race, religion, sexual orientation, or guns—are amazingly strong and divisive.  Gerson asserted that “Our political leadership has lost the ability to focus on shared tasks and express moral stakes.”  But he was hopeful: “We are called to imagine...that love wins.”

            To complicate the issue of political reconciliation, globalization has forced us to think beyond being one nation under God, and recognize that we are one world under God.  That has implications for U.S. immigration and refugee policies, foreign policy and military operations.

            The U.S. cannot open its borders to everyone, nor can it block immigrants based on their religion or national origin.  To prohibit Muslims or Mexicans from entering the U.S. violates the most fundamental concepts of liberty and justice for all; but it is reasonable to have quotas and to restrict entry to anyone who may have ties to terrorist organizations. 

            Liberty and justice are meaningless without human rights to define them.  The First Amendment to the Constitution provides for the freedoms of religion, press and assembly in the U.S., and overseas the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) makes those fundamental human rights international law.  Human rights are essential to providing liberty and justice and can counter religious violence in Islamic nations; but promoting human rights has not been a priority of U.S. foreign policy or its military operations.

            Politics in any pluralistic democracy are by nature messy—and the U.S. is no exception.  Liberty and justice for all requires political competition to ensure the free flow of ideas and holding those in power accountable.  With the demise of the GOP, the two-party system cannot function.  There is a need for multiple political parties, so that if one party loses its legitimacy, as has the Republican Party, there will be other parties to hold those in power accountable.

            The American Party of S.C. is a political party that emphasizes inclusion rather than exclusion and seeks to reconcile political differences rather than exploit them.  It recognizes the need to balance individual rights with providing for the common good, and promotes liberty and justice for all.  With the moral corruption of the Republican Party by Donald Trump, voters should now give serious consideration to third-party candidates like those of the American Party.

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Notes and related blogs

On the hateful tirade of a fundamentalist Baptist pastor that the real tragedy in Orlando was that more homosexuals were not killed, see

Michael Gerson has commented on the demise of the Republican Party as the party of liberty and justice for all now that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the party for president.  “Without a passion for universal dignity and worth—the commitment to a common good in which the powerless are valued—politics is a spoils system for the winners.  It degenerates into a way of one group to gain advantage over another.  [With Trump’s presumptive nomination for president] Many Republicans, I suspect will sicken of defending this shabby enterprise….”  See  On Gerson’s commentary on the divisive aftermath of the Orlando massacre, divided we mourn, see

Katherine Parker has noted that “democracy, freedom and civilization…all hang by a thread” in America, and are threatened by the “demographic, slicing and dicing” of the electorate by partisan politics, and the resulting voter frustration and anger has given rise to the nihilistic politics of Donald Trump.  See

On human rights in Islamic nations, see Barnes, Religion and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy at

On human rights in the U.S. military training and advisory mission, see Barnes, Back to the Future, Human Rights and Legitimacy in the Training and Advisory Mission, at

See the following related blogs in the Resources at Religion and Reason, December 8, 2015; Faith and Freedom, December 15, 2014; The Greatest Commandment, January 11, 2015; Love Over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy, January 18, 2015; Jesus Meets Muhammad: Is there a Common Word of Faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims Today?, January 25, 2015;  Is Religion Good or Evil?, February 15, 2015; Religion and Human Rights, February 22, 2015; The Kingdom of God, Politics and the Church, March 15, 2015;  The Power of Humility and the Arrogance of Power, March 22, 2015;  May 10, 2015; Faith as a Source of Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy, April 12, 2015; Religion, Human Rights and National Security, May 10, 2015; De Oppresso Liber: Where Religion and Politics Intersect, May 24, 2015; Liberation from Economic Oppression, May 31, 2015; Reconciliation in Race and Religion: The Need for Compatibility, not Conformity, July 12, 2015; Fear and Fundamentalism, July 26, 2015; Freedom and Fundamentalism, August 2, 2015; Balancing Individual Rights with Collective Responsibilities, August 9, 2015; How Religious Fundamentalism and Secularism Shape Politics and Human Rights, August 16, 2015; The Power of Freedom over Fear, September 12, 2015; Politics and Religious Polarization, September 20, 2015;  Who Is My Neighbor?, January 23, 2016; The Politics of Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves, January 30, 2016; The American Religion and Politics in 2016, March 5, 2016; We Are Known by the Friends We Keep, February 14, 2016;  Religion, Race and the Deterioration of Democracy in America, March 12, 2016; Religion, Democracy and Human Depravity, March 19, 2016; Religion, Democracy, Diversity and Demagoguery, March 26, 2016; Standards of Legitimacy in Morality, Manners and Political Correctness, April 23, 2016; The Relevance of Religion to Politics, April 30, 2016; Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation, May 7, 2016; and The Arrogance of Power, Humility, and a Politics of Reconciliation, May 14, 2016. 

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