Thursday, April 28, 2005

Defender of the Faith

Former Vice President Al Gore really tore the top off last night in a speech in Washington, D.C. Some highlights:

It is no accident that this assault on the integrity of our constitutional design has been fueled by a small group claiming special knowledge of God’s will in American politics. They even claim that those of us who disagree with their point of view are waging war against “people of faith.” How dare they?

Long before our founders met in Philadelphia, their forebears first came to these shores to escape oppression at the hands of despots in the old world who mixed religion with politics and claimed dominion over both their pocketbooks and their souls.

This aggressive new strain of right-wing religious zealotry is actually a throwback to the intolerance that led to the creation of America in the first place.

James Madison warned us in Federalist #10 that sometimes, “A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction.”

Unfortunately the virulent faction now committed to changing the basic nature of democracy now wields enough political power within the Republican party to have a major influence over who secures the Republican nomination for president in the 2008 election. It appears painfully obvious that some of those who have their eyes on that nomination are falling all over themselves to curry favor with this faction.

They are the ones demanding the destructive constitutional confrontation now pending in the Senate. They are the ones willfully forcing the Senate leadership to drive democracy to the precipice that now lies before us.

I remember a time not too long ago when Senate leaders in both parties saw it as part of their responsibility to protect the Senate against the destructive designs of demagogues who would subordinate the workings of our democracy to their narrow factional agendas.

Our founders understood that the way you protect and defend people of faith is by preventing any one sect from dominating. Most people of faith I know in both parties have been getting a belly-full of this extremist push to cloak their political agenda in religiosity and mix up their version of religion with their version of right-wing politics and force it on everyone else.

They should learn that religious faith is a precious freedom and not a tool to divide and conquer.

I think it is truly important to expose the fundamental flaw in the arguments of these zealots. The unifying theme now being pushed by this coalition is actually an American heresy — a highly developed political philosophy that is fundamentally at odds with the founding principles of the United States of America.

We began as a nation with a clear formulation of the basic relationship between God, our rights as individuals, the government we created to secure those rights, and the prerequisites for any power exercised by our government.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” our founders declared. “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights…”

But while our rights come from God, as our founders added, “governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed.”

So, unlike our inalienable rights, our laws are human creations that derive their moral authority from our consent to their enactment-informed consent given freely within our deliberative processes of self-government.

Any who seek to wield the powers of government without the consent of the people, act unjustly.

Read the rest in Salon.com (subscription/Day Pass required).