John Feehery: Speaking Engagements



Posted on December 29, 2008



            Predestination as a religious term is most closely associated with John Calvin and posits that God has already decided whether you are saved or not.  If you have grace, you will reveal it through your actions.  If not, well, sorry pal.


            Predestination as a political term is most closely associated with those folks who have no interest in attracting other folks to the Republican Party.  If you have grace (or believe in certain principles) you are a Republican.  If not, well, sorry pal.  You are not welcomed as a Republican.


            I ran into the political equivalent of predestination early this morning when I appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal program.  I hinted that the Republican Party needed to attract different kinds of people, and that it was getting close to becoming a regional party.


            I never mentioned the word abortion.  I never said the word moderate.  I never used the thoroughly discredited term (by some) “big tent”.   I merely said that we need a 50 state strategy that does better north of the Mason-Dixon line (and in the Upper Midwest, and in the West).  But that didn’t stop callers from Arkansas and South Carolina from calling me the equivalent of a RINO or a squish or a pansy or worse.


            The Republican Party is now dominated by a particular orthodox brand of Christian conservatism that hints at a kind of Calvinistic determinism.  In the place of coalition politics (which is essential in a multi-racial, multi-cultural society) many members of the Republican “base” believe that only a certain few true believers are good enough to call themselves conservative Republican.


            Well, that might be a nice position to take if you are building an evangelical church.  It is less appealing, however, if you want to build a political movement that seeks to attract a majority of the country.   


            The Southern Baptist Convention seems to be calling many of the shots these days for the GOP.  Not to pick a theological fight, but the SBC was founded because they didn’t like the position that other Baptists were taking on the issue of slavery (the other Baptists were against it, the SBC found theological justifications for it).


            One of the more prominent members of the SBC is Mike Huckabee, whose Presidential campaign manager was Chip Saltsman.  Saltsman, in his campaign to become the new Chairman of the Republican National Convention, distributed a Rush Limbaugh produced video called “Barack Obama, the Magic Negro”.


            Now, this kind of video might have been politically correct when George Wallace was running for President.  It is unbelievably offensive and tone-deaf today (and provocatively so).  For Saltsman to send this thing out to gain support for his campaign shows the work that the GOP needs to do, not only to gain votes, but to change the attitudes of many of its leaders (aspiring and pretenders included).


            This isn’t a matter of getting more sensitive.  It is a matter of getting a clue.


            I don’t think that the GOP is predestined to be in the minority for the rest of this century.  But it needs to think more like a political party and less like a religious denomination if it wants to be competitive nationwide.  

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