The Rise of the Secular Regressives
Nations normally die slowly when people turn away from their cultural foundations. Political parties are similar, even more closely reflecting the shifts in public thinking because they make up a smaller portion of the electorate.
The Republican Party morphed in 2016. The change has been coming for decades but catalyzed this year when a secular icon named Donald Trump ran for president. Trump brought records numbers of people into party of Lincoln–but many aren’t following the worldview of Honest Abe.
The Republican Party as we’ve previously known it is dead. Gone.
In its place we have the rise of the Secular Regressives.
I know I’m coining a new term. I don’t know whether it will stick. It’s a take-off from the now common phrase secular progressive made popular by Bill O’Reilly’s Culture Warrior book. SP is the “in vogue” name for liberalism. More on that and defining secular regressive in a moment.
First it might be helpful to discuss two words most Americans don’t understand. In fact, I bet both of the presumptive presidential nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, couldn’t define the difference between these words if asked in a Town Hall meeting. Yet, virtually all Americans knew the difference between them during the Revolutionary era and beyond.
Here’s your civics test of the day: What is the difference between a republic and a democracy?
Both terms go back to the time of ancient Greece when city-states began experimenting with popular rule instead of warrior kings. A republic is a society based on laws–the law is king, (Lex Rex) not the head honcho. It is a social compact tied to principles based on the rights of human beings.
Republics usually have some form of written agreement– like a constitution–which spells out those rights and limits the power of civil government. The United States of America was founded as a constitutional republic. We believe in the power of ideas over the power of magistrates. Democracies, on the other hand, are simply mob rule or majority vote. What the majority wants, the majority gets.
What’s wrong with that you say? Well, actually quite a bit. Majorities can be wrong–with devastating consequences. Two American examples will suffice:
- Slavery of African-Americans was tolerated in our nation for hundreds of years due to wrong majority-based thinking. Millions of blacks suffered.
- Abortion of innocent babies has been approved by majorities since 1973. Sixty-five million human beings have perished.
Yet, voting majorities are helpful in nations seeking self-determination. Democracy is not all bad–it’s probably better than having an evil king. But when majority voting or mob thinking (democracy) is not anchored to God-given human rights (republicanism), its effects are devastating.
Since governments are designed to protect us from evil, some forms of government are better than others. Monarchies are worst. They can go from good to bad in a heart-beat (literally). Respectable democracies go dark when the people become immoral and unthinking and approve bad stuff. But that usually takes time.
Republics are more just and stable because they tie a nation and its leaders to principles of right. The king can’t change the law at his whim. Nor can the people because they’re on a marijuana high when going to the polls. In a republic, the good laws of the land (based on a Constitution out-lining those principles) restrains both the leaders and the people from doing bad things.
The idea of biblically-based republican government is a gift from God that brings both justice and freedom to nations. But it only works when the people practice the principles in their own hearts and lives (self government).
Now a little history on America’s political parties–Democrat and Republican.
Those words first appear in American history in one party–the Democratic Republicans. It came into prominence in the 1790s with the election of Thomas Jefferson. The DRs were strong on “republic” (principles) and minored in “democracy” (voting). The Democratic Republicans were the most popular party in early America.
Eventually the DRs became the Democrats prior to the Civil War. In fact it was the democratic error of promoting slavery that led to the birth of the Republican Party in 1854. From then on, it’s basically been the Democrats versus the Republicans.
During the past 160 years, the Democratic Party evolved into the secular or liberal party of America. Secularism or atheism is really man-centered rules that are not anchored to biblical human rights. Majority votes (or judicial fiats) are what’s right or wrong, not “You shall not kill,” or “You shall not steal.”
During most of that period, the Republicans held onto their biblical view of God-given rights (Constitution). Thus, most Judeo-Christian oriented people and those of traditional or conservative bent voted Republican. Those who were more worldly or atheistic voted Democratic. The parties expressed two opposing worldviews.
They didn’t start that way. In the beginning both contained strong Judeo-Christian principles. In the 20th century, the Democrats devolved into an atheistic alternative.
The Republican Party has clung to the principles of our Judeo-Christian heritage for most of my lifetime. Those include the right to life, sanctity of marriage, the principles of limited government, fiscal discipline, strong national defense, defense of religious liberty, justice for criminals and compassion toward the needy. The Reagan presidency of the 1980s temporarily catapulted those ideas back into the mainstream veins of the national psyche.
Simultaneously, the Democratic Party became more and more secular—even militantly atheistic. They took prayer out of the public schools, legalized abortion on demand and, homosexual marriage, exploded the national debt, promoted radical environmentalism, race hustling, and finally bathroom bullies.
President Obama took mainstream secularism and militarized it. And remember: fascism, socialism and communism are only increasing shades of secular blue. In 2016, Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders won majority Democratic votes in 21 states!
But the Republicans weren’t far behind. Especially in Congress, the Republican elites were gazing at changing American demographics and decided to go secular. I call it Democrat-lite. That’s why there’s been little push back in Congress during the Obama years. Establishment Republicans are closer to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (socialists) than they are to Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz (biblical Christians).
Along comes Donald Trump—secular icon who’s been a liberal Democrat all his life but recently converted to some conservative principles (depending on the day). He wins the Republican nomination when the Christian base of the country becomes goggle-eyed over his swagger, straight-talk, and give-em-hell attitude.
What they failed to see is that Trump is fundamentally secular (worldly). Yes, he is not progressive in destroying biblical culture like Obama/Clinton/Sanders et al. But because he has no godly perspective for decision-making, Trump will lead the Republican Party to regress on many fronts:
- The Party Platform will be toned down in July.
- Planned Parenthood (lead abortionist) will stay in “government” business.
- Many deals will be struck with Democrats over trade, deficits, and even immigration.
- No moral evils will be reversed.
- The national debt will not be seriously tackled and the entitlement state will grow.
Instead of being renewed by believers in Christ and His freedom-giving ways, the Republican Party, and maybe the nation, will be led by secular regressives.
In 2016, for the first time in its history, no major political party will espouse the biblical, uniquely American way of liberty. Remaining at the gates will be secular progressives who are actively destroying the culture, along with the rise of the secular regressives who will, at the least, inhibit biblical renewal.
Much-respected political pundit Charles Krauthammer agrees. Here is his take on the secular regression of the Party of Lincoln:
“It marks the most radical transformation of the political philosophy of a major political party in our lifetime. The Democrats continue their trajectory of ever-expansive liberalism from the New Deal through the Great Society through Obama and Clinton today. While the GOP, the nation’s conservative party, its ideology refined and crystallized by Ronald Reagan, has just gone populist.”
“It’s an ideological earthquake. How radical a reorientation? Said Trump last week: “Folks, I’m a conservative. But at this point, who cares?”
“Who cares? Wasn’t caring about conservatism the very essence of the talk radio, tea party, grass-roots revolt against the so-called establishment? They cheered Cruz when he led the government shutdown in the name of conservative principles. Yet when the race came down to Cruz and Trump, these opinion-shaping conservatives who once doted on Cruz affected a studied Trump-leaning neutrality.”
Trump won…[He] doesn’t even pretend to have any principles, conservative or otherwise. He lauds his own “flexibility,” his freedom from political or philosophical consistency. And he elevates unpredictability to a foreign policy doctrine. The ideological realignment is stark. On major issues — such as the central question of retaining America’s global preeminence as leader of the free world, sustainer of Western alliances and protector of the post-World War II order — the GOP candidate stands decidedly to the left of the Democrat.”
“And who knows on what else? On entitlements? On health care? On taxes? We will soon find out. But as Trump himself says of being a conservative — at this point, who cares? As of Tuesday night, certainly not the GOP.”
It’s the rise of the secular regressives.
What is the Church in America to do when faced with these choices? How will I vote in November of 2016?
Ron, This argument falls on deaf ears with many of us. Here's why. Let's look at your fears, one by one:
The Party Platform will be toned down in July. – I actually doubt this. But Republicans routinely pay it but passing lip service. If it is changed into a document that reflects what Republican leaders really believe and intend to do, it would be an improvement. At least we'd know what we're voting for as Conservatives.
Planned Parenthood (lead abortionist) will stay in "government" business. – After the fiasco of PP being caught in videos selling aborted baby parts and designing abortions to preserve certain organs, Republicans fully funded PP. So how would Trump make this worse? Republican legislators also compromised away the Hyde amendment.
Many deals will be struck with Democrats over trade, deficits, and even immigration. – Of course deals will be struck, that's the nature of democracy. We need a better deal-maker on our side. This is a major part of Trump's appeal. We've been losing the farm for most of the last 20 years. If Trump can turn the tide in even a few areas, it would be a big accomplishment. We've been losing incrementally, especially on social and economic issues, for decades. If for instance Trump could reign in the deficit, make a dent in crony capitalism, restore the rule of law in immigration, and embarrass Congress into changing the revolving door of Congressmen working for special interests while in office and making fortunes working as lobbyists for the same interests after retirement (and I could make a pretty healthy list of "Christian" Congressmen now working as lobbyists, from John Ashcroft to Steve Largent), he'd be the greatest Conservative President since Reagan.
No moral evils will be reversed. – This point is too vague to respond to.
The national debt will not be seriously tackled and the entitlement state will grow. – With but a brief respite, under a Republican Congress and Clinton, the national debt has soared. Our last Christian President, G W Bush, busted the budget (cutting taxes and dramatically raising government spending, i.e. wars in two countries, giving in to Ted Kennedy to make TSA a government program, expanded entitlements, and introduced the federal government more deeply into K-12 education.) Until Obama, he had the record for expanding government and deficit spending. He was also very much on board with the budget busting bailout of Wall Street investment bankers. His key appointees were in place when the strategy "too big to fail" was put into motion. Republicans voted for the bail out and budget busting deficit spending. Many think McCain's dramatic return to the Senate and leadership on the bailout legislation is what killed his presidential run.
Better the Republican Party should be effective in a few areas than impotent on all fronts. It will take decades to bring any kind of genuine Conservative principles to bear on national policy. It will be a long slow slog because of the constant and continual failures of the past. If Trump is elected, I am hoping he will be effective in a few areas, and that a few effective policies that positively help Americans will gain Conservatives wider support and an opportunity to be heard on other issues. In the current mess, I think that's the best we can hope for.
Kinda like being caught between a rock and a hard spot! Except God is there to oversee and take control of whatever I do as He knows that I am going to try to do what He expects from me. But it is a toughie.
God bless Ron. Sure wish you could find some time to come down and see us.