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Post Election Reflection

The Virginia Governors Race and the Coming Midterm and Presidential Elections

Deacon Keith Fournier

March 03, 2008

Five qualifiers before I share my personal thoughts on the recent Virginia Gubernatorial race:

First, I write as a private citizen. I am not speaking for any organization or for my Church. Second, I write as a Virginian who lives in the Hampton Roads section of Southeastern Virginia. Third, I write as a “Reluctant Republican”, having never formally registered as a Republican when I moved to Virginia from Steubenville, Ohio in 1991 where I was still a registered Democrat. I do not fit the tired labels of “liberal”, “conservative” or any of their hybrids and have openly and repeatedly rejected them. Fourth, I write as one who is convinced that the current language of, and charged debate in, the political arena is one of many indications that a major change is needed. Fifth, I write as one who has been involved in policy and political action for thirty years, seeking always to inform my social, cultural, economic and political participation by the values I derive from my orthodox, Catholic Christian faith. I propose the principles and guidance found in Catholic Social teaching as the path to building a more just society. As one committed to building a culture of life and a civilization of love, I am pro-life (from conception till natural death), pro-marriage and family, pro-freedom (rightly understood as a “freedom from” as well as a “freedom for”), pro-poor and pro-peace.

Having said all that, I have waited to write these few thoughts in order to let the spin unfold concerning the reasons and the implications of this gubernatorial race in Virginia. It went exactly as I had expected. The “conservative” pundits on talk radio insisted it said nothing about the National climate or the implications for the upcoming mid-term and Presidential elections. Utter Nonsense! They had their talking points so aligned that you could actually turn from one of their radio programs to another throughout the course of the day and hear the same things being said, with a different vocal cadence! Similarly, the “liberal” pundits insisted it portended a major shift away from the Republican Party and to the Democratic Party. More Nonsense! Their talking points were also aligned like clockwork and their minions were out in legion, on their radio programs, and in particular, in their fifth column, the printed media. The spin, right and left, was so rehearsed it was almost comedic.

So, what, if anything, did this election actually tell us about where the voters of America are looking concerning the critical decisions that lie ahead? I say, it told us a lot…and that any candidates serious about being elected in either 2006 or 2008 need to study this race in order to learn about the changing landscape in the political arena. Here are just a few of my own thoughts.

It told us that Americans are neither “liberal” nor “conservative”, or any variation of these tired old labels, such as “neo-conservative”, “progressive”…. Americans are tired of the charged rhetoric that has come to characterize recent political campaigns. In fact, the loser in this race ran, in my opinion, one of the worst political campaigns in modern history. He was not only negative but downright nasty. In his efforts to paint himself as a “conservative”, and his opponent as a “liberal”, he failed miserably in winning the hearts and minds of Virginians. He also ended up alienating many groups, including Catholics. His efforts to deride his Catholic opponents stand on capital punishment backfired. This is ironic, since his own stand against the “capital punishment” of children in the womb was more in keeping with the Catholic Church’s position on the unalienable right to life than his Catholic opponents unfaithful efforts to espouse the “I’m personally opposed but…” position that has been the errant siren song of some deluded Catholics concerning this fundamental human rights issue. The Catholic Church is absolutely and unequivocally clear about the right to life and this Democratic Catholic candidate was wrong in trying to hide behind a “personal v public” curtain.

So, we Virginians got our first Catholic Governor. As a Catholic, this is a source of pride and hope. However, we need to pray that our Governor- elect grows in his understanding of the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the intrinsic evil of every procured abortion. It is the taking of innocent human life. We need to help him to understand the unity of life that the Christian faith demands. We need to help him come to recognize that children in the womb are, in the words of Mother Teresa, the “poorest of the poor”. As a former lay missionary, he has proven himself capable of not only hearing their cry but standing with the poor. Now, as Governor, he has an opportunity to continue his work of solidarity. Governor - elect Kaine, PLEASE hear their cry! Defending the right to life and the freedom to be born is not simply a “religious” position; it is a human rights position and one which is written in the Natural law!

I commend the Governor - elect for his honesty in sharing his conscience pangs concerning the use of Capital Punishment in the West. Like him, I also oppose it, as does the Catholic Church. It can no longer be justified. Other means are available to protect the public and serve the Common Good - thus mercy should trump justice. However, the Church’s current opposition to Capital Punishment is based upon an entirely different ground than its absolute opposition to abortion, which is always and everywhere wrong because it is the taking of helpless, innocent human life in the first home of the whole human race. The child in the womb is our first neighbor, Mr. Governor- elect, please protect her from the continued horrors of killing in the name of some so called “right” found within a “penumbra” by unelected Justices. What’s wrong is wrong, and, I think, deep down inside, you know it.

Next, this election campaign - and its results – tells us that political talk Radio has become a bad cartoon. It provides little of value any longer. Rather, it simply acts as a megaphone for the two “camps” and their talking points. Not only are Americans turned off by negative campaigning, but they are sick of being told they have to accept the whole “enchilada”, be it a “conservative” or a “liberal” enchilada. They are issue focused and they are ready to be persuaded by a candidate - not by a party or a set of jingoistic political phrases. They do not fit the “one- size” labels that have been developed by the pundit class in their condescending effort to assess the “masses” and tell us all as a Nation where we are headed. Labels such as “social conservative or liberal”, “fiscal conservative or liberal” or any of the myriad of phrases one hears thrown out on television and radio every day by the chattering media ruling class, have lost whatever value they might have once had, if they ever really had any at all. The American people are socially sane, fiscally inclusive, expansive, compassionate and participative. They are not anti-government but they want good government. They are turned off by this war and they are worried about the spread of terrorism. They are concerned about illegal immigration but reticent about the anti-immigration rhetoric that seems to be looming on the horizon of both major parties. They are respectful of, and deeply influenced by, religious faith and its universal values. However, the “Christian Coalition”, as it morphed into the so-called “Religious Right”, is over. So too is any semblance of a “religious left”. The time is ripe for a truly Christian and prophetic voice that is not beholden to any party!

The American people do not identify with the media ruling class or efforts to paint our Nation either red or blue. It is time for a new political language and a new policy paradigm. Even those of us who disagreed with many of his individual positions, resonated with the speech of a rising Democrat star when, at the last Presidential Convention he spoke of our Nation as “purple”. There is a Pull to Purple.

Finally, in my opinion, the most important fact arising out of this gubernatorial race in Virginia is the rising place of Catholics in the American political scene. I believe that Catholics are becoming the new deciding factor in American politics; but more on that later.

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