Columbia, MO by: David Rosman January 23, 2011
Reince Priebus. Sounds like a new ailment the drug companies invented to boost their profits. “Does RP affect your life?” Not directly, but as the new chairperson of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus is setting a new tone for the GOP and perhaps for American politics.
Some facts about the new chair. Priebus is a partner in the litigation law firm Best & Friedrich LLP Litigation Practice Group and the former chairperson of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. His law clerking resume is quite impressive and crossed the political lines, from the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Los Angeles, California.[i] He is also a very religious man.
His religion, by itself, is not the problem. The problem came during his acceptance speech at the RNC’s winter meeting.[ii] It took seven rounds of voting, the exit of former chair Michael Steele from the race and a lot of hard campaigning and backroom negotiations for Priebus to win the chairmanship. It took the confidence of the leaders of the GOP to give Priebus the opportunity to lead the party into the new decade. For Priebus the first thanks did not go to those who worked so hard to get him elected.
“I want to thank God. I want to thank Jesus for this moment. Ah. I just, um, I’m so blessed. I have said that to you so many times.”
These words may be a good indication where the Republican Party may be going in the next two years, towards a political theocratic philosophy with Christianity as the focal point. Away from the history of the party’s humanistic views prior to the 20th century.
It is not just Republicans who are seeking votes by incorporating God into their language and campaign rhetoric. The Democrats are equally as guilty, also seeking votes based on belief. And not just calling on God to bless America.
Some 75-percent of Americans claim to be Christian, including Catholics and Mormons, but this does not mean that politicians should use their “Almighty” as a tool for election. Of the 535 members of the 112th Congress, 478 declared themselves as Christians. That is 90 percent of Congress. The largest group by far is the 156 Catholics, a clear 30 percent of those who sit under the great dome. 57 percent of the members of the House and the Senate are of the Protestant faiths.[iii]
How many of these elected officials will insert their religious beliefs in an attempt to govern the nation? It is almost impossible to tell in the first weeks of the new session, but it is fair to say that near all invoked God in their campaigns for office in 2010.
After the 2010 election, the Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute conducted a survey concerning religion and the election. In a conversation with E.J. Dionne and Dr. William Galston of the Brookings Institution, Robert Siegel of NPR asked if there is a correlation between religion and the President.[iv] Dionne said, “…candidate Obama talked about religion a lot, he’s talked about religion a lot less as president. And as a result, a lot of people, I think, are puzzled. And when they’re puzzled, I think the likely default position that they arrive at is, well, gosh, maybe he’s not all that much like us. And this is a problem.”
But why should this be a problem? It is about what Dr. Galston said at the closing of the interview. “The idea that America is a chosen nation that has been singled out by God for a distinctive mission in the world, we put a very strong version of that proposition on the table in this survey and 6 in 10 Americans affirmed it. Indeed, 30 percent of people who probably don’t believe in God at all affirmed it. So, this is a remarkably persistent part of America’s cultural and political DNA that I think our political leaders ignore at their peril.”
In 2008, the same researchers wrote about future trends. That, “the country would be further polarized between the secular and traditionally religious politics.” It looks like they were right.
We need to be very careful about who we pick as our leaders. Where do their loyalties sit, with their country or their gods? And if the need to satisfy the gods out weights the responsibility to the people and loyalty to the Constitution, we all lose in the end.
David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and New York Journal of Books.com.
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[i] “National Republican Committee Blog: Reince R. Priebus Biography.” Jan. 14, 2011.http://rncnyc2004.blogspot.com/2011/01/reince-r-priebus-biography.html
[iii] Pew forum on Religion and Public Life.“Faith On the Hill: The religious composition of the 112th Congress.” Jan.5, 2011.http:// http://pewforum.org/Government/Faith-on-the-Hill–The-Religious-Composition-of-the-112th-Congress.aspx
[iv] Siegel, Robert. “Faith, Politics and the 2010 Election.” Nov. 17, 2010.http://www.npr.org/2010/11/17/131393356/faith-politics-and-the-2010-election