The Common Good
June 2011

What? Already?

by Ed Spivey Jr. | June 2011

Our nation expects bold and innovative leadership. (Kidding.)

At the media's insistence, we've officially entered the 2012 presidential season -- mainly because the media would rather not report on the issues that actually affect people's lives, such as Charlie Sheen tweets. So we might as well join in by reviewing the GOP hopefuls before they become dried carcasses strewn across the Iowa landscape. ("Careful not to step in that! It's a rotting Newt.") We will forgo comment on the probable Democratic nominee, beyond pointing out that the term "three's a crowd" can also refer to wars.

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At a time when federal budgets are so bad that the U.S. Senate chambers are being rented out for weddings (and the House clears out on Saturdays for a flea market), Americans are hopeful that presidential aspirants will bring bold and fresh ideas to carry our nation into the future.

Okay, forget that. But how about bold ideas from the past? Would that be okay?

We say this after learning of the surprising return of the Religious Right, a life form that most of us thought was weakened, if not in smelly decay. ("Don't step in that! It's a Haggard.") But apparently it's back. When did this happen? I thought fundamentalists had put down their flag hats and gone back to looking for ancient fragments from God’s Literal Week-At-A-Glance calendar. ("Day Four: Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven; pick up dry cleaning; call Mom.")

After all, Jerry Falwell has gone to his eternal rest -- and perhaps a good celestial talking to -- and the Christian Coalition hung its self-righteousness back in the closet, leaving former director Ralph Reed to the pitiable life of a highly paid political consultant whose only connection to Christianity is a Pat Boone haircut.

But already Republican hopefuls are making their ritual visits to evangelical pulpits and polishing up their tried-and-true platform. Namely, that gay marriage causes tsunamis. (Jesus clearly stated this, although not within earshot of his biographers, unfortunately.)

Let’s remember that Baptist minister and unnecessary bass player Mike Huckabee won the 2008 Iowa caucuses by appealing to the so-called values voters, and he and his ilk -- if ilk they may be called -- are going back to that playbook. Also back to the fray will be the familiar lobbying groups whose titles include the words "family," "freedom," and "liberty," suggesting a tight adherence to principles established by our Constitution, or possibly The Andy Griffith Show.

First to make his official church visit was Newt Gingrich, whose three marriages speak clearly to the moral values that have been lost in our broken nation, specifically the value of tenacity -- to keep trying until you get that marriage thing right.

Haley Barbour is running on the Jefferson Davis platform and promises to share the important lessons he learned as a tobacco lobbyist and governor of the poorest state in the union. He hopes to carry the South. Of Iowa.

Another evangelical -- Tim "Who?" Pawlenty -- is the former governor of Minnesota, a state that used to be a place of reasonable political discourse before Michele Bachmann landed from an alien planet. (She was dropped off by crew members who decided  intergalactic travel with her was intolerable.)

Sarah Palin, who has considerable experience from being governor of Alaska for almost one whole term, brings her common-sense financial solution to all Americans facing foreclosure or bankruptcy: Be sure to get a six-figure book advance.

And finally, Mitt Romney's game-show-host good looks may be negated by the fact he's a Mormon, which most people mistake for Jehovah's Witnesses, who tend to knock on your front door despite the fact you turned the sprinklers on when you saw them coming down the street. Romney is the only Republican candidate who has actually developed a successful health-care program, a sin that simply cannot be forgiven. n

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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