During the Bush administration, I kept running into younger evangelicals who would bemoan the partisanship of our times. Evidently President Bush and Republicans like myself were hell-bent on demonizing those with whom we disagreed. I knew such things happened, even a great books teacher must notice the outside world occasionally, but the “attacks” never seemed to amount to much.

A nation that endured “James G. Blaine, the Continental Liar from the State of Maine” and “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Paw? Gone to the White House! Ha! Ha! Ha!” seemed able to stand a few barbs from talk radio hosts.

“No! No!” these earnest and fresh faced types assured me. These were particularly partisan times. This sometimes seemed true and when lines were crossed (Bushitler t-shirts come to mind . . . or more recent weirdling claims that President Obama is the antichrist),  I was with the Utopians, but mostly they seemed more upset than the history of the nation would justify. We were not after all in Plato’s Magnesia and I shuddered at the idea a Christian Nocturnal Council to Enforce Fair Political Discourse.

Often the opponents of political nastiness struck me as pretty nasty in their hatred of nastiness.

We are not ruled by gods, but by men and so a little bubble piercing ridicule from all sides seemed healthy to me. One has to pick sides in our two-party system and a little levity at the other team did not seem out of order. But these folks would squint at me and reply in a particularly humorless way . . .

“Didn’t I know God was not a Republican . . . or a Democrat? “Given my strong suspicions He was a monarchist, I certainly did know God was not partisan, but I saw no reason I should not be. God has quite a few properties I don’t have (omniscience being the most relevant) and I have quite a few properties He does not have. God is, for example, not a voting citizen of this republic and I am.

“But no,” the earnest student would reply, ‘there is a hope that all this sad partisanship coming from the religious right . . . so hateful and narrow could come to an end.” It would end with the election of President Obama.

Of late, however, this non-partisan President, my President, has said that I (as a traditional Republican) just obey orders and don’t think for myself. He has chosen not to negotiate even with very moderate Republican on health care. In short, often he has acted more as a head of party than head of state.

Now this does not bother me, because this is what I expect from my elected leaders under a constitution where the head of state is also the head of government, but I wonder if it bothers these earnest students. I don’t put much hope in princes, that is why I am a coservative, but they did. I expect the requisite hypocrisy and bellicose rhetoric, but they did not.

President Obama is my president. As leader of the Free World, he is my guy! On the other hand, he represents a political party and philosophy I think, on the whole, wrong headed, so as head of government I am happy to give him an occasional rasberry from the back aisles. He gives my team at least as good as he gets and that is the way things must be this side of Paradise, but I wonder if my earnest good-hearted Democratic friends are disappinted that President Obama is just a pol after all.

Articles by John Mark Reynolds

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