Thursday, November 15, 2018

Quote of the Day

“Today we recognize that being able to forgive others implies the liberating experience of understanding and forgiving ourselves. Often our mistakes, or criticism we have received from loved ones, can lead to a loss of self-esteem. We become distant from others, avoiding affection and fearful in our interpersonal relationships. Blaming others becomes falsely reassuring. We need to learn to pray over our past history, to accept ourselves, to learn how to live with our limitations, and even to forgive ourselves, in order to have this same attitude towards others.”

--Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, no. 107

Saturday, November 3, 2018

ElectionWatch 2018: What Will Happen?

Continuing with a tradition begun in 2010 and continued in 2014, it's time (past time, really) for an ElectionWatch series of blog posts and articles offering insight and commentary on the 2018 U.S. congressional, senatorial, gubernatorial and state legislative elections. Although leap-year presidential elections are the "big shows" that generate increasingly huge amounts of political fundraising, campaigning, media attention and voter activity, I personally find the off-year elections a bit more interesting.

While millions of Republican, Democratic and independent voters regard presidential elections as the most consequential for our nation, the fact is that midterm elections are often just as influential, if not even more so, on the direction of our country. This is because our president, while head of the executive branch of government and director of national policy, is only one man, whereas the fifty state governors, ninety-nine state legislatures, one hundred senators, and 435 members of Congress do the lion's share of actual governing, thereby exerting tremendous influence on state and national policy by virtue of their offices and authority. Depending on the issue positions, agenda, and political affiliation of these lawmakers and executives, this influence is used either in support of or in opposition to the president's national policy goals. During the notoriously immoral and corrupt administration of President Barack Obama, for example, Republicans who took control of state legislatures, governorships, Congress, and the Senate provided an important check on the president's abuses of power by refusing to implement ObamaCare, suing the federal government over the unconstitutional HHS mandate, restricting abortion, protecting religious liberty, and enforcing immigration laws.

Yes, senators, members of Congress, governors, and state legislators are elected in presidential election years as well. However, the midterm elections provide a valuable barometer of national opinion across a wide range of issues, typically indicating voter support or lack thereof for the incumbent president and his agenda. In the historic 2002 midterms, Republicans expanded their majorities in both the House and the Senate due to voter approval of President George W. Bush's pro-life, economic and national security measures. As support for Bush's foreign policy waned, Democrats managed to narrowly take over Congress and pick up some state governorships in the 2006 election. The stunning Republican landslide victories of 2010 and 2014 were driven by massive public dissatisfaction with Barack Obama's abortion, healthcare, economic and tax policies.

What will happen in 2018? Will Republicans keep and strengthen their majorities in the House and the Senate as in 2002? Will Democrats seize control as in 2006? Or will something entirely different happen? To answer these questions in a meaningful way, we must attempt to combine historical perspective with an objective evaluation of the current complex situation in the United States.

We live in a country that is more deeply divided than at any time since the Civil War. Party lines have become fault lines segregating people with radically different values, issue positions, interests and income levels from each other. Republicans have become the party of traditional Judeo-Christian values and support for President Donald Trump, and Democrats have become the party of radical secularism and outright hatred of President Trump. Yet many Americans feel that neither party truly represents their interests. Civil discourse, the art of expressing one's opinions and convictions in a compelling yet respectful manner; and bipartisanship, the art of working together for the common good based on common values, have all but vanished from Washington, replaced by vulgar personal attacks and legislative deadlock. Meanwhile, many Americans, myself included, applaud President Trump's performance on certain issues such as abortion, religious liberty, the HHS mandate, court appointments, taxes, the economy, and (partially) immigration and foreign policy while taking issue with his decisions on renewable energy, environmental protection, and (partially) immigration and foreign policy.

Although it has certain unique aspects pertaining to our own time, our current national crisis is far from unprecedented, and history teaches that such profound wounds of division will be reflected in the election results. That said, it's tricky to predict what will happen on Tuesday night. On the one hand, Democrats are spending a ton of money to try to take over Congress, with the secular media and certain national opinion polls biased in their favor. But on the other hand, the economy is doing pretty well, which helps the Republicans. The latest polling averages from Real Clear Politics show Democrats winning a narrow seven-seat majority in the House of Representatives and Republicans holding on to the Senate, but as we saw with Hillary Clinton in 2016, the polls can be inaccurate. To offer my best guess at this point, I don't think we'll see a repeat of 2002 or 2006. I think something entirely different will happen: Republicans will maintain majority control of both the House and the Senate, albeit by extremely narrow margins.

Regardless of what happens, much is at stake in this election. The Democrats have vowed to impeach President Trump and force their own radically secularist agenda on our nation, and they will certainly attempt to do this if they achieve even a one-seat majority in the House. We need to pray earnestly for our country's conversion and healing, vote our values and leave the results in God's hands.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Reflection for the Solemnity of All Saints

"God says to you: Do not be afraid of sanctity, do not be afraid to aim high, to allow yourself to be loved and purified by God, do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Let us allow ourselves to be infected by God’s holiness. Every Christian is called to sanctity (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 39-42); and sanctity does not consist first of all in doing extraordinary things, but in letting God act. It is the encounter of our weakness with the strength of His grace, it is to trust in His action that enables us to live in charity, to do everything with joy and humility, for the glory of God and in the service of our neighbor. There is a famous phrase of the French writer Leon Bloy, who in the last moments of his life said: “There is only one sadness in life, that of not being saints.” Let us not lose hope in sanctity, let us all follow this way. Do we want to be saints? All? The Lord awaits all with open arms. Let us live our faith with joy, let us allow ourselves to be loved by the Lord … let us ask for this gift of God in prayer, for ourselves and for others."

--Pope Francis, General Audience, October 2, 2013