Political Partnership and the Prophet Jonah March 18, 2010
In the course of my “annual” reading of the Bible I happened to come across the book of Jonah. This book has been spoiled for us by arguments about “did it really historically happen?” I take the position that it could have happened, because we can’t rule out the truth of anything just because it contains miracles; but even if it is not factual history, it is still the Word of God and a wonderful story.
If you have not read it, this prophet is asked to go to Nineveh, at that time Israel’s enemy, to prophesy against its sins and get it to repent so that it will not be destroyed by God’s wrath. Now, the last thing Jonah wants is for Nineveh to be spared, which on the off-chance might actually happen if he follows God’s instructions; so to make things perfectly clear, he hops on a boat to Spain, which is in the other direction. A big storm comes up and, well, this is where the big fish (it doesn’t specifically say “whale”) comes in. And I won’t spoil it for you, but it kind of goes on from there.
And then I thought of the exaggerated political partisanship of our time. The Republicans of California purged from their ranks anyone who would vote to raise any tax for any reason whatsoever. The “tea partiers,” though they may be thinking of a broader agenda – the role of government in health care and other matters – and not just of taxes, are conducting purges nationwide. (Though Scott Brown, no conservative, seemed to be acceptable to them!) This is no monopoly of the right. The “net-rooters” of the left would like to do some purges of their own. Either a cause or a consequence of this is redistricting; once each decade, when the legislatures get to, in Bertolt Brecht’s words, “dissolve the People and elect another,” the Democrats elect themselves a more solidly Democratic People and allow the Republicans to elect themselves a more solidly Republican People. This creates very safe districts, and the only way to get turnover is by strict term limits, which has its own problems and also doesn’t apply to the Federal Congress. The challenge that the incumbent faces is from within his own party; the challenger is more Republican or conservative than thou, or more Democratic and liberal than thou. It means compromise becomes very difficult, and in the U S Senate, 60 votes, rather than being a special means of breaking a filibuster, becomes the normal number needed to pass a bill instead of 51.
I couldn’t help wondering if, supposed God appeared to Glenn Beck and the Tea Party leaders and told them to go prophesy to Obama and his friends and ask them to repent? I‘d bet that, if these partisans feared that Obama and friends might actually repent, that rather than go to DC to confront Obama, they would hop on the next plane to Spain!