Riff Raff, by Michael Tilley
There are important issues facing America and Arkansas but our two candidates for United States Senate appear to be more concerned with throwing each other under the church bus.
The Republican Cotton recently said something ill-advised in an attempt to tie the faith of The Democrat Pryor to that of President Obama. Although some Christians are taught that only God knows the heart, apparently Cotton was given divine insight into Obama’s heart. Not to be outdone in this silliness, Pryor responded with The Word of God in his lap for a television commercial.
A huge favor would be made on behalf of all Arkansans if someone would remind the two candidates that we are electing a Senator and not a Senate chaplain. And please tell me I’m not the only one who has thought this: “We have almost 3 million folks in Arkansas and these two guys are the best choices?”
There is enough history under our American belt to know a person’s level of faith is no guarantor of future success or failure. The awareness of right and wrong, making good decisions and a desire to improve the world around us does not require A Closer Walk With Thee. Ironically, this election has become nothing short of a list of candidate activity that would never be the answer to “What would Jesus do?”
Kind Reader will not get an argument from me if asserting that faith — especially individual faith — is important. This essay is not an attack on faith. As I’ve noted before, we must always be mindful of how well-meaning people and ill-mannered governments frequently hijack something so individually important and private as a relationship with a Deity.
The Republican Cotton might remember the words of President Reagan: “We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.”
The Democrat Pryor may likewise be reminded of President Kennedy’s comments: “I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.”
What would be preferred is for the Senate candidates to speak more to their beliefs related to good governance. Anyone remember the days of good governance at the federal level?
This country faces a terrible deficit and we continue to spend far more than we should. Entitlements are out of control. We have a federal tax code that creates incentives for large corporations to locate overseas or hold capital overseas. There exists a real opportunity to completely remake the U.S. economy through a more focused and relatively simple energy policy. Our national infrastructure is crumbling.
Our federal education system is in need of decentralization. It’s likely the results would be more immediate and profound than we might realize if we were to release the innovation and energies of state or regional public and private school officials.
It would be easy to continue with this list of real issues and opportunities, which is why it is frustrating that our Senate candidates have spent their energies wanting to us to believe they have a better relationship with the Lord R. God.
It is no surprise that a list of real governance issues and opportunities is not to be found on the websites of either Senate candidate. I dare anyone to visit the websites of the candidates and within 30 seconds find the page that outlines their views on deficits and job growth and energy policies and other things that might look something like good governance.
Cotton’s website is a puzzle. The landing page is a donation trap. It takes a few seconds to find the link to the page that might possess real info. But there is no real info. If you find the page that provides a list of Cotton’s policies on fundamental governance, please send me the link.
Pryor’s campaign website is no better. You are redirected to a page to include your e-mail address. Here’s a hint: Hit the “escape” key to get off the redirect and return to the main page. But the escape is no escape. There is not a page for Pryor that identifies his thoughts on governance. You know the drill. Send me the link if you find it.
This is admittedly a naive essay. It is too much to hope for less piety and sanctimony and more proposals and solutions. We’re likely to know more about the candidates’ belief in God than their views on government. If either want to use the Bible as a prop, might I suggest its use as an example of the size – at least for starters – we should shrink the federal tax code.
The candidates should know that the more they focus on who has more faith, Arkansans who merely seek an end to decades of dysfunction within the federal government are losing faith that either candidate were our best options.