PUBLISHERS NOTEBOOK: Politicians should take a
few lessons from the pope
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 9:18 AM
Politicians could likely learn a thing or two from the pope. The recent interview of Pope Francis, which attracted a lot of attention, and a lot of interpretation, signaled a different direction for the Catholic church, or at least a different emphasis.
The remark that many people focused on was this: "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.... The teaching of the church ... is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
Although many people read into the comment more than he likely meant, it appears that he wants to focus on what unites, rather than divides people. In the interview, he compared the church as a "field hospital after battle," which could mean that he wants to reach out to those bloodied by the cultural disputes that are so prominent in society today.
Republicans in Minnesota found that focusing on the wedge issues that divide us doesn't always work to their advantage. They attached their party to the ban on gay marriage last year, and came away with a decisive defeat as voters saw the ploy as mean-spirited. Not only is gay marriage now legal in Minnesota, Republicans lost their majority in the House and Senate.
National Republicans have attached themselves to a new wedge issue - Obamacare. As of this writing, there is a real threat to shut down the government over it, although by the time this is published, it will already have happened or likely a short-term deal was struck to keep it running temporarily.
Republicans say they are looking out for the people as the new Affordable Care Act is bad for citizens, doctors and businesses. They feel they are on the right side of this issue because polls show little support for the change in health care, even though informal discussion shows more confusion than opposition.
This isn't a partisan column as Democrats have also claimed they are looking out for the people, when in reality they are looking out for the party. After all, when reports came out about the intrusiveness of the National Security Agency (NSA) into our private lives, most Democrats defended the program, something that would have never happened had it been revealed of a Republican president.
The former anti-war party was also quite supportive of President Obama's threats to use military force in Syria, at least until the public sentiment against it eventually changed a lot of opinions of Democratic officials, not necessarily because of support for the people, but self-preservation of the party.
Obamacare may be bad for the country, but are Republicans really certain it is bad enough to shut down the government? Is threatening to shut down the government the way to address and negotiate for change?
It seems that if Obamacare were as bad as Republicans make it out to be, they should let it go into effect so people could see for themselves. If it is a catastrophe, people would let their representatives know and perhaps vote out the Democrats that stood behind the health care change.
The public does have a mind and can use its power to make change as was evidenced in policy on Syria and on gay marriage in Minnesota.
Likely no person really knows what is going to happen if the health exchanges go live this week and Obamacare takes hold, even though politicians on both sides of the aisle will claim absolute certainty about what the future holds with this bold new program. They are both certain enough to bring the government to a standstill, which is high stakes indeed.
These politicians could take another lesson from the pope about certainty. In his interview, he explained why leaving "room for doubt" is important in any honest person's search for God or the truth, and why he distrusts any religious figure who claims to have "the answers to all the questions."