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Schubart: New Political Values

02/13/12 5:55PM By Bill Schubart
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(Host) Commentator Bill Schubart misses the Republicans he grew up with, men and women who ran Vermont for more than a century, men who pinched pennies but also saw to their neighbors, their villages, woods and rivers.

(Schubart) In this pre-electoral season, I've been thinking a lot about the Republicans older Vermonters will recognize as having run Vermont effectively for a hundred years. This species of Republican  still survives in Vermont and continues to add wisdom and intelligence to our generally civil political discourse.

Those we see on national TV, however, are different, self-described as "Tea Party conservatives," "social conservatives," or "the Christian right." Their debates have become so predictable that, like many, I've stopped watching the main events and only catch the sound-bite summaries on the following day's news.

The current Republican front runner is a man richer than 99% of his fellow Americans. There's nothing wrong with this, but it begs the question of how much empathy he'll be able to muster for sustaining a social safety net that protects those of us in the other 99% should we fall out of the economy, sometimes for reasons brought about by the privileged 1%.

The other leading candidate is a man spinning his past into a tale of hard work, allegiance to conservative values, intellectual honesty, and to Christian ideals - whatever they've become in the context of modern politics.

Both men represent different aspects of what is emerging as a new definition of Republican virtue. But personally, I'd rather see a George Aiken, Jim Jeffords, Dick Mallary, Phil Scott or Randy Brock as President.

I think it's the "Christian" supremacy stuff that's most troubling to me. A founding tenet of this country was religious freedom in which all law-abiding people might practice their faith openly and freely. It didn't happen overnight, but in time we learned to live together - Jews, Catholics, Puritans, Calvinists, Lutherans, Mormons, Animists. Hindi, and Muslims. We're still learning to live together racially but we've made steady progress. Our allegiance to racial equality and religious tolerance appears often in our headlines, but not always in our news.

We need to remember that the current President and his family in the White House are exemplars of Christian values, too. I will not presume to measure their Christian values against those of the two emerging Republican candidates. Nor would I, if they were Muslim, as half the nation still seems to want to believe. But then, of course, they're also an African-American family, which for some still does not fit their image of Christians in the White House.

The beautiful parables of the Jesus I grew up with in our small church in Morrisville, taught that spiritual wellbeing came from being among and helping the poor and the sick, teaching children and seeing to the wellbeing of others as well as ourselves. That world is very different from the one reflected so often in politics today - one that elevates consumerism, commerce and accumulated wealth above community.

If I were casting my vote in any of the Republican primaries today, I think I might just have to write in a Vermonter.

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