Why Not Partisanship?

Look, this is a good and productive thing. There is not a durned thing wrong with religious progressives working together to kick a little behind on health insurance. Kudos to the coalition for a job well done!

It’s just that when Jim Wallis reassures us, “This is not a partisan political move,” I have to wonder, why not?

I get where Wallis is coming from: he’s not behind this plan to help Democrats, he’s behind it to get uninsured people covered. Fine.

But it’s not like there’s this great spirit of bipartisanship at risk of being flushed down the drain here. So far, the across-the-aisle action amounts to a sum total of: Democrats propose, Republicans give a raspberry. Coming out in favor of health care reform is a partisan move in the sense that there’s only one party lining up behind it.

And lest it be forgotten, Pres. Obama — who’s working with the coalition to advance his agenda — still gets a (D) after his name. So this isn’t bipartisan, and it’s not nonpartisan either. It’s partisan, plain and simple.

And really, why shouldn’t it be?

To review the situation once more: Democrats have come up with a number of ideas of greater or lesser effectiveness. Republicans have done squat. (Unless you count bullying members of Congress, of course.)

I say we let the chips fall. The social good and bad couldn’t be clearer, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. This is literally a matter of life and death for millions of Americans.

If we’re going to talk about “God’s politics,” then, let us be forthright enough to admit that God himself is a partisan. He chose Moses over Pharaoh, David over Saul, Jehu over Ahab (and Elisha over Jezebel’s prophets) and so on and so forth. God is surprisingly, shockingly interventionist throughout scripture, a relentless partisan on behalf of his children.

Does that mean that we can safely identify the divine intention with the programs of one political party or another? By no means! God is free, and we are boneheads. Let us not push our luck.

Does that then mean that we should hold ourselves back from articulating clearly the right from the wrong? By no means! Not unless we want to dissolve into a puddle of well-intentioned and well-liked but ineffective goo, that is.

The debate over health care reform isn’t quite as simple as Democrats good, Republicans bad. There’s plenty of blame to go around on the left side of the aisle (I’m looking at my co-religionist Max Baucus here). So no, in that sense, this is not a partisan issue. Not a partisan political issue, anyway. As for God’s partisanship, I think it couldn’t be clearer: status quo, bad. Reform, bad. Let’s move on that, already.

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