As if we needed reminders, Sunday’s news reports that Rep. Peter Hoekstra is looking seriously at a run for the Governor’s chair in 2010. Maybe it’s the month of August or perhaps it’s a slow news cycle — this does seem to be a little old. Nonetheless it does confirm the sorry state of the GOP. Hoekstra’s creed is of course that what ails Michigan is the absence of strong conservative values.
Of course, Congressman Pete is not alone. We have the Return to Core Principles of Jack Hoogendyk, the Republican candidate for US Senate (couldn’t Zandstra have run again?). And locally, there is Justin Amash in south Kent Countyand his theme of Take Back Your Government. Not to be outdone, Dan Tietema (SH-75) has doubled down with an anti-tax stance in his race against Robert Dean.
The ideological tenor of all these campaigns testifies to a Republican Party still obsessed with the political solutions of yesteryear. In this they are in a denial about the problems before us. Search their blogs for the importance of schools. Or for addressing the needs of infrastructure. Or repositioning Michigan for a global economy. These are the critical issues. What will be done in Michigan to bring it back? Instead it is a question of principles, of values, and of under-defined (and so, ill-thought out) solutions.
By framing the issues as a matter of true principles, that a return to the true (conservative) faith will set things right — what is this but denial? Of course, in West Michigan, who can blame them? This tendency to True Belief is something we grow up with — just look at the letters to the editor. This is the dark side to the cultural project of the Reformed: get the belief (or presuppositions) right, and the rest follows.
And when it doesn’t? The religious framing yields this preference for righteousness, where fidelity to principle is the highest good. In faith, that is noble; in politics, in the shaping and leadership of our society, this is a recipe for exile, a preference for the wilderness.
Politics being what it is, the wilderness is no place to be long term. But for now, the path of ideology and nostrums only leads farther away from the future (and leadership) Michigan needs.