Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath is still a harsh reality for many tens of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed, or whose ability to access public transportation has been compromised, or who still have no electricity in their homes. Rising sea levels make all bad storms more destructive than they otherwise would be, and it is well past impossible to deny that the incidents of extreme weather are becoming more common. Sadly, it is not at all clear that the nation’s political landscape will permit the kind of steps needed to address this issue.
As the results of Tuesday’s elections sink in, and bishops’ secretaries double check the flight reservations for their bosses headed to Baltimore for the annual plenary meeting next Monday, the bishops themselves must survey the political landscape and ask themselves how they can best manage the always tricky fault lines between politics and religion in American culture.
It has been fun listening to the talking heads at Fox complain about the polls the last few weeks, and especially about the New York Times' Nate Silver who analyzes the polls brutally to put them through the sniff test. The refrain, repeated again and again, was that the 2012 electorate was not going to look like the 2008 electorate. Guess what? It looked exactly like it and the keys to Obama's victory are all demographic keys.
Ben Feuerherd got himself some prime journalistic real estate yesterday, the front page of Salon.com on election day. Feuerherd interviewed one of my favorite scholars on the relationship between religion and politics, Professor Mark Silk of Trinity College. And Silk nailed it - "Catholics always go with the winner."
Massachusetts voters rejected an effort to legalize physician assisted suicide yesterday, narrowly, but they did it. This is, to my mind, the most important election result of the night. And the victory did not simply happen. In the early summer, polls indicated the proposal would pass overwhelmingly. What happened?
The American people have rendered their verdict. After four years of some of the most divisive partisan politics imaginable from “You lie!’ hurled at President Obama during the State of the Union to repugnant television ads from MoveOn.org, after $6 billion spent on this election cycle, after an exceedingly close margin in the popular vote, the American voters ended up ratifying the status quo last night. President Obama, Senate Democrats and House Republicans all held their own. So, this morning, we must look through our bleary eyes and face the question: What Now?
I went to my polling place this morning at 8 a.m.and the lines were very long. I decided to head back later, and not delay the line longer for those who needed to get to work and do not have the luxury I do of working from home. I just got an email from a priest who is standing in line in Virginia and the wait is one and one-half hours. So, if you have not voted yet, bring something to read. And, whatever you do, don't give up! Too many people fought too hard for the franchise for anyone who has it to abuse it by not exercising it.
One of my favorite sentences ever penned comes from the pen of Leon Wieseltier who, in his short essay "Against Identity," wrote: "I hear it said of a man that he leads a double life and I think to myself, 'Just two?'"
Whatever the results tonight, Catholic leaders -- our bishops and prominent laypeople -- must remember that the church is called to be a sacrament of unity in the world.
John McWhorter, at the New Republic, answers President Obama's black critics like Cornell West, a man whose reputation as an intellectual is truly baffling.