How the Inability to Forgive May Be the Democratic Party’s Greatest Weakness
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” — Alexander Pope
The debate between Democrats and Republicans over the direction the country should take has never been so intense as it’s been since Donald Trump became president. This debate has heightened in recent months with his upcoming re-election bid. People on both sides speak of the battle for “the soul of America,” but when we overlay Christian concepts on politics, we run the risk of painting ourselves into a corner.
In 2017, at the height of the #MeToo movement, two high profile sexual misconduct cases were thrust into the spotlight. They involved Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, and Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota.
Franken was accused of sexual misconduct, while Moore was accused of sexual assault by three women, two of who were underage at the time.
Also, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary had removed Moore twice from his position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court due to judicial misconduct, and some questioned his suitability as a candidate.
How the Democratic party dealt with this stain on its character was wildly different from how the Republicans dealt with theirs. The Democrats rushed to judgment of Franken without due process. Over two dozen senators led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York demanded his resignation.
The Republicans, on the other hand, nominated Moore as their senatorial candidate despite the charges against him. President Trump backed Moore using the excuse that the evangelical Christian candidate had denied the allegations.
What can’t be denied is that Moore repeatedly abused his position as Alabama’s chief justice and ordered probate judges to violate a federal court order.
Likely, most Alabama Republicans didn’t have a problem with Moore’s judicial misconduct because the order he violated was in support of same-sex marriage. A 2018 poll by Five ThirtyEight revealed Alabama to be the only one of the 50 states where a majority opposed it.
“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and The Washington Post on this campaign.” — Roy Moore in a statement regarding charges of sexual assault
The enduring support of conservative Christians for imperfect and sometimes criminal politicians is a mystery to many liberals, but it shouldn’t be. Evangelicals believe that God forgave Donald Trump’s litany of sins when he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. This purported conversion has raised doubts among Trump’s detractors who point to his continuing un-Christlike behavior.
The concept of forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. According to the Oxford Companion to the Bible, “The core Christian belief is that through belief in and acceptance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, sinful humans can be reconciled to God, and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life.”
Republicans, as evidenced by the nomination of candidates like Roy Moore and the continued support of President Trump, are apt to forgive the past misdeeds of their candidates, as long as they believe they can win.
Democrats tend to subject their candidates to purity tests so rigorous that few can meet the criteria. In the process, they can end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as in the case of Al Franken.
“I crossed a line for some women, and I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry.” — Al Franken in a statement regarding allegations of sexual misconduct
Before several women levied accusations against him in November of 2017, Franken was shaping up to be a possible contender to challenge Trump in 2020. Political pundits lauded him for his questioning of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a Senate hearing regarding Russian collusion by the Trump Administration. He was also a well-respected member of Congress with an excellent track record.
On June 2, 2017, CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer urged the Democratic party to consider running Franken against Trump in 2020. With Franken’s resignation, any hopes Democrats had of his defeating Trump were dead in the water.
In an interview in The New Yorker, several senators who called for Franken’s resignation said they regret doing so without due process. Franken himself said he shouldn’t have stepped down. They should be sorry. If Franken were running against Trump this November instead of Biden, Democrats might be a lot more energized than they are now.
“Patrick Leahy, the veteran Democrat from Vermont, said that his decision to seek Franken’s resignation without first getting all the facts was ‘one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made’ in forty-five years in the Senate.” — Jane Mayer, “The Case Against Al Franken,” The New Yorker, July 29, 2019
Democrats’ tendency to withhold forgiveness from their own may prove to be the Achilles heel in the progressive movement. Criticism, finger-pointing, and shaming of Democrats by others in their party does nothing but strengthen the position of the Republicans.
The age-old admonition of “united we stand, divided we fall” has been bandied about recently in reference to the sharp division between liberal and conservative voices in America. The Democratic party would do well to apply it to itself. Unity within the Republican party has made it a formidable foe in the November presidential election.
©2020, Denise Shelton. All rights reserved.