On dog breeds and party purity

Had an interesting conversation with one of my coworkers this afternoon. Politics is as rarely a topic around my workplace, mainly because we're all so busy we don't usually have time to talk about anything but work, but also because pretty much everyone is in one of two camps: 1) either they all assume everyone else there believes the same thing they do, i.e. generic conservative/Republican/Christian Right, for the most part pretty moderate and really, not very political; OR 2) they observe the unwritten rule that politics, like religion, are Topics To Be Avoided In Polite Company. Which is actually a decent enough rule, really, and in the workplace, all for the best. It's fairly easy for a political (or religious, for that matter) discussion to get out of hand and that's just not the right place for it.

Having said that, though, I've been there long enough to have figured out roughly where everyone stands on a crude two-dimensional scale (admittedly, a shallow metric) and have had political conversations with several people. All polite and respectful. (And crude two-dimensional scale or not, I've talked with them enough to know I'm in the minority.

The coworker in question is also in the minority. I'd classify him as an independent -- he's a Christian, but not Christian Right, pro-life but doesn't vote an executive candidate on that issue, would like to see prayer in school, very pro-environment, a fairly strong dove, conservative fiscally and socially but believes in government as a social agent on behalf of the poor. In contemporary American politics, that makes him a schizophrenic, but really, he's an independent-progressive, as much as any label can apply to someone. (I mean, really...who votes a straight ticket or platform?)

More specifically, he's voting his religious beliefs, as he said many times while we discussed various issues. To wit: the Bible teaches stewardship of the Earth (environmentalism), caring for "the least of these" (social issues/helping the poor), pro-life (debatable, but whatever, I'll give him that), etc. As an agnostic, I was relieved to discuss the idea of progressive politics in conjunction with Biblical teaching with someone who obviously believes very strongly in their faith. I've always wondered how the Right has managed to turn those two things into mutually exclusive propositions, so it was nice to know that there really are Christian Progressives out there.... I've heard of them, of course, but I've also heard of the Loch Ness Monster, doesn't mean I'm putting money down that there actually is such a thing.

Anyway, he mentioned going to see Fahrenheit 9/11, which I was surprised about even though I know his political leanings. More surprised that he loved it. I don't know why I expected he either wouldn't go or that he'd hate it, but the fact is, he was quite taken with the points the film raised. Which led to our discussion about various things in this Administration that have been enraging us.

The thing is, we both come from a different perspective and have major issues that we disagree about, but on this Administration, we agree that there's nothing either of us can find remotely redeeming about it. The abortion issue is a perfect example: obviously an important issue to him, as it is to me, and we're on opposite sides of it. But regardless of what our candidate believes, we both agree that what's more important is the larger issue of the damage Bush is wreaking on our country in every respect. (I guess The Shrubbery really is a uniter!)

It struck me later that our party's umbrella is large enough to encompass an agnostic pro-choice gun control liberal AND a Christian school prayer pro-life progressive. Not to say the other side's umbrella isn't large enough for the same sort of thing, but it seems to me, in my most biased and subjective view, that the Republican Party, at least in the last 20 years or so, has systematically purged itself of its dissenting voices in the interest of some kind of ideological purity that strays so far from the party's original roots as to be nearly unrecognizable.

I've been thinking about this for quite some time, actually, and reading others' thoughts on the same idea in the blogosphere at large. What I'm wondering, though, is how long the GOP can sustain such a thing. Darwin's theories aren't just applicable in nature. And as biology has demonstrated time and time again, purity will eventually weaken anything, be it a dog breed or a political party.

So here's what I'm getting at (finally!).... I'm starting to wonder if, with the Bush Administration, we're seeing the really horrific effects of what you might call political inbreeding.

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