Duane Shank has a nice little piece over at God's Politics blog, where I have re-entered the fray.
His comments are in italics, my responses follow.
"voters appeared to send a message that they were fed up with divisiveness in Washington"
Here is where the voters are mistaken. Divisiveness in Washington is the best thing we could hope for. The less politicians agree about things, the safer we all are. Our checks and balances were set up to work best when politicians disagree with each other.
"The political world in Washington has become so bitter that simple friendships between Members of Congress of different parties are almost non-existent. President Ford belonged to an earlier era where there could be vigorous disagreements, but still strong friendships across the aisle."
If politicians across the aisle from each other are having such a hard time being civil with one another it is because they are arguing about things they shouldn't even be dabbling in. If they were focused on preserving the citizen's rights and enforcing contracts there wouldn't be much to disagree about.
When government is used to redistribute wealth, to play favorites by protecting some industries and not others, to create monoply power for some, to create privileges without merit, then people start to get ugly at one another.
People are always more protective of privileges than they are of rights.
The great assumption that Sojourner's makes, and the same mistake has been made by the Religious Right, is that government can be a vehicle for good, for social justice beyond the protection of rights and enforcement of contracts. This simply can not happen. The incentives facing government decision makers and the feedback mechanisms holding them accountable only work for a limited set of functions. Charity lies wholly outside of this set, it belongs to the Church and the Church alone.