“He has pulled down the princes from from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.” Mary, the mother of Jesus, Luke 1:52-53
The Washington, DC version of what’s left, right, and centrist are very strange indeed. People who want to blow holes in the federal deficit by giving away promiscuous tax cuts, subsidies, and bailouts we can’t afford to profitable industries are considered conservative. People who advocate policies opposed by 80% of Americans, such as cutting Social Security benefits, are considered centrists. And people who advocate common-sense policies supported by 70-80% in the polling are considered far to the left.
And the people who would agree with the ideas of the people revered in the religion adhered to by a majority of Americans are so far to the left that their views are off the radar screen.
I was thinking about this because it’s Christmas time, and so I was thinking about what the mother of that radical preacher, that guy who said his job was to bring good news to the poor and proclaim liberty to the captives, had to say.
Mary, poor and persecuted, who left to give birth in a barn because the owner of the inn didn’t give a damn about a young woman with no money about to give birth, was pretty radical. She was certainly to my left — I don’t advocate for the rich to be sent away with nothing, I just want them to be taxed a little more and have less power over the rest of us. And she raised at least two radical sons, Jesus and James, who both led major rebellions against the powers that be and both of whom were executed by the authorities for those rebellions. Jesus and James both echoed their mom’s radical teachings in the quotes we have from them in the Bible. Jesus echoed his mother’s words in Luke 6, saying that it is the poor who would get the kingdom of God and the rich who would go hungry. And he said the nations and people that did not feed the hungry and care for the sick were going straight to hell. James went even further, proclaiming the virtues of the poor and saying, “Isn’t it the rich who are always against you? Isn’t it always their doing when you are dragged into court?”
Like I say, a pretty radical family. I am such a centrist compared to them — I don’t think all rich folks are bad. I think wealthy businesspeople who invest in their communities and create good-paying jobs are great. But I do believe that the wealthy and powerful who buy elections and corrupt our government, who slip their riders designed to make them wealthier into must-pass legislation in the dead of night, need to be pulled from their thrones. And that, by the way, isn’t a far left position even in modern America.
I have to laugh when people talk about someone like Elizabeth Warren as a far left radical, the progressive version of Ted Cruz or Jim DeMint. Cruz and DeMint want to shut down government at the drop of a hat, deport all undocumented immigrants, and abolish the minimum wage, and generally support a whole series of profoundly unpopular agenda items. As for Warren, I have heard or read a great many of her speeches, as well as her terrific autobiography, and I can’t ever remember her advocating for something that was unpopular with the American people. Her economic policy prescriptions generally garner 70-80% when polled. Prosecuting the bankers who brought down the economy with their reckless and illegal bank fraud? Check. Breaking up the biggest banks? Check. Strong oversight of the big banks provided by agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? Check. Expanding Social Security benefits? Check. Raising the minimum wage? Reforming the student loan system and reducing student debt? Check. Making a big investment in roads and bridges and education? Check. All of those policies are strongly supported by the American people.
Rather than being an extremist, Elizabeth Warren is right in line with most Americans on what she is advocating, certainly far more than beltway pundits bloviating about what responsible centrism is or is not, and certainly more so that conservatives who want to do the opposite of all the popular policies sited above. And compared to Mary, James, and Jesus, she’s a milquetoast moderate.
The reason Elizabeth Warren is so popular with so many people is that she advocates for things they think are common-sense, and she doesn’t let the beltway BS intimidate her from saying what she believes in a powerful way. People respond to both passion and common-sense, and Elizabeth has both in spades.
It is the time of year to think about the Christmas story, even if the main characters are a bit on the radical side. It is good to remember as we fight the battles of today that common-sense and basic justice have always sounded a little radical, especially to those in power.