December 11, 2000
Why Silence about the Campaign?
-- Martin E. Marty
Having barely mentioned here this year's presidential campaign, an explanation is in order.
In part, the neglect is personal. I love politics but, for example, I've not "done" presidential politics in forty-plus years of weekly comment in *The Christian Century*. Whole administrations pass without my using the proper name of the incumbent. Call this choice "division of labor," a sense of my limitations, or awareness of potential redundancy.
Also, in the recent campaign and its aftermath, presidential politicking is so drawn out, so over-covered by cable-news talking heads and columnists, that one hesitates to add to the glut. At least this one does.
I hope cynicism is not taking over. Minnesota State Senator John Marty has taught our family (and others) to call elections on the higher levels "auctions," and, unreformed, they are a turn-off. There is much about which to turn cynical but, faith-fully, we do not make this turn. Oh, yes, of course there were a few "public religion" issues -- we did mention one or two of these -- but they are better covered on other levels.
This deliberate neglect came to mind after I received an email from a respected religion journalist. I had spoken for the Washington Metropolitan Dialogue and the College of Preachers (at what they playfully chose to name "Martin Marty Day in the Nation's Capital") and had chosen to speak of finding and nurturing the "soul" of that city. The journalist: "how does your thesis apply at a moment like this one, where the nation, symbolized by the evils of partisan Washington, is concentrated on the whole red-map/blue-map, AM versus NPR, Coasts versus Heartland, etc. phenomenon that was so clearly seen in THE ELECTION from hell?" Translation: "culture wars" turned political.
I have to answer: it does not easily apply. But the dialogue group had other agendas and chose not to be overwhelmed by that partisanship. The election never came up in three hours of workshop talk. Washington, D.C., now with its own "Silicon Alley" and its host of urban problems, does well not to get sucked up into the extremes of the "culture wars." Little comes of debates over them. It's all been said, or most of it has.
Since the purgatorial election I have been interim-presiding at St. Olaf College while sneaking in a few speeches, conferences, and conversations with all sorts of people in all kinds of conditions. Almost never do I hear sustained talk about this latest ring of changes in the "culture wars." Of course people comment on the election contesting, which most treat as they do "who's ahead?" sporting events. But there are also other issues beyond the Beltway, as well as other ways to treat them along with societal discontents and hopes.