By Andy Schmookler
I've been deeply troubled by an adverse shift in the balance of power between good and evil forces in America. That concern has been the driving force in my life in recent years, and it motivated me to run for Congress in Virginia's 6th District in 2012.
An important part of this shift is a stark mismatch between the fine values of folks like my rural Virginia neighbors and the goals of the political force to which they give their support.
Most of my neighbors are dedicated to conservative, patriotic, and Christian values. The Republican Party gains their support by claiming to be a champion of those values but is serving the very opposite.
As genuine conservatives, my neighbors understand that traditions are there for a reason, and should be honored and respected. But today's Republican leaders, who claim to be conservatives, trample America's political traditions while directing their followers' attention to a few issues of concern that don't get in the way of their deeper agenda -- transferring wealth and power from average Americans to those who already have the most.
Our country has a way of dealing with the debt ceiling. It has been raised as needed more than 80 times without a crisis because both parties know the faith and credit of the United States is too important to mess with. But, like no real conservatives would, today's congressional Republicans swept that tradition aside in 2011 to extort concessions to their political goals, and are gearing up to try such blackmail again.
The filibuster has been used only as an emergency brake, in exceptional circumstances, for the Constitution says the majority should prevail in the U.S. Senate. But today's Senate Republicans have shown no respect for that tradition, or for the Constitution, with their insistence that nothing can happen in the Senate without the minority's approval.
My neighbors are, for the most part, patriotic Americans. They understand that a patriot is someone who is willing to put aside selfish interests to serve the good of the nation. But today's Republican leaders have shown a willingness to sacrifice America to gain advantage for themselves.
We know, for example, that even before President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, congressional Republicans decided to do everything they could to make this president fail. Trying to make the president fail has never been the American way, but especially at a time, like in 2009, when the nation faced many crises -- two wars and the American economy on the edge of an abyss.
You don't want the president to fail if you're a patriot. If the president fails, the country fails, and millions of Americans suffer. No real patriot would want that.
By and large, my neighbors try to be good Christians. They care about "What would Jesus do," and they take seriously his Golden Rule -"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Today's Republican Party has seized a couple of issues that arise in people's private lives to portray themselves as defenders of Christian values. But about the things that Jesus had the most to say, these national Republicans go the opposite way.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." But these Republicans in Congress have made our politics more strife-ridden than we've ever seen. They've made a fight over everything, opposing even their own ideas if the other side supports them. They've made "compromise" a dirty word, though it is at the heart of how our founders envisioned us living in peace.
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren," Jesus said, "ye have done it unto me." But here are today's Republicans refusing to ask the richest to contribute another penny, while cutting off food for hungry American kids at a time when poverty is increasing and there are still three job-seekers for every job.
Jesus' message was "love thy neighbor," and "love thine enemies.'' When was the last time the Republican leadership called upon their followers to act from love -- of anyone, or anything -- rather than from hate or fear?
There's good reason why our religious traditions have spoken of Satan as "the deceiver." Most people won't knowingly support evil. They must be deceived into doing so. Why have the forces of evil in America grown stronger in relation to the forces of good? Deceiving millions of good people into lending their power to an evil force shifts the balance. With that undeserved strength, evil can drag America down. And it has.
Andy Schmookler, recently the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District, is an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher. His books include "The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution."