In 2004, after a fantastically disappointing presidential campaign and election, the Reverend Jim Wallis--an evangelical christian, political activist, and editor of Sojourner's magazine--wrote a book which he titled God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It.
Not only do Br. Wallis and I see eye-to-eye on several key points, he has also managed to pinpoint for me at least part of the source of my political disgruntlement. With my populist, environmentalist, part-liberal, part-conservative, part-progressive, part-anarchist, part anti-capitalist, part anti-nationalist leanings and a extreme aversion to political labels (even tho i just threw out a zillion regarding myself), parties, and idealogues, it's no wonder I've had difficulty finding anything close to resembling a niche.
I know many people like me who don't subscribe to our current political options and ideologies. Many of them are also Mormons who don't fit in with the traditional christian conservative niche. For those of you who may put yourself in this category (but not necessarily all my part-this, anti-that categories) or for anyone else, you may find this excerpt from Wallis' book compelling.
(for a smoother read, please ignore the plethora of parentheticals)
There are now three major political options in our public life. The first political option in America today is conservative on everything--from cultural, moral, and family concerns to economic, environmental, and foreign policy issues. Differences emerge between aggressive nationalists and cautious isolationists, corporate apologists and principled fiscal conservatives, but this is the political option clearly on the ascendancy in America [remember, this is 4 years ago], with most of the dominant ideas in the public square coming from the political right.
The second political option in contemporary America is liberal on everything--both family/sexual/cultural questions and economic, environmental, and foreign policy matters. There are certainly differences among the liberals (from pragmatic centrists to green leftists), but the intellectual and ideological roots come from the Left side of the cultural and political spectrum--and today most from the liberal/Left find themselves on the defensive [not anymore, for those of you who heard the story on NPR today about how the Religious Right is back on the defensive and excited about it. !]
The third option in American politics is libertarian, meaning liberal on cultural/moral issues and conservative on fiscal/economic and foreign policy issues. The "just leave me alone and don't spend my money option" is growing quickly in American life.
I believe there is a "fourth option" for American politics, which follows from the prophetic religious tradition we have described. It is traditional or conservative on issues of family values, sexual integrity and personal responsibility, while being very progressive, populist, or even radical on issues like poverty [yes!] and racial justice [yes again!]. It affirms good stewardship of the earth and its resources, supports gender equality, and is more internationally minded than nationalist--looking first to peacemaking and conflict resolution when it comes to foreign policy questions [huzzah!!!!] The people it appeals to (many religious, but others not) are very strong on issues like marriage, raising kids, and individual ethics, but without being right-wing, reactionary, or mean-spirited or scapegoating against any group of people, such as homosexuals [yes!!]. They can be pro-life, pro-family, and pro-feminist, all at the same time. They think issues of "moral character" are very important, both in a politician's personal life and in his or her policy choices. Yet they are decidedly pro-poor [definitely me. possibly the most important work i've done to this point in my life is with low-income and homeless families who have shown me just what a blight poverty and homelessness really are], for racial reconciliations, critical of purely military solutions [oh man. so so so critical. check out Taxi to the Dark Side for the darkest side of military solutions], and defenders of the environment.
At the heart of the fourth option is the integral link between personal ethics and social justice. And it appeals to people who refuse to make the choice between the two.