Mike Bellah

Republicans Need to Learn from Balaam's Donkey
Election 2006

Question: How do you defeat an enemy who is stronger than you? Ask the biblical Balaam (you know, the guy with the talking donkey). Or ask the Democrats who seem to be using Balaam's strategy to defeat Republicans in the upcoming elections. 

According to the Old Testament Book of Numbers, Balaam was hired by the King of Moab to use his prophetic powers to put a hex on Israel. Yet Balaam couldn't get his magic to work. Israel was too strong. Said Balaam, "How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?" (Numbers 23: 8a). So the man with the famous donkey came up with a more workable plan. He counseled the Moabites to invite the Israelites to a party (see Revelation 2 and Numbers 25). 

This was not just any party. It was one of the wildest, most perverse shindigs in the Bible, replete with religious idolatry and sexual promiscuity. You see, Balaam knew that Israel's strength lay in her righteous living (i.e. conservative values). Destroy the values and one could destroy the nation. Or, put another way, Balaam knew that if one is not powerful enough to defeat one's enemy, one must find a way to get that enemy to destroy himself. 

Which, on the eve of the upcoming elections, is exactly what seems to be happening with the Republican base--that group of fiscal and religious conservatives who in the last eight years have united to elect both a conservative president and conservative majorities in both houses of Congress. The Republican base is responsible for everything from lower taxes to new faith-based programs that help the nation's underprivileged. Most importantly, it is the Republican base that has encouraged this nation's strong stand on national security and its aggressive (and successful) approach to the war on terror.  

But all of this is now in jeopardy. Why? Not because those with less conservative values suddenly have a majority in the electorate. No, the Republicans are in danger of losing the November elections because Balaam (i.e. the Democratic party) has gotten conservatives to turn on themselves. It seems Republicans have been invited to a party of self-criticism, an activity which in the last few weeks (with help from newly released books and "breaking" news from the national media) has whipped up a mental frenzy which seems every bit as contagious and addicting as the Moabites' orgy.

The fiscal conservatives are mad because Bush and the Republican Congress have spent too much money. What would they leave out? Aid to Katrina victims? And religious conservatives are upset that there has been more talk than money spent on faith-based programs. In addition, there is the Mark Foley debacle, which is supposed to illustrate the hypocrisy of George Bush and Company's faith. By this logic Jesus was a hypocrite because he kept Judas the embezzler on his staff (what did Jesus know and when?). 

According to national media, polls now show that Democrats will pick up enough votes to control the House of Representatives and, maybe, the Senate. Perhaps they will. Or maybe Republicans will take a lesson from Balaam's donkey, the only one who saw what was really going on with the Moabite King's offer. It was Balaam's donkey who saw the Angel of the Lord blocking the prophet's path, trying to prevent his error. 

Perhaps the Republican base will have similar revelations in the final days before this election. Maybe fiscal conservatives will get a glimpse of the likes of Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy spending their hard-earned tax dollars. Maybe religious conservatives will see visions of Barney Frank and Hillary Clinton deciding things like what constitutes a family and what values should be present in a Supreme Court justice. And finally, perhaps all of the Republican base will get a vision of people like John Murtha and Nancy Pelosi setting the nation's foreign policy and conducting (or not conducting) the war on terror.

If so, on November 7, Republicans will be like the wise donkey who, at the last minute, refused to follow Balaam down the path to self-destruction.
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