“Libertarian Doesn’t Mean Liberal”: Christian Right Interest In Libertarianism Is A Sign Of Hardening Ideological Bonds
An exchange between New York‘s Kevin Roose and Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., casts an interesting light on the big media meme that conservatism is being increasingly dominated by “libertarians” at the expense of the Christian Right. Asked about rumored weakening of opposition to marriage equality, Falwell the Younger had this to say about political trends at Liberty, one of the Christian Right’s primary training camps:
As you know…most of our faculty, staff and students are very conservative politically and theologically. I do not see that changing at all. For example, in Liberty’s voting precinct, Romney won 93% of the vote and that precinct had, by far, the highest turnout in the area. Students still are very much pro-life and pro-traditional marriage just like they have always been and the ones who voted for Romney indicated those two issues were the main reasons they supported Romney over Obama. The only shift I have noticed in recent years has been more support among conservative Christians, especially young ones, for libertarians. In Virginia, only Romney and Ron Paul were on the ballot in the Republican primary and Ron Paul won at the campus precinct. So, if anything, our students are becoming more conservative on the issue of limiting the size and scope of government while remaining conservative on the social issues.
What Falwell is describing, of course, is the world-view that dominates the Tea Party Movement: hard-core opposition to government “interference” in the economy combined with hard-core conservative cultural views. But it’s a world-view that’s been aborning for a long time. For the gazillions of words written about the steadily growing influence of the Christian Right within the conservative movement and the Republican Party over the last few decades, far less has been written about the equally important incorporation of “libertarian” economic and role-of-governnent extremism by the Christian Right itself.
The proto-Christian-Right of the old-timey southern conservative evangelicals of the period prior to the establishment of the Moral Majority in the late 1970s often reflected reactionary views on issues remote from central cultural concerns: hostility to labor unions, defense of segregation and neo-segregation (via church-based separatist private schools designed to circumvent school desegregation), celebration of godly “self-made-men” who had accumulated vast wealth, etc. But once the institutional Christian Right entered into what might have once been called a “marriage of convenience,” it has steadily acclimated itself to secular conservative private-property absolutism in all its forms (most notably hostility to environmentalism, often described as “pagan”). And one of the most distinctive features of the Tea Party faith has been the divinization of such views, often via idolatry aimed at the Declaration of Independence, thought to reflect a theocratic charter for America making pervasive property rights, strictly limited government and the “rights of the unborn” and “traditional marriage” the only legitimate governing tenets for the country. Libertarians, of course, share some if not all of this agenda. So a growing warmth for libertarianism within the Christian Right is not a problem for its leaders, and does not necessarily mean a growing warmth for any kind of cultural liberalism.
Indeed, as Falwell notes, this “teavangelical” coalition (as some have called it) has a common enemy:
Rand Paul wrote a column recently about his father’s legacy and he noted that the two universities that gave his father the most enthusiastic reception were UC-Berkeley and Liberty. His point was that there is support on the left and the right for more limited government and expanded individual liberties and freedom. I think he is right and I think the Republicans will continue to lose if they keep running candidates who try to move toward the middle to attract the “independent” voters.
Arguably, then, Christian Right interest in “libertarianism” is a sign of hardening, not softening, ideological bonds. And if, as appears entirely possible, Rand Paul becomes a maximum leader of conservative extremism in all its forms, that could become much more apparent.
By: Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 1, 2013
The three-day Conservative Political Action Conference that began Thursday at National Harbor in Maryland showcases a wealth of conservative spending power from more than 200 right-leaning donors, foundations, universities, think tanks and activists who have collectively doled out more than $1 million to help underwrite the event.
The American Conservative Union, which is hosting the conference for the 40th consecutive year, offers underwriters a sliding scale of benefits at rates ranging from $3,000 for exhibitors to $50,000 for event “partners.” The ACU also lists some 100 “VIP donors” on its website, without indicating how much each gave.
Nine “partners” collectively paid $450,000 to enjoy benefits such as hospitality room access, color ads in CPAC publications, exhibit space and invitations to private meetings, dinners and receptions, according to the website.
The partners include Judicial Watch, the National Rifle Association and the Tea Party Patriots.
The event’s 21 “sponsors” — who shelled out $19,000 apiece for a total of $399,000 — include the Washington Examiner and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which according to tax records spent and gave out $40 million in 2011.
CPAC“co-sponsors” paying $8,000 apiece include the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion; the conservative grass-roots group Let Freedom Ring; and the Liberty University School of Law.
The ACU has long derived less influence from its budget than from its widely referenced scorecards and the CPAC gathering, which this year has drawn thousands of conservative activists and dozens of prominent elected officials and organizers.
But that is starting to change: The organization’s budget has quadrupled, from about $1.2 million in 2009 to $4.2 million last year, according to its tax filings.
Because the ACU is a 501(c)(4) social- welfare group, it is not required to report the names of its donors. But the group’s board includes the top executives of deep-pocketed players such as the NRA, which, according to tax records, had a $231 million budget in 2011; The Heritage Foundation, which had $80 million in expenses that same year; and Microsoft Corp.
The ACU’s political action committee raised and spent only about $120,000 in the 2012 election cycle, Federal Election Commission records show. But the ACU launched a super PAC in 2011 that raised and spent another $10,000 or so.
And the ACU itself made a $30,549 independent campaign expenditure on behalf of Republican Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, according to the Sunlight Foundation, suggesting that the conservative group may be gearing up to raise its campaign trail profile.
By: Eliza Newlin Carney, Roll Call, March 14, 2013
After a third reading of Mitt Romney’s Liberty University commencement speech, I still fail to see how my Post colleague Michael Gerson could have described it as “more than good.”
Romney’s address struck me as standard fare for a college graduation. He hit all the familiar notes: gratitude to school and a nod to parents for sacrifices made; celebration of the virtues of hard work, devotion to principles, individualism, service, family. There was even a little shameless politicking, with Romney telling the audience “what the next four years might hold for me is yet to be determined. But . . . things are looking up, and I take your kind hospitality today as a sign of good things to come.”
It was the kind of speech that could have been delivered — sans the pandering and the references to more-contemporary figures (the late Chuck Colson; the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded Liberty University; and the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) — to college graduating classes in the 1950s or even in 1900.
The Liberty remarks, as seems to be true of many Romney speeches, reflected a rather constricted view of the country. Perhaps it’s because Romney chooses to deliver most of his lines to narrow audiences.
Missing in his Liberty offering, as with some other Romney speeches, is any recognition — not praises, mind you, but simple acknowledgment — that 21st-century America is more than a white, middle-class country.
He revealed no sense whatsoever of knowing that the overwhelming majority of Liberty grads will, in their adult lives, inhabit an America in which they will be the minority.
Romney’s speeches seem tailor-made for audiences that look pretty much like him.
At least that is what one is led to believe after observing where Romney chooses to go and what he has to say.
I tried to imagine Romney’s Liberty address being delivered to the graduates and their families at the 2012 commencement exercises I attended a week ago at historically black Howard University in Washington.
I cannot believe, however, that the Romney campaign apparatus would have allowed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to tell an African American audience numbering in the thousands that Falwell was “a gracious Christian example” and a “courageous and big-hearted minister of the Gospel who . . . never hated an adversary.”
Indeed, Romney lauded Falwell, who famously said: “I do question the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations.”
Romney spoke glowingly of the same Falwell who said of the landmark Supreme Court school desegregation decision: “If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never had been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”
The same Falwell who disparaged Nobel Peace Prize winner and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a phony. (Falwell later apologized for that remark and claimed that he had misspoken.)
And who can forget Falwell’s finger-pointing after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks? He declared on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” show: “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’ ”
I suspect if Romney spoke at Howard, he would have skipped that part about Falwell.
But what does the man who seeks to lead this country have to say about, and to, this rapidly changing nation of diverse people with diverse interests and needs?
Thus far, Romney’s thoughts and policy prescriptions seem focused on America’s largest — and slowest-growing — racial group: his own.
Democratic critics accuse Romney of having values that skew to the rich at the expense of the poor. They say he’s disconnected from the problems of average Americans; that he’s out of touch and just doesn’t get it.
Would that it were only a matter of determining whether Romney is on the side of the rich or middle class.
The question is much broader and more significant: When Mitt Romney thinks and speaks of Americans, do those who don’t look like him even come to mind?
Since he launched his presidential campaign, it’s been hard to tell. And Romney’s Liberty University speech was no help.
By: Colbert King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 18, 2012
There was a time not long ago when Democrats feared the culture war. They’d try to make campaigns about things like economic fairness, and just when things seemed to be going their way, Republicans would jump out from behind a bush and shout “God! Guns! Gays!” Voters would scream in alarm and pull the lever for the GOP. But here we are today, with Republicans desperately trying to change the subject away from gay marriage and back to the economy. Whodathunkit?
Just a few days ago, most people thought it would be too risky for President Obama to come out and support marriage equality. But now not only has he come out in support, his campaign has released a web ad touting his support for it and slamming Romney for not supporting even civil unions. It uses George W. Bush (!) saying he supports civil unions, and hits Romney for supporting a constitutional amendment to forestall marriage equality. “President Obama is moving us forward,” the ad concludes. “Mitt Romney would take us back.” Meanwhile, Republican leaders are trying desperately to avoid talking about marriage.
But this story is not going to go away, at least not for the next few days. Because guess where Mitt Romney is scheduled to give a speech tomorrow: Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. It was scheduled some time ago, but in the midst of all this, when Romney keeps saying he wants to talk about the economy, he’s going down to Lynchburg to address an audience of evangelicals, where he’ll of course have to heap praise on Falwell, one of the most divisive culture-war figures this country has ever seen, and of course he’ll have to proclaim his support for “traditional” marriage, and of course he’ll have to talk about abortion, and of course he’ll come off sounding like someone who has to keep proving to the hard right that he’s “severely conservative,” in his own immortal words. And this all comes on the heels of the bullying story. It has been one tough week for the guy.
In honor of Mitt’s appearance at Liberty, I give you this: quite possibly the best hip-hop anthem about an evangelical university ever produced. Critics everywhere said, “Not nearly as awful as I expected!”
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 10, 2012
Believe that, as President, Mitt Romney would revert to his days as a “Massachusetts Moderate?” Think again.
Every bit of evidence indicates that if he were President, the Far Right would lead Romney around by a ring in his nose.
Just last week, we saw it clearly on display. It didn’t take but two weeks for the Far Right to force the Romney campaign to sever its ties with openly gay Richard Grinnell, who it had hired as its foreign policy spokesman. The campaign itself argued that it had begged Grinnell to stay. But right wing talk show host Brian Fischer of the American Family Association, who had led the drive to force Grinnell’s resignation, declared it a major victory.
On his radio show, Fischer bragged that Romney had learned his lesson and would never again hire a gay or lesbian in a major campaign role. And you certainly didn’t see Romney contesting that assessment.
Instead we’ve seen Romney lined up shoulder to shoulder on TV with Tea Party icon Michele Bachmann, and Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell — a potential Romney VP pick and a champion of “trans-vaginal ultrasounds.”
The reason why there is not a chance that Romney will ever reinvent himself once again as a “moderate” is that he wasn’t really a “moderate” in the first place. He’s always practiced one version or the other of ultra right wing, “let Wall Street run wild” Romney economics. And he’s never given one thought to firing workers, cutting pensions, loading companies with debt and bleeding them dry of millions of dollars.
But you can’t really say that he is a committed believer in any economic principle or political value. Mitt Romney is committed to one thing and one thing alone — his own success. He has shown he has no core values whatsoever.
That’s why it wasn’t hard at all for Romney to shed his “moderate” past positions on issues like abortion rights, contraception, gay rights and immigration and to become what he himself calls a “severe conservative.”
Why will he remain a “severe conservative” if he is elected President? Because people who have no core values have no backbone. You won’t find Mitt Romney taking a stand against the dyed-in-the-wool ideologues that dominate the Republican caucus in Congress.
Those Republican ideologues may be way out of the mainstream, but they definitely have core values. Some of them were so committed to those values that they were willing to take our country to the brink of bankruptcy last year due to their unwillingness to give an inch of compromise.
The plain fact is that people with no core values never stand up to people who have core values. The fact is that Mitt Romney has the backbone of a jelly fish and that is precisely why the first time the ultra right wing pulls his chain and demands that he heel, he will fall right into line.
Even if he decided he wanted to challenge the right wing agenda propounded by the committed minions of the Tea Party, in a confrontation he would fold in an instant. When you have no core values, it’s always much easier to go along with the demands of passionate, committed true-believers than it is to stand your ground.
And the Far Right knows this is true. Last week, right wing icon Grover Norquist was very clear. He said he was not looking for presidential leadership from Romney. He believes that the leadership of the Republican Party will continue to come from right wing Republicans in Congress. All he asked of a president, he added, was enough digits on his hand to hold a pen to sign the bills embodying Congress’ right wing agenda.
Watch how Romney behaves when he delivers the commencement speech at far right Liberty University on May 12. Liberty University was founded by the late Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell. Now it’s run by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr.
After the 9/11 attacks, Falwell Sr. said that “abortionists,” “feminists,” and “the gays and the lesbians” helped cause the 9/11 attacks. According to CNN:
On the broadcast of the Christian television program ‘The 700 Club,’ Falwell made the following statement: ‘I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’
Until recently, Liberty University banned inter-racial marriages between its students. Today it requires parental permission.
As recently as 2010, Liberty University Law School withdrew as a co-sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference in protest after the conference allowed the homosexual group GOProud to co-sponsor the event.
When Romney speaks at Liberty University will he speak out against that kind of intolerance? Or, true to form, will he instead worship at the altar of ultra-right wing ideology and say just what the leadership of Liberty University wants to hear? I might be wrong, but I’ll bet that not one critical word escapes his lips.
Romney’s unwillingness to challenge the far right does not pertain solely to the social conservative right. It also goes for economic right wingers like Grover Norquist, who want to return America to the bad old days of more Bush-like tax cuts for the wealthy, and the deregulation of Wall Street that did such damage to the middle class and led to the Great Recession that cost 8 million jobs.
And it also goes for the Neo-Con foreign policy right. Seventy percent of the 40 individuals identified by the Romney campaign as its foreign policy advisers served in the Bush administration and were responsible for the catastrophic Neo-Con foreign policy.
No, in exchange for the Republican nomination, Romney has sold his soul to the extreme right. He has willingly walked into the right wing inner sanctum, and even if he wanted to, he doesn’t have the backbone to escape.
By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post, May 6, 2012