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“Scott Walker; W. Without The Compassion”: With Walker, Conservative Evangelicals Don’t Much Feel The Need For Compassion

While it’s becoming common to hear Scott Walker dismissed as a flash-in-the-pan or Flavor of the Month or Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time gaffmeister sure to be pushed aside to make way for Jeb’s Brinks truck of cash or Rubio’s glamor, there are less-apparent aspects of his appeal worth noting. That intrepid translator of the Christian Right’s codes, Sarah Posner, has a fascinating take at Religion Dispatches about Walker perfectly matching a growing mood among politically active conservative evangelicals who want a less showy but more reliable champion:

Should he run for president, Walker may very well turn out to be the 2016 cycle’s evangelical favorite—not because he ticks off a laundry list of culture war talking points, pledges fealty to a “Christian nation,” or because he’s made a show of praying publicly to curry political favor. Although by no means universal, some conservative evangelicals—those who eschew the fever swamps of talk radio, yet share the same political stances of the religious right—are weary of the old style of campaigning. They’re turned off by the culture war red meat, the dutiful but insincere orations of piety….

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last month, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote that in 2016 evangelicals won’t be looking to candidates to “know the words to hymns,” “repeat cliches about appointing Supreme Court justices who will ‘interpret the law, not make the law,’” or to use “‘God and country’ talk borrowed from a 1980s-era television evangelist.”

Moore “has a good feel of the pulse of evangelicals” and “represents a wide segment” of them, said Tobin Grant, a political scientist at Southern Illinois University and blogger on religion and politics for Religion News Service. Unlike his predecessor, Richard Land, known for inflaming the culture wars, Moore’s “focus is more on religious and social concerns than directly political ones” and has “less interest in changing DC and more interest in keeping DC out of the way of the church,” Grant said.

These evangelicals are listening for a candidate who can signal he is “one of us” without pandering. Both evangelical and Catholic candidates who have earned the culture warrior label for their strident pronouncements—Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, or Mike Huckabee—are seen as embarrassing embodiments of stereotypes these conservative Christians would like to shed….

Walker hits the right evangelical notes without overplaying his hand—and that’s exactly the way they want him to keep it. John Mark Reynolds, professor of philosophy and provost at Houston Baptist University, said that Walker “would do well to do nothing to appeal to us. We get it. He’s one of us. He sounds like one of us. He leans forward like one of us. He answers questions like one of us.”

Now this isn’t to say the new strain among conservative Christians involves any changes in their positions on culture-war issues, or a tolerance for different opinions: it’s a matter of tone and emphasis–and of trust.

You may recall how effective George W. Bush was in dropping little indicators of his evangelical piety (even though, technically, he attended a mainline Protestant church), like a secret handshake, when he showed up on the campaign trail in the 2000 cycle: Bible quotes, allusions to hymns, and evangelical catch-phrases were modestly arrayed in his rhetoric–not abrasively, but just enough that believers saw it, and as with Walker, knew he was “one of us.” Bush, of course, also grounded much of his “compassionate conservative” agenda in church work and religious sentiment. It seems that with Walker conservative evangelicals don’t much feel the need for compassion, which is a good thing, since it’s not one of his more obvious traits. No, they want something else:

Instead of talking about opposition to marriage equality, evangelical activists say, religious freedom has become the new defining mantra. Unlike marriage equality, on which white evangelicals, particularly Millennials, are divided, religious freedom unifies them like no other issue but abortion.

“What will matter to evangelicals,” Moore wrote in his Wall Street Journal op-ed, “is how the candidate, if elected president, will articulate and defend religious-liberty rights.”

The religious liberty issue is, for evangelicals, a “four-alarm fire,” said Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, part of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He said evangelicals expect the candidates “to have the courage of their convictions to persuade people about what’s going on.”

From the Hobby Lobby litigation to cases involving florists, bakers, and photographers refusing to provide services for same-sex ceremonies, the issue has been percolating in the evangelical community for years. In recent weeks, conservative Christians have talked and written prolifically about Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington state florist found liable under the state’s anti-discrimination laws for refusing to provide flowers for a long-time gay customer’s wedding, and Kelvin Cochran, the Atlanta fire chief fired after revelations about anti-gay comments he wrote in a book.

It requires a great deal of paranoia and passive-aggressive claims of “persecution,” of course, to take isolated collisions between anti-discrimination laws and religious principles into a major threat to the immensely privileged position of Christians in the United States. But it seems Christian Right leaders are up to the task, and here, too, Walker, with his quiet but insistent talk about death threats from the enemies he’s made in Wisconsin, fills the bill.

Speaking in 2012 to a teleconference with activists from Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Walker said his faith has enabled him to rise above the “vitriol, and the constant, ongoing hatred” during the recall election he faced in the wake of his anti-union legislation, which has crippled the state’s once-iconic labor movement. Along with the unmistakable contrast of his church-going family with the profane and progressive activists, Walker cited two Bible verses. He didn’t recite them, but for anyone who knows their Bible—as Walker, the son of a Baptist pastor, does—the meaning was clear. The verses that helped him withstand the hatred were Romans 16:20 (“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you”) and Isaiah 54:17 (“no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.”)

Don’t know about you, but I’d interpret those two verses as consolatory promises of Christian vengeance, not turn-the-other-cheeck pacifism. And so it may be Walker is giving exactly the right impression of representing stolid but not showy vindicator who’s in for a long fight with secular socialists and their union allies.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 13, 2015

March 14, 2015 Posted by | Evangelicals, Religious Freedom, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Evangelical Myth Won. Wall Street Won. The Banks Won. America Lost”: Since Lies Worked So Well For Republicans, We’ll Have More

The Republican Party base is white evangelicals. So no wonder the GOP lies about the country, the economy and the president worked. The folks who base their lives on religious mythology have spent lifetimes being trained to believe lies. And if you point that out then they kick into victim mode and denounce people who question them as persecutors. Last night they won. Lies won.

As the New York Times noted:

“Republican candidates campaigned on only one thing: what they called the failure of President Obama. In speech after speech, ad after ad, they relentlessly linked their Democratic opponent to the president and vowed that they would put an end to everything they say the public hates about his administration. On Tuesday morning, the Republican National Committee released a series of get-out-the-vote images showing Mr. Obama and Democratic Senate candidates next to this message: ‘If you’re not a voter, you can’t stop Obama.’ The most important promises that winning Republicans made were negative in nature. They will repeal health care reform. They will roll back new regulations on banks and Wall Street. They will stop the Obama administration’s plans to curb coal emissions and reform immigration and invest in education.”

Since the economy has rebounded, health care reform has worked, all that remained for the GOP was to lie. And since the base of the GOP is white aging southern evangelicals the GOP was in luck. These are easy folks to lie to. That’s because they already accept an alternative version of reality. Also, of course since the lies are about a black man, that doesn’t hurt. Yes, race is “still” an issue.

The midterm election boiled down to xenophobia about the “Other.” Ebola was the president’s fault! ISIS was coming to get us! We aren’t safe!

None of this is true, but no matter. In fact judging by actual facts the Obama presidency has been successful in spite of the GOP obstruction. The economy is back. Jobs are up. Health care reform is working. We’ve been kept safe from terror attacks. America is strong.

What we’ll now see is a reinvigorated religious right. And since lies worked so well we’ll have more. Creationism, anti-gay initiatives, anti-choice initiatives, and of course pro-Koch-Brother-Financed lies upon lies to bury climate change debate is on the way.

The Republican-dominated Supreme Court stands ready to back corporate and religious right-financed attacks of the environment, pro-Wall Street laws and all the rest.

Racism  won. Evangelical myth won. Wall Street won. The banks won. America lost.

 

By: Frank Schaeffer, The Huffington Post Blog, Movember 5, 2014

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Evangelicals, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul Vs. Rand Paul On Personhood”: Every Week, Rand Paul Is Selling A New Version Of Rand Paul

There’s one “culture war” issue that seems to cause anxiety for many Republican politicians. Opposing reproductive rights in general and wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade is usually pretty easy for GOP candidates, but support for “personhood” has become something of a third rail. Given recent developments, it’s understandable – personhood measures wouldn’t just ban all abortions, they’d also block common forms of birth control.

And Republicans clearly realize that opposing birth control in the 21st century, when the party is already struggling with the gender gap, isn’t a credible option.

As a result, we see far-right Senate hopefuls like Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and other ardent personhood supporters suddenly scramble to distance themselves from their previous position. Each of them assume the key to joining the Senate is backing away from an extremist policy like this one.

But let’s not forget that there’s already an enthusiastic personhood supporter in the Senate.  Ryan Lizza reports on one of Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) most controversial proposals:

In recent Profile of Senator Rand Paul, Dr. John Downing, the Senator’s friend and former medical partner, expressed his worries about Paul’s sponsorship of the Life at Conception Act, also known as the personhood law. The bill would ban abortion and grant the unborn all the legal protections of the Fourteenth Amendment, beginning at “the moment of fertilization.”

To Downing, who is an ardent Paul supporter, this seemed like political madness. Downing said that he believed Paul’s personhood law would make some common forms of birth control illegal, and thus doom Paul’s Presidential hopes. “He’s going to lose half or more of women immediately once they find out what that would do to birth control,” Downing told me.

Part of the Kentucky Republican’s pitch is that he can be a national GOP leader by appealing to young people with his message of limited government. On the other hand, Rand Paul introduced – and has fought aggressively in support of – federal legislation that treats a fertilized egg as a full-fledged human being with constitutional rights, which in turn would prohibit any form of birth control (IUDs, emergency contraception, etc.) that prevents that egg from implanting in a uterine wall.

One assumes many younger voters, most notably women, might have a problem with that, especially coming from a candidate whose raison d’etre is ostensibly opposition to “big government.”

All of which brings us to last week, when Rand Paul seemed to hedge on his own legislative commitment.

American Bridge posted this item last Tuesday.

Paul was asked today in South Carolina about his position on the morning-after pill, and he affirmed his support for it. Which is all good and well, except that he brags about introducing personhood legislation that could make it illegal. He’s consistently been one of the most extreme politicians in Washington when it comes to women’s issues. Just check out this video that he recently scrubbed from his YouTube account.

Now Rand Paul thinks he can lie his way to the middle and twist himself into a candidate with broad appeal. It seems every week, you wake up and Rand Paul is selling a new version of Rand Paul.

Lizza’s report, which noted that religious-right activists were not at all pleased with the senator’s position, added, “Paul, having spent the last few years convincing pro-life activists that he firmly believes that the state should protect fertilized eggs the same way it protects all Americans, now simply shrugs at pro-life concerns over emergency contraception.”

All of which is made worse when one considers how many other issues Rand Paul has changed his mind about, shrugging at other positions he also used to hold dear.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 9, 2014

October 10, 2014 Posted by | Personhood, Rand Paul, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“He’s Just Not That Smart”: Karl Rove May Be Evil, But He’s No Genius

When I sit down someday to write my memoirs and try to characterize this era, I will note three salient political features. One, and obviously, the increasing wingnuttery of the Republican Party. Two, the ever-increasing ownership of our political system by the top 0.1 (or even .01) percent. And three, the continuing and mind-boggling overestimation of Karl Rove’s brilliance.

The first two things I get. They happen to be real and true. But Karl Rove I do not. I never have, really, not even in 2000. I mean, his candidate didn’t even really win. Then came 2004. OK, I’ll give him that one, but all he did then was (barely) reelect an incumbent. Just two incumbents going back to FDR lost their reelection bids while eight won them, so that’s a pretty low bar for genius.

Then came the truly dark period, the one that should have pulverized his reputation forever, when Rove told his president to go out and promote Social Security privatization, which sank like a stone. This while Rove was talking up a “permanent conservative majority” and world-historic realignment, even though all he and his president’s failures managed to do was turn the Senate and the House Democratic in 2006 and then pave the way for the country’s rejection of John McCain and embrace of Barack Obama. Rove is a so-so political strategist, a corrupt trickster going back to college, and a venal and wholly unprincipled man who once orchestrated a whisper campaign that an Alabama judge who did admirable work with youngsters was a pedophile. And on top of all that, he’s just not that smart, as proved on Election Night 2012, when he made a world-class asshole out of himself over Ohio.

This week, everybody is going around saying, “Oh, this Hillary thing; typical unprincipled Rove, but you’ve got to give the devil his due. It works. The evil genius is at it again.” Let’s hold on to our hats here. What’s the proof that him suggesting that Hillary Clinton has brain damage is “working”? Because the media are talking about it, because people like me are writing about it, because it’s been Topic A on cable? Please. Since when are those indicators of anything? If cable-news controversies dictated politics and life, Obama never would have survived about a dozen little cable scandals in 2008, and Solange Knowles would be the world’s most important human being.

This is just the media thinking that because they’re chattering about something, all of America is. But there is certainly no evidence that regular Americans heard what Rove said and are drawing precisely the conclusions he wants them to draw. We won’t know for a long time whether Rove’s gambit about Clinton’s age and health worked. But I confidently place my dime on the square that says it won’t. Here’s why.

If you look back over his track record a little more closely, you see that Rove’s type of deceitful treachery has worked best in Republican contexts, or at least in conservative ones. The Rovian whisper campaigns—about that poor judge’s devotion to children, or John McCain’s love child, or Ann Richards’s sexuality—are all about sex, and they tend to take root in Christianist citadels (Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas, respectively) where the populace is awfully fire-and-brimstone-ish about such matters. So Rove—I will give him this much—knows the workings of the fearful, reactionary mind.

But the minds of the rest of us, not so much. Let’s hypothetically transfer the above three whisper campaigns to New York. The New York response to the defamed judge would have been: Get that obvious smear job outta our faces. To McCain’s love child it would have been: So what? And to suggestions of a candidate’s lesbianism: I had a feeling she was more interesting than she seemed.

I’m exaggerating for effect, but I’m making a serious point. Rove does not know how non-conservatives think about these things. Non-conservatives don’t hate Hillary Clinton. In fact, they rather like her, dare I say it about five, six, or seven times more than they like George W. Bush. And while non-conservatives do have fair and reasonable concerns about her health and age, they will parse them fairly and reasonably, and they’ll make fair and reasonable judgments.

Ultimately, Rove won’t have a thing to do with how voters assess Clinton on these fronts. She will, based on how she comports herself. And so far I see scant evidence that anything changed after she suffered a blood clot in December 2012. I’ve seen her speak since then. She’s the same speaker she always was. We all saw her on TV answering those questions at that Senate Benghazi hearing. She was plenty sharp that day. And that was three weeks after she got out of the hospital, and while wearing her eyeglasses with the supposed secret powers!

A campaign is, as we know, unbelievably hard. Either she’ll hold up to it or she won’t. People will be able to tell. My guess is she will. And voters outside the Rovian circle will have long since concluded that the brain damage gambit was just one more act of dishonesty and desperation by a man who has been, really, a loser for several years now, ever since the elections of 2006. Over the top? I ask you to recall his 2012, when his American Crossroads spent $103 million and didn’t win one single race, and was judged the worst—not one of the worst; the worst—return on investment in electoral politics.

I look forward to Election Night 2016, and the moment when Clinton tops 270 electoral votes—which may well come early in the evening—and a stumbling, bumbling Rove tries to offer up some explanation for it all, making excuses for the third presidential election in a row. Maybe by then the world will agree with me, that when they say “evil genius,” they’ll know they’re only half right and auto-correct.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 15, 2014

May 18, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Karl Rove | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Only Heterosexuals Served Here”: Seriously, What Is Wrong With Kansas?

Kansas might as well start producing “Only Heterosexuals Served Here” signs for businesses and government offices.

A bill that sailed through the state’s House of Representatives tells Kansans: You can be as discriminatory as you like against homosexuals and the state will have your back. Just be sure and do it in God’s name!

The bill is meeting pushback in the Kansas Senate, but don’t be fooled. This is denial and fear on steroids. It’s happening across the country. And it won’t be the last we’ll hear of such legislative efforts.

The legislation is aimed at civil unions. It’s a pre-emptive strike to ensure that people “with sincerely held religious beliefs” against homosexuality will be able to turn gay couples away if they request flowers for a wedding, a banquet hall for a reception or wish to hire a photographer for their civil ceremony. Also covered are those involved with adoption, foster care, counseling or social services, including government employees. Like a city clerk who might want to cite his Bible to avoid legally recognizing a gay marriage declared valid elsewhere.

The politicians who support this nonsense have no clue what discrimination looks like, feels like or how it has historically has functioned in society. The constant cry rationalizing this bill and similar measures elsewhere is that it is religious conservatives — not homosexuals — who are apt to suffer from discrimination.

Really? I’m doubtful that any has entered a public business to be told that their money is no good there — because they’re a Christian. Nor have they suffered the added humiliation of being slurred as they are shown the door. So the idea of ensuring such denial of public accommodation as a legally protected “right,” something no aggrieved person could ever sue for, feels just dandy to them. Justified, even.

What’s really happening — what’s threatening the religious conservatives of Kansas — is that the general public’s views on homosexuality are shifting. Rapidly.

People under the age of 25 shrugged at the hoopla surrounding All-American lineman Michael Sam’s public announcement that he is gay before the NFL draft. Seventeen states have legalized same-sex marriage so couples can gain the tax benefits, insurance, medical protections and legal responsibilities that straight people have long held. And federal courts have overturned bans against same-sex marriages in Utah and Oklahoma.

So religious conservatives now take up the mantle of a minority. That’s one of the few honest things about this conversation. Their view of homosexuality will soon be (if it is not already) a minority opinion.

Yet they miss crucial points. No government authority — neither the courts nor the executive branch — is telling people that they can’t continue to decry homosexuality. They can quote the Bible to condemn it all they want. Preachers can preach that God has naught but fiery damnation in store for LGBT people. Churches can continue to bar gay couples from marriage and any other sacrament.

But that long-enshrined First Amendment protection of speech and religious freedom isn’t good enough for these folks. No. They want the assurance that they can also run a public business, advertise their services to one and all, and still maintain the right to tell gay people they aren’t welcome. And never face the legal ramifications of a lawsuit, if such a thing could ever transpire in Kansas.

Here’s another overlooked fact. It is legal in much of America to discriminate against gays and lesbians. In many states and cities, a gay person can be fired if a boss takes a disliking to his or her “lifestyle,” and the fired employee has no legal recourse to fight back. Sexual orientation does not enjoy the federal protections of other attributes, such as race, sex, color, religion or national origin.

This backlash is not unlike the many hateful exertions to protect the “Southern way of life” from the threat of civil rights legislation. Certainly, there were, and likely still are, people who opposed the “mixing of the races” on religious grounds.

The Kansas bill’s sponsor points to one clause as a measure of fairness to gays. When an employee of a business or a government office doesn’t want to deal with a gay person, another employee should. Tap the non-homophobe to do the job!

This only underscores the bill’s absurdity, especially from a Christian perspective. Jesus of Nazareth was infamous in his time for supping with prostitutes and tax collectors, and yet these supposedly upright followers of his cannot bear to act with charity and decency in public and commercial life?

To defeat this bill and others like it around the country, a spotlight must be focused on the legislators who back them. Efforts to that effect have already begun in Kansas. But this sort of political hustle won’t die easily. It’s all about ginning up feelings of persecution among so-called “values voters” … over having to surrender the long-held prerogative to persecute. Lacking any grace or humility, these demagogues won’t leave the scene until they’ve discharged all their poison into our politics.

But they will never prevail.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, The National Memo, February 18, 2014

February 19, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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