As Jerry Falwell Jr. spoke on the Republican convention’s final night, longtime observers of the Christian Right movement, of which his father was a founder, had to shake their heads in wonder. Gone was the usual claim that the Republican candidate was a Man of God motivated by profound faith and humbled by a sense of religious duty. Gone was any long recitation of Christian Right issue positions or accomplishments. Gone, perhaps most significantly, was any reminder of the covenant between conservative Christians and the Republican Party in which the former took the spiritual risk of political engagement in exchange for the latter’s promise to turn back the cultural clock.
Instead, Falwell emphasized Trump’s pledge to change the half-century-old IRS rule in which nonprofit groups (including churches and other religious institutions) were told they had to choose between tax-exempt status and the ability to endorse political candidates and engage in direct electioneering activities — a pledge the tycoon made in a recent meeting with conservative Evangelical leaders designed to win them over. Like many of these leaders, Falwell, who endorsed this Philistine at the very beginning of the 2016 cycle, has in a crude, transactional manner sold out, like a ward heeler with a constituency that needs favors from the Boss.
Yes, Trump has also gone to some lengths to promise judicial appointments sure to support reversals of the constitutional right to abortion and same-sex marriage. And, even more important, he’s made the Christian Right’s enemies his own — the “elitists” and “cultural relativists” of the secular left and mainstream media, the Muslims that deny Jesus as the exclusive Way, and the disparagers of Israel’s biblical role in the Last Days. Going along with this politician’s ambitions is a small matter of overlooking his crudity and egoism; his instrumental treatment of other people (especially women); his deep involvement in the Babylon of mass popular culture; and his “populist” manipulation of very un-Christian racial and ethnic resentments.
It’s hard to know what goes through the minds of people who consider themselves followers of a messiah who preached love for one’s enemies as they cheer Trump’s declarations that he wants to torture and kill terrorism suspects and their families, and deport millions of Christians and their children into destitution and violence, and reverse years of conservative Christian investment in criminal-justice reform, and intimidate other countries into letting America always be first. Like Falwell, they do mostly refrain from claiming that Trump — who has not been able to bring himself to admit the need for divine forgiveness — is himself a man of faith, though the Christian Right warhorse tried to suggest he was a “Baby Christian” who had only recently found God. But for the most part, they implicitly treat him as the Scourge of God (as Attila the Hun was once described), a pagan sent to smite the wicked.
Some conservative Christian leaders may simply emulate other conservative ideologues who, as a purely practical manner, have decided to go along with the Trump candidacy in hopes of inheriting the GOP after he loses, or cashing in chits if he wins. Or perhaps they are just following their flocks, unlike some (notably Southern Baptist spokesperson Russell Moore and longtime Christian Right and homeschooling advocate Michael Farris) who have made a prophetic stand against Trump. As longtime observer of Christian conservatives Sarah Posner noted:
A July 13 Pew Research Center survey found that 78 percent of white evangelicals intend to vote for Trump — meaning Trump will likely match the level of support among white evangelicals enjoyed by George W. Bush in 2004, when white evangelicals made up 23 percent of the electorate, and were an essential 36 percent of all Bush voters.
This is obviously not the first time in Western history that religious people have followed irreligious politicians who promise to fight against the forces of cultural change that threaten all entrenched sources of privilege. But it must be painful to some to observe that, despite the trappings of religious invocations and the country musicians touting their Bible-believin’ (along with their trucks and their guns) as tokens of defiance toward liberals, this has been a profane convention celebrating profane values. Farris recently said the acceptance of Trump represented the “end of the Christian Right.” That may overstate the case, but the days when the GOP could comport itself as the Christian conservative party are gone for the immediate future. Conservative Catholic columnist Ross Douthat read the draft of Trump’s speech tonight and tweeted: “The speech is basically Buchananism without the religion.” That means culture war with no restraint, and perhaps no survivors. And that’s scary.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 21, 2016
“This ‘Intellectual Defense’ Of Trump Is So Bad It’s Good”: To Support Trump, Conservatives Must Abandon Their Principles
Donald Trump and his candidacy are basically the living embodiment of liberals’ worst caricature of conservatism: bigoted, contemptuous, heartless, proudly stupid, apocalyptic, mean. Conservatives have had basically two reactions: recoil in horror or embrace the caricature.
Perhaps one of the saddest examples of the latest tendency comes from Mytheos Holt, a contributor to the online conservative magazine The Federalist, who penned a two-part “intellectual case for Trump.” It is… not good.
The first part is perhaps the oddest. After running us through his resume (“I am young, financially secure, and graduated from one of America’s elite liberal arts colleges” — good for you!), the author runs us through his OkCupid history, telling us about the time when he had long conversations with a young, white supremacist girl.
And the summation of the first part of the intellectual case for Trump is: White supremacists are people too! Many white supremacists believe their horrible views because they come from marginalized circumstances. And many of them are overreacting to the media elite’s disdain for traditional culture. And so (therefore?) we shouldn’t hold Trump’s white supremacist support against him.
First of all, isn’t it progressives who usually explain away extremist views with references to social circumstances, ignoring the power of ideas? And secondly — um, what?
The reason why many conservatives disdain Trump is not because white supremacists support him, per se, it’s because he positively welcomes and panders to their support. And in doing so, he is steering the GOP further down the path of being the party of white identity politics, which is both immoral and politically suicidal.
It’s true that whites who have seen their status downgraded by recent shifts — including globalization, the transition to a gig economy, lifestyle liberalism and, yes, cosmopolitanism — have been among the most ignored constituencies by either party. And yes, a healthy polity should speak to them. But one of the reasons it must is because otherwise they will turn to someone like Trump. That is, someone who will exploit their grievances for political gain and do absolutely nothing about them.
What’s the second part of the “intellectual case for Trump”? Well, it’s basically this: Trump is the right guy to win the culture war for the right, so long as conservatives accept defeat on the issues they’re fighting a culture war over.
I’m only being slightly unfair by representing Holt’s argument this way. The author launches into a long reprise of a famous National Review piece written by former Nixon speechwriter tut-tutting the “young fogies” on the right: 19 year olds Mormon-like in dress and even more uptight than the stereotype.
(One pictures the author at a D.C. bar, slurringly explaining to a young blonde frantically looking for a socially-acceptable exit that he’s a conservative but “not a young fogey, if you know what I mean.”)
If only conservatives give up their retrograde views about sex, they’ll be able to embrace Trump and use his amazing skills at working the media to win the culture war. First, how, exactly, are you going to win a culture war by adopting as your standard bearer someone with the worst favorability ratings in modern presidential politics?
Secondly, what, pray tell, is there to “win” in such a “culture war”? #GamerGate? It’s telling that nowhere in a very wordy piece on the culture wars does the word “abortion” — an issue on which Trump is absolutely awful — appear.
It happens to be the most important issue in the culture wars, since it concerns the deaths of millions of people, and it also happens to be the only one where conservatives are, at least, not losing.
But, you know, many conservatives also believe that, for example, things like hookup culture and no-fault divorce are morally, socially and spiritually corrosive. If that makes us young fogeys, that’s fine with me.
At least Holt’s piece was clarifying. Even on the best spin, for conservatives to support Trump involves abandoning their principles. Even if Trump had a chance of winning, that wouldn’t be a good idea.
By: Pascal-Emmanuel Goby, The Week, April 25, 2016
For a presidential candidate who’s often preoccupied with his youth and reputation for looking forward, Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) policy vision can be strikingly regressive.
Marriage equality, for example, is already the law of the land in the United States, but Right Wing Watch flagged Rubio’s new interview with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, where the senator made clear he’s not done fighting against equal marriage rights, calling the status quo “current law,” but “not settled law.”
“If you live in a society where the government creates an avenue and a way for you to peacefully change the law, then you’re called on to participate in that process to try to change it – not ignoring it, but trying to change the law.
“And that’s what we’re endeavoring to do here. I continue to believe that marriage law should be between one man and one woman.”
For most of the country, there’s a realization that there is no credible proposal to turn back the clock. Rubio didn’t elaborate on how, exactly, he wants to “change the law” to prevent same-sex couples from getting married, and if he tried, he’d likely fail.
But the key here is understanding just how far the Florida senator is willing to go with the culture war. For Rubio, it’s still not too late to bring back discriminatory marriage laws.
And then, of course, there are reproductive rights, where Rubio still intends to be the most far-right major-party presidential nominee of the modern era.
As regular readers know, Rubio’s position on abortion is that it must be outlawed – without exception. If a woman is impregnated by a rapist, for example, Rubio believes the government has the authority to force that woman to take that pregnancy to term, whether she wants to or not.
This came up in a recent interview with the New Yorker.
On several issues, Rubio has taken a position that suits the faithful in the primaries but is guaranteed to repel voters in a general election. His most obvious vulnerability is on abortion. In the first Republican debate, Rubio said that his opposition to abortion extends to cases of rape or incest – a position at odds with that of more than three-quarters of Americans. [Democratic strategist David] Axelrod told me, “No exceptions is a position so extreme that no Republican candidate has ever held it. Presidential races are defined by moments. Maybe he will try to amend that position, but in the age of video it’s hard to extinguish a declarative statement like that.”
When I asked Rubio about it, he said, somewhat confusingly, “Look, I personally believe that all life is worthy of protection, and therefore I don’t ever require, nor have I ever advocated, that I won’t support a law unless it has exceptions.” After some more twists and turns, I sensed that we had reached the line he plans to use in a general election: “My goal is to save as many lives as possible, and I’ll support anything that does that. Even if it has exceptions.”
This led to some confusion, prompting Rubio to clarify matters in an interview yesterday with the Associated Press. “I, as president, will sign a bill that has exceptions,” he said. “I’ve supported bills that have exceptions.” The senator added, “I do not personally require a bill to have exceptions – other than life of the mother – in order for me to support it. But I will sign a bill as president that has exceptions.”
Here’s the bottom line: if a Republican Congress sends President Rubio an anti-abortion bill, he’ll sign it, even if it includes some exceptions he personally disagrees with. When it comes to abortion restrictions, he’ll take what he can get and then fight for more.
But as far as what Rubio actually, personally wants U.S. policy to be, he’s opposed to exceptions, even in cases of rape and incest – a position further to the right than any Republican nominee since Roe was decided more than 40 years ago.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 25, 2015
“Enshrining Discrimination In Constitutional Stone”: Cruz Leads The Race To The Bottom On Marriage Equality
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attended an event in Manhattan this week, though the venue was a little surprising: the reception for the Texas Republican was held at the apartment of “two prominent gay hoteliers. At the gathering, Cruz reportedly said he would love his children regardless of their sexual orientation, and according to the event’s moderator, the far-right senator “told the group that marriage should be left up to the states.” As best as I can tell, there was no recording of the event, at least not one that’s available to the public, so it’s hard to know exactly what he said.
But before there’s speculation about whether Cruz’s conservative backers will revolt over the senator’s tone, consider the Texas lawmaker’s latest legislative push. Bloomberg Politics reported late yesterday:
Days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage, Senator Ted Cruz has filed two bills to protect states that bar gay couples from marrying.
Cruz’s legislation would establish a constitutional amendment shielding states that define marriage as between one woman and one man from legal action, according to bill language obtained by Bloomberg News. A second bill would bar federal courts from further weighing in on the marriage issue until such an amendment is adopted.
To be sure, this doesn’t come as too big a surprise. Cruz has been threatening to pursue an anti-gay constitutional amendment for quite a while, and he started telegraphing his “court-stripping” effort soon after launching his presidential campaign.
For that matter, it’s also not too surprising that Cruz would use his Senate office to push doomed proposals intended to boost his national candidacy.
But beware of the race to the bottom.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) yesterday made a small public splash, trying to position himself as the GOP field’s far-right leader on the culture war. It seems very likely that Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and others will all make similar claims.
It’s against this backdrop that Cruz not only wants to enshrine discrimination in constitutional stone, he wants to prevent federal courts from even hearing cases related to marriage equality.
In other words, as the race for the Republicans’ presidential nomination continues to unfold, we’re confronted with a very real possibility of seeing one candidate say, “I’m the most anti-gay candidate and I’m going to prove it,” only to soon after hear another respond, “No, I’m the most anti-gay candidate and I’m going to prove it.”
The race to the bottom may impress far-right social conservatives, but it will push the GOP even further from the American mainstream.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 25, 2015
Meg Greenfield, the late Post editorial page editor, counseled against writing in “High C” all the time. By this she meant that an editorialist or columnist who expressed equally noisy levels of indignation about everything would lack credibility when something truly outrageous came along that merited a well-crafted high-pitched scream.
We now seem to be living in the Age of High C, a period when every fight is Armageddon, every foe is a monster, and every issue is either the key to national survival or the doorway to ruin.
This habit seems especially pronounced in the way President Obama’s adversaries treat him. It’s odd that so many continue to see Obama as a radical and a socialist even as the Dow hits record levels and the wealthy continue to do very nicely. If he is a socialist, he is surely the most incompetent practitioner in the history of Marxism.
The reaction to Obama is part of a larger difficulty that involves pretending we are philosophically far more divided than we are. In all of the well-off democracies, even people who call themselves socialists no longer claim to have an alternative to the market as the primary creator and distributor of goods and services. The boundaries on the left end of what’s permissible in the public debate have been pushed well toward the center. This makes the hysteria and hyperbole all the more incomprehensible.
But let’s dream a little and assume that the American left signed on to the proposals put forward by Lane Kenworthy of the University of California-San Diego in his challenging (and, by the way, very pro-market) book “Social Democratic America,” published this year. Kenworthy’s argument is that we can “successfully embrace both flexibility and security, both competition and social justice.”
His wish list is a straightforward set of progressive initiatives. A few of them: universal health insurance and early education, extensive new help on job searches and training, a year of paid parental leave, an increased minimum wage indexed to prices, expansions of efforts that supplement wages such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the government as an employer of last resort.
His program, he says, would cost around 10 percent of our gross domestic product. Now that’s a lot of money, and the debate about whether we should spend it would be anything but phony. Yet would such a level of expenditure signal the death of our constitutional system? Would it make us like, say, Cuba? No and no. It might make us a little more like Germany, the Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries. We can argue if we want to do this, but these market democracies happen to share with us an affection for freedom and enterprise.
And when it comes to High C, there’s nothing quite like our culture wars, in which disagreements about social issues are seen as battles between libertines and bigots. When I look around, I see a lot of liberals who live quite traditional family lives and even go regularly to churches, synagogues and mosques. I see a lot of conservatives who are feminists when it comes to their daughters’ opportunities and who oppose bigotry against gays and lesbians.
The ideological resolution I’d suggest for the new year is that all sides stop fighting and pool their energies to easing the marriage and family crisis that is engulfing working-class Americans.
This would require liberals to acknowledge what the vast majority of them already practice in their own lives: that, all things being equal, kids are better off with two loving and engaged parents. It would require conservatives to acknowledge that many of the pressures on families are economic and that the decline of well-paying blue-collar work is causing huge disruptions in family formation. I’d make a case that Kenworthy’s ideas for a more social democratic America would be good for families, but let’s argue it out in the spirit of a shared quest for remedies.
Maybe it’s asking too much, but might social conservatives also consider my friend Jonathan Rauch’s idea that they abandon their campaign against gay marriage in favor of a new campaign on behalf of the value of committed relationships for all of us?
Disagreement is one of the joys of freedom, so I am all for boisterous debate and tough political and philosophical competition. It’s how I make my living. But our democratic system would be healthier if it followed the Greenfield rule and reserved the harshest invective for things that are genuinely monstrous.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 28, 2014