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“The Origins Of The Religious Right”: Still Insisting That Religious Freedom Is A Justification For Discrimination

It is often assumed that the origins of the religious right’s political awakening (known back then as the so-called “moral majority”) was in response to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs Wade decision. But in an article a friend recently pointed out to me from 2014, Randall Balmer locates it’s origins in another court case: Green vs Connally. It has interesting relevance for some of the issues we are hearing about today.

Balmer first points out that immediately before and after Roe vs Wade, evangelical leaders didn’t see a problem with abortion. He provides several quotes, including this one:

When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

Meanwhile, Paul Weyrich was looking around for an issue that would galvanize evangelical support for Republicans. He found it in an edict from President Nixon’s Treasury Department that the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act precluded a tax-exempt status for private schools that discriminated against African Americans. Schools like Bob Jones University and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University responded.

Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation.

In other words, “religious freedom” was used as the justification for discrimination. Sound familiar? That was the issue at stake in Green vs Connally.

It was on the heels of that argument that these religious leaders then turned to theologian Francis Schaeffer and surgeon C. Everett Koop (who later became Reagan’s Surgeon General) to stir up objections to abortion. They did that with the film Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

In the early months of 1979, Schaeffer and Koop, targeting an evangelical audience, toured the country with these films, which depicted the scourge of abortion in graphic terms—most memorably with a scene of plastic baby dolls strewn along the shores of the Dead Sea.

It is hard to avoid seeing a parallel with the doctored videos produced by The Center for Medical Progress that have raised evangelicals in opposition to Planned Parenthood.

All of that laid the groundwork for the involvement of the religious right in the 1980 presidential race between Carter and Reagan, although their positions on these issues were not as well-defined as we have been led to believe.

By 1980, even though Carter had sought, both as governor of Georgia and as president, to reduce the incidence of abortion, his refusal to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing it was viewed by politically conservative evangelicals as an unpardonable sin. Never mind the fact that his Republican opponent that year, Ronald Reagan, had signed into law, as governor of California in 1967, the most liberal abortion bill in the country. When Reagan addressed a rally of 10,000 evangelicals at Reunion Arena in Dallas in August 1980, he excoriated the “unconstitutional regulatory agenda” directed by the IRS “against independent schools,” but he made no mention of abortion. Nevertheless, leaders of the religious right hammered away at the issue, persuading many evangelicals to make support for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion a litmus test for their votes.

More than 35 years later, the religious right is still insisting that religious freedom is a justification for discrimination and using deceptive videos to ignite opposition to women’s reproductive health. As the saying goes…”everything old is new again.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 28, 2016

April 29, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, Religious Freedom, Religious Right | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Is Ted Cruz The New Republican Establishment?”: Pick Your Poison, The GOP Is Truly In Crisis

Ted Cruz isn’t exactly what you’d call a member of the Republican establishment. He says outlandish things. He doesn’t play nicely with others. He wears no cloak of gentility over his criticisms of opponents. “Nobody likes him,” former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole said of Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas and presidential hopeful.

Yet the establishment’s arbiters are increasingly lining up behind Cruz. This morning’s news brought word of an endorsement by a pillar of the Republican establishment, former presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. “For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena,” Bush wrote in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

It is well known in Washington circles that Cruz is not well liked by his Capitol Hill colleagues. His willingness to use Senate rules, in defiance of his party’s leaders, to bring the U.S. to the brink of default, along with his more general penchant for grandstanding, have soured his relations with many of his fellow Republicans. Then there was that time he called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar.

In January, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina described a choice between frontrunner Donald Trump and Cruz for the presidential nomination as a decision between “being shot or poisoned.” He added: “What does it really matter?”

Earlier this month, Graham apparently decided that it actually did matter, and endorsed Cruz, prompting the Newark Star-Ledger to headline an editorial, “Senator Prefers Poison to Gunshots.”

In Tuesday night’s Utah caucuses, which he won with 69 percent of the vote, Cruz enjoyed the support of former GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney who, while not offering an outright endorsement, declared that he would vote for Cruz. (Trump won Arizona the same night, leaving him well ahead of Cruz in the delegate count.)

If Ted Cruz, who has turned on his own party’s leaders and cast President Barack Obama as something just short of a traitor, who has accused the Black Lives Matter movement of celebrating the murder of police officers, who has called for the “carpet-bombing” of Mosul regardless of the devastating number of civilian casualties it would entail—if this Ted Cruz is the Republican Party’s best hope for ending divisiveness within its ranks and the American population, then the GOP, as many have written, is truly in crisis. It’s almost as if Ohio Governor John Kasich, a far more establishment figure, weren’t in the race. What the establishment figures lining up behind Cruz seem to have deduced is that while Kasich matches up favorably for the party against Democratic opponents in polls predicting a general election outcome, they don’t think he can win the nomination, which will be decided by a conservative party base.

For all the talk among Republican and conservative elites about the threat posed to the country by Trump, it’s more likely that the concern is for their own control of the party. Cruz may not play nicely with party leaders, but he is still part of the party structure, relying on its donors and leaders to fuel his presidential campaign and to support his political career overall. Cruz’s victory speech in Texas would seem to speak to that. He offered little of the red meat he throws to Joe Average primary voter, and instead emphasized environmental deregulation and tax reduction—favorite issues of the Koch brothers and other well-heeled Republican donors.

Trump, on the other hand, not only has little interest in appealing to the Republican establishment with his mostly self-funded campaign; it’s in his interest to see the party weakened. Trump has his own brand—one bigger, I suspect he has calculated, than that of the GOP. His strategy is that of a cult of personality.

It seems as if Trump is figuring that the most the party has to offer him is ballot access as a major party nominee, and the free television airtime that comes with the convention. He has little investment in the policy positions adopted by the party through the influence of donors and advocacy groups. He’s not running on policy, as his many changes of heart and lack of conservative orthodoxy on various issues, ranging from Middle East diplomacy to his assessment of Planned Parenthood, have shown.

Should Trump win the Republican Party nomination, scores of party leaders will become previously important people. But if Cruz wins, he will owe much to the establishment figures who ultimately, if reluctantly, backed him. The pooh-bahs will accordingly pick their poison.

 

By: Adele M. Stan, The American Prospect, March 23, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Glorious Pageantry Of The GOP Process”: Ted Cruz And Donald Trump Are Fighting Over Their Wives. This Was Inevitable

Throughout the political world, people are expressing shock, dismay, and disgust at the argument that has broken out between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz over their wives. But this shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. In fact, it was all but inevitable.

To catch you up briefly: First an anti-Trump super PAC put out an online ad directed at Mormon women in Utah with a picture of Trump’s wife Melania posing nude, on the absurd grounds that it constituted a reason to vote against Trump. Then Trump accused Cruz of orchestrating the super PAC ad, and threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife Heidi. Then Trump retweeted a picture of Melania looking like the professional model she was next to a particularly unflattering photo of Heidi, with the caption, “The images are worth a thousand words.” Then Cruz said, “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi the hell alone.”

Truly an inspiring moment in the glorious pageantry of the democratic process. But this is what you get when you make Donald Trump the frontrunner of your party. If you know anything about Trump, you should have known that it was going to come to this.

As he does so often, Trump takes what is ordinarily implied in politics and makes it literal. Republicans have long insinuated that their candidates are more manly than their Democratic opponents, whether it was saying that John Kerry “looks French” or mocking Al Gore for wearing “earth tones.” Trump, on the other hand, just comes out and suggests that he has a big penis and his wife is hotter than the other guy’s.

You don’t have to be a trained psychologist to discern that Trump views women largely as objects whose purpose is to demarcate, through their physical appearance, the relative positions men occupy in an eternal contest for domination and status. Just look at his marital history. He married his first wife Ivana, a Czech model who was a mere three years younger than him, when she was 28. Fourteen years later, when Ivana was 42, he divorced her and married Marla Maples, with whom he’d been having an affair. Maples was 29 at the time, and 17 years younger than Trump; a few years later he divorced her as well.  Then he married his current wife Melania, a former Slovenian model who is 24 years his junior. Melania is now 45, and if I were her I’d be looking over my shoulder.

Trump has a long history of misogynistic comments directed at women who cross him (Franklin Foer documents many of them here), and one common strain running through them is the presumption that women’s worth is a function of their appearance. When he wants to be nice to a woman, he tells her she’s beautiful. And when he tangles with another man, he’ll sometimes seek to establish his superiority by asserting that he’s had sex with more women than his opponent; in other words, he has more trophies, so he’s the dominant male.

There was simply no way that Trump was going to get into a one-on-one contest with another candidate and not eventually try to puff out his chest and claim this kind of sexual primacy. Up until now he’s done it to other opponents in slightly more subtle ways (calling Jeb Bush “low energy,” referring to Marco Rubio as “little Marco”), but as the stakes get higher and we near the end of the primaries, his more base instincts and impulses are obviously coming out.

As I argued last week, if Trump and Hillary Clinton are the nominees, this election will likely produce the largest gender gap in American political history. Trump’s unfavorable ratings among women have already hit 75 percent in some polls. And it’s important to understand that controversies like the one with Cruz, where Trump says or does something that women (and plenty of men) immediately understand as sexist, are going to happen again and again, particularly with Clinton as the Democratic nominee. That’s because Trump can’t help himself, and doesn’t even seem to realize what he’s doing. For instance, consider this incident:

“I’d hit you the same way,” Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd in February when pressed on the issue. “I mean, you are the perfect one to ask that question — you have been, you know, under fire from me for a long time, and you are far from a woman.”

“I think there are some women — there’s one sitting right over there in the beautiful red dress. You see that woman over there? I have great respect for that woman over there,” he said, as Todd clarified to viewers that Trump was talking about veteran reporter Andrea Mitchell.

The lack of self-awareness on display here is truly spectacular. Trump thinks that he should be exonerated from the charge of sexism because he attacks men too. And then as proof, he points to Andrea Mitchell, one of the most recognizable journalists in America, and refers to her as “one sitting right over there in the beautiful red dress.” I’m sure he thought he was complimenting her by noting her appearance approvingly. He just doesn’t get it.

As soon as he has the nomination in hand, Trump will start pivoting to the general election in many ways, by changing his emphasis and moderating some of his positions. I’m sure he’ll say, as he has before, that he’ll be great for women because nobody values women more than he does. He may even point to a couple of policy positions, like his opposition to defunding Planned Parenthood, as proof. But every time one of these controversies happens, it digs him deeper and deeper into a hole with women voters, one that’s going to be almost impossible for him to climb out of. And there will be a lot more of them.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 25, 2016

March 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Women | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Done With Quiet Protest”: Republican ‘Takers’ Take Down The Establishment

Just as Donald Trump did a Super Tuesday stomp on the Republican establishment, the establishment showed why it deserved the rough treatment. The Republican Senate leadership yet again announced its refusal to consider anyone President Obama nominates for the Supreme Court until after the presidential election.

It is the job of the U.S. Senate to hold hearings on, and then accept or reject, the president’s choice. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said they will not take on the work — while showing no inclination to forgo their paychecks.

Talk about “takers.”

Yes, talk about “takers.” That’s how Mitt Romney described Americans benefiting from Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare and other government social programs during his failed 2012 run for president. Never mind that most of the “takers” have also paid for some of what they have received.

Working-class Republicans have finally rebelled against the notion that everything they get is beneficence from the superrich — and that making the superrich super-duper-rich would drop some tinsel on their grateful heads. They were done with quiet protest and ready to take down the Republican bastille, stone by stone. And the angrier Trump made the establishment the happier they were.

The Bastille was the symbol of France’s Old Regime. The storming of the prison in 1789 kicked off the French Revolution.

Republican disrupters from Newt Gingrich on down liked to talk about a conservative revolution. They didn’t know the first thing about revolutions. This is a revolution.

Back at the chateau, Republican luminaries were calmly planning favors for their financiers. They assumed their party’s working folk would fall in line — out of both hostility to Democrats and through hypnosis.

So you had Jeb Bush amassing an armory of campaign cash over bubbly and hors d’oeuvres at the family estate in Maine. You had Marco Rubio devising a plan to do away with all capital gains taxes — the source of half the earnings for people making $10 million or more. You had Ted Cruz concocting a plan to abolish the IRS. (Without the IRS, only the working stiffs would be paying taxes, the money automatically deducted from their paychecks.)

Not much here for the alleged takers, who actually see themselves as “taken from.” Unlike the others, Trump wasn’t going after their benefits. He even praised Planned Parenthood, noting it provides a variety of health services to ordinary women.

Trump would be a disastrous president, of course. But he knows how to inspire the “enraged ones.” In the French Revolution, the enraged ones were extremists who sent many of the moderate revolutionaries to the guillotine. (The enraged ones also ended badly.)

As the embers of Super Tuesday still glowed, The Wall Street Journal published the following commentary by one of its Old Regime’s scribes:

“To be honest and impolitic, the Trump voter smacks of a child who unleashes recriminations against mommy and daddy because the world is imperfect,” Holman Jenkins wrote. Take that.

No responsible American — not the other Republicans and certainly not Democrats expecting strong Latino support — would endorse Trump’s nasty attacks on our hardworking immigrants. But large-scale immigration of unskilled labor has, to some extent, hurt America’s blue-collar workers, and not just white ones.

Democrats need to continue pressing reform that is humane both to immigrants already rooted in the society and to the country’s low-skilled workforce. Do that and the air comes whooshing out of Trump’s balloon.

Back in Washington, the Republican leaders will probably continue to avoid work on this issue or a Supreme Court nominee or anything else Obama wants. They should enjoy their leisure. After Election Day, many may have to look for real jobs.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, March 3, 2016

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“John Kasich – Only Moderately Extreme”: Remember The Last Time We Had A “Compassionately Conservative” President?

If you’ve watched John Kasich at any of the Republican presidential debates so far, two things stand out about him: (1) he wants to be the “Republican with a heart,” and (2) he completely embraces trickle-down economics. That’s pretty much the kind of thing we heard from George W. Bush in the 2000 election when he called himself a “compassionate conservative.” Compared to the rest of the field this time around, that has a lot of pundits calling Kasich the moderate of the group.

The problem is that we all got a pretty good lesson on the failure of trickle-down economics during the Bush/Cheney years. And right now, Kasich is demonstrating just how un-moderate he is on some important issues. For example, here’s what happened at a town hall event in Virginia today.

Notice that even one of his supporters called him out for saying that “women came out of their kitchens” to work on his campaign. That little gem comes the day after Kasich did this:

Gov. John Kasich has signed legislation to strip government money from Planned Parenthood in Ohio…

The bill targets roughly $1.3 million in funding that Planned Parenthood receives through Ohio’s health department. The money, which is mostly federal, supports initiatives for HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and prevention of violence against women.

All of that reminded me of something that happened just after Kasich was elected Governor of Ohio. He came under heavy fire in his home state for the fact that all of the appointments in his administration went to white people. For a Republican, that isn’t terribly surprising. But it was his response that was jarring. Instead of working with communities of color to improve, he got defensive.

“We pick people on the basis of who’s qualified. We don’t pick them on the basis of quotas. I mean I think quotas are yesterday,” Kasich said on Jan. 2.

Kasich said he’s color blind when it comes to hiring.

“I mean let’s get the best people for the job,” said Kasich.

In other words, “the best people for the job” just happened to all be white. People of color need not apply. When Ohio’s Legislative Black Caucus offered to help him out with that, Kasich said, “I don’t need your people.”

So the moderate in the Republican presidential race is the guy who believes that:

1. if we just give rich people more tax cuts our economy will boom for everyone,
2. women are still in the kitchen and don’t deserve access to reproductive health care, and
3. the best person for any job in his administration just so happens to be white.

I’ll grant you that compared to the other 4 candidates still in this race, Kasich is slightly less extreme. But then, I’m old enough to remember what happened the last time the country had a “compassionately conservative” president.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 22, 2016

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, George W Bush, John Kasich | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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