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
Cleveland is one of those cities that has invested a whole lot in rehabilitating a once-dismal image, with some success. Now it’s probably better known as a vibrant music center (home of a fine symphony orchestra and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) than as another decaying Rust Belt graveyard full of industrial ghosts. There’s a major NASA facility there. Cleveland has its share of foodies and hipsters. The sports scene once probably best defined by the Ten Cent Beer Night riot that canceled an Indians’ game in 1974 now has produced an NBA championship.
But as is the case in a lot of cities fighting a bad rep, there’s a certain strained boosterism to Cleveland’s self-promotion, perhaps best characterized by the frenetic “Cleveland Rocks!” assertions that festooned comedian Drew Carey’s long-running ABC sitcom. So you have to figure the locals are very anxious about the bad vibes surrounding next week’s Republican National Convention. Will the event be remembered as another (to borrow the term of derision once commonly applied to the huge, frigid Cleveland Stadium until its demolition in 1996) Mistake by the Lake?
Of course, the widespread “dread” of the convention among GOP insiders that Politico‘s Alex Isenstadt wrote about today has less to do with the convention’s locale than with the Trump nomination it will formalize. An unprecedented number of elected officials are finding somewhere else to be next week. Political operatives who would normally no more miss a convention than a child would forget her or his own birthday are planning hit-and-run visits to conduct essential business only. Several big corporations are canceling what would normally be routine sponsorships (Isenstadt reports ominously that some local caterers are laying off staff because of the reduced number of corporate events).
There will not be a shortage, however, of media observers, many of whom are coming to Cleveland in hopes of seeing some sort of garish and horrific spectacle, whether it’s a fight over the convention rules, violence in the streets, or just an exceptionally cheesy Trump-driven agenda of C-class celebrities and washed-up athletes.
Totally aside from the hostility to Trump many Republican Establishment types feel, there’s a sense this convention could rank down there with Barry Goldwater’s Cow Palace convention in 1964 as the kickoff to a general-election fiasco.
But perhaps an even greater source of “dread” is the potential contrast between chaos outside the convention arena and tedium inside.
At a time when the nation is reeling from a series of mass shootings, there is widespread concern about safety in Cleveland. Increasing the worry is the nature of Trump’s campaign events, which have at times resulted in racially charged violence between his supporters and critics. The convention is expected to draw scores of protesters, ranging from Black Lives Matter to white-supremacist groups.
Thanks to Ohio’s robust “concealed carry” law, Cleveland police are being reduced to begging protesters not to bring along their shooting irons. Fortunately, the more respectable Trump supporters are ahead of the curve:
Tim Selaty, director of operations at Citizens for Trump, said his group was paying for private security to bolster the police presence. While Mr. Selaty said people should be allowed to carry guns, his group is banning long weapons from a rally in a park it is hosting on Monday.
“We’re going to insist that they leave any long arms out for sure because we believe that will make sure our people are safer,” he said. “In other words, no AR-15s, no shotguns or sniper rifles — all of the things that you would think somebody would bring in to hurt a lot of people in a very short time.”
Gee, that’s a relief: at least some people in the protest zone will have nothing more troublesome at hand than their hand cannons.
In a terrible affront to both the Second Amendment and the constitutional doctrine of federalism, the Obama Secret Service has banned firearms inside the convention perimeter itself. But the biggest worry Republicans have about what goes on inside Quicken Loans Arena involves Team Trump’s apparent disorganization in planning the convention. Six days out, and more than a week after Trump himself boasted the speaking schedule was full-to-overflowing, there’s still no convention schedule available. A relative handful of isolated announcements have been made about this or that elected official agreeing to speak at the convention, in a sharp departure from the usual assumption that all of them would be there and most of them above the rank of dogcatcher would be offered three minutes during a sleepy afternoon session. We’re all beginning to wonder if there will be a schedule in place when the convention officially opens on Monday.
All in all, it’s not looking good for Republicans or for Cleveland. If the convention is a mess or if violence erupts outside it, you can be sure that media types will reach for long-buried symbols of Cleveland disasters like the occasions in the 1960s and 1970s when the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River caught on fire. Thanks to a generation of environmental efforts nationally and locally, that doesn’t happen anymore. But it could be an apt metaphor if RNC ’16 goes up in flames.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 12, 2016
I see that David Duke hasn’t moderated his views since he was an active politician in the early 1990’s. That’s unfortunate. Some people mature with time.
Instead, he’s feeling “a revolutionary spirit,” and is seriously considering making a challenge to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Duke has until June 22nd to qualify for the November ballot. Remember, Louisiana has those funky elections where the November election can serve as a primary of sorts if no one reaches 50% of the vote. In those cases, there is a subsequent runoff election.
I don’t remember if Duke is/was a Grand Wizard or an Exalted Cyclops or what exact honorific he used in the Ku Klux Klan.
“There are millions of people across the country who would like to have me in the Congress. I’d be the only person in Congress openly defending the rights and the heritage of European Americans,” he said. “We are on the offensive today. There’s no more defenses.”
He actually thinks he’d make a good running mate for Trump.
Duke compared himself to Donald Trump, who he endorsed for president.
“I’ve said everything that Donald Trump is saying and more,” he said. “I think Trump is riding a wave of anti-establishment feeling that I’ve been nurturing for 25 years.”
Yet, Duke is realistic enough to know that Trump is unlikely to put him on the ticket.
Trump won’t reach out to him because the candidate fears “offending the oligarchs,” a term Duke uses for the political establishment he said is controlled by Jewish, Hispanic and African American interests.
Aware of his checkered history, Duke said he welcomed the backlash that would come if he runs.
In most cases, it’s a cheap shot to highlight a candidate’s most unsavory supporters, particularly if that support is unsolicited and unrequited. But it’s noteworthy to see Duke feeling this energized by Trump’s success. He’s moved by the spirit to stop playing defense and run for office because he sees in Trump the fruition of a quarter century of race hatred that he’s been “nurturing.”
Maybe Duke is just misinterpreting Trump or the political moment or basic reality, but there’s little doubt about what Duke thinks he can accomplish under Trump’s leadership.
Should Duke make it to the House, he said one of his first goals would be to repeal the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which liberalized immigration laws by eliminating race-based quotas.
Obviously, Duke thinks Trump is a fellow traveler, and he might have been bolstered in that impression back in February when Trump had tremendous difficulty finding one bad thing to say about the KKK.
When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday about David Duke and the KKK supporting his candidacy, Donald Trump passed on refuting them. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” he said. “So I don’t know. I don’t know — did [David Duke] endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.” When Tapper said he was specifically talking about the KKK, Trump continued saying, “I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about.” He then declared, “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. You may have groups in there that are totally fine — it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.”
But who, really, knows nothing about the Ku Klux Klan?
Trump did disavow the Klan’s support, but so tepidly that Duke was obviously encouraged.
So encouraged, in fact, that he’s ready to take on the House Majority Whip. And, in case you’d forgotten or just didn’t know, Steve Scalise has in the past spoken to one of David Duke’s little hate groups (the European-American Unity and Rights Organization) and once campaigned as “David Duke without the baggage.”
If Duke does run, the people of Louisiana’s First District will get to decide if they want their David Duke with or without the baggage.
In the meantime, Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Mary Fallin, is telling people that Donald Trump is a racial healer.
I’m just not seeing that.
By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 13, 2016
“Ask Me No Questions If You Can’t Take The Answer”: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Abandons All Subtlety Towards Trump
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dipped her toe into the political waters last week, conceding to the Associated Press that she’d rather not “think about” the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. “If it should be,” she added, “then everything is up for grabs.”
A couple of days later, Ginsburg went just a little further while speaking to the New York Times. Reflecting again on a possible Trump administration, the justice said, “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be – I don’t even want to contemplate that.” Echoing a sentiment from her late husband, Ginsburg said a Trump victory in November would mean “it’s time for us to move to New Zealand.”
Apparently, the more she answers these questions, the stronger Ginsburg’s feelings on the subject.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Donald Trump “a faker” Monday night, doubling down on her critical comments about a potential Trump presidency.
“He has no consistency about him,” Ginsburg told CNN. “He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego…. How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”
It’s at this point that objective observers have to start wondering whether Ginsburg is going further than she should.
I realize, of course, that justices’ ideologies are not exactly a secret. The fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg wants to see Donald J. Trump lose should surprise literally no one. It’s a safe bet that Clarence Thomas is equally eager to see Hillary Clinton lose. There’s no great mystery here.
But as much as I admire and respect Ginsburg, critics are raising a legitimate question. If I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t be at all pleased if, say, Samuel Alito started giving a series of media interviews, playing the role of election pundit and intervening in the electoral process. If the question today is whether Ginsburg is breaking with judicial protocol, fairness dictates that the answer is yes.
Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and a Georgetown University Law professor, wrote a piece for the New York Times defending the progressive justice for speaking her mind.
Normally Supreme Court justices should refrain from commenting on partisan politics. But these are not normal times. The question is whether a Supreme Court justice – in this case, the second woman on the court, a civil rights icon and pioneering feminist – has an obligation to remain silent when the country is at risk of being ruled by a man who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a sexist and racist demagogue. The answer must be no. […]
When despots have ascended to power in other regimes, one wonders how judges should have responded. Should they have adhered to a code of silence while their country went to hell? Not on the watch of the Notorious R.B.G. She understands that if Trump wins, the rule of law is at risk.
I can appreciate the argument. I even want to agree with it. If Trump is a unique threat to the American political system and a genuine menace, it’s unreasonable to think people of good conscience should stay silent in the name of propriety.
But Ginsburg isn’t just another voter; she’s a sitting justice on the Supreme Court. If there were a crisis along the lines of the 2000 election, and the high court was asked to adjudicate a case related to this election’s outcome, would Americans have confidence of Ginsburg’s impartiality? Would she have to recuse herself, thus affecting the outcome?
I appreciate the broader context and the fact that Ginsburg may be understandably worried about her own role in sending the nation in a radical and regressive direction. But the fact remains, those who’ve said she’s going too far are raising a legitimate concern that is not easily dismissed.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 12, 2016