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“It’s Not Good For Republicans”: This Is How Not To Defend Voter Suppression In North Carolina

Two weeks after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) approved the most sweeping voter-suppression law seen in the United States in a generation, the political world is taking note of the disaster in growing numbers. Last week, former Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the state’s new voting restrictions, and yesterday, pundit Cokie Roberts said, “[W]hat’s going on about voting rights is downright evil.”

But don’t worry, the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, a prominent leader of the religious right movement for decades, has a new defense. In a WorldNetDaily column, the right-wing activist offered an unexpected explanation of why some of North Carolina’s new restrictions are worthwhile.

The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that “early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.”

The Obama technocrats have developed an efficient system of identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them (some might say harassing them) until they actually vote. It may take several days to accomplish this, so early voting is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.

Have you ever heard a political figure accidentally read stage direction, unaware that it’s not supposed to be repeated out loud? This is what Schlafly’s published column reminds me of.

For North Carolina Republicans, the state’s new voter-suppression measures are ostensibly legitimate — GOP officials are simply worried about non-existent fraud. The response from Democrats and voting-rights advocates is multi-faceted, but emphasizes that some of these measures, including restrictions on early voting, have nothing whatsoever to do with fraud prevention and everything to do with a partisan agenda.

And then there’s Phyllis Schlafly, writing a piece for publication effectively saying Democrats are entirely right — North Carolina had to dramatically cut early voting because it’s not good for Republicans.

Remember, Schlafly’s piece wasn’t intended as criticism; this is her defense of voter suppression in North Carolina. Proponents of voting rights are arguing, “This is a blatantly partisan scheme intended to rig elections,” to which Schlafly is effectively responding, “I know, isn’t it great?”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Voting Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“That Great Untapped Reservoir”: Phyllis Schlafly Urges GOP To Focus On White Voters

Some important divisions among Republican officials surfaced in the wake of the 2012 elections, but most of the party agrees on one over-arching strategy: Republicans are going to have to do better among non-white voters. It’s an increasingly diverse nation, and the GOP’s core base is overwhelmingly white — a problem that appears to be getting worse, not better.

With this in mind, the Republican National Committee is launching yet another minority outreach campaign, and may even end up grudgingly supporting comprehensive immigration reform. The Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, a long-time leader of the religious right movement and anti-feminist activist, is convinced her party has it all wrong.

[I]n an interview this week with conservative radio program Focus Today, Schlafly just came right out and said it. Calling the GOP’s need to reach out to Latinos a “great myth,” Schlafly said that “the people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes, the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election.” Schlafly accused the Republican “establishment” of nominating “a series of losers … who don’t connect with the grassroots.”

Look, this isn’t complicated. White voter turnout rates have been pretty steady over the last few presidential-year election cycles, and both John McCain and Mitt Romney won the support of a majority of white voters. Indeed, it wasn’t especially close — McCain won 55% of the white vote in 2008 (en route to losing the election badly), and Romney did even better, winning 59% of the white vote (en route to losing the election badly).

Schlafly is under the impression that there’s this untapped reservoir of conservative white voters, just sitting at home, waiting for the Republican Party to reach out to them with a message they’ll like, and if Democrats are really lucky, GOP officials will take Schlafly’s advice seriously.

Because as the nation becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, conservative dead-enders who still see an emphasis on white voters as the key to electoral salvation are kidding themselves.

But even if we put these pesky details aside, I have a related question for Schlafly and those who agree with her: exactly what would it look like if Republicans tried even harder to “reach out to … the white votes”? The GOP is already looking an awful lot like the driven snow, so what more can party leaders do, specifically, to make white folks feel even more welcome?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 30, 2013

May 31, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Compassionless Christianity Is No Christianity”: A Kinder Mix Of Religion And Politics During Holy Week

The Easter season is a celebration of deliverance, and the liturgical calendar sets Easter Week up as a kind of catharsis.

Holy Thursday and the Last Supper have an ominous feel because they are preparation for Good Friday and the dolorous story of Jesus’s crucifixion. Yet two days later, the tale ends in triumph and resurrection. Whatever questions Christians may have about the meaning of that empty tomb, most of us have experienced a sense of joy when the words “He is risen, alleluia!” are shouted out on Easter Sunday.

Christianity, like the prophetic Judaism with which it is inextricably linked, is rooted in the idea of liberation, and I have long seen the Exodus and Easter as twin narratives involving a release from oppression and the victory of freedom. These promises have left a permanent mark on the culture outside the traditions from which they sprang.

Yet even in the Easter season, it’s hard not to notice that Christianity hasn’t been presented in its own best light during this election year because Christians have not exactly been putting forward their best selves.

My colleague Michael Gerson wrote recently about the “crude” way religion has played out in the Republican primaries, including “the systematic subordination of a rich tradition of social justice to a narrow and predictable political agenda.”

Gerson is exactly right, but I don’t propose to use his admirable column as an excuse to pile onto the religious right. Instead, I want to suggest that what should most bother Christians of all political persuasions is that there are right and wrong ways to apply religion to politics, and much that’s happening now involves the wrong ways. Moreover, popular Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry. This not only ignores Christian giants of philosophy and science but also plays into some of the very worst stereotypes inflicted upon religious believers.

What I’m not saying is that Christianity should be disengaged from politics. In fact, the early Christian movement was born in politics, in oppositional circles within Judaism fighting Roman oppression. There is great debate over how to understand the relationship between Jesus’s spirituality and his approach to politics, but his preaching clearly challenged the powers-that-be. He was, after all, crucified.

But because Christians have a realistic and non-utopian view of human nature, they should be especially alive to the ambiguities and ambivalences of politics. The philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain captured this well in reflecting on Augustine’s writings. “If Augustine is a thorn in the side of those who would cure the universe once and for all,” she wrote, “he similarly torments critics who disdain any project of human community, or justice, or possibility.”

Christians, she’s saying, thus have a duty to grasp both the possibilities and the limits of politics. This, in turn, means that the absolutism so many associate with Christian engagement in politics ought to be seen as contrary to the Christian tradition. And that’s the case even if many Christians over the course of history have acted otherwise.

Similarly, some Christians encourage a view of their faith as profoundly anti-intellectual. Faith is seen as more about experience than reason, more about loyalty than dialogue. The desire to assert The Truth takes priority over exploring productively and honestly what the truth might be.

In his important book “Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind,” the great evangelical scholar Mark Noll urges Christians down the second path. He argues that “if what we claim about Jesus Christ is true, then evangelicals should be among the most active, most serious and most-open minded advocates of general human learning.

“Evangelical hesitation about scholarship in general or about pursuing learning wholeheartedly is, in other words, antithetical to the Christ-centered basis of evangelical faith.” Noll might have added that a devotion to higher learning does not make anyone “a snob.”

So if Easter is about liberation, this liberation must include intellectual freedom. It entails a tempered approach to politics involving a steady quest for human improvement, not false promises of perfection or wild claims about the demonic character of one’s opponents. Elections, even an election as important as this year’s, should not be routinely cast as Armageddon.

Oh, yes, and a compassionless Christianity is no Christianity at all. I have always been moved by this presentation of Jesus from a Catholic Eucharistic prayer: “To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to those in sorrow, joy.” To which one can say: Alleluia.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 4, 2012

April 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Religion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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