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“Why Conservatives Hate John Boehner”: They Wanted Someone To Beat Obama, As Their Presidential Nominees Couldn’t Do

When Marco Rubio announced to the Values Voter Summit on Friday morning that House Speaker John Boehner was resigning, the crowd of social conservatives cheered. The Florida senator and 2016 presidential contender seemed to share the sentiment.

“I’m not here to bash anyone, but the time has come to turn the page,” Rubio said. “It is time to turn the page and allow a new generation of leaders.”

Fellow 2016er Sen. Ted Cruz had a similar shtick. “You want to know how much each of you terrifies Washington?” he asked the crowd of conservative activists. “Yesterday John Boehner was speaker of the House. Y’all come to town and somehow that changes. My only request is, can you come by more often?”

Some of this is self-serving. Both men are younger Republican leaders who have a personal stake in seeing the old guard shuffle off to retirement. And both are competing for a similar slice of conservative primary voters and playing to the same audience.

The fact that Boehner’s impending departure is an applause line at conservative gatherings, however, is reflective of the Republican leadership crisis. Large parts of the base do not trust the party’s leaders, do not believe they have GOP voters’ best interests or conservative principles at heart, and would mourn their leaving office about as much when Barack Obama’s presidency is over.

House speakers aren’t often leaders of inspirational movements. They are usually legislative tacticians and enforcers of party discipline. Boehner is a survivor, having been booted from the leadership team in the 1990s only to claw back to the minority leader and then speaker’s position.

But after the 2010 midterm elections, when Democrats lost the House while keeping the Senate and the presidency, Boehner found himself the ranking Republican in Washington. It’s a role for which he was in many respects ill-suited.

If you compare Boehner’s reign to that of disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, conservatives should consider it an improvement. Hastert, with the help of President George W. Bush, jacked up government spending and presided over a culture of earmarks and corruption. They authorized the Iraq war.

Under Boehner, the House helped deliver sequestration that put the brakes on explosive spending growth. He effectively ended earmarks. His fellow Republicans tried to stop a war in Libya and succeeded in averting one in Syria, though not always with the speaker’s blessing.

Yet conservatives were looking for someone more like Newt Gingrich, albeit with better long-term results. They wanted someone who could communicate conservative principles and fight for the Republican platform. They wanted someone to beat Obama, as their presidential nominees couldn’t do. They wanted someone to stop playing defense and go on offense against ObamaCare and a slew of liberal programs that offended them.

Even Boehner’s conservative accomplishments were not universally beloved by the right. Many hawks detested sequestration’s impact on defense spending, and were willing to trade away the budget caps. The earmarks ban was criticized as too loose by some conservatives, and too detrimental to getting things done on the House floor by some in the Republican establishment.

What Boehner mostly did as House speaker was rescue the more conservative members of his caucus from dire political miscalculations while offering little alternative vision of his own. That was never good enough for conservatives and became increasingly untenable as Boehner began to advance legislation with Democrats and a rump of Republicans.

Can conservatives do better at running the House and governing in general, or can they only function as an opposition party even when they are among the majority? Will they even get the opportunity to replace Boehner, or will he be succeeded by another establishment figure? Can the GOP ever resolve its leadership crisis?

Tea Party leader Mark Meckler crowed, “Boehner is gone, and we are still here.” Now, perhaps, we’ll see to what end.


By: W. James Antler III, The Week, September 25, 2015

September 26, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Mike Huckabee Is A Raging Hypocrite”: Inside The Religious Right’s Incoherent Faux-Morality

In recent decades, American politics have been dominated by a series of escalating ideological conflicts that have come to be known as “the culture wars.” And, with Christian moralizers like Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal entering the 2016 fray, this is unlikely to change any time soon. So, as we brace ourselves for another GOP primary defined by “traditional values,” one question it’s worth asking is: Do these conservatives (and their supporters) have any right to claim the high ground?

Republicans such as Huckabee and Jindal love to use their religion as a prop: They judge and preach and condemn under the cover of Christianity. And they assume this grants them a kind of moral superiority. Well, it doesn’t. Huckabee and Jindal are political hucksters. They fancy themselves Christians, but their preachments are foul and their values are un-Christlike. They are exactly what many other current GOP candidates are as well: political entrepreneurs. If they climb atop the Christian cross, it’s because they want to be seen by more people. They’re chasing votes, not salvation.

As the presidential race kicks into gear, Democrats would do well to remember this. For too long the GOP has controlled the moral narrative in this country. Conservatives have wisely appropriated the language of values, but they’re rarely challenged on this front. When Ted Cruz or Ben Carson or Rick Santorum bloviate about family values, someone should ask: What, precisely, are your values? And what are their effects in the real world?

Most conservatives (in today’s GOP, at least) exalt life in the abstract, but they don’t defend it in practice. Whether it’s abortion or capital punishment or contraception or civil rights, they consistently advocate policies that degrade life and run counter to their own values. Despite their avowed humanitarianism, they’ve little regard for human suffering. And that’s because they’re not interested in serving life or other people; they’re dogmatists masquerading as moralizers.

Conservatives, for instance, admonish liberals for not protecting the sanctity of life.

But these same conservatives are often indifferent to the struggles of real people living real lives here and now. They’re not particularly concerned with poverty or inequality or torture or war crimes or a hundred other ethical issues. And they’re never compelled to explain the widening gap between their rhetoric and the political reality they’ve helped create.

Take the GOP’s position on abortion. We know, for example, that banning abortions doesn’t decrease the number of abortions. Sex education, contraception, and access to proper health care — these are the policies that reduce abortions. And yet pro-life conservatives oppose them at every turn. And they insist on fighting wars they’ve already lost. The Supreme Court, after all, has spoken: abortion is legal in this country. (Although they’re doing everything in their power to turn the clocks back.) But rather than pursue policies that might actually reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancies, something that virtually everyone could get behind, conservatives instead push for policies that actually lead to more, not fewer, abortions. That’s incoherent, and positively stupid, running counter to the ostensible goals of social conservatives.

The GOP, in its current manifestation, is incapable of dealing with its disjointedness. The religious wing of the party thinks only in terms of doctrine. Whether it’s abortion or climate change or marriage equality, reality always gives way to dogma. Because so much of conservative discourse is tinged with fundamentalist rhetoric, compromise or change is virtually impossible. This is terrible for the Republican Party, and even worse for the country.

The corporate wing of the GOP is partly to blame for this predicament. People like the Koch brothers have artfully hijacked social conservatism in order to peddle a particular brand of libertarianism. As a result, we see Christian politicians (like Paul Ryan) professing their love of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy could not possibly be more antithetical to Christianity. Many of the “value voters” (most of whom are Christian and Republican) similarly conflate economic libertarianism with Christianity, as though one follows from the other. This is an absurd contradiction, and it shouldn’t go unchallenged.

These inconsistencies will be on full view at the upcoming Value Voters Summit, where the religious right gathers each year to promote social conservatism. According to the organizers of this event, the “Values Voter Summit was created in 2006 to provide a forum to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.”

This event, which is sponsored by the Family Research Council (a recognized hate group) and funded by various PACs and front organizations, offers a snapshot of contemporary conservatism. And who are the moral luminaries invited to speak at this summit? In addition to all of the Republican presidential candidates, people like Phil Robertson, Tony Perkins, and the thrice-married Rush Limbaugh will all take the podium. These men are hardly paragons of moral wisdom, and while they may be Christian, their values are anything but. Robertson, for instance, has been a fountain of ignorance over the last year or so, spewing hateful bile in several interviews and speeches.

Amazingly, these are the people who speak for “value voters.” These are the representatives of the religious right. Not a single one of them has the right to lecture anyone (especially liberals) about morality or faith. Christians are called to uphold the living love of Christ, not the blind bigotry of people like Perkins and Robertson. Republicans too easily forget that, and liberals ought to say so. Besides, there’s a much better case to be made that alleviating poverty, reducing inequality, and promoting social justice are Christian causes rooted in fundamentally Christian values.

It’s time for liberal Democrats to make that case.


By: Sean Illing, Salon, May 8, 2015

May 11, 2015 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Culture Wars, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Religious Right Is A Fraud”: There’s Nothing Christian About Michele Bachmann’s Values

Last week, the nation’s capital was host to Value Voters 2013 Summit, a three-day political conference for predominantly religious conservatives. Among the smattering of social and economic issues at hand, the overall tenor of the Summit focused on eliminating Obamacare, expanding the tangible presence of Christianity through the public arena and military and preventing the proliferation of easily available birth control and abortion. In speeches, lunches and breakout sessions, American’s Christian Right worked out strategies to bring the values of the federal government in line with their preferred Christian ethical dictates, using democracy as their chief tool.

It isn’t unusual for Christians living in democracies to use the vote to express their ethics, and to shape government to do the same. That the moral and ethical preferences of a given society should inform government is a foundational principle of democracy, after all. And American values voters are far from the first Christians to undertake the project of bringing their government’s policies in line with Christian ethics: European Christian parties have aimed to do the same for decades. But between American Christian voters and their European counterparts, a curious departure opens up: while European Christians generally see the anti-poverty mission of Christianity as worthy of political action, the American Christian Right inexplicably cordons off economics from the realm of Christian influence.

By all means, the American Christian Right is willing to leverage government authority to carry out a variety of Christian ethical projects, especially within the arena of family life. Michele Bachmann would make abortion illegal, and Rick Santorum has stated on multiple occasions that he supports laws against homosexual intercourse. But Christian politicians in the United States curtail their interest in making the gospel actionable when it comes to welfare. While the government should see to the moral uprightness of marriage, sex and family, the Value Voters 2013 Summit was notably bereft of talks on living wages, labor rights or basic incomes.

The notable exclusion of poverty from the Christian agenda would doubtlessly puzzle European Christians, whose support of Christian ethical approaches to family life have always been paired with a deep and vigorous concern for the poor. And, unlike their American counterparts, European Christians haven’t been willing to leave poverty up to individual charity or the market to handle. Quite the contrary: Just as public morality is an arena fit for intervention by a Christian-informed government, so too is welfare. Consider the British Christian People’s Alliance 2010 election manifesto, a document intended to explain the imminently Christian party’s policy goals:

“The Christian Peoples Alliance believes that Britain will return to economic prosperity when government chooses instead to put human relationships in right order. This requires power, income and wealth to be redistributed and for greater equality to be achieved. These are deeply spiritual convictions and reflect a Biblical pattern of priorities…By the end of the next Parliament, the CPA will establish the reduction of inequality as a national target, so that the ratios of the incomes of the top 20 per cent are reduced to no more than five and a half times the incomes of the bottom 20 per cent.”

The CPA election manifesto goes on to explain that their aversion to inequality arises from a uniquely Christian concern for the health of human relationships, which suffer under the weight of massive social inequality. Their position on inequality is hardly an anomaly among European Christian parties. In fact, the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), a confederation of Christian parties from different European nations operating within the European Union, states very similar goals in its own programme:

“Social justice is a fundamental Biblical teaching and Christian-democrat notion. Social justice demands an equal regard for all. That implies a special concern for the needs of the poor, refugees, those who suffer and the powerless. It requires us to oppose exploitation and deprivation. It requires also that appropriate resources and opportunities are available. In this way, we meet the basic requirements of all and each person is able to take part in the life of the community.”

Toward that end, the European Christian Political Foundation, which is the official think tank of the ECPM, recently commissioned a publication entitled ‘After Capitalism’, which is summarized thus:

“‘After Capitalism’ seeks to rethink the foundations of a market economy and argues that the Bible’s central theme of relationships is the key to rebuilding a system that promotes economic well-being, financial stability and social cohesion.”

It is notable that the multitude of parties that make up the EPCM are not necessarily leftist or wholly liberal parties. They do not generally align themselves with openly socialist parties in their home countries, though their policies toward welfare and equality would likely be branded as such by American Christians. And so the question remains: If European Christians feel the anti-poverty mission of Christianity is as worthy of political action as the ethical values relating to family life, why doesn’t the American Christian Right feel the same?

Economic policy seems a strange place to wall off consideration of Christian ethics, but when it comes to policies that would expand welfare programs or extend particular benefits to the poor, the American Christian Right recoils, and tends to fall back on the rhetoric of personal accountability and individual liberty in matters of charity. But as European Christian parties have shown, limiting economic justice to the arena of charity is a political choice. If the government has a moral role — which the American Christian Right certainly believes it does — then why shouldn’t it participate in the same forms of care individual Christians are obligated to?

No principled reason can be given for the distinction the Christian Right draws between harnessing the state to pursue social objectives and harnessing it to pursue economic objectives. It is a uniquely American distinction as far as Christian politicking goes. What the distinction reveals is that so-called values voters are just a particular flavor of right-wing political culture, one that opts for Christian language and rhetoric when communicating its message. But in that case, it is their freestanding political commitments that inform their Christianity, not the other way around.

The answer to this riddle is therefore not so mysterious. Although nominally interested in harnessing the state to pursue Christian social objectives, the American Christian Right is not detached from the culture it has developed within. Their politics is not one that is Christian in origin; rather, it originates from the same place all other right-wing politics originates, but mobilizes Christian rhetoric and meanings post-hoc to justify its goals.

By: Elizabeth Stoker and Matt Bruenig, Salon, October 15, 2013

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Poverty, Religious Right | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Is Crackpot Stuff”: Why Must We Take The Family Research Council Seriously?

The FRC, which sponsors the Values Voter Summit that took place in Washington over the past weekend, is a big, big player in conservative politics. Tony Perkins, its leader, has a lot of power in the GOP, appears on television as a serious person, and so on.

So in that context, I think it’s worth noting what goes on at those conclaves when they think no one is watching. They hosted Paul Ryan and Michelle Bachmann and the other big names last Friday. Then, on Saturday, after the mult-boxes had all been safely packed away and the media weren’t looking, out they came.

Alternet’s Zaid Jilani was watching, and here’s a bit of what he saw. Jerry Boykin, the retired lieutenant general and Christian jihadist who now works at FRC, basically called for World War III. An “ex-Muslin convert” named Kamal Saleem issued a different warning:

During the question-and-answer session, a number of attendees wanted to know more about how Muslims were supposedly infiltrating the U.S. government.

Saleem alleged that a U.N. treaty that Obama was working to enforce to replace the constitution with sharia law. Under this new, purportedly Obama-enforced regime, “churches and synagogues will go down underground because now you’ll have to submit your sermons to the government.” The consequences of an Obama re-election, he said, would be to “lose this nation.”

All right, this is crackpot stuff. But according to the Serious Men and Women of Washington, the FRC is not a crackpot outfit. Can you imagine if the Center for American Progress, say, or Jim Wallis‘s group featured a speaker who alleged that Romney had a secret plan to convert everyone to Mormonism and force Christians to reject all they’d been taught and embrace Joseph Smith’s teachings? I know I said last week I generally steer clear of analogies, but this one is pretty precise.

Except that neither CAP nor Wallis would ever dream of doing such a thing in a jillion years. And not because it would be politically unwise and they’d get their heads lopped off–but because it would just be a plainly nutty and deeply offensive thing to do. And, sure, they’d know that it would erode or destroy their credibility.

But FRC can do this and still be accorded respect. Why? Because we just take it as a given and accept that the right wing is full of nativist and reactionary and racist cranks. And this, remember, is a religious organization.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 17, 2012



September 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cafeteria Libertarianism: Where The GOP Goes To Snack

You would have been forgiven for experiencing some ideological whiplash earlier this month when, after listening to two days of speeches emphasizing the profound threat that rights for gay people, legal abortion, and the freedom of religion pose to our society, the attendees of the far-right Values Voter Summit handed a resounding straw poll victory to self-proclaimed libertarian Ron Paul.

Paul’s particular brand of libertarianism has taken hold in the imagination of the Tea Party, allowing its leaders and activists to claim a patriotic devotion to absolute freedom while simultaneously supporting policies that curtail the freedom of women, gay people, and religious minorities.

Who wants to be called a Right-Winger, Neocon or a Neanderthal these days? Welcome to Cafeteria Libertarianism.

“Libertarianism” has become the new code word to cover all that conservative Republican politicians love. They love to invoke a libertarian philosophy when they cut taxes for corporations and the rich, rail against health care reform, take the ax to the social safety net, deregulate Wall Street and block clean elections laws. It’s about freedom, they say. Come on, let’s get the government off of our backs!

The trouble is, the current GOP’s newfound embrace of libertarianism is a hoax. What today’s GOP practices is what I call “cafeteria libertarianism”: picking some freedoms to champion and others to actively work against. It’s an attempt to make the same old policies sound more palatable by twisting a much misunderstood ideology — with a uniquely marketable name — to help make the sale.

Take California Rep. David Dreier who is anti-choice and ironically, to say the least, anti-gay. When asked by a local news station this summer how he could appeal to Tea Party voters, Dreier responded, “I describe myself as a small-‘l’, libertarian-leaning Republican. I want less government and lower taxes. I believe in a free economy, limited government, a strong defense and personal freedom, that’s why I’m a Republican.” Dreier’s supposed embrace of libertarianism came as a surprise to those of us who have been following his life and politics for years. But Dreier’s not snacking alone at the Libertarian cafeteria — “libertarianism” has become a code word for GOP politicians hoping to appeal to Tea Party voters and corporate funders without the rest of the country taking notice.

When Republican politicians call themselves libertarians they, with very few exceptions, mean they want a small government when it comes to corporate accountability and a big government when it comes to people’s private lives. They don’t want Congress to regulate mine safety, but they do want to penalize small businesses that offer abortion coverage for employees. They don’t want to get in the way of Wall Street bankers fleecing consumers, but they’ll spend endless resources throwing up any and all possible barriers to gay people who want to marry whom they love.

It’s this cafeteria libertarianism, actively pushed by the corporate Right and wholeheartedly embraced by the Tea Party, that has allowed Congress and state legislatures to launch an all-out assault on corporate regulation, workers’ rights, and campaign finance restrictions — all while simultaneously conducting an energetic campaign to intervene in women’s health care, throw up bureaucratic hurdles to the right to vote, harangue practitioners of religions they don’t like and decide who can and cannot get married. Of course you need some powerful intellectual trickery to pull this off — how else can you say that you’re all for states’ rights and at the same time support amending the Constitution to prohibit states to define marriage?

The expert at this kind of trickery is libertarian poster boy and perennial presidential candidate Ron Paul, who enjoys an admiring following in the Tea Party movement and among some liberals who like some of the items that Paul has selected from the libertarian menu. Paul, despite his reputation as a hard-line maverick, picks and chooses the liberties he supports just as much as the rest of the GOP: sure, he famously defied his party to oppose the PATRIOT Act and the War on Drugs, but he also called Roe v. Wade a “big mistake” and supports the federal “Defense of Marriage Act.” And he’s far from alone: the oxymoronic anti-choice, anti-gay libertarians are now legion.

Paul has also ably demonstrated why the GOP’s actual libertarian beliefs are misguided at best and dangerous at worst: when Hurricane Irene hit the east coast this summer, taking dozens of lives and causing billions of dollars in damage, Paul reacted by calling for the end of FEMA and saying disasters should be dealt with “like 1900.” 1900, of course, was the year of the infamous Galveston hurricane, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. And at a Republican debate this summer, Paul was met with cheers from the crowd when he said that an uninsured man suffering a life threatening illness is an example of “what freedom is all about.” This is the new standard of freedom?

True liberty is the freedom to live our lives the fullest, care for our families in comfort and make our own decisions about life’s fundamental personal issues. That’s something we can’t do if our government isn’t there to ensure public safety, a healthy environment and a basic safety net when things go wrong… or if our government is dedicated to meddling in our personal lives.

Let’s all agree that we love liberty. But the pick-and-choose liberty and libertarianism that Tea Party Republicans espouse is not only intellectually dishonest, it’s monumentally bad for America.


By: Michael B. Keegan, President-People For The American Way, Published in Huff Post, October 19, 2011

October 20, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Constitution, Democracy, Elections, Ideologues, Ideology, Right Wing, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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