Monday, November 20, 2017
I have been involved in politics now for well over two decades - actually, closer to three - and one of the aggravating factors I have witnessed in both major parties is the tendency of the leadership in both parties engaging in pissing contests and losing site of the larger picture and what motivates the grassroots effort where elections are often won or lost. That is not to say that all decisions should be left to the grassroots. A prime example is the GOP which invited the Christofascists and white supremacists (they are often one and the same) into the party with horrific results as embodied by the current occupant of the White House. Nonetheless, Democrats need to look to the grassroots now for a lesson on how to win elections. Virginia provides one such lesson despite the wrongheaded efforts of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to interfere in the Democrat primary last June - something I will forever hold against them. A column in the Washington Post outlines the lessons that need to be learned by Democrats in Washington, D.C. Here are highlights:
Sometimes, the Democratic Party amazes me. And not in a good way. Here is a party fresh off a series of big election triumphs all over the country. The nation faces an unprecedented challenge brought on by President Trump’s breathtaking irresponsibility. Republicans are pushing through the most reactionary tax bill since the 1920s.And what do leading Washington Democrats want to do? They would have us engage in the “move left” vs. “move to the center” squabbles that have obsessed the party for at least three decades.
[N]ew research is finding that this bickering does not match the mood of local anti-Trump activists.
Ever since Trump’s surprise victory, the distinguished Harvard University scholar Theda Skocpol has been spending a lot of time in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio with her colleagues Mary Waters and Kathy Swartz. They are talking to leaders and rank-and-file citizens in two counties in each state to track changes in our politics wrought by the 2016 outcome.
All the counties they are studying voted for Trump, yet in every one of them, new anti-Trump organizations have risen up. The researchers have found 10 such groups so far. (By the way, all these groups are led or co-led by women, many of whom are also deeply involved in their local churches.)
What’s struck Skocpol is how irrelevant the Democrats’ tired quarrels are to these freshly engaged citizens. “At the grass roots, people are dealing with the crisis Trump’s presidency presents to America, and they’re not refighting the election of 2016,” she said in an interview. “They’re not talking about whether the Democratic Party should be more progressive or more centrist.”
In fact, she finds that “both Bernie [Sanders] and Hillary [Clinton] supporters are involved,” which shows how “you can have energetic citizen action that doesn’t have to sort out national labels.”
This activism, as Skocpol sees it, is motivated by a simple but powerful civic sense that Trump is violating basic norms and principles of American life. The troops on the ground don’t need programs or litmus tests imposed from on high, she adds. They need practical support and the freedom to act as they see fit in their own areas.
This was also the lesson of this month’s elections, which saw victories by Democrats across the party’s spectrum of opinion. In Virginia, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam ran a moderate statewide campaign, while down-ticket winners in legislative races included a member of the Democratic Socialists of America as well as the first openly transgender person elected to a statehouse. Voters in Virginia (and New Jersey and elsewhere) said to Washington Democrats: Stop it with your stupid fights. We have work to do.[Y]es, the party is more progressive on certain questions than it used to be. It is rightly more committed, for example, to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights — but so is the country as a whole. There has been a strong response from Democrats of all races to police shootings of young, unarmed black men. But this is less a move to the “left” than an expression of simple decency. A lot of this left/center business is about abstractions imposed on reality rather than a reflection of it.
The combatants in the intraparty arguments might usefully start by acknowledging the merits of some of the insights their opponents offer. Jared Leopold, the communications director of the Democratic Governors Association, said that Northam’s approach resonated with Virginia voters who “were looking for a calm and strong leader in the midst of chaos in Washington.” Moderates have a point when they say that voters nationally are similarly seeking steady and reliable leadership.
The grass-roots activists know how important these battles are. The ideological infighters should learn from them.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Since the election of Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, to the White House, hate crimes nationwide have increased as Trump has continued to signal that racism and bigotry are acceptable behavior. Curiously, in Virginia, for 2016, hate crimes are actually down notwithstanding the fact that they increased across the rest of the nation as a whole. As to why such is the case, there seem to be no obvious answer although I suspect that some might point to the messaging from the governor's mansion that Virginia is accepting and open to all. On November 7, 2017, Virginians strongly rejected the Gillespie/Adams/Vogel ticket's call to racism and bigotry. A piece in the Daily Press looks at the phenomenon. Here are excerpts:
While hate crimes are up about five percent nationally, the number of hate crimes in Virginia decreased about 12 percent. That’s according to the FBI’s 2016 hate crime statistics released this week. The data comes from the Uniform Crime Reporting Program — a system by which law enforcement collects crime data. About 15,200 agencies participated in the Hate Crime Statistics Program last year.
FBI and Virginia’s data shows hate crimes predominantly were driven by racial bias. Virginia lists religion and sexual orientation as the next most common motivators; vice versa for the FBI. Anti-black, anti-white, anti-Jewish and anti-gay (male) were the four most frequent types of hate crimes around the nation.
Experts quickly warn against jumping to conclusions. Virginia law recognizes hate crimes that target someone’s race, religion or national origin. That leaves out sexual orientation, gender and disability.
In other words, if a woman presumed her car was vandalized because of her gender identity, local police would only investigate the vandalism. The case would be turned over to a federal agency to investigate, said Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.
“They’re going to investigate that, obviously they can prosecute that, but they can’t call it a hate crime if it’s outside those areas in Virginia law,” Schrad said.
“It’s a social justice issue, so I think folks would have to go to the General Assembly and say we have evidence of these hate crimes but we have to go to feds to prosecute because we don’t have an avenue in the state system,” Schrad said.
The data only reflects incidents in 2016, and only covers crimes — not hate incidents.
The Anti-Defamation League, which keeps its own data, reported a 67 percent uptick in anti-semitic incidents between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2017, and the same time period last year. Anti-LGBTQ homicides rose by 17 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to a report released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. There were 1,036 incidents of hate violence reported, the majority of which targeted people who identified as gay, below the age of 39 or were people of color.
Doron Ezickson, regional director for the ADL, advocated for consistent legislation across the country, and more training for police and prosecutors. And, Vecchietti said, a move away from victim blaming.
“When we talk about greater prevalence rate it's not like the nature of the individual that’s the problem,” Vecchietti said. “It’s the culture that's the problem.” Hate crimes don’t just target an individual, Ezickson said. They target and seek to silence an entire community.
Two pieces look at the growing ugliness of Evangelical Christianity. One is a column at NBC News by a Christian author and the other is in the New York Times. Both in their own way point a finger at one of the causes of the seemingly mushrooming hate and hypocrisy that define evangelical Christianity in America. Both also note evangelical support of Roy Moore a symptom of the malignancy evangelicals have become in the political area where the gospel's social directives have been thrown on the trash heap despite the feigned piety and religiosity of far too many evangelicals. The NBC News column states in part as follows:
This is not Christianity. Rather, it is an extreme Republican religionism that stands by party and regressive policy no matter what. It's not the gospel of Christ, but a gospel of greed. It is the religion of racism and lies, not the religion of redemption and love.
[E]ven before these allegations [of Moore's sexual assaults] made national headlines, it was clear that Moore’s policy agenda endangered the children of Alabama and this nation. This man, who wants to be Alabama’s next Senator, wants to repeal Obamacare, making it health care inaccessible for millions, in Alabama and elsewhere. He has said Islam is a "false religion" homosexual conduct "should be illegal." and curtail equal protection under the law for gay and transgender people. Moore supports a tax plan that would hurt the poor and working poor.
In short, Moore’s political agenda presents a credible threat to millions of vulnerable people in America. Yet Moore claims to be the moral and Christian candidate, using religion as U.S. slave masters did before him to justify actions which fly in the face of Christ's teachings. Like segregationists, Moore imagines the struggle for equality in America as a story of loss. At a revival meeting earlier this week, Moore complained that he was being persecuted. He also lamented the fact that the courts took prayer out of schools in 1962 and made a cryptic and confusing reference to “new rights” created in 1965, the year the Voting Rights Act was signed. Some members of the congregation responded, “Amen!”
As well as he knows his Bible, Roy Moore never quotes from the more than 2,000 verses that exhort us to care for the poor, the sick, and the stranger in our midst. He has apparently overlooked the prophet Isaiah, who said to men like Moore in his own day: “Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims — laws that make misery for the poor, that rob the destitute of their dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children” (Is.10:1-4).
So who is preaching this Republican religionism that the author condemns? Fox News, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh and a host of other right wing "news" outlets. To watch Fox News is to witness an alternate reality that has no regard for those who do not worship at the Republican/Christofascist altar. The column in the New York Times does so far as to describe Fox News viewing as the new form of worship for many evangelicals. Here are excerpts:
Kaitlyn Schiess has a sterling evangelical pedigree. She grew up in evangelical churches in Colorado and Virginia and graduated from Liberty University before entering Dallas Theological Seminary last year to prepare for a career in the church. But lately she has been frustrated by evangelicals’ failure to challenge the prejudice and predation in their midst.
To Ms. Schiess, this [evangelicals' defense of Roy Moore] is one more sign that a new ritual has superseded Sunday worship and weeknight Bible studies: a profane devotional practice, with immense power to shape evangelicals’ beliefs. This “liturgy” is the nightly consumption of conservative cable news. Liberals love to complain about conservatives’ steady diet of misinformation through partisan media, but Ms. Schiess’s complaint is more profound: Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson aren’t just purveyors of distorted news, but high priests of a false religion.
“The reason Fox News is so formative is that it’s this repetitive, almost ritualistic thing that people do every night,” Ms. Schiess told me. “It forms in them particular fears and desires, an idea of America. This is convincing on a less than logical level, and the church is not communicating to them in that same way.”
Social scientists have documented our tendency to reject reliable evidence if it challenges our beliefs. Hours of tearful victims’ testimony will not deter evangelicals who see Roy Moore as the latest Christian martyr persecuted by the liberal establishment. “Their loyalties are much more strongly formed by conservative media than their churches,” Ms. Schiess said.
[T]he church is not doing its job. Humans thrive on ritual and collective acts of devotion. And the way we worship has political consequences. It shapes our response to evil and our reaction to people different from ourselves.
Some evangelicals have grown so frustrated with their tradition’s captivity to a particular brand of politics — and the idolatries of white supremacy and the free market — that they have proposed a radical withdrawal from both Moral Majority-style activism and modern consumer culture. Worship, after all, is not just something that happens in church.
When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, he was acknowledging the special power that ritual and community have to stoke or weaken both love and hatred. There is no substitute for sharing the bread and wine — the climax of the Christian liturgy — with people unlike yourself, Ms. Schiess said. She called for fighting false idols with right worship: “Fox News forms a fear, a caricature of other people; if communion were done in churches with diverse populations, it would counteract that fear.”
[W]orship should be an act of humility, not hubris. It should be a discomfiting experience, not a doubling down on what’s easy and familiar. The battle for the soul of evangelicalism, the struggle to disentangle it from white supremacy, from misogyny — and from the instinct to defend politicians like Roy Moore — demands sound arguments grounded in evidence.
I for one think that Christianity is moribund in America and that evangelicals and fundamentalists will be the factions of Christianity that kill it in the eyes of decent, moral people who perhaps unwittingly follow the gospel message more consistently than most Christians, especially evangelicals.
The New Yorker has a convenient and disturbing overview of the cooperation between the Trump campaign, Russia, and Wikileaks, the preferred Russian outlet for disseminating information stolen by Russian operatives and military intelligence. What is stunning is how, when viewed with the benefit of hindsight, Trump and his sycophants have lied to the American people from the beginning with the lies merely shifting as drips of information have leaked out exposing the previous version of the lie of the day. What is also revealing is the manner in which Trump - and the larger Republican Party - are hoping that the slow release of more and more damaging information will have an anticlimactic impact and perhaps save Trump from collusion, if not treason, with a hostile foreign power. If nothing else Trump has severely damaged America's prestige and influence across the globe and ripped apart the social fabric domestically - all of which is precisely what Vladimir Putin wants. Here are article excerpts:
According to a recent accounting by the Washington Post, “the Trump campaign interacted with Russians at least thirty-one times throughout the campaign” and there were at “at least 19 known meetings.” If the full scope of the Trump-Russia story had been known all at once—Paul Manafort’s work for a pro-Putin party in Ukraine, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner’s back channels to Russian officials, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos’s machinations, Donald Trump, Jr.,’s eager embrace of a Russian lawyer with alleged dirt on Hillary Clinton, the F.B.I.’s investigation, the intelligence community’s warnings—it would have been akin to North Korea going nuclear overnight. The audacity of the Trump campaign’s lies would have been shocking. It helps to take a step back and remember how politically explosive it would have been, a year ago, to know that the Trump campaign was colluding with WikiLeaks. Consider the timeline we can now piece together. On September 21, 2016, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent a direct message to Trump, Jr., who quickly notified four top Trump campaign officials (Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Brad Parscale). The highest levels of the campaign knew that WikiLeaks was in touch with the candidate’s son and close adviser. On October 3, 2016, Trump, Jr., asked WikiLeaks, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep hearing about?”
Four days later, on October 7th, two important events occurred. First, the U.S. intelligence community formally announced that “the Russian Government directed” the theft of e-mails from the Democrats and named WikiLeaks as one of the entities used by the Russians to distribute the stolen material. Second, shortly after the announcement, WikiLeaks began releasing the e-mails stolen from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Trump praised the organization in a speech—“I love WikiLeaks”—on October 10th. He tweeted about WikiLeaks on October 11th. The next day, WikiLeaks, seemingly encouraged by the coördination, sent another private message to Trump, Jr.: “Hey Donald, great to see your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweet this link if he mentions us.” Fifteen minutes later, Donald Trump tweeted, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by Wikileaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!” Two days later, on October 14th, Trump, Jr., tweeted the link that WikiLeaks had provided.
The entire political world wanted to know whether the Trump campaign was actively coördinating with WikiLeaks, an organization that Trump’s own C.I.A. director would later call “a nonstate hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” On October 14th, Mike Pence was asked, on Fox News, if the Trump campaign was “in cahoots” with WikiLeaks. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
After Pence’s comment, several Trump officials issued their own blanket denials of any contacts with foreign entities during the campaign. As all of these general denials have collapsed, the White House has retreated to making more tailored denials. First, there was no contact at all. When numerous contacts were revealed, the White House shifted to arguing there was no coördination (or “collusion”). Now that clear coördination between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign has been uncovered, the new line is that it wasn’t illegal. Trump and his Republican allies are betting that each disclosure, on its own, can seem innocuous or defensible, as the public becomes confused by the complicated timeline and tedious details. The Trump camp’s original broad denials start to be forgotten, and the bar for what is considered truly inappropriate coördination gets higher. It can take a long time before anyone realizes that the frog is dead.
The Russia investigation is occurring mostly behind closed doors in Congress and by the special counsel, somewhat muting the impact of revelations that regularly leak out. Will this slow and confusing release of damaging information soften the blow to Trump? It’s too soon to tell, of course, but what he and his team are banking on is that, while a year ago the public might not have tolerated the full truth about his campaign’s links to Russia, the scandal goes down a lot easier when the details are delivered in small bites.
The Republican Party has indeed become the party of betrayal and perhaps treason itself. With Trump at its head, the GOP's moral bankruptcy is indeed complete.
One of the ironies - and signs of the sick hypocrisy of the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who dominate politics in so-called red states - is that red states have some of the highest levels of societal dysfunction in the country: highest teen pregnancies, the most child marriages, highest divorce rate, highest poverty levels, etc. Meanwhile, red states also have the highest Internet porn usage and levels of prostitution. In contrast, the blue states - godless states controlled by Satan if one believes the rants of Christofascist - have nowhere near the levels of societal dysfunction. Stated another way, the majority of residents of blue states practice the family values the evangelicals claim to support while it is the evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians who most frequently trash true family values. A column in the New York Times looks at the role reversal of who actually puts so-called family values into practice. Here are excerpts:
As we watch Roy Moore thumping his Bible to defend himself from accusations of child molestation, let me toss out a verbal hand grenade: To some degree, liberals practice the values that conservatives preach.
This is complicated terrain with lots of exceptions, and the recent scandals involving Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and Al Franken underscore that liberals can be skunks as much as anyone else. Yet if one looks at blue and red state populations as a whole, it’s striking that conservatives champion “family values” even as red states have high rates of teenage births, divorce and prostitution. In contrast, people in blue states don’t trumpet these family values but often seem to do a better job living them.
[O]f 32 states, those with the highest percentage of high school students who say they have had sex are Mississippi, Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas. All but Delaware voted Republican in the last presidential election.
Meanwhile, the five states with the lowest proportion of high school students who have had sex were New York, California, Maryland, Nebraska and Connecticut. All but Nebraska voted Democratic.
When evangelical kids have sex, they’re less likely to use birth control — and that may be a reason (along with lower abortion rates) that red states have high teen birthrates. Nine of the 10 states with the highest teen birthrates voted Republican in 2016. And nine of the 10 states with the lowest teen birthrates voted Democratic.
“Red regions of the country have higher teen pregnancy rates, more shotgun marriages and lower average ages at marriage and first birth,” Naomi Cahn and June Carbone wrote in their important 2010 book, “Red Families v. Blue Families.”
“Blue family values bristle at restrictions on sexuality, insistence on marriage or the stigmatization of single parents. Their secret, however, is that they encourage their children to simultaneously combine public tolerance with private discipline, and their children then overwhelmingly choose to raise their own children within two-parent families.”
Liberals, in other words, may be wary of strict moral codes, but they want to make damn sure that their own kids don’t have babies while in high school. It helps that they believe in comprehensive sex education and reliable birth control.
[T]he dozen states with the highest rates of child marriage, all voted Republican in 2016. “Child marriage is happening at an alarming rate across the U.S., but available marriage-license data show more parents, judges and clerks in red states than in blue states seem comfortable with this human-rights abuse,” said Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained at Last, a nonprofit that fights child marriage.
Divorce rates show a similar pattern: They tend to be higher in red states than in blue states, with Arkansas highest of all. “Individual religious conservatism is positively related to individual divorce risk,” according to a 50-state study reported in the American Journal of Sociology.
Then there’s adultery and prostitution. One large international survey found that the largest group of customers on Ashley Madison, the dating website for married people, were evangelical Christians. And a major 2013 study found that men in the Houston and Kansas City metro areas were the most likely to call sex ads, while men in San Francisco and Baltimore were the least likely to.
[S]tatistical analysis suggests that religious conservatives end up divorcing partly because they marry early, are less likely to go to college and are disproportionately poor.
So the deeper problem seems to be the political choices that conservatives make, underinvesting in public education and social services (including contraception). This underinvestment leaves red states poorer and less educated — and thus prone to a fraying of the social fabric.
Liberals and conservatives alike don’t want kids pregnant at 16, and we almost all seek committed marriages that last. It’s worth noting that Bible-thumping blowhards like Roy Moore don’t help achieve those values, while investments in education and family planning do.
Here in Virginia, if one contrasts the conservative Christian/Republican areas of Southwest Virginia with the much more liberal so-called urban crescent, similar finds result. The areas whining about family values practice them the least and are the most socially dysfunction. Pretend piety in the pews does not translate into practice in everyday life.
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Congressional Republicans are strive to pass on a national level what Oklahoma Republicans tried a few years ago with disastrous results (Kansas likewise used this template with equally horrific results). Here in Virginia Ed Gillespie's attempt to do the same thing as in Oklahoma and Kansas went down in flames when he lost by 9% to Democrat Ralph Northam. Apparently, Virginians are smarter than their countrymen/women in the Mid-West. What is telling about Congressional Republicans is that they care nothing about how the Oklahoma and Oklahoma tax cuts for the rich combined with slashing spending on education and social programs (i) nearly bankrupted the states and (ii) seems to have Oklahomans now electing Democrats. It would seem that the only thing that counts with Republicans is giving huge tax cuts to the very wealthy and large corporations while they can. The long term consequences be damned. A piece in New York Magazine looks at the Oklahoma example. Here are highlights:
The backlash to the Republican tax agenda is already getting Democrats elected — in Oklahoma. On Tuesday night, 26-year-old mental-health counselor Allison Ikley-Freeman won election to the Sooner State’s Senate, in a district that backed Donald Trump by 40 points last November.
Ikley-Freeman did not win on the strength of her fundraising or political experience. She boasted little of the former and none of the latter. But like the three other Oklahoma Democrats who have evicted Republicans from state-house seats this year, Ikley-Freeman enjoyed one decisive advantage: She bore no responsibility for the regressive tax policies that had left the state in fiscal ruin.
Oklahoma was a low-tax state even before the 2010 GOP wave crashed over it. But tea-party Republican governor Mary Fallin and her conservative allies weren’t content with the low baseline they’d inherited. Like President Trump and congressional Republicans, Fallin believed that cutting taxes on wealthy individuals and businesses was the way to grow an economy, no matter what level those taxes were currently at, or how novel circumstances might change the government’s budgetary needs.
So, when global oil prices crashed in 2014, and took Oklahoma’s budget down with them, Fallin was unfazed. Faced with giant, annual revenue shortfalls, the governor didn’t just refuse to raise taxes — she cut them even further. Last year, the Sooner State found itself with a $1.3 billion budget gap — and Fallin responded by implementing a $147 million tax cut for Oklahoma’s highest earners, and preserving a $470 million tax break for oil companies that start new horizontal wells.
Instead of asking wealthy citizens and businesses to pay a bit more (or, in the former case, to pay as much as they had been previously), Fallin decided to strip resources from the state’s beleaguered public-school system. Between 2008 and 2015, Oklahoma had slashed its per-student education spending by 23.6 percent, more than any other state in the country. But Republicans felt there was still more fat to cut: While rich Sooners collected their tax breaks, Oklahoma schools suffered a 16.5 percent funding cut in the latter half of 2016. Many of the state’s school districts now make due with four-day weeks. Others struggle to find competent teachers, as the state’s refusal to pay competitive salaries has chased talented educators out of state or into other professions. Oklahoma’s health-care and criminal-justice systems are plagued by similarly draconian cuts. Bridges in the state are literally crumbling. Potholes litter roads.
But even this austerity has not been nearly enough to plug the state’s budget holes. Fallin and the GOP have become reliant on raiding emergency reserves to make up the rest. This has left Oklahoma profoundly vulnerable to the next recession.
This week, Republicans in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives passed an emergency budget bill in a special session. The legislation does increase taxes on oil production. But instead of raising taxes on the wealthy, or ending the state’s exemption for capital gains — as Oklahoma Democrats had proposed — Republicans opted to cut $60 million from state agencies, and drain another few million dollars from the state’s rainy-day funds.
Oklahoma’s overwhelmingly Republican voters do not like this idea. As polling by the (left-leaning) Oklahoma Policy Institute demonstrates, there is no majoritarian support for gutting public schools, so as to let rich people pay low taxes, even in the heart of red America.
That poll also found 74 percent of Oklahomans saying that increasing teacher pay should be a major priority for their government — and 64 percent saying that expanding health-care access should be one — compared to just 38 percent who said the same about “lowering taxes.” This goes a ways toward explaining why Democrats keep winning special elections in the state. . . . Now, the discrepancy between the GOP’s fiscal priorities, and its voters’ material needs, has become stark enough to challenge partisan loyalties.
In Washington, Republicans are working hard to make Oklahoma’s experience a national one. On Thursday, the House passed multitrillion-dollar tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy, even as exigent circumstances — among them, increasingly frequent hurricanes, the decay of long-neglected infrastructure, a drug-overdose epidemic, and the retirement of the baby-boomers — are making it more expensive for the federal government to meet its basic obligations to the American people.
[L]ike Kansas and Louisiana before it, Oklahoma has demonstrated that the Republican Party’s prescription for prosperity is a snake-oil tonic with life-threatening side effects.
And when “conservative” voters see what the trade-offs of small government actually are — bigger McMansions for the elite, four-day school weeks for the rabble — they start longing for a new deal.
Congressional Republicans don’t seem the least bit concerned by the abject failure of their economic model in these states. A Quinnipiac poll released this week found that only 16 percent of Americans believe President Trump’s tax plan will lower their taxes, while 59 percent say the plan will favor the wealthy over the middle class. These are shocking figures given how much money Republicans and conservative outside groups have devoted to propaganda for their bill.
Republican voters in deep-red states like Oklahoma may cling to their partisan identities tighter than most. But they also know the true costs of the GOP’s economic orthodoxy on a more visceral level than other Americans do. On Tuesday, that knowledge helped a 26-year-old, lesbian Democrat win a seat in the Oklahoma Senate. Someday, it just might turn large swathes of the American heartland purple — if Democratic donors decide to spend a bit less on pointless, pro-impeachment ad campaigns, and a lot more on liberating red states from reactionary rule.
A piece in the Washington Post provides a good demonstration of how evangelicals have sold their souls and thrown aside morality in their quest for political power - and money among leadership circles. Perhaps one of the foulest "family values" organizations, in my opinion, is Family Research Counsel ("FRC") which hosts the "Values Voter Summit" each year to which Republican office holders and candidates flock to genuflect to the group's leader Tony Perkins. Perkins has documented ties to white supremacist groups and disseminates an endless stream of lies about LGBT citizens, blacks, Muslims, Hispanics and others that savages the gospel message literally daily. Yet despite this, in 2016 he was allowed to author a portion of the GOP national platform. Now, in the wake of the resignation of Ohio state Rep. Wesley Goodman who was caught having sex with a man in his office, we learn how Perkins and FRC turned a blind eye toward sexual misconduct by Goodman with a teenager at a FRC sponsored event. It goes without saying that Perkins and FRC have been silent in the Roy Moore sex scandal. Here are article highlights:
On a fall evening two years ago, donors gathered during a conference at a Ritz-Carlton hotel near Washington to raise funds for a 31-year-old candidate for the Ohio legislature who was a rising star in evangelical politics.
Goodman, 33, abruptly resigned this week after state legislative leaders learned of what the House speaker called “inappropriate behavior related to his state office.” Local media outlets have reported the behavior involved a consensual sexual encounter with a male visitor in his legislative office.
The Oct. 18, 2015 incident involving Goodman was discreetly handled by Perkins, the council’s president and a prominent leader on the religious right. Goodman at the time was campaigning for office after an impressive run in Washington as a congressional aide who rose to managing director of a conservative coalition Perkins oversees.He worked for the Perkins-run network from February 2013 to March 2015
Goodman was close to the CNP as managing director of the Conservative Action Project, a group formed by CNP to counter President Obama’s agenda, including the Affordable Care Act.As president of the Family Research Council, which opposes same-sex marriage and abortion and calls homosexuality “unnatural,” Perkins supports traditional values in U.S. politics and wields considerable clout in his political endorsements. His endorsement of Trump in July 2016 helped evangelicals overcome doubts about the GOP nominee.
Note the Roy Moore connection. Thankfully, the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FRC as a hate group. Unfortunately, it remains a king maker in evangelical and Republican circles despite, in my view, Perkins' nasty history and total willingness to put his quest for power (and his lucrative income) ahead of morality and honesty.
|Trump with evangelical "leaders"|
I have a confession: in general, I am no fan of religion, especially Christianity and Islam which claim to be positive forces for humanity but have a history of causing death and mayhem. And that doesn't even factor in the spiritual harm done to countless millions over the centuries. Then, of course, there is the present cancer of fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam. The later is actively causing death and destruction at this very moment in the Middle East, parts of Africa and elsewhere. The former, while not engaging in the actual murder of others, continues to disseminate a virulent hatred of others and seemingly is becoming fused with white nationalism across America and many parts of Europe (e.g., recently in Poland). And, yes, I hold bitterness from the emotional and psychological harm my Catholic upbringing inflicted on me and which Christian fundamentalists seek to inflict on society as a whole through an endless campaign of lies - no one lies more than evangelical and fundamentalist Christians from my experience save perhaps Donald Trump and/or the Catholic Church hierarchy when it claims to be serious about rooting out and punishing sexual predator priests and their enablers. Now, in the age of Trumpism, American Christians face a choice: will they support Christ's gospel message or will they rally to the banner of Trumpism and the Republican Party's steal from the poor to give to the rich agenda. Evangelicals appear to have chosen to reject the gospel message. The remaining Christians are running out of time and need to either cease acting like the "good Germans" of the Nazi era and begin to forcefully and vocally say "no" to Trumpism and the worship of money, sex and power or surrender what little moral authority Christianity has left. A column in the Washington Post looks at this choice. Here are excerpts:
Many traditions in the history of Christianity have attempted to combat and correct the worship of three things: money, sex and power. Catholic orders have for centuries required “poverty, chastity, and obedience” as disciplines to counter these three idols. Other traditions, especially among Anabaptists in the Reformation, Pentecostals and revival movements down through the years have spoken the language of simplicity in living, integrity in relationships and servanthood in leadership. All of our church renewal traditions have tried to provide authentic and more life-giving alternatives to the worship of money, sex and power . . . .
PresidentTrump is an ultimate and consummate worshiper of money, sex and power. American Christians have not really reckoned with the climate he has created in our country and the spiritual obligation we have to repair it. As a result, the soul of our nation and the integrity of the Christian faith are at risk.
As Abraham Lincoln, a politician with a deep knowledge of Christianity, stated in his first inaugural address, political action can, undertaken rightly, appeal to the “better angels of our nature.” But political action undertaken badly, and reckless inaction, can mislead and dispirit us — and appeal to our worst demons, such as greed, fear, bigotry and resentment, which are never far below the surface.
Trump’s adulation of money and his love for lavish ostentation (he covers everything in gold) are the literal worship of wealth by someone who believes that his possessions belong only to himself, instead of that everything belongs to God and we are its stewards.
Lately, faith leaders have spoken out against the proposed Republican budgets and tax plans. The Circle of Protection , a group of leaders from all the major branches of Christianity, of which I am a part, said in a letter to Congress: “We care deeply about many issues facing our country and world, but ending persistent hunger and poverty is a top priority that we all share. These are biblical and gospel issues for us, not just political or partisan concerns. In Matthew 25, Jesus identified himself with those who are immigrants, poor, sick, homeless and imprisoned, and challenged his followers to welcome and care for them as we would care for Jesus himself.” . . . . And yet, much Christian support for Trump and his administration continues.
Then there’s sex. Before Trump, Republicans liked to suggest that theirs was a fairly Puritanical party of family values with high standards for its candidates (despite many embarrassing exceptions). But Trump’s boastful treatment of women . . . and his serial infidelity and adultery are clear evidence of his idolatrous worship of sex. And it no longer seems like his is a unique case.
[T]he polls showing that evangelical Christians in Alabama express the most support for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore — even after seven women have accused him of unwanted advances when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s — may be the most damning testimony as to the politicized moral hypocrisy of white evangelicals. Or as Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore warned his fellow religionists this past week, “Christian, if you cannot say definitively, no matter what, that adults creeping on teenage girls is wrong, do not tell me how you stand against moral relativism.” And yet, according to a new poll, 72 percent of evangelicals now say that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life,” though only 30 percent thought so a mere six years ago .
Other responses to Roy Moore’s alleged behavior have been even worse than silence. . . . Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler even used a biblical story to legitimize Moore’s alleged offenses. “Take Joseph and Mary,” he said. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
When it comes to worshiping power, Republican Christians most obviously stray from scripture in their attitudes on race. When 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump despite his blatant and constant use of racial bigotry for his own political interest, it showed that the operative word in the phrase “white Christian” is “white” and not “Christian.”
Week after week, Trump reveals that his leadership is always and only about himself; not the people, the country or even his party — and certainly not about godliness. . . . . The conflicts between his money, power and governing are always resolved in the same way — by his selfishness; by whatever happens to appeal to him, and only him, in that moment.
Christians, rightly enough, have never expected perfect leaders — just those who can keep up their end of the moral struggle. But for Trump, there is no moral struggle. He is not immoral — knowing what is right and wrong, and choosing the wrong — he rather seems amoral: lacking any kind of moral compass for his personal or professional life. That’s why the Christian compromise with Trump and his ilk has put faithful Americans at such serious risk.
Central to the health of our society is for American Christians to rescue an authentic, compassionate and justice-oriented faith from the clutches of partisan abuse, and from the idolatry of money, sex and power. . . . . it also means “turning around” to equity and healing personally, and systemically in our institutions of policing and criminal justice, education, economics, voting rights, immigration and refugees, racial geography, housing, and more.
I suspect that most "good Christians" will not rise to the challenge. They will remain engaged in their churches and parishes which in ways more resemble social clubs than forces pushing for the application of the gospel message in society. Meanwhile, the hate and hypocrisy of evangelicals will be allowed to define Christianity and the exodus of the younger generations from religion will accelerate further. I will let readers decide if they view the death of Christianity as a good thing or not.