The Tea Party's Religious Inspiration
What seems new is the increased dominance of the Republican Party by sectarian religious extremists and their acquisition of power during a prolonged economic crisis and evenlonger war.
Pew's findings are unsurprising. You might have inferred the Tea Party's religious motivations from the statements and policies of its established or aspiring political leaders, at state and federal levels. I'll refrain from offering an extended litany of their wacky assertions and legislative ideas. Just keep in mind a few examples.
One of the subtler but also most hysterical expressions of legislative sectarianism is the wave of state proposals aimed at banning the non-existent threat of Sharia law. At first glance, you might mistake this trend for an effort to keep religion out of government, but a law intended to impose special disadvantages on one religion is no less sectarian (and violative of the First Amendment) than a law intended to extend special advantages to another.
So it's not surprising to find proposed bans on Sharia law in conservative states, like South Dakota and Texas, alongside extreme anti-abortion proposals. (You can find atheists and agnostics who oppose abortion rights, but generally the anti-abortion movement is overwhelmingly religious and tends to divide along sectarian lines: according to Pew, "most religious traditions in the U.S. come down firmly on one side or the other.") The notorious South Dakota bill that would arguably legalize the killing of abortion providers has been tabled; but a bill pending in Texas requires doctors to conduct pre-abortion sonograms for women and to impose on them a description of the fetus's arms, legs and internal organs. Supporters of this bill insist that it is "pro-woman;" its purpose is empower them and "ensure there are no barriers preventing women from receiving the information to which they are entitled for such a life-changing decision" -- barriers like a woman's right to decline a sonogram or description of the fetus.
But the right wing's aggressive sectarianism extends far beyond the usual battles over abortion and other culture-war casualties. Just listen to Mike Huckabee gush over Israel (biblical Zionists have been carrying on about Israel for years, but these days they have Tea Party stars on their side.) Michelle Bachmann claims that "if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play." Note former Senator Rick Santorum's defense of the Crusades, which, he laments, have been maligned by "the American left who hates Christendom." Remember the Bible-based environmental policy of Illinois Congressman John Shimkus, now chair of the House Environment and Economy Sub-Committee. "The Earth will end when God declares it's time to be over," Shimkus famously declared in a 2009 hearing. Reading from the Bible and citing God's promise to Noah not to destroy the earth (again), Shimkus said, "I believe that's the infallible word of God and that's the way it's gonna be for his creation."
Pay particular attention to Indiana congressman Mike Pence's revealing declaration that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a federal bill prohibiting workplace discrimination against gay people "wages war on freedom of religion in the workplace." If religious beliefs legitimized workplace discrimination, as Pence advises, then Title Vll of the 1964 Civil Rights Act would be unconstitutional at least as applied to people with religious compunctions against hiring women or members of particular racial or religious groups: If you believe that God did not intend women to hold traditionally male jobs, for example, or if you simply don't like Mormons, then, in Pence's view of religious freedom, you have a constitutional defense to employment discrimination claims by female or Mormon job applicants. But I bet that Pence would hesitate to defend a constitutional right to discriminate categorically against women or Mormons in the workplace; and if I'm right, it means he recognizes religious biases as defenses to discrimination claims as long as they're biases he shares. Pence's position on ENDA demonstrates the confident, theocratic approach to governing enabled by the Tea Party's electoral successes.
Of course, Pence and Shimkus, among others, are hardly the first theocrats to land in office. There's nothing new about the religious right's drive for political power, which helped sweep Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980, when liberal stalwarts were swept out of the Senate. What does seem new is the increased dominance of the Republican Party by sectarian religious extremists and their acquisition of power during a prolonged economic crisis and even longer war -- a period marked by national pessimism, fear of terror, and a bipartisan assault on civil liberty unprecedented in its scope (thanks to technology) if not its intentions. In other words, what's worrisome is our vulnerability, susceptibility to demagoguery, and diminishing margin of error. We don't have time for the unexamined certitudes of religious zealotry.
If only Tea Partiers and their legislative surrogates would take seriously the Constitution and the founding fathers they so frequently invoke. Then they'd respect the First Amendment's prohibition on government-established religion, which codified the Founder's belief in a secular, civil government that accommodates diverse religious practices and beliefs. They'd understand that the Establishment clause doesn't merely bar the federal government from requiring us to attend a federal church; it bars Congress from turning sectarian religious beliefs into law (unless they coincide with practically universal moral codes, like prohibitions on murder.) "People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution, they don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible," Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin once said (to appropriate acclaim.) It's an accurate statement of law and constitutional ideals, but, sad to say, an increasingly aspirational description of political practice.
The Tea Party and Religion
ANALYSIS February 23, 2011 The Tea Party movement clearly played a role in rejuvenating the Republican Party in 2010, helping the GOP take control of the House and make gains in the Senate. Tea Party supporters made up 41% of the electorate on Nov. 2, and 86% of them voted for Republican House candidates, according to exit polls. But the precise nature of the Tea Party has been less clear. (...) A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that Tea Party supporters tend to have conservative opinions not just about economic matters, but also about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, they are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues.2 And they draw disproportionate support from the ranks of white evangelical Protestants.
Para los que aún crean que el Tea Party es un movimiento ciudadano contra los abusos del gobierno, un poco de realidad: la banda de millonarios que financian / controlan el movimiento. Solo tienen un punto en su agenda: menos gobierno, más mercado. Por supuesto, una cita a puerta cerrada como dicta la liturgia.
By KENNETH P. VOGEL & SIMMI AUJLA
1/27/11 4:18 AM EST
This weekend, for the eighth straight year, the billionaire Koch brothers will convene a meeting of roughly 200 wealthy businessmen, Republican politicians and conservative activists for a semi-annual conference to raise millions of dollars for the institutions that form the intellectual foundation – and, increasingly, the leading political edge – of the conservative movement.
In the past, the meetings have drawn an A-list of participants – politicians like Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, leading free-market thinkers including American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks, talkers Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and even Supreme Court justices - to mingle with the wealthy donors who comprise the bulk of the invitees. The meetings adjourned after soliciting pledges of support from the donors – sometimes totaling as much as $50 million – to non-profit groups favored by the Kochs.
For the most part, the meetings, which are closed to the public and reporters, have attracted little attention outside conservative circles. But very different circumstances surround the Koch conference set to begin Saturday at an exclusive resort outside Palm Springs, Calif.
The Koch brothers – Charles and David – have come under intense scrutiny recently for their role in helping start and fund some of the deepest-pocketed groups involved in organizing the tea party movement such as Americans for Prosperity, and for steering cash towards efforts to target President Barack Obama, his healthcare overhaul, and congressional Democrats in the run-up to the 2010 election.
Liberal critics have launched a campaign to highlight what they say is the systematic way in which the Kochs use their political giving to advance a conservative economic and regulatory agenda designed to further the interests of their oil, chemical and manufacturing empire.
Common Cause, the liberal watchdog group, is planning a protest called “Uncloaking the Kochs” and what it calls “the billionaires caucus” on Sunday a few miles down the road from the resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where this weekend’s conference will be held, and a handful of reporters have made plans to try to cover the Koch’s closed-door gathering.
While the Koch conferences have taken on an undeniably political edge – a June summit featured sessions on voter mobilization efforts for the 2010 midterms as well as solicitations for an ad campaign attacking Democratic lawmakers – those who have attended the meetings say the critics have it all wrong.
“The main goal of the seminars appeared to me to be education on the challenges that face the American system of free enterprise and democracy, and what people can do about them,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a conservative Republican who has attended at least seven of the meetings.
McDonnell, who is not attending this weekend’s conference, said he was introduced to the gatherings by “free market friends up in Northern Virginia, some in the Koch enterprises institution,” and he cast the conferences as playing an important role in the political process.
“Groups on the right, left and in the middle get together all over this great country to exercise their first amendment rights to talk about these issues - some of them are public. Some of them are closed meetings,” he said. “So, to the degree that some on the left may be trying to attack these Koch seminars is really ridiculous.”
Until recently, the secrecy surrounding the meetings had always been tight.
Feb 24th 2011, 9:52 by Schumpeter
.MOTHER JONES has compiled some interesting graphics on the distribution of wealth in the United States. The magazine's list of the ten richest people in Congress is particularly interesting (John McCain, who forgot how many houses he owns during the 2008 presidential election, does not make it).
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) $451.1 million
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) $435.4 million
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) $366.2 million
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) $294.9 million
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) $285.1 million
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) $283.1 million
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) $231.2 million
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) $201.5 million
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) $136.2 million
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) $108.1 million
It is notable that seven of the top ten are Democrats. Of these, four made their money by marrying or inheriting it. Perhaps the Republicans should start rethinking their opposition to inheritance taxes.
Rick Santorum says the history of the Crusades has been corrupted by 'the American left.' AP Photo
By ANDY BARR
2/23/11 2:35 PM EST Updated: 2/24/11 7:57 AM EST
Rick Santorum launched into a scathing attack on the left, charging during an appearance in South Carolina that the history of the Crusades has been corrupted by “the American left who hates Christendom.”
“The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical,” Santorum said in Spartanburg on Tuesday. “And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom.”
He added, “They hate Western civilization at the core. That's the problem.”
After asserting that Christianity had not shown any “aggression” to the Muslim world, the former Pennsylvania senator — who is considering a 2012 run for the White House — argued that American intervention in the Middle East helps promote “core American values.”
“What I'm talking about is onward American soldiers,” he said. “What we're talking about are core American values. ‘All men are created equal' — that's a Christian value, but it's an American value.”
“It's become part of our national religion, if you will,” he continued. “The point I was trying to make was that the national faith, the national ideal, is rooted in the Christian ideal — in the Judeo-Christian concept of the person.”
Pelosi edits honorary resolution...on Pelosi http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/0211/Pelosi_edits_honorary_resolutionon_Pelosi_.html
White House meets lobbyists off campus http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/50081.html
White House meets lobbyists off campus http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/50081.html
(Clockwise from upper left) Limbaugh, Bachmann, Breitbart and Palin have all taken jabs. AP Photos
By AMIE PARNES
2/24/11 7:43 PM EST Updated: 2/25/11 11:50 AM EST
Except for an ill-advised trip to an expensive Spanish resort last summer, Michelle Obama has escaped much of the criticism that has been directed at her husband, keeping a relatively low-profile while primarily focusing on childhood obesity, military families and the arts.
During her first two years in the White House, she was more Laura Bush rather than Hillary Clinton, but that has begun to change. Now, for conservative critics, it is open season on the first lady.
Obama’s admonishments on nutrition and advice on breastfeeding are examples of big government “nanny state” intrusion according to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.); her eating habits are evidence of her hypocrisy, according to Rush Limbaugh; her athletic physique is something to be lampooned on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government website, which posted a cartoon showing her as overweight and eating a plate full of hamburgers.
To date, the East Wing has managed to stay above the fray, not wanting to take part in a point-counterpoint kind of debate. But to one academic expert on first ladies, the attacks seem unusually pointed.
“There’s so much anger in the criticism surrounding Michelle Obama,” said Myra Gutin, a Rider University professor and author of a biography of Barbara Bush and a book on 20th century first ladies. “It seems almost personal to me.”
Republicans have a simple response: Obama is now fair game because she is playing an increasingly political role in her husband’s administration.
When Obama made a string of campaign stops for Democratic candidates during the 2010 campaign, Republicans generally refrained from any attacks. But many of them point to the first lady’s e-mail to supporters earlier this month announcing the news that Charlotte had been picked as the host city of the 2012 Democratic National Convention as an example of her slow movement onto political turf.
And they say her support for the government playing a bigger role in advancing better nutrition is inherently political. “If the first lady doesn’t want criticism, then she shouldn’t propose policy,” said Republican strategist Mark McKinnon.
“While no one disagrees with encouraging good health, against the backdrop of her husband’s demonstrably invasive and expanding government, the fear is that her encouragement will cross over to government fiat,” said Mary Matalin, a former aide to President George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
In contrast to Hillary Clinton, who was put in charge of her husband Bill Clinton’s health care initiative shortly after he became president, Obama’s role in health care policy has been minimal. Clinton, a former senator who is now secretary of state, was an entirely new model of a first lady and quickly became a target of what she called “the vast right wing conspiracy” before dialing back her public involvement in policy after health care crashed and burned.
Republican strategist John Feehery said conservatives may be seizing on the fact that Michelle Obama, like Hillary Clinton, is perceived to be more liberal than her husband. But he sees a difference between the current first lady and Clinton, who was perceived as a “real ideological threat.”
“Michelle Obama isn’t heading up a health care task force,” Feehery said, referring to Clinton. “Michelle Obama is talking about issues that are relatively important. I think she’s a fairly traditional first lady.”
In that sense she has resembled her predecessor, Laura Bush, who promoted literacy and woman’s issues in Afghanistan as first lady, and never attracted much controversy.