A few days after the mid-term elections in the United States, some Americans are beginning to wake up to the reality that there is a day after. It’s like we’re waking up after a night of drunken excess, trying to mollify ourselves that the hideous monster we’re in bed with really is the beautiful princess or prince that we did unspeakable things with the night before. The fear mongers have brought us to this.
A lot of people on the Right are claiming that the election gains of the Republicans are a repudiation of the Democrats. I don’t think is. More than anything, it seems proof to me that we are living in a frightening time when the reality of our economic situation is being buried beneath the breathless rhetoric of the misinformation peddlers at Fox News and Right-Wing talk shows. Simply put, Americans gave the Republicans control of the House because enough of them believed the pack of lies they’re spoon-fed every day by the very people who laugh at them for their gullibility (that includes their religious leaders).
To me, this election deserves an analogy. It’s as if you entrusted a loaded gun to a child who has no concept of consequences or cause and effect. Later, after that child has shot you five or six times and you’re lying in the emergency room with your life blood spilling out onto the floor, you decide that you want to be operated on by that very same child. The child’s assurances, that his skill at playing the game Operation without the tweezers touching the metal edges more than qualifies him for performing actual surgery on a living patient, are more than enough for you to place your fate in the hands of the person who injured you in the first place.
That’s essentially what the American people have done by giving the Republicans control of the House. As much as some of the Righties like to taunt those of us in the real world by saying “you can’t blame Bush forever”, the reality is that the Bush Administration and the Republican controlled Congress drove this country to the brink of another Great Depression. There’s no escaping that blame. George W. Bush inherited a record surplus when he came into office, largely due to President Clinton and the Democrats forcing the wealthiest people in America to pay their fair share of taxes. Bush repealed those taxes, eased regulations on Wall Street, and repealed restrictions on American corporations even as those corporations shipped Americans jobs to foreign countries. To add insult to injury, Bush started a war with a country that had not attacked us. All this add up to the inescapable fact that by the time George W. Bush left office, he had wracked up a record deficit. From a record surplus to a record deficit. And all the while there were Americans applauding the fact that this clueless child and his Neo-Conservative masters were shooting bullets directly into the heart of the United States.
Two years after the last presidential election, a lot of Americans apparently miss the devastation of the Bush years. Despite the Herculean efforts of the Obama Administration to keep us out of another Great Depression and get us on the road to recovery, there are delusional Americans who have been convinced by the political smut-paddlers that it wasn’t the eight years of the Bush Administration or the twelve years of a Republican controlled Congress that put the United States in the E.R., but the last two years of the Bush Administration, when Congress was controlled by Democrats. That’s right. It wasn’t the Bush Administration’s unfettered six year rampage that brought America to the brink of disaster, but the two years Bush was answerable to Democrats.
I don’t think Americans are stupid, despite the evidence to support the notion. But many are, at best, misinformed.
There are a number of variables at play here. For one thing, that “vast Right-Wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton talked about (to much derision from the Right) actually exists. Each year the Council for National Policy, an organization founded by Religious Right leader Tim LaHaye, holds secret meetings for a few hundred of the most powerful Conservatives in the country. These people meet three times yearly behind closed doors at undisclosed locations for a confidential conference to network wealthy Right-Wing donors together with top Conservative operatives to plan long-term political strategy. The Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy at Cornell University considers the Council for National Policy a leading force in the Dominionist movement. TheocracyWatch describes it as “an umbrella organization of Right-Wing leaders who gather regularly to plot strategy, share ideas and fund causes and candidates to advance the theocratic agenda.” This is the core of the “Right-Wing conspiracy”.
I know people roll their eyes when you use the word “conspiracy” these days. There’s a reason the Right heaps derision upon anyone who shines a light in their direction. To quote a great line, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist”. If you accept the definition of “conspiracy” in its simplest terms, i.e. “the act of making such plans in secret”, then the yearly series of secret meetings of Conservatives under the umbrella of the Council for National Policy certainly fits the bill. No one is suggesting that the members of the Council for National Policy is a pack of demonic trolls. But all you have to do is read the rhetoric of their members to conclude that the establishment of a de facto Christian theocracy in the United States is their overall goal.
CNP’s board and roster of known members is a who’s who of the Radical and Religious Right. A sampling includes former Reagan cabinet member Donald Hodel, also president of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family; Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner, who has served on CNP’s board, as have Grover Norquist, president of the anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform and Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation; Holly Coors; T. Kenneth Cribb, president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute; and Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Council, which provides a media network through which it disseminates radical conservative ideology and propaganda. Republican politicians and former Bush Administration cabinet members are regular speakers at CNP engagements. The CNP itself holds little political power, but it regularly brings together financing, activism and politicians – all who agree by virtue of their regard for the CNP that its stated goals are something they’re at least comfortable with.
How does all this have anything to do with the election last Tuesday?
It’s simple. If you discuss politics with most Right-Wingers of the Religious Right persuasion, you quickly learn that, while they may be relatively intelligent people in most regards, when the subject of politics comes up their eyes roll back in their heads and they begin spewing pre-written rhetoric as if they’re quoting Bible verses. The only other subject that elicits such a passionate, knee-jerk defense mechanism is that of religion. You cannot discuss religion in the larger sense with members of the Christian Religious Right, because anything you say to them comes across like the words of the Devil himself. They’ve been conditioned against listening to any religious argument that might contradict their own belief system. If you are not a Christian like they are, you are either a target for conversion or an enemy of Christ. In short, if you are not with them, you are literally against them. The idea of “live and let live” never enters into it. They are compelled to try to limit your influence because you are the possessor of dangerous ideas that conflict with their own religious beliefs. And they believe that your goal is to do the same thing to them. They hate you preemptively because they see their own reflection and treachery in your eyes.
Almost universally, it’s these people with whom you cannot discuss politics. I’ve yet to meet a Right-Winger who could not stomach an opposing viewpoint who was not also a devout Christian. This is not to say that Christians are the problem. Rather, the point I’m trying to make is that a large number of Americans have simply gotten their religion and their politics confused. Just as you can’t discuss religious differences without being perceived as a corrupting influence, you cannot discuss politics with these people for the same reasons. They almost see “Christian” and “Republican” as one in the same, and apply the same mentality to both. Just as they will not tolerate you challenging their religious views, they will not tolerate the challenging of their political views. Their brains shut down when you try to discuss politics, because they perceive you as a corrupting influence if you disagree with the teaching they’ve received from their political masters. That’s why you get back Republican talking points, regurgitated as if they were Biblical verses. It’s these people who the members of the Council for National Policy prey upon. These are the people who are being spoon-fed misinformation via the orchestrations of Council for National Policy, through Conservative propaganda outlets such as Fox News and the Right-Wing talk shows.
In a way, these unfortunate people’s mutterings are the comforting recitation of Biblical verse. They’re at least as important as the ideas they find in The Bible, given that for these people the political landscape is perceived as a black and white struggle between good and evil. Their side is good. Your side is evil. And just as they would not think of hearing the words, rhetoric or reasoning of a Satanist, neither are they going to consider the pleas of a Democrat or an Independent. It’s a matter of Faith and Belief. Despite the evidence to the contrary, they have made a conscious decision to place their faith in the political leaders of the Republican party, which many of them have described as “the party of God”. How often have you heard someone say “I don’t know how a Christian could vote Democrat”? As Tim LaHaye, one of the founders of the Council for National Policy, said, “The one thing that the seculars [a word he uses to describe Democrats] hate more than anything else is Christians,” he told Right-Wing faux news outlet Newsmax. “You see that in our newspapers today. It indicates that they don’t trust Christians. They hate Christians. They want to stamp us out and keep us out of the public schools.”
That is what is being missed in the analysis of what President Obama himself has called last Tuesday’s “shellacking”. The recent election, and the Democratic loss of the House of Representatives, is largely being considered in political terms pertaining to the “how” and “why”. Many political pundits believe, in the simplest terms, that Republican gains indicate that Americans have rejected the Democrats and their agenda, and that they’ve done so because of economic concerns, citing the fact that while the economy is getting better, it’s not getting better fast enough. I don’t believe that.
What happened last Tuesday was a religious uprising, lead by the Religious Right and people like Tim LaHaye. Those people who believe that the Democrats, and all they stand for, represent all those frightening terms they’re hearing on Fox News, and the talking head shows of Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Despite hard facts and evidence to the contrary, millions of Americans have been fooled into believing that President Obama is a Muslim socialist who wasn’t even born in this country, that Democrats are pushing an agenda which will turn the America into a socialist state, and that Christians must rise up against the horde of gays, lesbians, atheists and pagans who comprise the Democratic party. These people honestly cannot conceive of a Christian being a Democrat, in spite of the fact that most Democrats are Christians. In the end, it is that religious belief, that reliance on raw Faith in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that has lead many Americans to shut off their brains from the real world, preferring to live in a Conservative, Religious Right, Christian delusion that one side is solely good and one side is solely bad. It’s a delusion which allows them, with the passion of the faithful, to believe that even though the majority of the harm that had been done to this country was done under a Republican president, the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Democrat who followed him. All good is attributed to Republicans. All bad is attributed to Democrats. It really is that simple.
In the end, what Democrats need to face is the fact that they didn’t lose so many seats in Congress during last Tuesday’s election for political reasons. They lost them for religious reasons. Simply put, the Religious Right mobilized their base, while the Democrats could not mobilize those people who were their strength in 2008 (young people and African-Americans). What happened last Tuesday was a religious uprising. The sooner the Democrats face that their battle is a spiritual one, and has little to do with politics, the better they might be at mountaing an effective defense against the agents of extremism, intolerance and hatred.
It’s certainly true that the Republican party itself is not a religious organization. But they’ve been all-too-willing to appropriate the passion of the Religious Right. In 2000 they were able to bullshit the Religious Right into believing that the Republican party best represented their interests. The Neo-Conservatives fooled Christians into believing that the Neo-Cons and the Religious Right were one and the same. Many Christians no longer believe that, and are jumping ship in droves to support Tea Party candidates and empty suits like Sarah Palin. What the Democrats have to face is that their political opponents are no longer the Republicans, but this genie that the Republicans have let out of the bottle. The Religious Right got enough of a taste of power from the 2000 elections and the Bush Administration to know that they’re addicted to it. They’re not going to give it up without a fight. Even if that means sacrificing the Republican party itself to extremists and radicals.
It doesn’t matter to these people if the Rand Pauls, Joe Millers, Christine O’Donnells and Sharon Angles of the so-called “Tea Party movement” promote the most dangerously anti-American ideals of any candidates in recent history. It doesn’t matter to them if these same candidates advocate dismantling Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and repealing at least the 12th, 16th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution (gutting the Bill of Rights). At the end of the day, they support these radical new candidates not because of their political acumen, but because of their professed Christian beliefs. They will support those radical candidates because they fall under the banner of “the good”, and because they are pushing back against the Democrats, who fall under the banner of “the bad”. These people have faith in God that He will work out all the details. After all, if you elect Christians candidates, you please God, do you not?
No. What Democrats need to face is that what happened last Tuesday was not a political defeat. What happened last Tuesday was the first significant political success of the American Taliban. The Religious Right got some of their extremist candidates into office last Tuesday in defiance of the Republican party establishment. What happens from here on out is anyone’s guess. But the Democrats need to realize that what they’re facing is a religious movement, not a political one. That’s the only way Christian Democrats are going to dig themselves out of the ditch they’ve been knocked into. They have to stop allowing themselves to be painted as the enemies of Christ. They have to start talking more about their own faith and transcend party affiliation.
They have to win over more of these Americans who practice dangerously delusional faith-based politics.