The Republican Party never ceases to amaze me. For a party whose problems with minorities are well documented, you would think the GOP would be sensitive to anything that could further erode their reputation among this growing population. Yet after learning that the new House Majority Whip Steve Scalise gave a speech to a white supremacist organization led by former Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, Speaker Boehner and the rest of the Republican Party are standing by their man.
Let me just say that again. The # 3 Republican in the House of Representatives gave a speech to a white supremacists group in 2002 led by a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard! Rep. Scalise even described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.”
The Center for American Progress released a report on Tuesday which underscores the growth in population of the people white supremacist organizations despise. At the heart of the report was the question of whether the Republican party could begin to make inroads with voters of color in order to compete in presidential elections. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that if recent actions are any indication, it’s not looking likely.
People For the American Way and our friends at American Bridge released a Spanish-language ad Monday highlighting Scalise’s actions and reminding Latino voters what the Republican party is really all about. The web ad will run in Virginia and Colorado. Read more about the ad here, and check it out below:
Ahead of President Obama's immigration reform announcement tonight, American Bridge and People For the American Way are releasing a new video highlighting the continued offensive rhetoric from Congressional Republicans against immigrants and immigration reform.
"While Democrats have offered repeated olive branches to pass balanced, bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform, Republicans have refused to take action. Instead, Republicans have shown their true colors by spending their time playing obstructionist games and making distasteful comments about immigrants in this country," said American Bridge Vice President Eddie Vale.
“Time and again, Republicans have resorted to offensive, dehumanizing rhetoric about the Latino community,” said People For the American Way President Michael Keegan. “Instead of listening to the majority of Americans and working to fix our broken immigration system, GOP leaders continue to cater to their anti-Latino, anti-immigrant base.”
After losing a second landslide election to President Obama in 2012, the GOP commissioned an autopsy on how to win future national elections, which stressed the Party's need to broaden its appeal. Specifically, the report recommended that, "on issues like immigration, the RNC needs to carefully craft a tone that takes into consideration the unique perspective of the Hispanic community."
A mere glance at Republican rhetoric on immigration shows many have not taken those findings to heart. Watch the new video from American Bridge and People For the American Way and see for yourself: http://youtu.be/XT-l4yKxvf4
On August 9, I don't believe 18-year-old Michael Brown, Jr. woke up in the morning thinking he would not see the evening sun, his family or friends, the end of the day that started with hope and promise. That morning, I don't believe Officer Darren Wilson left for work knowing his tragic encounter with an unarmed young African American male, who he would shoot and kill, would be the spark that ignited the flame that has been slowly burning in the city of Ferguson - the need for change.
In the wake of the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri, community members and civil rights activists are proactively turning pain into power by praying, marching, meeting and yes, registering people to vote -- a move that the leader of the Missouri Republican Party, Matt Wills, said this week was "not only disgusting but completely inappropriate."
What is disgusting is that type of commentary and thinking! What is disgusting is for anyone to say, as Wills did, that "injecting race into this conversation and into this tragedy, not only is not helpful, but it doesn't help a continued conversation of justice and peace."
Is that leader aware or in denial of the Missouri Attorney General's 2013 report on racial profiling which shows that out of 5,384 Ferguson Police Department stops, 4,632 were of African Americans? That's disgusting and "completely inappropriate."
Is he aware or in denial that of the 521 arrests made during the report period, 483 were of African Americans? That out of 2,489 stops for moving violations, 1,983 were of African Americans? Shame on that leader and those who are "disgusted" by the simple act of voter registration drives to bring "light into darkness"!
In the shadow of Michael's death and the ensuing protests, I cannot imagine a more profound, inspiring response than voter registration. Justice and peace are close companions of democracy. Conducting voter registration drives at any time -- but especially at this time in a "sick and tired of being sick and tired" city that had just 12 percent turnout in this year's municipal election, 11.7 percent turnout in 2013, and 8.9 percent in 2012 -- is a critical way to address this as both a personal tragedy and a systemic tragedy.
It is not "disgusting" but deserving of those who live in a place that lacks diversity in local government, from the city council to the school board to the police department.
With deep condolences to the parents of Michal Brown, Jr. -- not wanting to "politicize" his death or exploit a grieving family who is calling for justice for the one who left out on Saturday morning and will never return -- what better way to honor them than by sowing the seeds of long-term, much needed change? Even from where I am in Washington, DC, I feel the urgency of the call for change in the homes, neighborhoods, businesses, and community of Ferguson.
The world has watched the dehumanization of a mother's child, police with military-grade gear tear-gassing protesters, journalists arrested and assaulted, and the response of helplessness and frustration that many community members must feel toward elected officials from City Hall to the halls of Congress. As Simon Maloy from Salon put it, "a week's worth of unrestrained police crackdowns...with the blessing or tacit approval of political leaders...will tend to erode whatever trust one has left in the people in charge."
So those of us who are watching should applaud, not complain about or attack, a community that turns a lack of trust in its elected officials into a movement for change.
We should applaud and not attack an inspiring vision for a different future for the rest of Michael's siblings, family and friends -- one in which the local officials are responsive to the needs of the entire community, and better reflect the community's diversity. Be "disgusted" by the city's racial profiling data. Be "disgusted" by the predicament of "driving while Black." Be "disgusted" by efforts to suppress voter participation, in Ferguson and around the country as some have "dusted off Jim Crow tactics" trying to stand in the way of men and women, youth and elder, unemployed and employed, determined to exercise their most fundamental right as citizens.
As the leader of a national alliance of African American faith leaders, I work every day with people who are often part of the first responders to tragedies like this, who walk with the family, who eulogize the deceased and who also organize, connect, and empower. They know the face of systemic injustices and of elected leaders who want to make it harder, rather than easier, for certain communities to participate in our democracy. To make the leap from pain to a promise of peace is a difficult step, but thank goodness for those who are taking it.
As one St. Louis faith leader said, pointing at a voter registration tent set up on a Ferguson street by a local woman and her daughter: "That's where change is gonna happen."
Believe is my favorite word. I truly believe "a change is gonna come." After the protests end, after the national cameras leave, after the marchers from east to west return to their homes, neighbors, and communities, there will be follow-up, there will be change.
Registering, educating and getting out the vote is not "disgusting" or "completely inappropriate." What is "disgusting" and "completely inappropriate" is not responding effectively, productively, and positively to suppression and oppression.
As I read about the homegoing (funeral) service planned for next week, I pause and pray for the family and people of Ferguson. What next comes to mind for Michael Brown, Jr. and for change in Ferguson, is: be inspired -- register and vote! For Michael's parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr. and for change in Ferguson: be inspired -- register and vote! For all those who loved "Big Mike," and all the other unnamed youth who have died to "justifiable" or "legal interventions" by law officers and know that Ferguson deserves change: be inspired -- register and vote for justice and for the fulfilled promise of peace!
Christian-nation activist David Lane is engaged in a multi-year, multi-state project to get conservative evangelical pastors more involved in electing right-wing candidates, and he is intent on making sure that the GOP nominates a 2016 presidential candidate to the Religious Right’s liking.
In spite of his extremism, Lane regularly gets Republican presidential candidates to attend his American Renewal Project events. On Monday night, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee spoke at a Michigan Renewal Project “Pastors Policy Briefing.”
Lane generally tries to stay out of the media spotlight, unless it’s for a friendly face like the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody. Even the media-hungry Cruz and Huckabee slipped quietly into Lansing for the event, which the Detroit News picked up on a few days later.
Also speaking at the event was Chad Connelly, the former head of the South Carolina GOP who was hired by the Republican National Committee last year to strengthen the party’s relationship with conservative evangelicals. According to news reports at the time, the Southern Baptist Connelly was brought on to energize evangelicals, some of whom were feeling disillusioned by recent national GOP candidates and by what they saw as the party’s “softening” on marriage equality.
Among the other speakers listed in a promotion for Monday’s event in the August newsletter of the American Decency Association: right-wing radio host Dennis Prager, “historians” David Barton and Bill Federer, the American Family Association’s Don Wildmon, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, former Congressman Bob McEwen, and Pastor Laurence White of the Texas Restoration Project.
It seems as if Cruz is equally at home in front of the camera and behind closed doors. The Detroit News reports that he “made a quiet visit to Michigan Sunday and Monday, meeting with Republican Party activists in events that were kept hush-hush until photos of the tea party stalwart and potential 2016 presidential candidate surfaced on social media.”
In addition to Lane’s event, the paper reports, “Cruz appeared at four events over the two-day period organized by Ron Weiser, the Ann Arbor developer and national Republican fundraiser with connections throughout the country.” The paper says Weisner is seeking the GOP nomination for a seat on the University of Michigan board of regents. Among other attendees at Cruz events were Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Tea Party activist Wendy Day, who recently lost a GOP primary bid for seat in the state House.
On Saturday, Republican presidential hopefuls and other conservative figures converged on Ames, Iowa for the Family Leadership Summit. The event was organized by Bob Vander Plaats, the Religious Right activist who led campaigns to purge the state Supreme Court of justices who supported marriage equality.
The all-star line-up included Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Bobby Jindal. Gov. Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum. Joining them were State Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat from Iowa; Rep. Tim Scott; Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds; Ken Cuccinelli of the Senate Conservatives Fund; and regulars on the Religious Right speaking circuit, including David and Jason Benham, Josh Duggar of Family Research Council Action, Alveda King, and Rev. Rafael Cruz, Ted’s incendiary father.
Radio Iowa posted audio of the speeches by potential presidential candidates Huckabee, Santorum, Cruz, Jindal, and Perry. Taken together, they provide a preview of the 2016 primary campaign that will begin in earnest as soon as the 2014 elections are over. If the speeches in Ames are any indication, GOP voters will be hearing that America is on the verge of self-destruction, but can be returned to greatness with God’s help and the Republican Party in power. It is clear that between now and then all these conservative leaders will all be trying to give Republicans a majority in the U.S. Senate, in part by getting Joni Ernst elected.
As you would expect, the speeches were generally long on Obama-bashing and empty rhetoric. Bobby Jindal’s answer for the problems at the U.S.-Mexico border, for example, was to tell President Obama to “man up.”
“I’ve got a very simple message for the president of the United States. We don’t need a comprehensive bill. We don’t need another thousand page bill. He simply needs to man up. He needs to secure the border and he needs to get it done today,” Jindal said. “There are no more excuses. No more delays.”
Jindal complained that President Obama is engaged in a relentless effort to “redefine the American Dream.” Obama’s version, he said, is based on class warfare, and expansive and intrusive government – he was not the only speaker to accuse Obama of trying to make America more like Europe. Jindal said in contrast he’s pursuing the real American Dream in Louisiana by cutting taxes, cutting government jobs and spending, and privatizing (“reforming”) education.
Jindal also complained about an “unprecedented assault on religious liberty” in the United States, recycling the Religious Right canard that the Obama administration wanted to protect only “freedom of worship.” He bragged about having coming to the defense of Duck Dynasty when Phil Robertson was criticized for making offensive remarks.
Jindal said he couldn’t figure out whether the Obama administration is “the most liberal, ideologically extreme administration” in our lifetime or “the most incompetent,” before asking, “What difference does it make?” But he is confident that our best days are still ahead of us because “there’s a rebellion brewing.”
Rick Santorum said Republicans should focus on their vision rather than on bashing Obama, but he couldn’t resist. He called the president the “divider-in-chief” and denounced the “Obama-Clinton-Kerry regime,” which he says has turned its back on Israel.
Santorum’s speech suggests that he’ll be campaigning on themes in his most recent book, “Blue Collar Conservative.” He said the Republican Party focuses on too narrow a group of people – business owners and entrepreneurs – when most people don’t own businesses, but work for someone else. They are hurting, he says, but nobody is speaking to them. In addition to cutting taxes and government, he called for more investments in vocational education and greater restrictions on legal as well as illegal immigration, which he said are causing distress in labor markets. Santorum’s biggest heresy against Republican dogma may have been saying it was time to stop invoking Ronald Reagan, who was elected almost 35 years ago. It would have been like candidate Reagan invoking Wendell Willkie, he said.
Ted Cruz started his upbeat speech with Washington- and Obama-bashing jokes. He’d spent much of the past month in Washington, he said, and it’s “great to be back in America.” He described “the Obama diet” as “every day, you let Putin eat your lunch.” Cruz said he was optimistic that Republicans would re-take the Senate this year and the White House in 2016, and described five conservative victories and two victories-in-waiting.
1. Killing gun control legislation in Congress
2. The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision
3. Blocking entry to the US for Iran’s chosen ambassador
4. Grassroots activism leading to freedom for Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim
5. Overturning the FAA’s temporary ban on flights to Israel
He described two “fixin’ to be completed” projects that Republicans would be able to finish when they take control of the Senate and then the White House
1. Ending Obama administration “lawlessness” on immigration
2. Repealing “every single word of Obamacare.”
Rick Perry declared that it is “easy to govern” and bragged about the success that red state governors are having by limiting regulation, restricting lawsuits, holding public schools accountable, and getting out of the way so the private sector can help provide people with jobs so they can take care of their families. (As Sam Brownback’s experience in Kansas makes clear, passing right-wing policies is no magic bullet.)
Perry denounced the president for not securing the border and declared that Texas would. Similarly, he told the audience that they have all been “called to duty” in the face of activist judges and assaults on the unborn. “Somebody’s values are gonna be legislated,” he said. “The question is whose values are going to be legislated.” The future is bright, he said, because God is still alive and still impacting this country.
Mike Huckabee’s closing speech was in part a reprise of the one he gave at the Faith and Freedom coalition conference in June, in which he denounced “judicial supremacy” and compared the Chinese government’s systematic erasure of the Tiananmen Square massacre with the fact that American textbooks do not teach children that America’s founding was dependent on the hand of God.
Huckabee demonstrated his penchant for simplistic, inflammatory rhetoric. The IRS is a “criminal enterprise” and should be abolished. The 16th Amendment should be repealed. The Obama administration isn’t supporting Israel because it hasn’t “seen enough dead Jews to make them happy.”
Politics won’t fix the country, Huckabee said, unless there is a “spiritual transformation,” because “what has to happen first in America is that we get our hearts right, and then we’ll get our politics right. It rarely works the other way around.”
Republican presidential hopefuls keep lining up to take part in events organized by David Lane, in spite of the activist’s extreme Christian-nation politics. On Friday, Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee were in Iowa to meet with conservative pastors organized by Lane's Iowa Renewal Project.
Jindal and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, both of whom are considering seeking the GOP nomination for the presidency in 2016, were the stars of a private Iowa Renewal Project event in Cedar Rapids organized by David Lane, a political activist from California who has been quietly mobilizing Christian conservatives in Iowa for seven years. He organized a similar pastors' gathering in Des Moines and booked Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, two other possible presidential candidates, as the featured speakers.
Lane’s events are normally closed to the press, but Jennifer Jacobs, a Register reporter, was allowed to attend. According to the Jacobs, Jindal spoke about his conversion to Christianity and the importance of his faith:
Jindal recalled how on live statewide TV at a campaign debate he was asked to identify the single most important moment in his life. "I smiled and thought to myself, 'That is the easiest question I've ever been asked," he said. "I just blurted out the truth: it was the moment that I found Jesus Christ,'" he told an audience of about 250 Christian conservative pastors and community leaders.
It's not always easy to be a Christian, Jindal said.
"It's like (God) has given us the book of life. He doesn't just look at the pages for today and tomorrow. He doesn't promise that our team is going to win happen today or tomorrow. He doesn't promise you that everything's going to happen exactly the way you want it. But he does something much much more important. ... He lets us look on the last page and on the last page our God wins."
According to the Register, while Jindal was warmly received, attendees agreed that Huckabee stole the show.
"Oh, nobody compares to Mike Huckabee," said audience member Jamie Johnson, a Christian conservative who is a member of the Iowa GOP's governing board. "Huckabee's likability is through the roof."
As Jacobs notes, “Huckabee leads polling as the Republican front-runner in Iowa, riding on popularity he built in 2008, when he won the GOP caucuses here.” In his remarks, Huckabee took on conservatives who want to talk only about liberty and low taxes but not moral issues.
"They say, "I don't want to hear about social issues. All I want to hear is about liberty and low taxes. Well, that's just delicious. Let me tell you something," said Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor. "... Liberty cannot function unless there are people who are willing to live with integrity." …
"Freedom can never function apart from a moral society," he told an audience of about 300 Iowans at a private event at the Hilton Doubletree hotel in Cedar Rapids. "And where is that going to come from? It had better come from the churches, and it had better come from pulpits and the people who are grounded in the word of God."
Rand Paul made a three-day swing through the state last week, but Huckabee denied that his remarks were a direct poke at Paul.
Asked if his "liberty" remarks were directed at the liberty movement that sprang from 2012 presidential candidate Ron Paul's campaign, and the activists who are now rallying around his son, Rand Paul, Huckabee told The Des Moines Register: "No, not at all. It's just the bigger picture. ... It's a word I would use regularly anyway."
Other excerpts from Huckabee’s speech, courtesy of the Des Moines Register:
ON THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: "We have a very weak Supreme Court right now. We've got to quit believing the Supreme Court is the supreme being. It's only one of three branches of government. It's not above the other two. ... And all three branches are under the tutelage of the people of this country in whom the ultimate power and authority power resides."
HOW TO SAVE THE COUNTRY: "It is important to elect the right people all the way from the city council to the White House. But if we want to change America, the real prescription is not to go out and just get certain people elected and hoping that they will bring spiritual revival. It's to pray for spiritual revival. And if God awakens this country spiritually, this country will elect the right people and they will do the right things."
ON PASTORS WHO SHY AWAY FROM POLITICS: "I hear pastors say, 'I'm just a shepherd of God, and I don't want to get involved in politics. It's a dirty business.' My brother, my sister, it is a dirty business. But It's dirty because the clean people have decided to leave it to the people who don't care whether it's dirty or not. ... I've never ever ever ever encouraged a pastor to endorse a candidate. Unless it's me. No, I've even said, 'Don't use your pulpit to endorse me.' As much as I would enjoy that, don't do it. Endorse the principles of God's words. Endorse the value of human life. Endorse the institution of marriage. Endorse those which are eternal and holy things."
It’s not completely clear why Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, which he created in the wake of Obama’s election, has decided to hold an annual conference in Washington, D.C. After all, the conservative Christian voters his group works to identify and mobilize already have the Values Voter Summit, the much larger fall event sponsored by the Family Research Council and a gaggle of other right-wing groups.
One reason may be for the once-disgraced Reed to show off his political access: last week’s Road to Majority conference was thick with Republican officeholders and presidential wannabes, and I lost count of how many times Reed told participants how impressed they should be by the lineup. For the lobby day that preceded the conference itself, he was able to get face time for his participants with Religious Right and Tea Party heroes from the Senate -- Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio – and House of Representatives – Louis Gohmert, Steve King, and David Jolly – along with “establishment” Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen John Cornyn.
In fact, the conference may be seen by Reed as a way for him to play peacemaker among the sometimes warring factions within the Republican Party and encourage unity going into the election year. At last year’s conference, RNC head Reince Priebus had a chance to tell attendees, many of them skeptical, that he was indeed one of them, as a Christian and a conservative; this year he made an appearance via video.
Last Saturday, on panel on the 2014 elections, conservative pundit and author John Fund predicted that Thad Cochran would be defeated by Chris McDaniel. Fund said it would mark a second “humiliating defeat” for the Republican establishment (after Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss) and should lead to a demand from the grassroots for McConnell and Boehner to work out a “peace treaty” with Tea Party activists so they could stop spending an “insane” amount of resources on internal fights. “The real enemy is in November,” he said.
Of course that’s not what happened on Tuesday. With a boost from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, and ads by football great Brett Favre – and more notably with a direct appeal to African American voters – Cochran squeaked out an unexpected victory.
The “humiliating defeat” was now pinned on Tea Party groups and there was little talk about peace negotiations. Chris McDaniel’s already infamous non-concession speech turned into a rant against the Cochran campaign and Republican officials who sided with him:
There is nothing dangerous or extreme about defending the Constitution and the civil liberties therein. And there’s nothing strange at all about standing as people of faith for a country that WE built, that WE believe in. But there is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual, about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats.”
“This is not the party of Reagan,” he declared. “But we’re not done fighting. And when we’re done it will be. We have fought too long we have fought too hard to have a voice in this party. And today, the conservative movement took a back seat to liberal Democrats in the state of Mississippi. In the most conservative state in the republic, this happened. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. And that’s why we will never stop fighting.”
National Review’s Eliana Johnson, who moderated the 2014 panel, said the Establishment / Tea Party split has been vastly overblown by the media slapping the Tea Party label on every gadfly challenger. But on the night of Cochran’s Democratic-voter-assisted victory, Sarah Palin was talking about a third party.
For those of us outside the movement, who see the overlapping Tea Party and Religious Right movements relentlessly pushing the GOP further to the right, it can be hard to understand why there is so much anger directed at the establishment. After all, it’s not as if Eric Cantor and Thad Cochran are some kind of liberal Rockefeller Republicans.
But even these conservative leaders are not enough for grassroots activists who imbibe a steady ideological diet, from right-wing media and movement leaders, calling for a radically limited federal government and viewing compromise made in the process of governing as complicity with tyranny. Republican leaders who encouraged an angry grassroots uprising against the “tyranny” of health care reform are now reaping the whirlwind.
If there were a unifying message from Ralph Reed’s conference, it was, “America is in decline and the world is going to hell and it’s all Obama’s fault.” The solution offered was a combination of spiritual and political warfare. While right-wing groups have a common enemy in the White House, and will certainly work together this year to try to give Republicans control of the Senate, it is clear that we haven’t yet seen the end of the struggle over just how far to the far right the Republican Party will be pushed.
The movie tracks the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that lifted a century-long ban on corporate election spending by looking at the standoff in Wisconsin between state employees and GOP Governor Scott Walker. During his election and recall campaigns, Walker was bankrolled by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, demonstrating the torrent of unlimited, anonymous political spending by corporations and billionaires that was unleashed through this Supreme Court decision. As the film follows this story, it also shows the fracturing of the Republican Party and proves how Citizens United fundamentally changed how our democracy works.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funding, and even losing its public television distributor, the movie finally comes to theatres this summer. The process that led to it being pulled from public television airwaves illustrates exactly what “Citizen Koch” depicts—that money buys not only action, but also silence. As Buddy Roemer, whose presidential run is chronicled in the film, stated, “Sometimes it's a check. Sometimes it's the threat of a check. It's like having a weapon. You can shoot the gun or just show it. It works both ways.”
People For the American Way hosted the DC premiere of the documentary film “Citizen Koch” at the Washington’s West End Cinema Friday night to a sell out crowd. Friday’s premiere was followed by a panel discussion with one of the documentary’s Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Tia Lessin, along with PFAW’s director of outreach and partner engagement Diallo Brooks and PFAW president Michael Keegan. After the screening, the audience participated in a question and answer session on the effects of big money in politics and what different organizations and mobilized citizens are doing to reverse the effects of Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would like to be president, so he spent the weekend at Liberty University doing what a Republican presidential wannabe does: courting Religious Right leaders by assuring them that he is one of them and shares their vision for America. Jindal spoke at Liberty’s commencement address on Saturday, where he spouted Religious Right talking points about the “war” on religious liberty by a “left” that wants to “silence people of faith.” And on Friday night, he spent two hours talking about his faith in a session with politically influential pastors organized by Christian-nation zealot David Lane.
The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger reports that Jindal talked the pastors through his conversion from Hinduism to Protestantism in high school, while not spending much time on his conversion to Catholicism a few years later in college. Jindal positions himself solidly in the conservative religious coalition by calling himself an “evangelical Catholic.” According to the Post,
The visiting pastors flew to Lynchburg over the weekend at the invitation of the American Renewal Project, a well-funded nonprofit group that encourages evangelical Christians to engage in the civic arena with voter guides, get-out-the-vote drives and programs to train pastors in grass-roots activism. The group’s founder, David Lane, has built a pastor network in politically important states such as Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and South Carolina and has led trips to Israel with Paul and others seeking to make inroads with evangelical activists.
The group that Lane invited to Lynchburg included Donald Wildmon, a retired minister and founder of the American Family Association, a prominent evangelical activist group that has influence through its network of more than 140 Christian radio stations.
As regular RWW readers know, the Post’s description, while accurate, only begins to describe David Lane, who we reported last year is “an anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Mormon, Christian-nation absolutist who has declared war, not only on secularism and separation of church and state, but also on establishment Republicans who don’t embrace his vision of an America in which the Bible serves as ‘the principle textbook' for public education and a ‘Christian culture’ has been ‘re-established.’” Lane believes Christians “must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the ‘Separation of Church and State.’” He says America must repent for breaking the founders' covenant with God or face the wrath of God, which he said last year would include car bombings in Los Angeles, Des Moines, and Washington, D.C. as a consequence of abortion rights, the national debt, and “homosexuals praying at the inauguration.”
Jindal’s personal appeal to Religious Right leaders may encourage them to take a closer look at his record. Given his hostility to abortion rights and LGBT equality and his record of privatizing public education, using tax dollars to promote creationism, and rejecting Medicaid expansion, far-right pastors will probably like what they see.
Dissatisfaction with “establishment” Republicans has been a consistent theme at this year’s Values Voter Summit, and it reached new heights at a Saturday morning breakfast session hosted by the Heritage Foundation and its more overtly political arm, Heritage Action.
Sen. John McCain has been a favored punching bag, no doubt for having had the temerity to criticize the “Teavangelical” favorite son, Ted Cruz. An audience member asked whether Heritage was planning to do something to take out South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, referred to by the questioner as “John McCain’s lapdog.” Heritage Action Chief Operating Officer Tim Chapman said that Heritage Action has “steered clear” of primaries since its bread and butter is working on Capitol Hill, but said the group’s materials are often used in primaries, and he praised the work of groups like Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
Regarding Graham, Chapman told the questioner “I am with you” and said he would like to see some “good accountability" applied to Graham. He said he hoped one of the conservative members of the South Carolina House delegation might step up to take on Graham. Chapman slammed Republicans in Congress as “close to failing," saying the average Republican score on the group's congressional scorecard is only 67 percent, something that has "rankled a few feathers on Capitol Hill."
Chapman complained that Republican leaders were preparing to cave to Obama in the current standoff: “As we speak, Republican leaders are speaking to the White House and they are cutting a deal and I promise you the deal is going to be total garbage.”
“We are at the point right now where we are seeing a complete cleavage away from the Republican Party of the conservative movement,” he said. “You are going to see massive upheaval in the next election on all fronts…We have an opportunity to take over the party and it will be in the next election cycle.”
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants to be the state's next Governor. But he has been dogged by an ethics scandal involving gifts he received from the head of a company that has sued the state. So last week, Cuccinelli tried to put the issue to rest by saying he'd contribute $18,000-the value of his questionable gifts-to a medical charity, saying, "I'm trying to wipe the slate clean here so we can focus on what's gonna matter in people's lives in Virginia in the next four years."
Of course, Cuccinelli's contribution doesn't magically wipe away questions about his character. And there's plenty of other evidence for Virginians to consider about the character of his record, and what four years of Cuccinelli as governor could do for -- or rather to -- the state.
Cuccinelli says his campaign is focused on jobs and the economy, but his extreme record as a state legislator and attorney general makes it clear that he considers himself commander-in-chief of the Religious Right's culture warriors.
He has bullied members of the Board of Health into adopting his anti-choice extremism. He has smeared and tried to defund Planned Parenthood. He even slams comprehensive sex education programs. As the Washington Post noted this week, he "was instrumental in ensuring that new regulations will result in the closure of many of the state's abortion clinics."
As a state senator, Cuccinelli was one of a handful of sponsors of an unconstitutional "personhood" bill that would have criminalized many common forms of contraception. Cuccinelli hasn't disavowed his support for "personhood" bills or their goal of making abortion illegal. But as a candidate for governor, he is trying to distance himself from the effects such legislation would have on women and families in Virginia. He claims that such legislation, which would grant legal rights to an egg at the moment it is fertilized by a sperm, wouldn't interfere with access to birth control. He is not telling the truth.
Here's another reminder of what kind of governor Cuccinelli would be: one of his first steps as Attorney General was to tell Virginia's public colleges and universities that they had to abandon policies against anti-gay discrimination. He reversed a legal opinion by his predecessor in order to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. He refused to support repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law. He argues that consensual sex between gay adults is a detriment to society and should be illegal. As a state senator, he even opposed legislation that permitted private companies to voluntarily extend health benefits to employees' domestic partners.
Cuccinelli is also a champion of the Tea Party's anti-government extremism. He calls President Obama a tyrant. He filed suit against the Affordable Care Act five minutes after it was signed into law, a self-aggrandizing publicity stunt. He has falsely told people that under the law the government could send people to jail for not buying insurance. He even slams safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for making people dependent on government.
There is seemingly no right-wing fringe to which Cuccinelli will not pander. He has used the power of his office to harass scientists in a climate-change-denying witch-hunt. He has called for a constitutional convention to rescind 14th amendment birthright citizenship. He said he was considering not getting his infant son a social security number because it was being used to track people. He flirted with birtherism.
And this week, he celebrated Constitution Day by appearing with right-wing radio host Mark Levin. Levin is an anti-union, anti-environmental-regulation, anti-public-education activist who rails against "establishment" Republicans and calls President Obama a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer. In 2007, Levin's Landmark Legal Foundation nominated Rush Limbaugh for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Cuccinelli is an example of the strong political coalition that has been made between right-wing Catholics like himself and conservative evangelicals, including Virginia-based powerhouses like Falwell-founded Liberty University and Pat Robertson's broadcasting empire. Cuccinelli has criticized people, like President Obama, who support marriage equality for thinking they "know better than God." And he says homosexual behavior is "intrinsically wrong" and destroys people's souls and shouldn't be allowed in a "natural law based country."
Cuccinelli has clearly aligned himself with the far right within the Catholic Church and, like Paul Ryan, opposes the Church's advocacy on behalf of anti-poverty programs. He hasslammed the Catholic bishops for advocating for government assistance for the poor, saying that has "created a culture of dependency on government, not God." He complained that the archdiocese of Arlington, Virginia included issues like poverty, hunger, and health care on a voting guide without making clear that they, in Cuccinelli's opinion, are clearly less important than abortion.
Cuccinelli has convinced the Religious Right that he's their guy. That's why Rick Santorum has endorsed him and the Family Research Council's PAC is helping him raise money.
But if Ken Cuccinelli wants to convince Virginia voters that he's not going to govern as a right-wing culture warrior, he'll have to do more than trying to "wipe the slate clean" on his ethical standards. He'll have to erase from the public record his own extreme record. And that will be a lot harder than writing a check.
(also posted at Huffington Post)
A new fundraising pitch from Family Research Council President Tony Perkins comes in a black envelope with a photo of a door cracking to allow light into the darkness and the message, “URGENT: God has opened a door to STOP America’s decline.” The letter inside, dated July 1, portrays the “scandals” surrounding the Obama administration – including the discredited IRS and Benghazi “scandals” hyped by right-wing media and GOP members of Congress – as an act of God:
The opportunity we have prayed for may be here . . . if we seize it.
As I witness the astounding scandals exploding within President Barack Obama’s administration, I believe Almighty God—who founded America and saved us through trials before—may be giving the American people an opportunity to stop today’s tyranny.
I believe He may be giving us an open door to turn back the plans of today’s arrogant big government: a secularist, anti-faith tyranny that is trying to snuff out religious freedom and biblical influence in the United States.
The letter calls for abolishing the IRS and opposing the enforcement of “ObamaCare,” and urges donations to help FRC:
Work with Congress and government officials to stop “hidden scandals” such as the Obama administration’s attempt to drive Christian values and religious freedom out of the military . . . impose the principles of the Employment non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which attack Christians in the workplace who refuse to affirm immoral sexuality . . . and more.
Perkins’ letter hypes the now-disproven claims that the IRS was waging jihad against conservatives:
We now know that the IRS was selectively auditing—harassing a growing number of ministries, conservative groups, Tea Party groups, and others who opposed President Obama.
The IRS threatened to remove the tax-exempt status of these citizens! These attacks by the IRS threatened to financially cripple them, costing them untold sums of money just to defend themselves against the IRS agents. The common link: ministries and organizations targeted for audits had stood against President Obama’s secularist, antireligious freedom agenda.
Actually, what we know is quite the opposite. The IRS “scandal” has evaporated as more evidence has some to light. Even some Republican officials have admitted as much. According to the New York Times, “Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, said that in retrospect, suggestions that Mr. Obama had orchestrated an I.R.S. attack on his political enemies were unwarranted.”
In addition, Perkins’ letter says a State Department “cover-up” in connection with the assassination of American officials in Benghazi, Libya “might have saved the election for President Obama. Yet it might render him paralyzed in his second term.”
Perkins says that FRC intends to “turn the tide of the past five years.”
The scandals will help show Americans why the Bible is right when it cautions against big government. Because of sin, power corrupts, and concentrated power corrupts completely. Bit government will always see God as a rival and try to replace Him, attacking God’s people and Biblical values and principles.”
Actually, as journalist Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine in late June, “the entire scandal narrative was an illusion.” It lives on, of course, in the world of far-right activists and conspiracy theorists like Tony Perkins.
Here’s a question for Ralph Reed and the ‘Teavangelical’ wing of the conservative movement: how can you portray yourselves as serious about governing when the keynote speakers at last week’s “Road to Majority” conference were Donald Trump and Sarah Palin?
Palin’s conference-closing remarks on Saturday featured a breathtakingly offensive joke about the Syrian civil war, which has taken an estimated 100,000 lives. She said we should just “let Allah sort it out.” Palin also had choice words for the bipartisan immigration reform bill moving through the Senate, which she dismissed as “a pandering, rewarding-the-rule-breakers, still-no-border-security, special-interest-written amnesty bill.” She was one of many conference speakers rhetorically crapping on Marco Rubio and the bipartisan “Gang of 8” reform bill and burning the bridges that conservative Latinos are trying to build.
At Friday night’s “gala” Reed bestowed a lifetime achievement award on Pat Robertson, who is increasingly difficult to take seriously, and who devoted his remarks to trashing President Obama. Trump, who also addressed the gala, spoke mostly about his own Trumpian greatness and how Mitt Romney might have been president if he had the guts to run Trump’s anti-Obama “you’re fired” ad. Trump shared plenty of pablum and piercing political insights, such as the Republicans needing to be “really smart” in choosing a “great candidate” in 2016. Trump also criticized the immigration reform bill as a “death wish” for the Republican Party, saying “every one of those people, and the tens of millions of people they will bring in with them, will be absolutely voting Democratic.”
There’s no question Ralph Reed still has pull. His conference opened with a luncheon featuring four Tea Party senators and he got a handful of Republican House members to speak along with former and future presidential hopefuls like Mike Huckabee, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz. Rick Perry, who was introduced as a “Renaissance man,” bragged about the law he recently signed to protect the ostensibly threatened right of public school students to wish each other “Merry Christmas” Perry said, ““I hope my state is a glowing example of men and women who believe that those traditional values are how you make a stronger society.” Stronger society? Not so much.
In addition to the divide on immigration, relentless attacks on President Obama (Dick Morris said of the president, “he doesn’t care about national security”), and the unsurprising rhetoric on abortion, marriage, and supposed threats to religious liberty, there were some other major themes:
The conference was infused with the Tea Party’s anti-federal-government themes. Jonah Goldberg of the National Review reminded people of a video shown at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which he recalled saying the government is the one thing we all belong to. “Now, as sort of a Tea Party-ish kind of guy, that makes me want to flip the safety on my rifle.”
Speakers urged activists to take advantage of the recent scandals surrounding the IRS, the Justice Department, and the National Security Agency. Santorum urged activists to “think big” and “seize the moment” provided by the IRS scandal. Sen. Ron Johnson said he would like Americans to apply their disgust about the scandals to the federal government in general. Rather than trying to restore faith in government, Johnson said, activists should be fostering distrust of the government.
Grover Norquist is known for his quip that he wants to shrink the government until it is small enough to drown in the bathtub. At Road to Majority he spelled out his plan to complete the strategy he embarked on with the Bush tax cuts and the no-tax-increase pledge he demands Republican candidates sign. He noted that “thanks to the marvels of modern redistricting,” Republicans are likely to have a Republican House until 2022, which means they have several chances to get a Senate majority and a Republican in the White House before then. Whenever that happens, he says, Republicans can put the Ryan budget into law and dramatically curtail government spending. He calls it “completely doable.”
Meanwhile, he said, in the 25 states where Republicans control the legislative and executive branches, activists should push for the passage of more anti-union legislation, and for laws that encourage people to obtain concealed carry permits, home school their children, and participate in stock ownership, three things that he said make people more Republican. He called this changing the demographics by changing the rules.
Obamacare: Will it Destroy America or Obama?
House Republicans have made repealing the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” – an obsession. Rick Santorum said opposition to the law should have been the centerpiece of the 2012 campaign. And many speakers repeated the demand that the health care reform law be repealed in its entirety. Stephen Moore, founder of the Club for Growth and a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, said repealing Obamacare is the single most important thing that has to happen in Washington over the next two years. But a number of speakers had a slightly different take, suggesting that the implementation of the complex law would be its undoing, and that public outrage at rising insurance rates would bring down the Obama administration. Dick Morris predicted Obama would be “destroyed” by the law’s implementation.
GOP: Friend or Foe?
One running theme of the conference was conservative activists’ distrust for national Republican leaders, particularly around opposition to abortion and LGBT equality. Several speakers made reference to the notorious RNC “autopsy” on the 2012 election and the perception that some party leaders want social conservatives to tone it down. Reed himself complained that while self-identified evangelicals represented 45 percent of the Republican ticket’s vote, some party leaders were saying they are the problem and should “ride in the back of the bus.” He vowed that on issue of abortion and man-woman marriage, social conservatives would not be silent, “not now, not ever.”
It’s not just Ted Cruz who mocks his fellow Republicans. Gary Bauer complained that the last two Republican nominees had a hard time talking about sanctity of life issues, and he said party officials in Washington spend too much time taking the advice of “cowardly pollsters and political consultants.” Mike Huckabee complained that “Republicans have been, if not equal, sometimes more guilty than Democrats in thinking the brilliant thing to do would be to centralize more power in the hands of the central government.” He said he’s “sick of hearing” that people think the GOP needs to move away from a conservative message.
There was enough grumbling that when it was RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s turn to speak on Saturday, the Wisconsin Faith & Freedom official who introduced him felt a need to vouch for Priebus’s faith and commitment to conservative causes. He said angrily that it is “an absolute lie” that Priebus is not a social conservative and insisted that there is no division in the party.
Priebus started his remarks by establishing his religious credentials: “I’m a Christian. I’m a believer. God lives in my heart, and I’m for changing minds, not changing values.” He added, “I’m so grateful that we’ve got a party that prays, that we’ve got a party that puts God first, and I’m proud to be part of that.” He said he “gets it” that conservative Christians are a “blessing” to the party. He said the GOP needs to have a permanent ground game in place all across the country.
Priebus defended his plan to shorten the presidential primary season and move the party convention from August to June from critics who call it an insider move against grassroots conservatives. It isn’t an establishment takeover, he insisted, but a way to prevent a replay of the 2012, when Romney went into the summer months broke after a long primary season but not yet able to tap general election funding.
Still, not all the conservative are convinced that national Republicans are with them. Palin portrayed Republicans in Washington as being overly fond of government spending: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a Republican or a Democrat sitting atop a bloated boot on your neck, out of control government, everyone gets infected, no party is immune. That’s why, I tell ya, I’m listening to those independents, to those libertarians who are saying, you know, it is both sides of the aisle, the leadership, the good old boys….”
Phyllis Schlafly talked about having waged internal battles to make the GOP a solidly anti-abortion Party and encouraged activists not to be seduced by talk of a conservative third party but to work within the Republican Party to make sure the right people on the ballot. Norquist insisted that activists had helped brand the GOP as the party that will not raise your taxes, and he said Republican elected officials who vote for tax increases damage the brand for everyone else. They are, he said, “rat heads in coca-cola.”
It might surprise many progressives, who have spent years bemoaning the effectiveness of Republicans’ emotion-laden rhetoric, that speaker after speaker complained that Democrats are so much better than Republicans at messaging. Of course complaining about messaging is easier than admitting that there may be something about your policies that voters don’t like.
At a panel on messaging strategies, author Diane Medved said that when defending traditional marriage, she would love to say “what is it about ‘abomination’ that you don’t understand?” But she knows that won’t reach people who don’t already agree with her. She argued that conservatives should marshal the “science” that supports their positions. She also tried out a new messaging strategy, saying that opposition to marriage equality is a feminist issue because it is empowering to women to affirm that they are different than men. “Women deserve to have credit for being who they are as a separate gender and they are not interchangeable with men.”
Ryan Anderson, co-author of a book on marriage with Robert George, the intellectual godfather of the anti-marriage-equality movement, took issue with the name of the panel, which was “Don’t Preach to the Choir.” Anderson said the choir needs to be preached to, because too many Christians are giving up on marriage. There is no such thing as parenting, he insisted, there is mothering and fathering. Anderson said that anti-marriage equality forces have only been fighting for five years, while proponents have been fighting for 20 to 30 years. “It’s not that our argument for marriage has been heard and been rejected,” he said. “It’s that it hasn’t been heard at all.” Anderson promoted the widely discredited Regnerus study on family structures as evidence that science is on his side.
Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, encouraged activists to be careful with their rhetoric. “I don’t believe that there are very many, if any, people in this movement, certainly not in public life, who have any ill will toward the same-sex community, at all. But sometimes we say things that make it sound like we do.” If Teetsel really believes that, he needs to spend some more time actually listening to conservative religious leaders, pundits and politicians who regularly charge that gay-rights advocates are Satan-inspired sexual predators who are out to destroy faith and freedom if not western civilization itself.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy or Arguing as a Lover with Stupid Liberals
Anyone who pays attention to religious right groups has been seeing the word “winsome” a lot. Conservative evangelical leaders are well aware of polling data that shows young Christians are turned off by the anti-gay bigotry they see in the church. So there’s a push on for everyone to make conservative arguments in a “winsome” way, to be “happy warriors” like Ronald Reagan, to be cheerful when arguing with liberals. Being cheerful was a big theme at Road to Majority. Said Rick Perry, “when we fight for our county, we need to do it with joy.”
The Manhattan Declaration's Teetsel took this theme to new heights in the messaging panel in which he called for “arguing as a lover” when “trying to woo people over to our side”: be respectful, self-effacing, funny, give people an opportunity to save face. But he doesn’t seem to think much of his audience, saying America is no longer a society of ideas, and that in our celebrity-crazed culture it doesn’t make sense to appeal to 18th Century sources of authority like the Federalist Papers, which “are not considered authorities in my generation. People do not care what these men in wigs thought 300 years ago.”
“We serve a God who condescended to become a man in order to share his gospel. And I think that’s an example that we can learn from. Romans 12:16 advises us, do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. So we have to bite the bullet. We have to recognize some of these facts and condescend to watching Glee from time to time so that we can talk to people about it.”