Tag Archives: Religious Right Wing

The Right, The Election, And What’s Next

7 Nov

A while back I wrote a post called “The Party of Lincoln.” In it, I said that the GOP,

[has] become the instrument of power of a right wing movement bent on resetting the social, political, and economic clock in America to a time when women were marginalized, the rich were beyond accountability, and overt racism and racial codes were business as usual…

The majority of the Republican activist base is made up of ideologically inflexible, overlapping rightist factions. They include the Tea Parties, the religious right, libertarians, white nationalists, anti-communist conspiracy theorists, and assorted more exotic white supremacists. That’s why the Republican primary played like a re-run of Barry Goldwater’s famously far right presidential campaign of 1964.

These various factions keep uneasy company with the GOP’s traditional base of old-fashioned economic conservatives. And while the [more] radical factions may often seem at war with one another, they’re mostly unified in their racism and their hatred of liberals, and liberal ideas, including the notion that government, not the private sector, should be responsible for providing a social safety net. Moreover, for the sake of unity, they appear to have conceded to the baseline notion that anybody and anything not not in agreement with them is an enemy of the state.

How, you may ask, did the Party of Lincoln become home to right wing radicals? The answer is, they were invited.

The invitations started going out about 60 years ago. Back then, the GOP was in serious trouble. White Southerners were holding what appeared to be a permanent grudge against them over the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. The stock market crash of 1929 inspired a healthy cynicism of economic elites, and the GOP was rightly perceived as their party. We’d also successfully waged WWII under Democratic presidents, and all while Democratic policy appeared to have pulled the country out of a depression.

Moreover, the Republican elite were viewed as a bunch of aloof aristocrats and intellectuals whose theories were indecipherable and whose policies were all for the rich. Not exactly how they wanted to be perceived at a time when a burgeoning [white] middle class dominated the electorate.

It appeared as though the GOP would have to permanently settle for a role as a pro-capital counter-weight to Democratic liberalism. But as the 1960s rolled around, the libertarian wing of the party started getting organized. They intuited that the cultural fault lines of the time, especially around religion and identity, could be turned into political battle lines. With that in mind, they began rebuilding the party using a dual strategy of 1) splitting liberal coalitions by raising controversial social issues, and 2) building their base by appealing to racism and religiously-based cultural conservatism.

[Some of] the earliest appeals targeted racially sensitive white Southern Democrats. [The GOP] learned about the power of racism as a political tool by analyzing the failed George Wallace and Barry Goldwater campaigns for president. Both the Wallace and Goldwater campaigns mobilized white Southerners across party lines and attracted more small contributions than any other presidential campaigns until that time.

The lists of both campaigns were used by rightists like Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation. Weyrich’s pioneering use of direct mail marketing became the fundraising template of many right wing institutions.

So the first invitation was to racists. They constituted a chunk of the early fundraising base for key rightist organizations and their continued importance to the success of the GOP explains all of that dog whistling in this campaign.

From an ideological standpoint, Goldwater in particular showed Republicans that racism is a powerful lever…

The next invitation was to the born-again Christian movement, the fastest growing social movement in the world at the time. The evangelical movement was driven in part by backlash against the social liberalism of the 1960s, including a growing acceptance of women’s equality, free love, LGBT rights, and Black civil rights. As such, it was almost entirely white, straight, and socially conservative.

By aligning themselves with evangelical leaders such as Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, et al, the libertarian elites of the GOP formed an uneasy alliance the cracks in which are lately becoming more apparent. This alliance produced both a highly motivated base for the GOP and gave them legitimacy as an arbiter of family values. With this base and from this moral position, they launched a wedge strategy that involved raising social issues divisive to the Democratic coalition.

By attacking abortion rights as murder, they were able to peel Catholics off of the liberal coalition built by Kennedy. By attacking affirmative action as anti-white racism, they softened liberal whites’ support of civil rights. And by vilifying gays they split just about everyone else, and all while raising buckets of money for the non-governmental organizations of the movement. Issue by issue, they fractured their opposition until the evangelical base of the GOP rose to power as the most highly motivated and well-organized plurality (the largest minority) of voters.

The GOP also mobilized evangelicals and working class Southerners to win regressive tax reform. They did so in order to weaken government, especially in terms of its regulatory role, and got the help of rightists by claiming government had been taken over by feminists and the civil rights lobby. They attacked public schools as sources of secular liberalism, and preyed on the economic uncertainty caused by a changing economy to raise resentment against public employees whom they vilified as lazy clock-watchers.

But in order to get evangelicals involved in politics, they had to do more than touch on their issues. They needed to get them to commit to politics as an act of religion. To do that, some evangelical leaders turned to post-millennialism, the belief that there will be a 1000 year reign of godly men on earth before Jesus returns for the final judgement. The importance of post-millenialism is that it calls on Christians to engage in a takeover of all societal institutions, making politics a matter of life or death (or life after death) for certain evangelicals.

One of the principle ways that conservative evangelicals have served this mission is as Republican precinct captains, allowing them to achieve a bottom-up take over of many state GOP organizations. They also ran evangelicals as stealth candidates who focused on economic issues while hiding their radical social agendas. Stealth candidates went after every kind of office from judge to dog catcher in order to build the cadres of those with the political experience and name recognition to run for more influential offices (Rep. Michele Bachman, for instance).

These strategies are now the staple of Republican base building. Accordingly, Republicans reacted to the urban uprisings of the 1960s with a tough on crime campaign the centerpiece of which is the war on drugs, premised on the notion that America’s drug problem is a black people problem. They’ve attacked immigration, accusing immigrants of color of stealing jobs and government funded benefits. And they’ve attacked Muslims, equating Islam with Christian-hating and terrorism.

Lest we forget, of course, they’ve also accused liberals of being so limp-wristed when it comes to war and trade policy that in their hands the U.S. will tumble from it’s status as [the] world’s number 1 bully and become the 98 lb weakling of the global schoolyard. That fall, I guess, is something to fear when you do in fact know you’ve been a bully, but I digress.

Because the architects of this movement were, for the most part, libertarians, they’ve all the while used the openings created by their various attacks to popularize a laissez-faire philosophy of capitalism that conflates freedom with commerce. Variants of the ideology of free enterprise as freedom live within nearly all of these factions, and for that reason they are able to hang, however loosely, together. And because of what holds them together, the Republican corporate elites have been tolerant of their more extreme views, including the views that we ought to build an electrified fence on our southern border, and that we should abolish all abortions, even in cases of incest or threat to the life of the mother, as just two examples.

The most recent guests to the Party are the Tea Parties. They’re a hybrid of all of the above, with a dose of anti-authoritarianism and distrust of large institutions in general thrown in for good measure. They weren’t invited guests so much as crashers until Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor extended the invitation.

And now that all of these factions have arrived, Reince Priebus, Mitt Romney, and company have a management problem on their hands. As ye sow, so shall ye reap, as they say, and they deserve every bit of their bitter harvest.

Last night was part of that bitter harvest. The GOP has moved so far to the right that a growing coalition of younger voters, voters of color, and women were able win the day for Obama. But, before we start patting ourselves on the back, we need to remember that while the GOP is clearly losing the war of position on the political spectrum, that spectrum that has moved far to the right of where it was before the Republican backlash/bigotry strategy push it to where it is now.

The right got knocked, but Romney beat Obama among whites by 20% and won the white vote even in almost all blue states.   Voter suppression efforts though ineffective at stealing the election wove a web of lies about voter fraud that many, especially white voters, have bought into, and indications are that racism against African Americans is rising. We didn’t defeat the right last night. We just kept ourselves in the struggle.

Homophobia and Racism: How They Are Connected And Why People Of Color Should Care

18 Apr

The recent document dump of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) internal documents reveals their racist and homophobic strategy to divide the Democratic Party. Among other things, the docs state: “The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and Blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…”

And, “The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote… Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity – a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”

Ready for more race basics?

Back in the olden days, circa 1990s, one of the right wing’s most successful propaganda ploys was anti-gay documentaries. These were cheaply made and given away for free on street corners, in churches, even in Congress. The videos made quite an impression, especially one called Gay Rights/Special Rights: Inside the Homosexual Agenda. That 1993 tape echos the NOM strategy.

The tape begins with an image of Dr. King and a voice-over: “I have a dream that one day…this nation will rise up, and live out the true meaning of it’s creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”

Then, a commentator: “Because of the kind of Constitution we have, it was wrong, just out of pure logic, for Black people to be discriminated against, solely on the basis of color.  The 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Act, um, clearly something that needed to be done, in order to, uh, to hold, uh, to hold this notion of Justice in our country.”  And then, another image of Dr. King and his voice, “One day they will live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but on the content of their character.” 

Next, the video features white gay AIDS activist Larry Kramer paraphrasing Dr. King, saying “I may not get there with you, but some day we shall enter the promised land, where men and women will not be judged by their sexual desires but by the content of their character.”

The commentator: “Many failed to notice Mr. Kramer’s substitution of the words ‘sexual behavior’ for ‘skin color’…thus began the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equal Rights.”  

Then, the tape presents images of men kissing men, same sex couples with children, flamboyant cross-dressers, and scantily clad men and women holding militant signs or raising their fists.  Then, the punchline – LGBT people are co-opting the Civil Rights Movement, literally “hijacking the freedom train and taking it from Selma to Sodom,” which, they argue would “completely neutralize the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What it would do is say that anyone, anyone with any type of sexual preference, which would include everyone, is…would be protected under this law, so therefore there would be no protection for minorities specifically…”

Former U.S. Attorney General, Edwin Meese drives the message home saying, “As a white male, I have no rights whatever, other than what is shared with everyone else…” while suggesting that civil rights are add-ons for those who have suffered as a result of certain “benign” characteristics.

The message?

  • that civil rights are bestowed on you as a special privilege, not just because you’re a citizen
  • therefore, white people, especially white males, don’t have civil rights
  • however, Black people do have them
  • therefore, civil rights are “special rights”

The false logic of this message was meant to inspire anti-LGBT activism among whites already resentful of the Black Civil Rights Movement. The tape depicted not the stereotype of the effeminate, middle-class, sweater queen, but a militant, sexually aggressive, and potentially criminal element. Sound familiar?

And they argued that LGBT people were denigrating the Civil Rights Movement by asking for civil rights protection for perverse sex acts, driving a wedge between culturally conservative Black church-goers and (white) LGBT people.

Evil genius, right? They used homophobia as a soft-entry point into Black and white church-going communities and once they were in, they told one of the most potent lies of the post-Civil Rights era; that not just gay rights but civil rights are special rights, and that the contest for special rights is one with winners and losers; that we can’t all be protected at the same time.

%d bloggers like this: