Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bush Betrayed the Christian Coalition

It was not so long ago, the year 2000, that George W. Bush and John McCain slugged it our for the support of the Christian Coalition and other "religious right" groups. John McCain learned early that he could not outflank GWB on the religious right. Bush, meanwhile, proved himself willing to say and do anything.

When McCain attacked Pat Robertson on Robertson's home turf, taking on the religious right, it was clear that neither was there room for McCain to the left of Bush. Those votes would eventually go to the Democratic party from whom Bush would steal an election in what even prominent goppers called a coup d'etat in Florida.

Ultimately the crown would go to Bush but unlike Caesar who refused it thrice, Bush was too eager, boasting "This would be a whole lot easier if this was a dictatorship...just as long as I'm the dictator." Given that it was Bush who gave to the Christian Coalition the role of kingmaker, one wondered: just what kind of dictatorship did Bush have in mind. The right most certainly hoped it would be a theocratic one.

Where did it go wrong? Why are religious conservatives deserting the sinking ship? The simplest answer is usually the best:
We were told: Just wait till the second term. Then, the president, freed of concern over reelection and backed by a Republican Congress, would take off the gloves and fight for the conservative agenda. Just wait.

We're still waiting.
-Richard A. Viguerie, Washington Post
Nowadays Bush's numbers are in danger of slipping below 30 percent amid allegations that his courtship of the RR was disingenuous. That's polite talk for "he lied to us". I can't wait to see the Jerry Springer version.

Rising feelings of betrayal - a fundamental rift between the theocratic-minded and the so-called country club set - may last awhile. Country Club Republicans saw him as another George H.W. Bush. Wishful-thinking ideologues saw in him another Ronald Reagan. For awhile all was well in the suburbs and in the churches. Hoping to ride into the White House astride a paint, he called himself a "compassionate conservative", a label that meant whatever one wanted it to mean.

Meanwhile, experts from across the party's spectrum were flown to Austin to debrief Bush. All of them reported back: "He's one of us." Bush had mastered the art of being a political chameleon.
How did it come to this? Why is the fundamentalist set so disillusioned? Flash back to the GOP National Convention of 1992 when Pat Buchanan fired a first volley in what became known as the culture war:
No way, my friends. The American people are not going to buy back into the failed liberalism of the 1960s and '70s--no matter how slick the package in 1992.
...
Out of Jimmy Carter's days of malaise, Ronald Reagan crafted the longest peacetime recovery in US history--3 million new businesses created, and 20 million new jobs.
...
Under the Reagan Doctrine, one by one, the communist dominos began to fall. First, Grenada was liberated, by US troops. Then, the Red Army was run out of Afghanistan, by US weapons. In Nicaragua, the Marxist regime was forced to hold free elections--by Ronald Reagan's contra army--and the communists were thrown out of power.
- Patrick J. Buchanan, 1992 Republican National Convention Speech, Houston, Texas, August 17, 1992
The statement that still chafes, however, insinuated itself into the GOP consciousness:
Most of all, Ronald Reagan made us proud to be Americans again. We never felt better about our country; and we never stood taller in the eyes of the world.
- Patrick J. Buchanan, 1992 Republican National Convention Speech, Houston, Texas, August 17, 1992
Ronald Reagan made Americans feel good about themselves when, perhaps, they ought not have. Ronald Reagan made them feel good about themselves as millions of Americans were put out of work. Only a massive tome will do those subjects justice. Until that book is written, read: Ronald Reagan's War on Labor.

Here's what Pat didn't tell you: the liberalism of the 60s and 70s were, by any sane standard, rousing successes. Those policies failed only when measured against the distorted values of what was even then an extremist organization: the GOP. The 60s and 70s were characterized by economic expansion, relative egalitarianism, and the creation of jobs right here in the US.

Those gains would be lost as Reagan's "trickle down" economics precipitated a sixteen month long recession, the worst in American history since Herbert Hoover's Great Depression. The Jimmy Carter regime turned out to have been the last time that any American group outside the upper 20 percent would make economic gains. In the apres Carter world of Reagan Republicanism, everyone else would lose ground and would continue to do so until Bill Clinton's second term. Those are facts. Secondly, Ronald Reagan had nothing whatsoever to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. He had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that "commies" may or may not have been thrown out of Eastern European regimes. The "Russians" were not frightened by "Star Wars", an idiot's scheme then, an idiot's scheme now.

Most egregious is the undeniable fact that Ronald Reagan blew the century's last chance to survive outside the oppressive, omnipresent threat of nuclear war. It was at Reykjavik that Mikhail Gorbachev put nuclear disarmament on the table. Intimidated by his radical, right wing base, Ronald Reagan blinked. Better, I suppose, to maintain the terror for political ends than to end the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction - MAD.

Moreover, Ronald Reagan's role in the Iran/Contra scandal was criminal, possibly high treason. That Ronald Reagan was not indicted is pure politics. Special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh believed that Reagan was culpable and made his conclusion clear in his published conclusion:
The underlying facts of Iran/contra are that, regardless of criminality, President Reagan, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and the director of central intelligence and their necessary assistants committed themselves, however reluctantly, to two programs contrary to congressional policy and contrary to national policy. They skirted the law, some of them broke the law, and almost all of them tried to cover up the President's willful activities.
- Concluding Observations, Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters
Today, the religious right is dissapointed that GWB did not create a theocracy in America. Like the NRA, an organization dedicated to spreading lies about the Second Amendment, the Religious Right simply ignores the First Amendment which, as it guarantees all Americans the right of free speech, denies a "theocratic" foundation for our republic:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
--First Amendment, US Constitution
My how things have changed. These days religious conservatives, otherwise called the "religious right", are reconsidering their committment to GWB. Not worth the downside. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that, however unlikely it may have seemed just a few years ago when he had been reviled by "the right", John McCain has now emerged as the new ideological hero of the religious right.
Our model was Theodore Roosevelt, the original Bull Moose, who did not flinch from taking on the special interests at home while aggressively promoting American interests abroad. The modern champion of conservatives for national greatness is Sen. John McCain.
--Moose on the Loose
Back to Basics, Christian Soldiers

Perhaps signaling yet more discord in the ranks of Christian conservatives disillusioned by the war, a series of Republican scandals and a perception that the GOP had taken Christian support in the midterm elections for granted, the president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America turned down the job last week.
The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, the senior pastor at Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., was supposed to take the baton in January from current president Roberta Combs. But he said the board of directors would not commit to expanding the coalition’s agenda beyond gay marriage bans and anti-abortion platforms to include poverty and environmental issues.
- Tom Zeller Jr.
Meantime, a reminder from the Decider, if you don't stand for something, you don't stand for anything.

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