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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Shabbat Goy: Au Contraire

"You guys have become the Jews of the 21st century," said Michael Horowitz, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, to a conference of evangelicals in Washington this week. The conference is called " The War on Christians and the Values Voters in 2006." Speakers include: Tom Delay, John Cornyn, Sam Brownback, and many other stars in the Christian right firmament.

Not to carry the Jewish analogy too far, however, conference organizer Rick Scarborough invites attendees to view Tom DeLay as a Christ figure, a man "God has appointed" brought down by his faith in God. After DeLay finished his speech, Scarborogh remarked that "God always does his best work right after a crucifixion."

Speaking of "laughing behind backs": Former DeLay communications director Michael Scanlon described his plan for mobilizing conservative Christians against the Coushatta tribe's casino competition as: "bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The plan will work, he continued, because, "The wackos get their information from the Christian right, Christian radio, the internet and telephone trees."

Did "Christ" have "Judas" working for him as communications director? Or is DeLay a false prophet? Wonder how the evangelicals incorporate the Coushattas into their theodicy.


At 9:30 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Let's face it; the evangelicals easily wear the mantle of laughingstock, although right now it seems to me that they're getting in just as many or more laughs at others' expense. In the context of that particular persecution-complex fest referenced in the Post article, Horowitz's comment was just unbelievable rhetoric -- he was actually saying that the evangelicals are the Jews of the 21st century in the sense that they are the new targets of persecution. Last time I checked, Dometian wasn't sitting on the throne, rather it was Constantine along with his rubber-stamp Senate and he was throwing everyone but the Christians and Capitalists to the lions. Wait a minute; maybe I mistook Constantine for Nero...

At any rate, I think the existence of the conference jibes with one of my major points. The evangelicals of Middle America are not being influenced by the eastern Jewish lobby as much as by the evangelical lobby, which is actually more pro-Israel than some in the Jewish community. As Don Feder, the head of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, said to his evangelical listeners: "Remember, the people in this audience are more Jewish than people like Barbra Streisand, because you embrace Jewish values, she doesn't." Unequivocal support for Israel on theological grounds is one of those values, I dare hazard. In short, in regards to Israel, we have a faith-based foreign policy.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger DK said...

Let me throw this out as a topic of discussion: To what extent do you agree with a main theme of this conference, that conservative Christians are losing the culture war?

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I think they're making real good progress in The War on Culture.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Frances said...

The conservatives are losing the culture war on the culture front--as in public opinion is moving away from them. Gays are gaining greater acceptance, women aren't expected to stay in the home anymore, America is becoming more religiously diverse, with the secular % increasing.

But this conference isn't about arguing with public opinion or broader societal trends. Instead, they're accusing others of discriminating against them. The case for that is laughable.

The Christian right may be losing on the culture front, but it isn't losing on the policy front. They've made nice gains in the composition of the Supreme Court, in restricting abortion and contraceptive access, impeding stem cell research, and in FCC decency regulation. They're very happy about all the tax cuts, too.

Government is only a small part of life, and its effects on society are limited. To the extent that government can play a role, the Christian right has gained ground over the past 30 years. The religious right have a powerful voice in public policy and a near veto over the Republican party's policies, nominees, and elected officials.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Despite the short term gains in policy, my guess is that the Xian Right will end up losing most of those battles over time, much as the old evangelicals eventually lost Prohibition. The wild card here is the Supreme Court: if Stevens dies suddenly in the next two years, you could quickly have a culture war majority in place.

What I find especially interesting about these battles is how the right has so easily co-opted the PC politics of the multiculti left to create a rhetoric of unending identity grievance. It's just that the "persecuted" minority is not blacks or women or gays, it's "Christians" and "taxpayers." It creates a weird marriage of power and privilege with constant whining, as if the rich, the white, and the Christian are constantly being thrown to the lions.

At 9:02 PM, Blogger DK said...

Not much to add, after the great posts from Frances and TMcD. But I've always been fascinated how social conservatism plays in Illinois politics. With the notable exception of gay marriage, it's the Democrats who introduce culture war bills attractive to evangelicals. They've got it down to a science: a downstate D will introduce a bill to ban gambling or abortion or stem cell research, the Democratic leadership brings it to the floor, and then it goes down. This strategy puts enormous pressure on suburban republicans, who face a Hobson's choice. Vote for the bill, and risk losing to a Moderate (i.e. social liberal, fiscal conservative) Democrat. Or vote against it, and risk a primary challenge from a "real" conservative. And it helps win seats down in southern Illinois for d's in districts Bush won by (up to) 10 to 15 points. By most accounts, the House D's - led by the strategically brilliant Speaker Michael Madigan (a social conservative, btw) - have picked up 3 or 4 seats on this strategy alone. Gay marriage is the exception to this rule. These bills are introduced by GOPpers and suffer a slow, painful death in the rules committee, mainly because they would probably become law (wouldn't want that; divides the party). So the R's try to put the issue on the ballot as an advisory referendum - and the Dem lawyers and judges keep it tied up in endless court challenges (didn't make it AGAIN this year, but probably will one of these days). But while gay marriage is still politically problematic for now, I'd trade that for the stem cell issue any day. This almost perfectly divides the Republican party - it's much worse for them then even immigration. Now all of this presupposes control of at least one chamber, political aptitude, vision, strength, and cunning, and a strategic vision that have heretofore been absent on the national stage. But if we assume a "perfect Dem strategist" I wonder if this general approach would work for congressional elections? Thoughts? I think probably in the House (and maybe eventually the Senate - that pesky small state bias!) but I'm not sure. I'll leave you with one revealing anecdote. The largest gay paper in Illinois just led with this headline: GOP nominates gay-friendly Topinka for Governor, with a picture of her at the Gay Pride parade with a cross-dresser. I don't need to tell y'all that this will feature prominently in downstate TV ads - funded by "independent" groups to reduce GOP turnout!

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Frances said...

DK -- really interesting! So IL Democrats have been strategically using culture war initiatives that won't pass to crosspressure suburban Republicans. This is sort of how those issues got their start in Congress. Culture war issues were a much bigger part of the congressional agenda in the 1980s when the GOP was using them to crosspressure rural/southern Democrats. Despite the impression one might get from news media coverage, there are actually far fewer votes on culture war issues today than in the 1980s now that the GOP has a majority.

I'm not sure if the IL approach translates easily to the national stage, though, even if the Democrats gain the House or Senate. With Democratic numbers reduced as they are, there aren't many members who represent districts where they can get mileage out of pushing cultural conservativism. If Democrats do win control of a chamber, the new Democratic seats are far more likely to come from suburban (culturally liberal) areas rather than from rural areas. These issues utterly alienate the urban/suburban Democrats, as in, most Democrats. Meanwhile, it's pretty hard to get to the right of what Republican majorities will support.


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