Nel's New Day

March 24, 2013

Can We Keep the U.S. From Being a Total Theocracy?

Each week Steve Benen writes a segment called “The God Machine” on the Rachel Maddow blog. This week he addressed the “renewed tensions between the religious right movement and the political party that ostensibly fights for its interests.” The focus is on the autopsy that the Republican National Committee released this past week, the “Growth and Opportunity Project.”

“The Republican National Committee this week unveiled a lengthy report, providing an ‘autopsy’ of what went wrong in 2012, and offering a blueprint for how the party can get back on track. The RNC’s vision covers quite a bit of ground, detailing possible plans on procedure, tactics, strategy, outreach, and just a pinch of policy.

“But to an almost surprising degree, the Republican National Committee’s plan is entirely secular. The ‘Growth and Opportunity’ report uses the word ‘Reagan’ six times, but there are literally zero references to God, Christianity, and/or the Bible. For a party that has spent several decades claiming to be the arbiter of morality and “family values,” the RNC’s secularism was unexpected.

“And for the religious right, disappointing. McKay Coppins had an interesting report on this, asking, ‘When the great Republican resurrection comes to pass, will conservative Christians be left behind?’

“To many religious conservatives, the report was interpreted as a slight against their agenda and the hard work they have done for the party.

“’The report didn’t mention religion much, if at all,’ said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. ‘You cannot grow your party by distancing yourself from your base, and this report doesn’t reinforce the values that attracted me and many other people into the Republican Party in the first place. It just talks about reaching out to other groups.’

“Sandy Rios, an Evangelical radio host and Fox News contributor, said the RNC report’s proposals amount to a ‘namby-pamby’ abdication of religious values, and warned that the party could soon lose the grassroots engine that has powered its electoral victories for decades.

“’They should be deeply concerned they’re going to be alienating their base,’ Rios said, adding, ‘It seems to me that the leadership of the party is intent on that course. Most Christian conservatives are not going to be party loyalists over principle, and so the GOP has a lot more to lose than Christians.’

“The RNC’s Sean Spicer defended the report, arguing that the report ignored the religious right because the movement has ‘always done a fabulous job,’ so the party doesn’t see this as an area in need of attention.

“The truth is more complicated, and for the party, more politically perilous.

“Reince Priebus has spent a fair amount of time lately reflecting on 2012, and it seems clear that he sees the Republicans’ culture war as an electoral loser–the American mainstream, and especially younger voters, just don’t hate gay people, reproductive rights, and the separation of church and state the way the GOP base does. To grow the party, Republicans won’t just have to change the way they talk about issues, they’ll very likely to have to change which issues they’re talking about.

“It’s why the RNC’s report also makes no mention of ‘abortion,’ ‘marriage,’ ‘religion,’ or even ‘pro-life.’ These aren’t the issues that will help the party become more competitive on a national level.

“But this is where the Republicans’ identity crisis gets tricky. Reince Priebus wants to use religious right activists as the party’s grassroots base–there just aren’t enough oil company lobbyists to work phone banks and engage in door-to-door activism–but also wants to pretend the religious right agenda isn’t at the core of the party. For the movement, this isn’t good enough.

“Reince Priebus also wants to signal to the American mainstream that his party isn’t dominated by culture warriors, and the GOP’s support for a right-wing social agenda is purely superficial, but Republican policymakers–at the state and national level–continue to focus on reproductive rights and gay rights, either out of sincere beliefs or motivated by a desire to pander to the religious right movement the RNC is content to ignore.

“It’s an untenable, unsustainable dynamic. If Republicans continue to obsess over social conservatism, they’ll struggle as a national party. If they don’t, they’ll alienate the voters they need to compete. The RNC’s report hasn’t papered over this problem; it’s helped put a spotlight on it.”

Meanwhile, religious bills proliferate across the United States.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) has signed a bill that forces schools to give students an open forum to push their religious beliefs on others. Students must be permitted to express their beliefs at school events such as football games or morning announcements as well as organizing religious groups on campus. If a teacher assigns a paper on evolution, students can write about creationism with impunity. They can also refute any other science facts such as human anatomy or climate change.

Although Kentucky’s governor, Steve Beshear vetoed the “religious freedom” act, the bill goes back for an override vote next week and will probably pass. The bill reads:

“Government shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be substantially burdened unless the government proves by clear and convincing evidence that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A ‘burden’ shall include indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.”

In the past, similar laws have allowed graduate students in social work to refuse services to gay people, schools to fire women for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, pharmacies to not fill prescriptions for birth control, and wedding service providers to shut out gay and lesbian couples.

Other religious takeovers:

Vouchers: Ten states and the District of Columbia allow and in some cases, require that creationism be taught in private voucher schools.

Creationism in public school science classes: This year alone, Colorado, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have attempted to pass bills requiring creationism be taught or allowing the questioning of evolution in the classroom. Montana State Rep. Clayton Fiscus (R-Billings) is trying very hard to get a creationism-in-class bill passed in that state.

Prayer/Proselytizing in public schools: Last year, Missouri passed their “right to pray” amendment which also permitted students to skip homework that they feel “offends their religious beliefs.”

Exemptions for “Conscience”: Leading the charge is the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a D.C. advocacy group that promotes policy that adheres to “Judeo-Christian tradition.” The EPPC is in the process of forming “religious freedom” caucuses in every state and has been successful thus far in nine states.

“Prayer” caucuses at the state level: Similar to “religious freedom” caucuses, “prayer” caucuses are the pet project of Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA). The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation wants lawmakers to “use the legislative process–both through sponsorship of affirmative legislation and through opposition to detrimental legislation–assist the nation and its people in continuing to draw upon and benefit from this essential source of our strength and well-being.” Thus far eight states have a “prayer caucus”: Maine, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, and Mississippi.

It’s time for people in the United States to decide whether we will allow the far-right evangelicals to turn this nation into a total theocracy.

March 23, 2013

GOP Legislators in Denial after Autopsy

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:22 PM
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For the Republicans who can’t understand how they’ve alienated women, minorities, the poor, LGBT, and anyone else who doesn’t fit into the white culture:

The  RNC autopsy following their losses in the 2012 general election, “Growth and Opportunity Project,” concluded that the GOP candidates can connect with women voters by “softer language,” fewer “graphs and charts,” and a collection of women doing media appearances. Translation: women aren’t smart enough to understand all that “information” and will vote for Republicans if other women tell them to do this. Republican strategist John Feehery said on Bill Maher’s show (March 22, 2013) that the GOP just needs to be nicer to people.

Igor Volsky has also prepared a fine chart of what the autopsy says as compared to the existing GOP policy.

Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL) attacked Tom Perez, even before President Obama nominated him as Secretary of Labor, for serving as board president of an organization that advocates on behalf of low-income immigrants and Latinos. Sessions uses the term “illegal immigrant” three times in one paragraph. This is Sessions’ MO: he used it four years ago when opposing the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) said, “Thomas Perez’s record should be met with great suspicion by my colleagues for his spotty work related to the New Black Panther case.” Two different investigations showed that the DOJ had no improper motive when it dismissed the case, and the decision to drop the allegations against the New Black Panther defendants happened five months before Perez took over the Civil Rights Division.

Arkansas Republicans passed a law requiring voters to show photo ID before they can cast a ballot on the day after the GOP autopsy was presented. These popular laws in red states will prevent 2 to 9 percent of registered voters, mostly low-income, students, and people of color, from casting a ballot. The state’s Democratic governor Mike Beebe is expected to veto the bill.

Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (IA), Orrin Hatch (UT), Jeff Sessions (AL), John Cornyn (OK), Mike Lee (UT), and Ted Cruz (TX) think that the debate on immigration reform is moving way too fast. After all, it’s only been six years since the Judiciary Committee started the process under George W. Bush.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) opposed Gina McCarthy, an expert on federal air quality law, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency not because he disagrees with her but because he wants a “concrete timeline for progress” on the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project. Even the Army Corps of Engineers has declared this $100-million piece of Missouri pork as a “swine” and “a bad project”–“an economic dud with huge environmental consequences,” draining more acres of wetlands than all U.S. developers drained in a usual year and cutting off one of the last piece of Mississippi River floodplain still connected to the river.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) objected to a routine Senate resolution commemorating Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. The hundreds of resolutions like “World Plumbing Day” passed by Congress are merely ceremonial, lacking any power of law. Cruz’s office said that he objected to the resolution because he wanted more time to examine the 500-word resolution that had already unanimously passed the House and typically passes without objection every year.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) opposed Caitlin Halligan’s nomination to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C. because she argued the state’s case as former Solicitor General of New York. He announced that he would filibuster her because “she’s got gun problems.”

 

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/03/21/17400961-pauls-perplexing-personhood-palaver?lite   Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a self-identified libertarian wanting strict limits on government power over people, has introduced “fetal personhood” legislation to give constitutional rights to “preborn humans.” The legislation would “ban abortion altogether at the federal level” and would probably ban hormonal birth control and in-vitro fertilization.

Kansas Republicans are proposing an anti-abortion law that would prevent anyone associated with an abortion provider from working in a public school or even volunteering in a classroom. Republican Rep. Arlen Siegfreid stated that the bill would “prohibit an abortion clinic secretary from bringing cupcakes to school for his or her child’s birthday party.”

FreedomWorks, the highly conservative Tea Party organization, created a promotional video with one segment showing a giant panda supposedly performing oral sex on then secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Two female interns were asked to participate, one wearing the panda costume and the other a Clinton mask.

Six influential Republicans (including GOP Reps. Darrell Issa, CA; John Kline, MN; and Frank Lucas, OK) are raising money for Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) Unopposed, he was re-elected after he pressured a former mistress, also his patient, to get an abortion and agreed with his wife that she should have two abortions, one because they were having trouble with their marriage. DesJarlais opposes legalized abortion.

The Arizona Senate has given preliminary approval to “reject a federal action that the people determine violates the United States Constitution.” If passed, SCR 1016 would prohibit the state and local government from using their employees or finance resources to enforce, administer, or cooperate with any federal action or program they determine is not “consistent with the Constitution.”

Arizona voters already rejected a 2012 measure, also from state Sen. Chester Crandall (R), that would have amended the state constitution to read: “Arizona declares its sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries,” nullifying federal authority over areas of the state controlled and protected by the federal government. Other states considering this unconstitutional nullification are Texas, Indiana, Wyoming, Kentucky, Arkansas,  and Alaska.

Arizona has another law that is equally wacky. State legislators want a law forcing transgender people to only use public restrooms, dressing rooms, and showers associated with the gender listed on their birth certificate. This extremist legislation from state Rep. John Kavanagh (R) appears to be a reaction to a Phoenix human rights bill prohibiting gender identity discrimination in public accommodations.  Violation could be punished by fines as high as $4,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) gave the following answer when asked if his views on marriage equality had changed:  “I’m not gay. So I’m not going to marry one.” Chambliss’ statement that he would oppose marriage equality because it didn’t affect him is reminiscent of Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) position that eliminated the requirement of maternity care from employers’ benefits. He said, “I don’t need maternity care. So requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) had an answer for Kyl’s illogic: “I think your mom probably did.”

These are just a few of the examples showing how the GOP continues to alienate everyone except white men. Next week, the GOP goes into the Supreme Court to support the discriminatory DOMA, continuing to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to prevent marriage equality. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) abusive budget, that Republicans passed this past week, significantly benefits top-income earners and corporations while severely penalizing everyone else.

GOP members also want to slash the corporate tax rate as profits skyrocket and wages for middle and lower income people shrink. At the same time, the GOP continues to pass bills that eradicate the benefits of Obamacare, either 36 or 39 times depending on who’s counting, in order to get rid of free contraception to women and allow employers to deny birth control to their workers. The GOP also voted against equal pay for equal work and stonewalled the Violence against Women Act for almost a year.

Yet Republicans still believe that it’s their messaging—or packaging—that keeps voters supporting the Democrats and not their actual policies. The autopsy shows the problems, but GOP legislators stay in denial.

March 22, 2013

GOP Issues Autopsy for Last Year’s Election

Since the GOP lost the presidency, the Senate, and the popular vote for the House, there has been much gnashing of teeth and agonizing over why the intelligent people of the United States would not elect Republicans. The  initial GOP strategy has been to pay for a study that would explain what the rest of us all know—that the anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-woman party caters only to wealthy white men, probably mostly old.

Earlier this week, the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” aka “autopsy,” was released with much fanfare by Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus. Prepared by a five-member Republican National Committee panel, the 100-page report based on 52,000 contacts with voters, party consultants, and elected officials was designed also as a roadmap. In his introduction of the conclusions, Priebus said, “As it makes clear, there’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement.”

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Some of the recommendations don’t sound at all like the GOP. It calls on legislators to “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.” Of course, the GOP definition of “reform” isn’t always rooted in reality.

Priebus said the RNC has committed $10 million to reach out to minority communities, but he said nothing about “self deportation” and “the most sweeping voting restrictions since Jim Crow.” Another area where Priebus will send money is the RNC technological infrastructure: Republicans are convinced that the only reason that the Democrats did so well in the last election was its massive database.

What will probably upset rank-and-file Republicans? Priebus praised Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) accepting marriage equality, saying, “I think it’s about being decent. I think it’s about dignity and respect, that nobody deserves to have their dignity diminished, or people don’t deserve to be disrespected.” No other GOP legislator is following Priebus’ lead, and this position is guaranteed to alienate the far right.

The document stated that “third-party groups that promote purity are hurting our electoral prospects.” There were no names, but it sounds like increased tension with the far-right wing, including the Club for Growth.

Imagine current GOP legislators agreeing with this paragraph from the report! I can just hear the screaming about “socialist warfare.”

“We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.”

In an interview with politico.com, Priebus said,

“[O]ur party has divorced itself from the American culture … [We] would make fun of the president for going on ‘The View’ — and you’ve heard me say these things — … you know, talking hoops for half an hour on ESPN.  That’s where a lot of America is at, and I think we’ve got to get with it …”

The message didn’t trickle down. Every year President Obama appears on ESPN’s March Madness to share picks for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) led the hue and cry that the president should be working on the budget and claimed President Obama’s act was “a shocking failure of leadership.” Scalise was followed by a YouTube video from the House Republican conference; other Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), went on social media to demand a new budget that they would ignore.

Speaking of leadership, the House went home today, having accomplished almost nothing except passing the continuing resolution that should have been taken care of last year. That chamber is scheduled to meet 126 days this year, an average of 2.4 days each week. That gives them 239 days off for the year. During their brief sessions, the only bills of substance, usually denying women and other people rights, are ones that have no chance of passing the Senate.

The report admits that minorities don’t feel respected by the GOP but doesn’t bother to explore why. Lots of recommendations about having a presence in black churches (who’s going to do that?!), hiring minority outreach directors, etc. but no substance. The states just continue to present bills to restrict minority and poor voters. Republicans still have a strong history of believing the president is a Muslim born outside the United States.

Even Republicans understand the problems of voter laws in GOP-controlled states. Michael Steele, who held Priebus’ job during the GOP’s highly successful win in 2010, said,  “How does Reince Priebus reconcile his approach and his agreement with voter registration policies that many in the black community view as anti-black, racist, whatever the term happens to be.”

These lines from the report show that the five people who prepared it are still pretty clueless:

“Our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms”

“Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry … as a way to attract younger voters.”

“There have been too many debates [in the last two Republican presidential primary races.”

“RNC must rebuild a nationwide database of Hispanic leaders” and “The RNC should develop a nationwide database of African American leaders” and “APA [Asian and Pacific Islander] leaders.” (This just occurred to them?)

“We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.” (But not do anything about it?)

“Eight of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment in America have Republican governors.” (Skipping the fact that 7 of the 10 states with the highest unemployment in America also have Republican governors–GA, SC, MI, MS, NJ, NC and NV. GA and NJ weren’t in the bottom 10 four years ago, and 7 of the 8 states with the lowest employment were there four years ago.)

“Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers. We need to do a better job connecting people to our policies.”

Republicans should “encourage governors to embrace diversity in hiring and appointments to the judiciary, boards and commissions.” (Some people call this affirmative action that conservatives are suing institutions because they use it.

“Women need to hear what our motive is–why it is that we want to create a better future for our families and how our policies will affect the lives of their loved ones.” (Does that include GOP opposition to reproductive freedom, insurance coverage for contraception, the Lily Ledbetter Act, and the Violence Against Women?)

“We can’t expect to address these demographic groups if we know nothing about them.” (This is a new idea?)

The autopsy does have some specific plans. Chapter 43: Friends and Allies (Third Party Groups), Section 1:1 Define the D’s Early and Track ‘Em (page 54):

“Well-funded conservative groups should seek to hire activists to track Democrat incumbents and candidates with video cameras constantly recording their every movement, utterance, and action. Within the applicable legal constraints, we need to create our own video content, bank it, and release it when it suits our candidates’ needs.

“An allied group dedicated solely to research to establish a private archive and public website that does nothing but post inappropriate Democrat utterances and act as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats would serve as an effective vehicle for affecting the public issue debate.”

So one of the answers to winning elections is to stalk opposing candidates.

As Dan Berger pointed out, the report doesn’t overcome the White Vote strategy that prevents the GOP from changing because the party needs the racism, sexism, nativism, religious bigotry, and homophobia for its constituents. Republicans can’t change strategies because, in opposition to their core principles, they would have to embrace social and economic equality.

The Right believes that “property rights” are absolute and sacrosanct; that the free market system is based on the unfettered transfer of property (and the right to gouge people as much as anyone desires); and that market forces must not be interfered with–regardless of their accompanying deleterious economic, social and political effects.

The current GOP party is providing an embarrassing richness of ideas that will sink the ideas–and possibly the entire party. More about that in the next few days.

 

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