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Michaelson writes: "Dear Conservative Evangelicals, I drive a Prius, enjoy Vanilla lattes, and am married to a man. I know it's unlikely for me to be writing you this letter, and even more unlikely for you to read it. But unlike most of my Obama-loving, liberal friends, I am no longer afraid of you."

 (photo: Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast)
(photo: Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast)


Dear Evangelicals: You're Being Had

By Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast

01 December 14

 

Why are you trying to solve a cultural problem with a political solution? Because the Republican Party is using you.

ear Conservative Evangelicals,

I drive a Prius, enjoy Vanilla lattes, and am married to a man. I know it’s unlikely for me to be writing you this letter, and even more unlikely for you to read it.

But unlike most of my Obama-loving, liberal friends, I am no longer afraid of you. It’s clear to me that “your side” is losing the battle for public opinion, and I know that many of you agree with that assessment.

So why am I writing you this letter? Because, also unlike my liberal friends, I’m actually on your side, in some ways. I’m an ordained rabbi, and someone deeply concerned with the vulgarization and sexualization of our society. You and I disagree about the solution to this problem, of course, but we agree that there is a problem.

The trouble is, you’re trying to solve cultural problems with political solutions—because politicians have convinced you to do so. I am referring here to establishment Republicans, which for 150 years have consistently been the party of the rich and ungenerous.

In the first half of the twentieth century, most Christians distrusted this party, controlled as it was by “urban bankers” and others opposed to the Jeffersonian values of rural America. But in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the switch began—and by Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, it was complete. Republicans catered to conservative social attitudes on racial integration, and eventually moved rightward on issues like abortion and feminism, too, although you know as well as I do that they never really believed in them. They just realized that they could gain power by uniting two very different groups: the same moneyed elites as always, and you.

Now, let’s see who has won, and who has lost, in the ensuing 34 years.

It’s clear that the rich—call them the 1 percent if you like, but I prefer to think of them as the moneylenders whom Jesus threw out of the Temple—have prospered enormously. In 1983, the wealthiest 1 percent were 131 times richer than the average American. In 2009, they were 225 times richer. In 2012, the top 20 percent made $13.5 trillion in income; the entire bottom 80% made $1 trillion.

These are disparities not seen since before the Great Depression. Whether for better or for worse, the ultra-rich have done extremely well in the 30 years you’ve allied with them.

How have you done, in the same period? Not well at all. Not only is gay marriage now the law for over two-thirds of Americans while the value of marriage in general has been declining for decades; not only are television, film, music, and video games more vulgar than we could have imagined in 1980; but more Americans are declaring themselves “Nones,” that is, people of no religious affiliation, than ever before in our history. Sure, some churches are expanding, but overall, your way of life is in steep decline. In short, you are losing horribly.

So, who is using whom here? Have the rich Republicans been good for you, or have you been good to them?

I look at the alliance you’ve forged with these people, and I don’t understand why you’re in it. Their agenda keeps winning, and yours keeps losing.

Moreover—and I don’t want to speak out of turn here—their agenda is even eating away at yours. What happened to the Christian concern to “love the least of these,” the most vulnerable, the most destitute? In my opinion, supply-side Republicans have convinced many Christians not merely that the welfare state is a bad idea, but that generosity itself is a vice, that public assistance equals dependence, and that giving the wealthy even more breaks is the way for benefits to “trickle down” to the rest of us.

That theory, by the way, has never been proven. When it’s been put into practice, it’s only made the ultra-rich richer. It’s done nothing for the middle class, the working class, and the poor. And its mean-hearted message, in my opinion, has corrupted the social gospel. Of course, prosperity is a good thing. But our current moment isn’t one of prosperity—it’s of inequality on the scale of ancient Rome.

Now, I’m not saying that you should jump on board with the Democrats’ agenda either. I’m saying that this Republican claim that you can build a Christian nation through politics is bogus, and only serves their goals.

You’re fighting the wrong fight. You should be making your case in culture, not in Congress. Look around. Atheism is highest in Europe, where there are established churches involved in the political process. But according to most historians, America is the most religious country in the Western world precisely because of the separation of church and state.

That “wall of separation” that liberals like to talk about? The original metaphor was: erect a wall to keep the garden of the church free from the wilderness of politics. The more you try to force your beliefs on others, the more people dislike you.

Of course, there are now multi-billion-dollar organizations dedicated to Christian politics. But how effective have they been? What has all that money bought?

I’ve worked in the LGBT movement for 15 years. At first, we, too, tried a political approach, talking about equal rights, civil rights, and so on. But the movement’s PR people found these messages weren’t working. So, in the 2000s, we shifted. We worked in the cultural arena instead, with pioneers like Ellen and Will & Grace. We went into churches and synagogues, testifying about our lives and our families. We changed people’s hearts, not their laws.

We also found messengers who could communicate the truth of our lives. Sure, there are radicals in the LGBT community who really are opposed to mainstream values—and some of them are my friends! But there are also moderates, even conservatives. The LGBT movement looked for places where we could find common ground, and focused there.

But because the public face of Christianity is now made up of the political operatives who can shout the loudest, your “wingnuts” are in center stage. I know that most Christians are not bigots or homophobes. I read the data, and I have Christian friends. But you have to admit: you’re putting your worst feet forward. Many of your spokespeople are loud and mean, because they can turn out the votes.

This all feeds into that devil’s bargain with the Republican Party. They stir you up about social issues in order to get you to the polls, and then they don’t really do anything about them. Because, in fact, they can’t. These are cultural questions, not political ones, and they have to be solved in the cultural arena.

To be clear, I’m not alleging any vast, right wing conspiracy to hoodwink Christians into voting Republican. I know that many of your values do, indeed, align with Republican policies.

But from the outside, from my side of the aisle, the situation seems very clear. The Republican rich are doing very well, and you’re losing badly. There’s only one conclusion I can draw from that: you’re being had.


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+118 # RCW 2014-12-01 13:15
Could not have been better said, and what you say is demonstrated again and again by remarks made by respondents to articles on line who attack a form of religion that most Christians and Jews I know would reject as well.
 
 
+29 # patrick.wells66 2014-12-01 13:20
Thank you Jay! My extraordinary lesbian daughter was sexually abused by her stepfather, who is an evangelical Christian. On top of that, my animated movie for children, AT JESUS' SIDE, has not been supported or celebrated, but totally ignored by the National Christian Leadership. Why, because the National Christian Leadership had supported Bush's disastrous War in Iraq with Old Testament quotes. The movie includes a Biblically correct Crucifixion and Resurrection with a message of “Forgive thy enemies”.
Because it will inspire peace, the message of AT JESUS' SIDE is Jesus’ most important lesson for mankind, "Forgive thy enemies". The Dove Foundation gave it 4 out of 5 stars writing, "A sure to become classic animated movie that brings the teachings of Jesus to life in today's families through the story of five misfit animals on a journey toward love and forgiveness… The characters are delightful. This is a warm and nice story and every family member can enjoy this DVD. We happily award our Dove ‘Family-Approve d’ Seal to this DVD. It is terrific!” This is the first film about Jesus that has some laugh out loud comedy in it. This film was carefully produced to entertain all generations while creating a unique opportunity for the whole family to share the tears of the Crucifixion and the joys of the Resurrection.
http://www.atjesussidemovie.com
 
 
+58 # Dust 2014-12-01 13:20
Most excellently well-said!!

All religious groups should gain converts and support by their example, not by religious law.
 
 
+59 # fredboy 2014-12-01 13:24
Beautiful. Been trying to explain this to twisted relatives for two decades. They drank the Kool-Aid.
 
 
+49 # Sisddwg 2014-12-01 13:25
Jay, I think that you nailed it. Nuff said.
 
 
+55 # Regina 2014-12-01 13:26
Rebbe, we're ALL being "had." The ultra-right has politicized religion to a far greater extreme in the 21st century than previously, and their political gamesmanship belies their "faith" speak, by far. Just look at Colorado Springs, CO, as the well-spring of super-evangelis m. Their ultra-evangelic al stranglehold on the military, their invasion of public education, and their demands for their version of Christian allegiance in public forums have poisoned all appeals to the Constitution for the salvage of the crumbling wall of separation. Yehoshve (Jesus) would not approve!
 
 
+24 # anntares 2014-12-01 13:46
Desmond Tutu's book "No Future Without Forgiveness" shows how some South African white torturers and murderers and the families of the young black men they killed for standing up for democratic self-government and found ways to make amends and find forgiveness.

If they can do it, US citizens can come back together as fellow Americans. I know some Evangelicals who are true to the values of Jesus Christ - they help the poor, feed the homeless, care for the drug addicted or alcoholic.

They do not let political positions influence their connections with people. They also show compassion for both Israelis and Palestinians instead of wanting Jerusalem for themselves - and when they get it, will give Jews 48 hours to convert or else. Unfortunately some have become the spokespeople for politicians funded by corporate interests and issue-focused political organizations like ALE and, AIPAC.
 
 
+14 # anntares 2014-12-01 13:47
ALEC not ALE - American Legislative Exchange Council
 
 
+3 # anntares 2014-12-01 19:47
I can't send this article to a friend who is a kind evangelical pastor because the tone will tune him out. Check out this book:

en years after writing the definitive, international bestselling book on political debate and messaging, George Lakoff returns with new strategies about how to frame today’s essential issues.

Called the “father of framing” by The New York Times, Lakoff explains how framing is about ideas—ideas that come before policy, ideas that make sense of facts, ideas that are proactive not reactive, positive not negative, ideas that need to be communicated out loud every day in public.

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! picks up where the original book left off—delving deeper into how framing works, how framing has evolved in the past decade, how to speak to people who harbor elements of both progressive and conservative worldviews, how to counter propaganda and slogans, and more.

In this updated and expanded edition, Lakoff, urges progressives to go beyond the typical laundry list of facts, policies, and programs and present a clear moral vision to the country—one that is traditionally American and can become a guidepost for developing compassionate, effective policy that upholds citizens’ well-being and freedom.
 
 
+45 # JLischin 2014-12-01 13:48
Nicely stated. I'm an agnostic, Buddhist influenced, married, heterosexual Jew. Politically I'm pretty left wing. My work is as a social service, education and medical consultant grantwriter. It gives me an interesting perspective on religious Christians. Many, many colleagues and clients are very religious Christians determined to help the needy. Dedicated. Loving. I work with mostly minority serving organizations where Christian faith is a primary pillar. Yet in the ying/yang of life so many haters also draw their strength from Christianity. The KKK saw themselves as defenders of Protestantism. Hated Jews and Catholics almost as much as Blacks. It's a complex world. Today's republicans would fiercely attack the Sermon On The Mount if it was distributed today and or reworded as an act of legislation. An articulate gay Rabbi gives me hope. My multi-faith, multi-race, multinational family gives me joy.
 
 
+3 # babalu 2014-12-03 07:29
Sounds like a good experiment: the Sermon on the Mount as a bill before states and US congress.
 
 
+63 # jon 2014-12-01 13:57
It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.

Mark Twain
 
 
+17 # kevenwood 2014-12-01 14:14
Very well said -- I agree with this article. And now the question is, how are progressives being had by the Democratic Party? Who wants to step up and write that one.
 
 
+11 # reiverpacific 2014-12-01 14:24
"Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didn't make,
And who with Eden disds't devise the Snake;
For all the Sin wherewith the Face of man
Is blacken'd,
Man's forgiveness give -and take!"
A wise Persian.
 
 
+17 # davidr 2014-12-01 14:24
Michaelson misreads the problem. Culturally, Christian fundamentalism (religious fundamentalism in general) is a dead letter in modern liberal societies. The irreducible requirement of a liberal society is secularism, which includes empiricism, free thinking, open debate, social diversity, equal dignity, etc. In other words, the culture of a liberal society is anathema to religious fundamentalism and vice versa.

Michaelson believes that evangelicals have been seduced away from a belief in charity toward the least of these. Maybe so, but the more important doctrine that they have rejected is to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Unlike Jesus, they are unprepared to accept a duality between their spiritual inner lives and their membership in a worldly society among people with their own private minds & hearts.

Michaelson is therefore advising fundamentalists to engage the very culture that they reject. They don't want to engage; they want to win. They want to beat Caesar politically and overthrow the culture. That fight requires abandonment of every form of Christian humility, including charity, which they forsake not in error, but knowingly, because “the least of these” belongs to secular society. Christian fundamentalism is about surrendering what is Jesus's in order to defy Caesar.
 
 
+7 # jon 2014-12-01 16:06
Very well stated, davidr!

"they are unprepared to accept a duality between their spiritual inner lives and their membership in a worldly society among people with their own private minds & hearts."

They are not concerned with their own spiritual inner lives. They think religion is something other than that - a means for subjugating their women first, and the "others", second.

This syndrome is not limited to Christian fundamentalists . It is the same with ALL fundamentalist sects of the world Religions.
 
 
+8 # JJS 2014-12-01 16:47
"...the culture of a liberal society is anathema to religious fundamentalism and vice versa. ..."-davidr

I think you have stated a key concept the US tried to establish with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A liberal society, pillared by laws, is accepting that the fundamentalist has a right to exist, participate in society, believe and practice their religion to the extent it does not infringe on the rights of other members of that society. A fundamentalist should respect the rights a liberal society would bestow on them and abide by the laws that guarantee the rights of everyone. A more perfect union is the path we should be on, not the winner take all, as you describe. Unfortunately, the US has slaughtered many fundamentalists and just plain old "other" religious members in it's history, too.
 
 
+22 # cakhuxel 2014-12-01 16:25
I keep telling my very nice ultra-Conservat ive friend- you have let the lunatics own the asylum. In the Democratic media, we shun the crazy voices, the people who are too extreme to be given a pulpit. But the Republican media gives their crazy voices a national platform.
 
 
+16 # Farafalla 2014-12-01 16:33
At the risk of getting thumbs down, I think this well-intended article is quite naive with respect to evangelical Christians. While I have not researched this deeply, I think there is enough journalism and scholarship to reveal the real reasons why rational secular liberals and left wing people reject the religious right. The GOP has them by the balls because it's the only political group ready to endorse the repugnant theology of the Christian Right.

What evangelicals believe:
that the world was made in seven days and is not older than 5,000 years.
That science that questions "faith" is satanic.
That Jesus had a role in the writing of the Constitution, especially the second amendment.
That Jesus wil come at the end of times (any day now) with a sword and not peace, that he will rapture a chosen few from the whole species, the rest will be left behind.
That the United States is chosen by God to rule the world.
That the founding of the state of Israel is a sign of the coming end times
That Jesus was muscular and not meek
That the rapture happens on the first (or is it third?) day of the tribulation (big theological question for Fundies)
That homosexuals should be killed (see advances made by white evangelicals in their "missions" to African countries).
That all other kinds of Christians are heretics and apostates and will go to hell.
That non-Christians go to hell.
That women should serve their husbands.

Feel free to add your own points...
 
 
+4 # babalu 2014-12-03 07:32
That women should serve their husbands... AND husbands rule over the family, which cannot question the authority of the "father."
 
 
0 # LAellie33 2014-12-18 15:02
Agricanto: Very well said, and I totally concur!
 
 
+16 # reiverpacific 2014-12-01 16:48
Wonder if ol' "JoeConserve" read this?
When pushed for an argument, he always backs up into the "Your Latte is getting cold" cliche or some such banality -and he once, in a giant but typically reactionary leap of presumptuousnes s, told me I "--obviously knew nothing about spirituality".
My wife's older brother is one of these "Born-again" Evangelicals who at one time told his own ailing, lovely, classy and spiritual mother that she'd go to Hell just because she kept her own beliefs to herself and didn't go to HIS church. We cut off all contact with he and his humorless, God-bothering alleged friends some years ago; he altered their dad's will to pretty much cut my wife out; -so VERY Christian, innit?! And he's a devotee of Rush Limpballs, so go figure.
On the other hand and to be fair, the leader of our local cat rescue organization, which I also volunteer to and support as best I can, is a deeply sincere Christian believer who actually walks the talk but you'd never know it as it's very personal to her; and there are many happy kitties with good homes or being fostered by virtue of this good, loving woman.
 
 
-27 # moafu@yahoo.com 2014-12-01 17:19
Dear Jay,

I'm going to make an effort to dialog with you. We have a lot to discuss since I have been a Pentecostal Pastor for 51 years and have stood firm in support of Israel and Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

You make some good points that I would like to discuss since I'm fine w/ the term "marriage" for same sex unions.

what I don't understand is your personal inconsistency. You sing the praises of the Democratic party. This is the party that illegally removed the words "God" and "Jerusalem" from is 2012 Presidential Platform in a verbal vote that was clearly NOT a majority.

Your thoughts pls.
 
 
+26 # Ken Halt 2014-12-01 17:40
A sure sign that you didn't read the article is this sentence from said article "Now I'm not saying that you should jump aboard with the Democrats agenda either." Not exactly singing praises, is it? To point out the obvious disconnect between the interests of the 1% and the so called Christian evangelicals is not an endorsement of the D party. Conservatives have such poor critical-thinki ng skills.
 
 
+4 # reiverpacific 2014-12-02 19:16
Quoting Ken Halt:
A sure sign that you didn't read the article is this sentence from said article "Now I'm not saying that you should jump aboard with the Democrats agenda either." Not exactly singing praises, is it? To point out the obvious disconnect between the interests of the 1% and the so called Christian evangelicals is not an endorsement of the D party. Conservatives have such poor critical-thinking skills.

That's 'cause himself is probably speaking' in tongues as Pentecostalists tend to do. If you've never witnessed this, it's quite trip -and Pentecostalists aren't the only denomination that do it. I was at a Catholic "Charismatic" service with my late ex-wife (one time only) and many of these seemingly rational Middle Class White people started yattering in all kinds of sounds which didn't equate to any language I've ever heard and must have come from a Galaxy far, far away -and they saw Angels hovering over us all too.
Now I've had some strange, Shaman-guided hallucinogenic experiences in different Andean "Oriente" and North African locations but these people had been drinking only coffee before this sudden onset of the "Spirit".
All this experience should make me open to almost any spiritual occurrence but I was a bit apprehensive rather than moved by these gibbering antics.
Explains a lot; the Tea-Thugs have their own language too, which is all to easy to comprehend -"Fuck everybody who isn't white, rich and Protestant Christian!"
 
 
+12 # ericlipps 2014-12-01 21:39
How was anything about either party's 2012 platform "legal" rather than merely political?

As for that verbal vote being "clearly NOT a majority," surely if that were so the majority would have stepped up to complain? If you were watching on TV, you may simply have gotten a false impression.
 
 
0 # humanmancalvin 2014-12-02 11:25
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/democrats-reinstate-god-and-jerusalem-language-in-party-platform/
This site along with 10's of thousands more dispute your assertions. There was talk about the removal but Prez. Obama vetoed that idea & yes any conversation about God & Jerusalem were open for any & all discussion.
If you are going to write, perform a tad more research unless you enjoy being seen as totally fact wrong in a public forum.
 
 
+5 # mmcmanus 2014-12-02 14:37
You apparently completely missed the point about the separation of church and state/politics.
 
 
+2 # babalu 2014-12-03 07:45
1) It was not ILLEGAL for the Democrats to remove God and Jerusalem from the Presidential Platform. Because there are no LAWS on it, it is not illegal. Was this derived from Republican talk which is always - what's the Christian way to say this - loose? Was it against the rules ? I was not there. Were you?
2) If you support Israeli, do you support Israeli's using Palestinian for target practice? Jesus would not countenance that, but the Old Testament god would - do you ignore Jesus's teaching of love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, etc.? Are you a Jesus-following Christian, or a picker-and-choo ser? OT when it supports you, picking four words that supposedly prohibit homosexuality out of hundreds of other proscriptions you ignore? Sure they have "bombs' - mostly rocks and duds.

Why should not the imprisoned (ghettoized) Palestinians have a way to protest sufficiently to get the Israelis and the world's attention?
 
 
+7 # LizR 2014-12-01 18:39
Agreed with most of that except your use of Ellen - the person who said on TV that "books are boring". I can never forgive her for that, as though dumbing down wasn't already a big enough problem. As irresponsible as our very own Mike Hosking saying there can't be anything in climate science because "they can't even get the weather right."
 
 
+15 # Texas Aggie 2014-12-01 21:17
you’re being had.

This is just another example of the right wing penchant for biting off their noses to spite their faces. They are well aware that they are being victimized and complain about it constantly, but their desire to hurt their opponents far outweighs their desire to not hurt themselves. It's like a boxer willing to take a couple of punches just to land one of his.
 
 
+3 # Rain17 2014-12-02 13:07
I will say this much. I get the intent of this article; but, if the goal is to get them to reconsider their viewpoints, this piece is an utter failure. It's great for the already-convert ed, but a failure for everyone else.
 
 
+3 # rayb-baby 2014-12-02 13:23
"They are well aware that they are being victimized ....."

The only thing is that they are NOT aware of who they're being victimized by. They can start by looking at their own evangelical leaders
 
 
+1 # Rain17 2014-12-02 13:30
But do you think calling them stupid, as this piece implies, is going to get them to reassess their viewpoints?
 
 
+11 # Keep up the good work 2014-12-01 22:03
"Republicans have convinced many Christians not merely that the welfare state is a bad idea, but that generosity itself is a vice, that public assistance equals dependence, and that giving the wealthy even more breaks is the way for benefits to “trickle down” to the rest of us." Can we please stop strengthening this "trickle down" frame and call it what it is...and was always meant to be...GUSHER UP!
 
 
+2 # Rain17 2014-12-02 12:28
Many of them also believe in the idea that "those who shall not work shall not eat" and that "the Lord rewards those who help themselves." A lot of it is also due to the idea of "predestination " from the Puritans.
 
 
+1 # babalu 2014-12-03 07:51
Love the phrase! Will use it!
 
 
-6 # Rain17 2014-12-01 23:51
If the goal here is to preach to the already-convert ed, sound self-righteous, and project moral superiority, then this piece is an an overwhelming success. If the goal here is to change peoples' minds and get them to reconsider their viewpoints, then this piece is an utter failure.

"Voting against their own interests" is just as toxic to the left as the "47%" is to the right. It has same the toxic effect in alienating people.

Calling people stupid and dumb isn't going to get them to change their minds. I get the point that the piece is trying to make, but I don't think it's effective.
 
 
+1 # bcoomber 2014-12-02 22:35
Rain17,
I agree with you. But I'm at a loss to see how the piece could have been written in order to have been more effective. Can you offer a couple hints?
 
 
+1 # Rain17 2014-12-03 21:30
I guess that the first thing not to do is imply that they are stupid. I would also probably frame it more by asking questions like, "What has voting Republican done for you?" "Has it improved your standard of living" and so forth?
 
 
+1 # babalu 2014-12-03 07:52
I understand you want to blame "voting against their own interests." Could you explain why? Honestly I don't understand.
 
 
+13 # ericlane 2014-12-02 03:37
We need to be aware that there are radical religious right groups like the Dominionists who believe they need to take 'dominion' of everything including the government. In their theology taking over government would help bring in their type of theocracy. There is C Street and many Republican politicians, especially Southern, are connected to virulent religious strands. The Southern Baptist Convention, the third largest 'denomination' after Catholics and non-believers, wouldn't know how not to be political. Their entire theology is based on the more you have the closer you are to god. A sort of spinoff from King worshiping. You need to live in the South for awhile to understand how far to the right many Southerners are.
 
 
+4 # kyzipster 2014-12-03 07:52
There's a reason Democrats dominated Washington for 50 years prior to Reagan, the Republican economic agenda only caters to a very small percentage of voters.

Republicans have become completely dependent on their culture war to maintain power because they still have nothing to offer middle class, working people. It's just a continuation of their racist Southern Strategy, reaching all 50 states. They have managed to convince these same culture warriors that the very rich need to benefit more than the rest of us and that government is evil and anti-American. I'm not sure how much longer they can sustain this myth with no facts to support it.

I think the only thing keeping them in power today after all that's happened over the last decade is the failure of the Democratic Party. They can't define themselves and shy away from the progressive agenda, in fear of these culture warriors. Bought off by the same corporate powers as the Republicans. The conservative movement has won and reshaped our country. Both parties are pushing the same agenda in too many ways. What a mess and what a shame, we had so much potential.
 
 
+2 # Skeeziks 2014-12-03 11:38
Well said. I agree and espouse your sentiments, although not as efficiently explanatory as you have written. Thank you.
 

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