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writing for godot

The Serialization of: The 15% Solution: Author’s Preface, Part 2.

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Written by Steven Jonas   
Tuesday, 18 April 2017 04:47

This is the third installment of the previously announced serialization of my book, The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022 (https://www.amazon.com/15%25-Solution-Steve-Jonas/dp/0984026347/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475792455&sr=1-1&keywords=The+15%25+Solution).  It is the second half of the Preface that I wrote in my own voice for the current (third) version of the book, which was originally publihed in 1996.  The balance of the book, beginning with the next installment after this one, is written in the voice of its fictional author "Jonathan Westminster" (a play on the name "Jack London," author of the dystopic novel from a contury ago, "The Iron Heel").

The Republican Party and the “Rightward Imperative”

An essential element of this process [a description of which concluded Part 1 of this installment] is what can be called the “Right-Wing Imperative”. For example, consider that in the 2012 Republican primaries a candidate for his party's nomination known as ‘moderate’ would propose to abolish Medicare as then known, adopting something similar to the infamous (Rep.) Paul Ryan plan (which happened to sink any presidential aspirations Ryan himself might have had; but of course tone-deaf Romney did give him the consolation prize). In boasting about it, this candidate said: “I'll end Medicare faster than Newt Gingrich.” He also supported the proposed Mississippi Constitutional “Personhood” amendment to ensconce a particular religious belief as to when life begins (turned down by the voters of Mississippi!) Yes, that was Mitt Romney, who continued to have all sorts of trouble cozying up to the Republican Far Right, because of that awful label ‘moderate’ earned when he was Governor of Massachusetts.

Then there was the “traditional conservative” Rick Santorum who said (12): “As long as abortion is legal in this country . . . we will never rest because that law does not comport with God's law.” In other words, Santorum, as in that Mississippi “Personhood” Constitutional Amendment initiative that Romney supported, would put "God's law" above the U.S. Constitution. (Romney, it should be noted, believes that the Constitution was “divinely inspired.”) None of the other Republican candidates pointed out either of two major features of Santorum's position. First, the central feature of the Islamic “Sharia Law” that they all so eagerly pounce on as if its institution were just around the corner in the United States, is that it proclaims that “God's law” is to stand above any civil constitution that happens to be in place in the country.  Second, “God's law” in any country that is governed even in part by it is means simply what some group of men happen to say it is, of course always citing some “holy book” (that just happens to have been written by men). But the Republican Party was by then so far to the Right that this position of Santorum's is not challenged within it (13). (See also "Rick Santorum's Most Outrageous Campaign Moments," The Progress Report, Jan. 5, 2012.)

Then there was another conservative, Ron Paul. The bulk of the Republican establishment doesn't like him, because he would like to cut out virtually all of the US imperialistic overseas involvements, military and otherwise. That of course would lead to a major reduction in US military spending, but it would also end the cash cow that the war industry provides for its owners and their Congressional stooges in the US. It would also put an end to the central element of Cheneyism (14), the establishment of Orwellian Permanent War. It is this element of Paulism that attracts certain elements of the Left to him. But Paul also takes these positions, as The Nation's Katha Pollitt has pointed out (15):

“In a Ron Paul America, there would be no environmental protection, no Social Security, no Medicaid or Medicare, no help for the poor, no public education, . . .  no anti-discrimination law, no Americans With Disabilities Act, no laws ensuring the safety of food or drugs or consumer products, no workers' rights, [no] Federal Aviation Authority and its pesky air traffic controllers.”

On the other hand, this so-called “libertarian” would let the states criminalize any belief that life begins other than at the time of conception, and (quoting again from Pollitt) “he maintains his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and opposes restrictions on the ‘freedom’ of business owners to refuse service to blacks. . . . No wonder they love him over at Stormfront, a white-supremacist website with neo-Nazi tendencies."

In a rather remarkable way Libertarians—chiefly by practicing ahistoricalism—have succeeded in selling themselves to a wide section of the electorate as “reasonable conservatives” but, in reality, in many areas, as Pollitt enumerates, they hold radical right-wing positions. Nobody in today's GOTP [Grand Old Tea Party] would get anywhere by challenging any of them. Today's GOP is a far cry from that of Dwight D. Eisenhower who said publicly that the New Deal reforms were accepted and acceptable public policy and that the only differences between Democrats and Republicans on them were how they should be implemented. But how did the Republican Party get from Ike to Mitt and Newt and Rick (either of them) and Ron? Through what I have already referred to as the Imperative of the Right-Wing Imperative (12). It started with Goldwater and has proceeded through Reagan and the Bushes down to the present day.

Then we have this truly crazy Presidential electoral system in which truly tiny numbers of people in small states have an inordinate influence on who wins the Republican Presidential nomination. In 2012 little more than 200,000 generally far-right voters in Iowa determined who “won,” Romney and Santorum with about 30,000 (!) each, and who “lost,” all of the others. The Iowa caucuses are then followed by primaries in two more small states with right-wing Republican bases, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and then by Florida, which while not small also houses a right-wing Republican electorate. Thus, to have a chance of winning the nomination, more and more the Republican candidates' pitches have to be pitched to the Right.

It was left for Norman Orenstein of the (formerly right-wing) U.S. “think tank,” the American Enterprise Institute, no liberal he, to say, with Thomas Mann of the (no longer liberal) Brookings Institution, in their book It’s Even Worse than It Looks (16): “[Today’s Republican Party] is an insurgent outlier --- ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; not persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

Further Examples of the Thinking of Leading Candidates for the Republican Presidential Nomination, 2012

Let’s start with Newt Gingrich (17). In 1995 he proposed executing "drug smugglers.” In 1994, before the election returns were in, he referred to the President and Mrs. [Bill] Clinton as "counterculture (sic)." He said that he would seek to portray Clinton Democrats as the "enemy of normal people," and in a speech during the campaign he described America as a "battleground" between men of God, like himself, and the "secular anti-religious view of the left.” He also blamed a tragic murder-suicide by a young mother in South Carolina on the “values” of the Democratic Party. In 1995, he said: "We are the only society in history that says that power comes from God to you . . . and if you don't tell the truth about the role of God and the centrality of God in America, you can't explain the rest of our civilization. I look forward to the day when a belief in God is once more at the center of the definition of being an American.”

In 1985 he addressed the issue of AIDS, which at that time appeared to be a disease that would affect only homosexuals. At one point he said: "AIDS is a real crisis. It is worth paying attention to, to study. It's something one ought to be looking at. . . . [For] AIDS will do more to direct America back to the cost of violating traditional values, and to make America aware of the danger of certain behavior than anything we've seen. For us [the GOP], it's a great rallying cry.” Finally, in March, 2012, in discussing the possible imposition of (Islamic) Sharia Law in the United States (sic) that so many of his Republican colleagues seem to perceive as such a real threat, he said: "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time [my grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially [one] dominated by radical Islamists.” (How can a man of his reputed intellectual stature proclaim in one breath such nonsensical contradiction is typical of the range of unchallenged imbecility that exists today in America's political culture. I, for one would like to know how radical Islamists, known for their deep religiosity, would dominate in a nation defined by Newt as “secular” and “atheist.”)

Let’s consider Rick Santorum next. (18, 19) He is the most like my fictional “Jefferson Davis Hague,” (who, as the nominee of the “Republican-Christian Alliance” becomes President in "2004"). A major exception is that Santorum really believes the religious doctrines he pronounces while Hague doesn’t believe the stuff at all. Hague just used it to get to the Presidency and then spouted it as necessary in order to remain unchallenged in office. If Mitt Romney does not win the Presidency in (the real) 2012, Santorum will be quickly nominated, by the Fox”News”Channel at least, as the Republican “front-runner” for their nomination in 2016. (Fox “news” actually performed the same service for Romney in December, 2008.)

Santorum has referred to the science behind our understanding of global warming and the threats to humanity and indeed many of the Earth's species that it presents as "punk science." He feels that we should continue to rely on fossil fuels and indeed would vastly expand the extraction of same regardless of the pollution of the air, water and ground that such extraction causes (see the book’s “Resource Based Economy” [chap. 14]). He seems to be bothered by homosexuals and homosexuality to a rather extraordinary degree. He has compared homosexual intercourse to "bestiality," for example, and would outlaw it (see Chapter 11, “The Proclamation of Right.” Then see Chapter 18, “The Second Final Solution.”) In referring to the excesses of the French Revolution, he inferred that he believes in the “eternal values” upheld by the absolute monarchy that it overthrew.

On abortion policy, based on his religious belief about when life begins he is against it and wants it to be criminalized (see Chap. 7, “The Morality Amendment,” which would put the contemporary “Personhood Amendment” also supported by Mitt Romney, almost word-for-word into the Constitution.) In the process he would of course criminalize the religious/secular belief of those of us who hold that life begins at the time of viability. He does not tell us if he would be for sending just the abortion providers to prison, or would he include those women who have them too (see also Chapter 7). He has not told us how he would go about paying for the massive increase in the size and scope of the criminal justice system that the criminalization of abortion in the way he contemplates it would entail. Finally, he has said that he would outlaw contraception, for it is "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

Then we come again to Mitt Romney. Particularly interesting is his Mormon faith, discussed very little during the campaign, but which is the basic formative influence in his thinking about life and the United States (20). For those concerned with the central political issue of the separation of church and state and the ever-expanding intrusion of religious doctrine into the law and politics (that is, the subject of this book at its core), in a word: yes. According to Frank Rich, "[Romney's] great passion [his Mormonism] is something he is determined to keep secret" (21). It is well-known that many Right-wing Christians (usually referred to by the polite name "evangelicals" even though there are many evangelicals who are not right-wing) refer to Mormonism as a cult, and the evidence contained in the Book of Mormon 22) (see also 23) to the contrary notwithstanding, "not Christian." But such complaints generally don't make it to the national stage.

A New York Times article about Romney, Mormonism and his personal Mormonism also deserves mention (24). The information contained in it, drawn from friends, colleagues and fellow Mormon activists (and he is, or at least has been, a Mormon activist), raised some serious concerns. In historical Mormonism, the church and state were fully integrated in the person of Brigham Young. Of course, it has not been, on paper at least, since 1890 when Utah made its deal to join the Union. But the important point was, where did Romney stand on this question? As of this writing (August, 2012) he had not answered it directly. But what he did say in the vicinity of the question must give pause for thought to those of us concerned with maintaining that separation.

His Liberty University Commencement Address (25) of 2012 contained such phrases as: "Marriage is the relationship between one man and one woman," a definition that is derived from religious texts (and of course a definition to which the Mormon Church did not adhere until 1890, and at least one of his grandfathers had five wives, one of which was presumably one of his grandmothers [but those are other stories]). And "But from the beginning, this nation trusted in God, not man." And "there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action."  Rhetorically at least, he believes that the United States was chosen by God to play a special role in history, and that our Constitution was “divinely inspired." He has also professed the view that “America is the [Biblical] Promised Land." Finally, Romney prays frequently, feels that he has a direct connection to "God," and indeed engages in conversations with "God," asking for guidance in making decisions, even about matters of investment. Now, one would have no objection to Tevye talking with "God" in "Fiddler on the Roof." But for someone who would be President of the United States the questions do arise: what is the nature of these conversations; how often do they occur; what influence do "God's" answers have on his decision-making, does "God" accept the principle of the separation of church and state and if so, how does Romney find that his conversations with "God" are consistent with this principle.

Other Republicans and the "Supremacy of God"

As it happens, these references to “God” and his/her/its influence on the affairs of state are not confined to major Republican candidates for their party’s nomination for the Presidency in 2012. For example, in 1996 Patrick Buchanan said: "We're on the verge of taking [the Republican Party] back as prelude to taking back our country as prelude to taking back the destiny of America, and when we get there, my friends, we will be obedient to one sovereign America and that is the sovereign of God himself" (26). But that's Pat Buchanan. Is there a higher authority on the role of the Higher Authority?

How about one of George W. Bush's two favorite Supreme Court Justices, Antonin Scalia, considered by many to be the representative exemplar for the Republican Religious Right? Beginning with a quote from St. Paul as his thoughts are represented in the New Testament, Scalia had this to say about the subject (27):

"'For there is no power but of God [St. Paul is said to have said]; the powers that be are ordained of God. . . . The Lord repaid --- did justice --- through his minister, the state. . . .' "[This was the consensus] of Christian or religious thought regarding the powers of the state. . . . That consensus has been upset, I think, by the emergence of democracy. . . . The reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it, but the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible [emphasis added]."

Justice Scalia is still fighting the dyed-in-the-wool religionists' battle against The Enlightenment which, ironically enough, was the inspiration of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Further, Scalia has said on more than one occasion that he thinks that there is some divine "authority" standing above the Constitution (28). His soul mate Clarence Thomas does too. Scalia could have written the book’s "33rd Amendment" himself.

Of course there is no mention of such an authority, God or otherwise, standing above its precepts and proscripts in the Constitution itself, and it was written by the Founding Fathers to be the supreme law of the land. But Scalia is in a position to interpret the document and say "what it really means." So much for the Doctrine of Original Intent. Too bad I didn't have the above quote from Scalia at the time I wrote the book. I would have made it the rallying cry of the Republican-Christian Alliance as they proceed to use the Constitutional amendment process to destroy the Constitution and convert the United States into a "Christian Nation."

Finally on this point, like Mitt Romney, Pres. George W. Bush has been quoted as claiming something that Jefferson Davis Hague never did, even at the height of his powers: that he acts under the direct instructions of God. The quote came from what the leading Israeli daily Haaretz (29) stated was the transcript of the conversation of a meeting between Bush and the Prime Ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas on June 25, 2003. No denial of its validity ever came from the White House. And so:

"God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem of the Middle East. If you help me, I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

Bush did not claim, however, that he was acting under divine instruction in dealing with the Israel/Palestine conflict. Nor did he claim that God had already told him that He would be on his side in the upcoming elections.

And so, it happens that references to the "Supremacy of God" litter the speeches of the leaders of the Republican-Christian Alliance in the book, just as they litter the leadership of the 21st century Republican Party and its peripheral formations in reality. In the book’s scenario, the concept actually makes it into the Constitution (the "33rd Amendment,” see chap. nine) and then helps to pave the way for their eventual formal declaration of the United States as a "Christian Nation" (a long-time goal of such Christian Right leaders as David Barton [30]). That "God is supreme" is a theory of government (theocracy, in one form or another) that the Christian Right has publicly subscribed to for quite some time now.

 

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References:

1.         Stevens, W.K., "Scientists Say Earth's Warming Could Set Off Wide Disruptions," New York Times, September 18, 1995, p. 1.

2.         Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Earth, Winter, 2012.

3.         Specter, M., “The Climate Fixers,” The New Yorker, May 14, 2012

4.         McKibben, B., “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719.

5.         Lizza, R., “The Second Term: What Would Obama Do if Re-elected?” The New Yorker, June 18, 2012, p. 44.

6.         Phillips-Fein, K., Invisible Hands, New York: WW Norton, 2009, p. 254.

7.         ibid., Introduction.

8.         The Nation, “Islamophobia: A Double Issue,” July 2/9, 2012.

9. Turley, J., http://jonathanturley.org/2012/05/22/american-taliban-pastor-worley-and-how-to-solve-the-          homosexual-problem/.

10. Cooper, A., “360,” CNN, May 28, 2012.

11.       Wikipedia, “Social Fascism,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_fascism.

12.       Jonas, S., “The Imperative of the Republicans' Rightward Imperative,” Published on BuzzFlash@Truthout on Thu, 02/09/2012 [not copyright]. URL: http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13269. (For the specific references in the quoted version here, see the column as published.)

13.       The Progress Report, "Rick Santorum's Most Outrageous Campaign Moments," Jan. 5, 2012.)

14.       Jonas, S. “The Triumph of Cheneyism,” BuzzFlash@Truthout, 11/03/11,   http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13119.

15.       Pollitt, K., “Ron Paul’s Strange Bedfellows,” The Nation, Jan. 23, 2012, www.thenation.com/article/165440/ron-pauls-strange-bedfellows

16.       Rich, F., “Nuke ‘Em,” New York (magazine). June 25 – July 2, 2012, p. 37.

17.       Jonas, S. “Ask Newt Gingrich,” Published on BuzzFlash@Truthout on Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:09pm [not copyright], URL: http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13203. (For the specific references in the quoted version here, see the column as published.)

18.       ibid., “Rick Santorum, Front-Runner --- For 2016,” Published on BuzzFlash@Truthout on Thu, 02/09/2012 - 1:34pm [not copyright], URL: http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13320. (For the specific references in the quoted version here, see the column as published.)

19.       ibid., “Eleven Questions for Sen. Santorum,” Published by BuzzFlash@Truthout on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 10:06am. URL: http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13344. This column also appeared on The Greanville Post, http://www.greanvillepost.com/2012/02/23/ask-senator-santorum/. (For the specific references in the quoted version here, see the column as published.)

20.       ibid., “Mitt Romney’s Issues (that He Doesn’t Want Discussed), Published on BuzzFlash@Truthout on Thu, 05/24/2012 - 12:36pm.URL: http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13515 (For the specific references in the quoted version here, see the column as published.)

21.       Rich, Frank, "Who in God's Name is Mitt Romney?" New York Magazine, Jan. 29, 2012.

22.       The Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

23.       Tarisco, V., "Former Mormon: What American Need to Know About Mormonism," Alternet.org, March 26, 2012.

24.       Kantor, J., "Romney's Faith: Silent but Deep." The New York Times, May 19, 2012.

25.       Mitt Romney Press, May 12, 2012.

26.       Corn, D., “Buchanan Wins in New Hampshire,” The Nation, 3/11/96.

27.       Wilentz, S. "From Justice Scalia: A Chilling Vision of Religion's Authority in America," New York Times, July 8, 2002, p. A19.

28.       Chernus, Ira, “Scalia and a Supreme Being,” rd magazine: Politics, February 13, 2008, http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/70/scalia_and_a_supreme_being.

29.       Haaretz, "'Road Map a Lifesaver for Us,' PM Abbas Tells Hamas," June 26, 2003, quoted in Floyd, C., "Global Eye --- Errand Boy," June 27, 2003, http://www.tmtmetropolis.ru. Haaretz also has its own website, on which this material appeared.

30.       Wikipedia, “David Barton,” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David Barton

31.       Human Rights Campaign PAC, “If he were God, gays wouldn’t exist,” www.hrc.org, March 29, 2012.

32.       Fineman, H., “Rise of Faith within GOP Has Created America’s First Religious Party,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/05/republican-party-religion-first-religious-party_n_1322132.html

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