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Commentary: Theocrats Count on The Power of Inertia

Commentary: Theocrats Count on The Power of Inertia

The past few months haven't been good for the theocrats. One by one, their Republican buddies in Congress and elsewhere – Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, Porter Goss, Tom "Coingate" Noe, Mark Foley, Tom DeLay and others – have been cashiered or jailed ... and now one of their own, Ted Haggard, has copped a "Clinton": Whether it's crystal or his gay masseur's cock, he "smoked" but he "didn't inhale."

So what's this bunch of budding religious dictators to do?

Easy: Get out the vote!

Because, y'see, the religio-reactionaries realize one thing: If they can get their supporters to the polls, they stand a chance of pulling this election at least partially out of the fire. After all, if one of these right-wing church-going types finds him- or herself actually in the voting booth, what's he/she gonna do? Vote for a Democrat? Be serious!

Think of it as a form of holy inertia: Once the ultra-religious can be gotten moving, they'll head in the right direction.

"While you can typically count on born-again Christians to vote Republican, pollster John Zogby said that's not what he's seeing this time around," wrote "staffers" at Focus on the Family. "Many say they are simply undecided."

"Generally when I see a pattern like that, I know that those [who are] undecided are not going to vote for the Democrat, more than likely, and so the concern among Republicans will be whether or not they vote at all," Zogby said. "There's very little for conservatives to cheer about in terms of the accomplishments of this Congress."

That's funny; several of the other theocrat sites have been bragging about the oppressive legislation that conservatives in the House have managed to push through, such as the Pledge Protection Act, which would prohibit the courts from dealing with cases involving the Pledge of Allegiance; the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which forces pregnant minors to have a parent with them if they cross state lines to get an abortion – even if one of the parents caused the pregnancy; and the Marriage Protection Amendment, an issue that will be discussed momentarily.

So for at least the last couple of weeks, every single theocrat website and propaganda mailing has hit again and again on one theme: If you're a Christian, it's your duty to vote.

"We need to pray," explained Dr. Kenyn Cureton, vice president of church outreach for the Family Research Council. "After we're on our knees in prayer, we need to get up on our feet and take a stand. We need to take a stand for the value of human life. We need to take a stand for the value of traditional marriage. And we need to take a stand for our religious freedom."

Of course, what those terms mean varies depending on who says them.

"Dr. Dobson to Values Voters: 'Make Sure You Vote'" read the headline of a Focus on the Family special e-mailing.

"If people of faith — the so-called values voters — don't come out and let their voices be heard, there are going to be some major implications for this country," James Dobson said on his radio show earlier this week.

"Liberals are constantly telling us what they want to happen, and I pray that they aren't right," he continued. "If one of those states is lost — or two or three — it has serious implications for the future of the family. It means adoption laws will change. It means textbooks will all have to be rewritten to include man and man and woman and woman marriage."

Indeed; anti-gay marriage amendments are on the ballot in eight states, including Colorado, where Haggard was one of the measure's primary supporters, and the righteous have made much of the New Jersey Supreme Court's recent ruling that the state legislature will have to provide the same protections and benefits for same-sex couples as it does for heteros.

"Relying on a tortured reading of the New Jersey state constitution and ignoring the well-being of children and the family," claimed an e-mail from the Family Research Council, "the court ordered the New Jersey legislature to create the equivalent of traditional marriage and award it to same-sex couples. In a display of raw judicial power, the voice of the people, acting through their elected officials, was silenced and thrust aside in the pursuit of a liberal agenda."

Of course, when it comes to equal rights, the "voice of the people" is often "thrust aside" by the courts when it's clear that the voice is that of bigotry, whether religiously motivated or otherwise – but here, the "cause" serves double duty: It stokes the fires of fundamentalist fear and serves as an excuse to get the "values voters" out to the polls.

"By signing our Values Voter Pledge (click here to add your name) and encouraging your family and friends to do likewise," the e-mail concludes, "we can affirm before God and our fellow citizens that we intend to base our votes on timeless values, not transient interests."

Well, bigotry is a "timeless value"; it never seems to go away completely, and as long as the Revs. Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, Wildmon, Land and others still have air-time, it'll probably be with us for a while longer.

And if anyone has any doubt that the faithful can cement their intolerance in statute, they need only check out the bigotry the theocrats have already claimed responsibility for:

"[American Family Assn. president Tim] Wildmon knows of what he speaks," wrote Bill Fancher and Jody Brown of AgapePress. "He believes that an AFA-initiated boycott by nearly 600,000 Christians has contributed to Ford Motor Company's financial crisis, and that an e-mail campaign in which 750,000 Christians responded helped convince NBC to cut Madonna's mock crucifixion scene from her upcoming TV special."

It's a simple concept, really: If a company or person doesn't share your prejudices, mass your supporters and try to drive them out of business or at least off the airwaves!

The New Jersey decision provided a platform for a second reason that Christians should vote: Judicial activism.

"Looming Supreme Court Vacancies: Reason Enough to Vote November 7," read the headline on freerepublic.com.

"Conservatives who contemplate sitting out the November 7 elections should quickly consider the number five," the non-bylined article began. "Five – that is how many U.S. Supreme Court Justices will reach age 70 or older between this November 7 and the next nationwide election in November 2008."

Actually, Stephen Breyer is the only one of their list who hasn't reached 70 already; the others are John Paul Stevens (now 86), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (73), Antonin Scalia (70) and Anthony Kennedy (70).

"The question is thus," the article continues. "[W]ill the Senate balance allow confirmation of responsible justices, who will apply law rather than dictate law? Will our next justice be a John Roberts, or a David Souter? A Clarence Thomas, or a John Paul Stevens? A Robert Bork, or an Anthony Kennedy?"

Somehow, it seems to have escaped Free Republic's attention that the justices they don't like – Souter, Stevens and Kennedy – were all nominated by presidents they do like: George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, respectively.

And the terrible things "activist" judges can do? (Translations in brackets.)

"Renegade judges and Supreme Court justices have dictated that overseas terrorists are entitled to the same constitutional protections as petty domestic criminals [that the Constitution guarantees to all defendants the right to counsel, to a trial and to confront the witnesses and evidence against him/her]; that the term 'under God' be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance [that the First Amendment includes freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion]; that tobacco companies selling a legal product are liable for the voluntary choices that consumers make [that the companies should get a free pass for the decades of lying about their products' harms]; that irresponsible plaintiffs can sue restaurants for their obesity [anyone can sue for anything; no one's won such a case yet]; that a colorblind society is somehow unconstitutional [the courts have never said this]; or that private citizens literally cannot advocate the election or rejection of candidates within the weeks preceding an election [ditto]."

What's generally not being discussed in these screeds is almost as interesting as what is. For instance, while some of the political sites have actually mentioned Republicans' fear that a Democratic majority in both houses will mean impeachment proceedings for George Bush, the religious sites and e-mails haven't devoted a line to that. Perhaps they're afraid that talking about that issue may open them to charges that they've violated IRS regulations governing politicking by religious non-profits. For more on that topic, see our upcoming article on the subject.

But as election day gets closer, the theocrats are ramping up the fear. Just today, Rev. Mark H. Creech posted on the AgapePress News Summary his essay, "Who Shall Care for the Nation's Soul?"

"Make no mistake about it," Creech wrote, "the November 7 midterm elections are really about to whom Christians will leave the care of America's soul ... Will it be to those who exalt human reason as supreme? Or will it be to those who believe the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord? Will it be to those who believe education and science can solve all our problems? Or will it be to those who believe 'righteousness exalts a nation'? ... Will it be to those who promote sensual pleasures under the guise of individual liberties? Or will it be to those who are committed to the freedom of purity?"

David Barton, of Wallbuilders, an organization dedicated to rewriting American history to include religious motivations of the founders, was even more blunt.

"What will Christians say to themselves (and to the Lord) if: (1) they don't vote this election, (2) we lose pro-family champions in the House and Senate, (3) after the election, a Supreme Court justice announces his retirement (two-thirds of the Court is now older than 65), and (4) we no longer have the necessary votes to confirm a fifth strict-constructionist justice to the Supreme Court and thus begin bringing the culture war to its well-deserved demise? I certainly wouldn't want to try to explain that one to my friends or family (or especially to the Lord!). Just a thought for those who might need additional motivation!"

Indeed; hellfire and damnation often works with the churched sheeple, and it probably will again ... if they can be scared into going to the polls in the first place. But it'll be a few days before the rest of us know if they've succeeded.

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Mark Kernes

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