For at least a couple of decades GOP American presidential politics have been dominated by intensifying ideological conflicts that today’s mediocre media has embraced because the Jerry Springer-Fox News infotainment model states that nothing engenders more heated arguments, ergo more viewers and ad dollars.
Tactics of this sort are extremely successful at driving wedges between facts and faith, science and religion—-and most notably, they produce anger and division–anger being the most valued emotion (with conspiracy theories being a close second) under these economic models because they ramp up preconceived notions, stereotypes, prejudices, rationalizations of otherwise ridiculous lies, and engenders loyalty from the target audience by doing so.
This scenario plays into the wheelhouse of Christian moralizers like Mike Huckabee, who along with fellow faux religious zealots, like Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum, seek to draw in the very viewers described above. It also allows them to dodge any remaining journalistic attempt to get to the core of what they would actually do in any given serious situation. This type of atmosphere is precisely what took place in electing George W. Bush to the presidency with his promises of “compassionate conservatism”.
So, as we brace ourselves for another GOP primary season defined by “traditional values,” as opposed to solid ideas, plans, or policies that would make any improvements to the sorry state of the American middle and poverty classes, we have set the table for another struggle between a significant number of voters choosing candidates based on emotions and those who want solid policies that would bear results that favor the electorate rather than wealthy donors or corporations.
Republicans such as Huckabee use their religion as a prop: They judge and preach and condemn under the cover of Christianity. And they assume this grants them a kind of moral superiority. Well, I beg to differ. I can distinctly remember last time Huckabee ran for president and listening with incredulity as Huckabee, speaking at an early primary rally, encouraged his supporters to look for neighbor’s cars at rallying points with his opponents’ bumper stickers displayed on election day and let the air out of their tires. Now that is low-tech voter suppression at its most basic level.
Huckabee is the epitome of a political huckster; a tried and true donation-dependent welfare queen. He presents himself as a devout Christian, but his preaching is foul and nasty and his values are completely unChrist-like. He is exactly what many other current GOP candidates are as well: political entrepreneurs. They climb atop the Christian cross, and proceed to use it as a modern day soapbox so they can draw crowds that share their “faith” while bastardizing it with immoral, unethical, and self-promoting connotation. This also frees Huckabee from having to do the hard work of presenting reasonable plans that would actually repair the crumbling infrastructure or help Americans recover from the pervasive income inequality that dooms millions to poverty, much less present a plan that benefits anyone other than the top 1% who have been the only beneficiaries of conservative voodoo economics, who then simply squirrel it away into some foreign tax shelter.
But these “conservative fundamentalists” are chasing votes, and money, not salvation or economic betterment for others. Sarah Palin parlayed her one national run into a snake oil dynasty only to see it slip away after her motives became so obvious that aside from only the most ardent of her once-loyal flying monkey followers reluctantly gave up on her.
Along with other non-supported GOP myths like they are better with the economy or they care about veterans, the GOP has controlled the moral narrative in this country. Conservatives have wisely appropriated the language of values and, remarkably, they’re rarely challenged on this claim. When Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal or Mike Huckabee bloviate about family values, someone should ask: “What, precisely, are your values and do you have any demonstrative, verifiable proof that you practice what you preach?”, because I have never seen any.
Asked recently by a competent journalist about how he explains his snake-oil claims about a diabetes cure that were proven bullshit and that made him tons of endorsement fees, Huckabee merely brushed off the question with an “I don’t have to defend everything I’ve ever done”, but he will damn sure hold any other candidate to that standard.
Most conservatives intensely promote life in the abstract, but they cannot defend it in practice. Whether it’s abortion, capital punishment, contraception, women’s rights or civil rights, they constantly sponsor policies that degrade life and run counter to their own stated values. Despite their self-proclaimed humanitarianism, they’ve little regard for human suffering, ( unless they are not-yet breathing of course, once you’ve taken a breath you’re on your own) because they’re not interested in serving life or other people; they’re dogmatists and power-hungry, money-grubbing hypocrites masquerading as moralizers.
They’re not concerned with poverty or inequality or torture or war crimes or a hundred other ethical issues. And they’re never compelled to explain the widening gap between their rhetoric and the political reality they’ve created.
Take the GOP’s position on abortion. We know, for example, that banning abortions doesn’t decrease the number of abortions. Sex education, contraception, and access to proper health care are the policies that reduce abortions. And yet “pro-life” conservatives oppose proven solutions at every turn for political expediency.
They insist on fighting wars they’ve already lost. The Supreme Court has spoken: a woman’s right to choose is legal in this country and that the politicians should butt out of this personal decision, (although they’re doing everything in their power to turn the clocks back), Obamacare is legal, etc. But rather than pursue policies that might actually reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancies, or provide basic healthcare for all, something that virtually everyone could get behind, conservatives instead push for policies that actually lead to more, not fewer, abortions, but they would rather have them done in back alleys in unsanitary conditions by unscrupulous doctors who are to the medical profession what payday loan sharks (another darling of the GOP) are to banking.
The “religious” wing of the party thinks only in terms of doctrine. Whether it’s abortion, climate change or marriage equality, reality always gives way to dogma. Because so much of conservative speech is rife with fundamentalist rhetoric, compromise or change is heresy.
And the corporate faction of the GOP is just as much to blame for this schism. People like the Koch brothers have artfully hijacked social conservatism in order to peddle a particularly insidious brand of libertarianism through monetary control of elections. As a result, we see Christian politicians (like Paul Ryan) professing their love of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy could not possibly be more adverse to Christianity and ignores the fact that Ms Rand ended up poor and existing on, yes, food stamps and Social Security.
These contradictions and insignificance of any but the wealthiest Americans will be on full view at the upcoming Value Voters Summit, where the religious right gathers each year to promote social conservatism to the brainwashed.
This event, which is sponsored by the Family Research Council (a recognized hate group) offers significant insight into current conservatism. And who are the moral shysters requested to speak at this self-aggrandized summit? In addition to all of the Republican presidential candidates, people like Phil Robertson, Ted Nugent, Tony Perkins, and Rush Limbaugh will all be featured speakers. These men–hardly exemplars of moral wisdom nor practice–may or may not be Christian, but their values are polar opposites.
Robertson has been a fountain of ignorance over the last year or so, spewing hateful vitriol with Ted Nugent waiting in the wings if moralization is on hand but absent adequate gun-blazing immorality and hatred.
These are the people who repeatedly speak for “value voters.” These are the go-to representatives of the religious right. Not a single one of them has the right to lecture anyone on morality or faith. Christians are called upon to uphold the living love of Christ, not the abject bigotry and nasty hatredof people like Perkins and Robertson. Republicans continually ignore that, and liberals should be shouting it from every rooftop. Besides, there’s a much better case to be made that alleviating poverty, reducing inequality, and promoting social justice are Christian causes rooted in fundamentally Christian values, but the majority of true Christians simply look the other way.
It’s time for liberal Democrats to make that case rather than ignoring the obvious duplicity that these con-men radiate. The meek might inherit the earth, but not before the right-wing party in the U.S. decimates millions of their own citizens for the benefit of the wealthy few…and of course, themselves.
Harvey A. Gold