5 Shameful Right-Wing Moments This Week: Ted Cruz Celebrates Guns!

Nothing says Christmas like a family cradling their firearms.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

1. Ted Cruz has a banner week.

Ted Cruz is rising in the polls. He cannot catch Donald Trump, who according to CNN has 36 percent. But Cruz has cruised to second, with 16 percent by CNN’s count, edging out the once-popular Ben Carson, whose gaffe-filled couple of weeks (Hamas is not to be confused with hummus) has been amusing but costly to the good doc. Cruz’s formula for newfound success with the ever-wise Republican base? Just be as big a douchebag as possible—in other words for Cruz, be yourself. No one does it better.

Cruz picked up some nice gun-wingnut support by hosting a celebration of gun culture just days after the San Bernardino killings. Technically, he had scheduled his National 2nd Amendment Coalition at Crossroads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa in advance of the California tragedy, but his timing could not have been better. (For its part Crossroads Shooting Sports has said that part of its mission is to “glorify God in all we do.” Glorifying God by shooting things, where have we heard of that before?) In any case, when it comes to Cruz’s timing, the sad fact is you don’t have to be exactly prescient in this country to schedule a gun celebration to coincide with a mass shooting. Because guns, like America, are great. That’s why we’re number 1.

Cruz found plenty of other topics to be creepy about this week. He talked to supporters about how condoms are readily available, and how he’s glad because he and his wife have two daughters instead of 17 of them. Despite the fact that no one in the entire world, including Ted Cruz supporters, wants to hear about his sex life or envision it in any way, he rattled on about the lack of a “rubber shortage” and how he—well, not him, but people—could just buy condoms right out of a machine in dormitory bathrooms in college. (Seriously, do those machines ever work? Definitely not when they’re dispensing

tampons.)

Cruz capped off yet another week of stellar ass-hattery by asserting to his supporters that the “overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats,” apropos of nothing and based on even less.

And the primary voters lapped it up.

2. New York Post openly peddles racism.

There was absolutely no subtlety to the blatant hatemongering Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post engaged in the day after the mass shootings in San Bernardino. Rather than call it mass murder, or even a bloody massacre, which is more tabloidy and would have sold papers, the Post went all in for Islamophobic race-baiting with the gigantic headline, “Muslim Murder,” over a picture of a female victim’s bloody, partially undressed body.

Does this signal a new editorial policy on the part of the paper to feature crime perpetrators’ religion over all else? Can we expect headlines about Christian robbers and Jewish killers? No, we all know we cannot. Do the editors of the New York Post think for a second about their utter hypocrisy and their deliberate endangerment of hundreds of thousands of innocent, peace-loving people just living their lives in America?

No, it is safe to say they do not.

3. Louie Gohmert has a theory and it all makes perfect sense.

As is fairly well known now, Texas tea partier Louie Gohmert is not a terribly clever man. Unless by clever you mean capable of cooking up absurd conspiracy theories about immigrants and President Obama. The less than intelectually gifted Republican representative claimed Friday that the Obama administration has purposely “let loose” criminals and brought “massive” numbers of “violent terrorists” into the country so that the mean old president can tell Americans to “give up your Second Amendment rights because I let all these terrorists in.”

Riiiiight.

Gohmert described this elaborate and diabolical plot on the part of the president (and would-be president Clinton) at great length while guest-hosting crazy Christian crusader Tony Perkins’ “Washington Watch.” Gohmert’s rant was just as fact-free and scare-mongering as you might imagine, with claims that refugees have been brought into this country and charged with terrorism and that the people pouring over our “porous border” are committing crimes in mass quantities. Yet the sole example of an undocumented immigrant harming someone is the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle—which authorities have said was a tragic accident.

It’s not just the porous border, Gohmert further claimed; the Department of Homeland Security is in on the plot too, and is deliberately distributing criminals all over the country.

Jiminy cricket!

It’s all part of one gigantic brilliant plan to restrict gun sales to terrorists just so the gub-mint can take all the guns away from everyone and impose Sharia law.

Amen brother. It all makes total and perfect sense when you lay it out like that.

4. Nevada lawmaker posts festive, armed-to-the-teeth Christmas card.

Nothing says Christmas like a family cradling their firearms.

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore captured the true meaning of Christmas with her 2015 family Christmas card, which she posted on Facebook this week. In it, every member of her clan above the age of toddlerhood is packing. And so many different kinds of weapons to choose from! There’s a Beretta, some Glocks, a Walther P22 for 5-year-old Jake, and for Michele, a Serbu Super-Shorty 12-gauge shotgun. Woohoo. This marvelous public servant was a big supporter of wonderful, law-abiding Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. She told MSNBC, “Don’t come here with guns and expect the American people not to fire back.”

For the holidays, she went with a much sweeter tone. “It’s up to Americans to protect America,” her festive message said. “We’re just your ordinary American family.”

Oh, good God, no.

holiday joy
holiday joy

5. Kim Davis’ right-wing Christian lawyer thinks she should be Time magazine’s person of the year.

Because, of course he does.

Just not for the same reason that sane people think she might merit

For the holidays, she went with a much sweeter tone. “It’s up to Americans to protect America,” her festive message said. “We’re just your ordinary American family.”

Oh, good God, no.

Because, of course he does.

Just not for the same reason that sane people think she might merit that distinction.

==================================================

See: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/5-shameful-right-wing-moments-week-ted-cruz-celebrates-guns?akid=13741.123424.rHkGmA&rd=1&src=newsletter1046852&t=4

8 Acts of Islamophobic Violence and Threats Since Paris

Trump and other GOPers keep spewing vitriol as attacks on Muslims escalate.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

The Paris attacks unleashed a terrible scourge of Islamophobic rhetoric and actual violence both in Europe and America. In London, a Muslim woman was pushed in front of an underground train—fortunately, she survived. Here at home, no one has been killed, but Republican politicians are fanning the flames of hate. Leading the pack is presidential candidate Donald Trump, who — since he can’t build a wall to keep Muslims out — has floated the even more fascist ideas of closing mosques and issuing ID cards for all Muslims. Ben Carson, sinking in the polls, but still popular with evangelicals, despicably compared Syrian refugees to rabid dogs.

It’s not hard to see that the dehumanizing vitriol spewed by demagogues is part of a continuum that includes the violent actions of everyday haters who are willing to threaten and commit harm to people they perceive to be different from them. Some Islamophobes need no nudging, like the Chapel Hill murderer Craig Hicks, who shot his three young Muslim neighbors execution-style last February after menacing them for years.

Now, just as after 9/11, violent ignoramuses are going after Muslim (or Muslim-looking) neighbors and strangers who cross their path. And politicians like Trump and Ted Cruz do nothing to dissuade them or distance themselves from their despicable actions.

Here’s a roundup of Islamophobic incidents that have occurred in the week since the Paris attacks.

1. Just hours after the attacks in Paris last Friday, the FBI and local police investigated reports of multiple gunshots fired at the Baitul Aman mosque in Meriden, Connecticut.

2. Two Tampa Bay-area mosques in Florida received threatening phone messages on Friday night. The idiot who made those threats left his name on the messages.

In one, 43-year-old Martin Alan Schnitzler reportedly said, “This act in France is the last straw. You’re going to f*cking die.”“I personally have a militia that’s going to come down to your Islamic Society of Pinellas County and firebomb you, shoot whoever’s there on sight in the head,” he added. “I don’t care if they’re f*cking 2 years old or 100.”

3. Another Florida family had bullets fired at their home on the weekend after the attacks. One bullet went through the garage and entered the master bedroom, coming to rest in the dresser drawer. Fortunately, Orange County resident Amir Elmasri and his family were away when the shootings occurred. He told a local news station that his whole family feels unsafe as a result.

4. At the University of Connecticut, an Egyptian student discovered the words “killed Paris” written next to his name on his dorm room door last Saturday.

5. Muslims in Omaha felt threatened when someone spraypainted a rough outline of the Eiffel Tower on an outside wall of the Omaha Islamic Center in Nebraska soon after the Paris attacks.

6. On Monday, in a suburb of Austin, Texas, leaders of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville discovered feces and torn pages of the Quran had been thrown at the door of the mosque.

7. On Tuesday, in a suburb of Houston, Texas, authorities arrested a man accused of threatening on social media to “shoot up a mosque.”

8. In Spotsylvania, Virgina, which has a well-established Muslim community going back 30 years, a group of virulent Islamophobes invaded a community meeting held to discuss plans to build a mosque. The civil engineer on the project, Samer Shalaby, was making his presentation when he was shouted down by the men, one of whom yelled, “This is evil!” When Shalaby’s supporters tried to defend against the onslaught, the man yelled, “Shut your mouth! Every one of you are terrorists. You can smile at me. I don’t care what you say — every Muslim is a terrorist.”

Some in the meeting applauded the disruption.

Trump et. al. were completely silent on the matter, apparently unfazed.

See: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/8-acts-islamophobic-violence-and-threats-paris?akid=13685.123424.lI-d_E&rd=1&src=newsletter1046079&t=2

Actress Jennifer Lawrence Rips Trump, Kim Davis & Republican Bigots In Epic Interview

final_newsletter_imageSource: occupy democrats.com

Author:Colin Taylor

Emphasis Mine

World-famous actress Jennifer Lawrence was raised a Republican – but is horrified by the monster the Grand Old Party has become today. In a recent interview with Vogue, Lawrence slammed the conservative party for their downright backward attitudes towards women’s rights and the rising power of religious zealots within the movement.

“I was raised a Republican but I just can’t imagine supporting a party that doesn’t support women’s basic rights. It’s 2015 and gay people can get married and we think that we’ve come so far, so, yay! But have we? I don’t want to stay quiet about that stuff.

My view on the election is pretty cut-and-dried. If Donald Trump is president of the United States, it will be the end of the world. And he’s also the best thing to happen to the Democrats ever.”

It truly is appalling how a party attempting to make a case for the presidency of the United States treats a full half of the electorate with such condascending disdain. From Sen. Marco Rubio‘s (R-FL) horrendous assertions that women are “getting pregnant to sell the fetus to Planned Parenthood” to Ben Carson’s comparison of rape victims who have abortions to slave owners, the GOP simply refuses to rid itself of the rampant misogyny that one expects to hear from a religious extremist group like the Taliban but not a political party seeking election in a global superpower. 

Lawrence also took aim at embattled bigot Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who made headlines when she was jailed for refusing to do her job and sign marriage licenses for LGBT couples. The Hunger Games actress did not mince her words: “Kim Davis? Don’t even say her name in this house. [She is a] lady who makes me embarrassed to be from Kentucky. All those people holding their crucifixes, which may as well be pitchforks, thinking they’re fighting the good fight. I grew up in Kentucky. I know how they are.”

Lawrence is one of many Republican across the nation who are very distraught with the Republican Party’s slide into the depths of delusional extremism. We welcome her to the side of empathy, rationality, and reason.

See: http://wp.me/p3h8WX-5Hn

America’s Newest Political Curse: Ben Carson, the Neurosurgeon Who Can’t Think

Along with Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson is way ahead of the pack for the Republican presidential nomination.

Source:AlterNet

Author:Marty Kaplan

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: An issue which the author does not address is that we don’t actually know what Dr. Carson believes, only what he says, perhaps pandering to the GOP anti-science base.)

What does it say about higher education, that you can graduate from Yale and still believe that the devil made Darwin do it?  What does it say about medicine, that you can both be a gifted neurosurgeon and also declare, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away”?

Along with Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson is way ahead of the pack for the Republican presidential nomination.  When Trump, an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, says that climate change is a hoax, I can believe it’s a cynical lie pandering to the Republican base, rather than an index of his ignorance.  But when Carson, a retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, denies that climate change is man-made, or calls the Big Bang a fairy tale, or blames gun control for the extent of the Holocaust, I think he truly believes it.

It’s conceivable that the exceptional hand-eye coordination and 3D vision that enabled Carson to separate conjoined twins is a compartmentalized gift, wholly independent of his intellectual acuity. But he could not have risen to the top of his profession without learning the Second Law of Thermodynamics (pre-meds have to take physics), without knowing that life on earth began more than 6,000 years ago (pre-meds have to take biology), without understanding the scientific method (an author of more than 120 articles in peer-reviewed journals can’t make up his own rules of evidence).  Yet what does it mean to learn such things, if they don’t stop you from spouting scientific nonsense?

This hasn’t hindered his campaign.  Participants in focus groups of Republican caucus and primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, conducted in recent days by Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, used these words to describe Carson: “deep,” “thoughtful,” “intelligent,” “smart,” “brilliant,” a “top mind.” I get this.  According to a recent Public Policy Polling report, 46 percent of Carson supporters (and 61 percent of Trump supporters) think President Obama was not born in the U.S., and 61 percent of Carson supporters (and 66 percent of Trump supporters) think the president is a Muslim.  Carson’s being called brilliant by that base ain’t baffling.

What I don’t get is how his rigorous scientific education and professional training gave Carson’s blind spots a pass.  Was it, in George W. Bush’s memorable phrase, “the soft tyranny of low expectations”?  Or was it the tyranny of fundamentalism over facts?

In the humanities, the equivalent conundrum is the failure of a deep appreciation for masterworks of art, literature and music to instill virtue.  I first came across this disturbing indictment when I was an undergraduate at the chief rival of Carson’s alma mater.  My field of concentration (Harvard’s pretentious term for “major”) was molecular biology, and I would have quickly flamed out if I’d maintained that science was consistent with creationism, or any of the other canards that survived Carson’s education.  But I was also in love with literature, and ended up with a doctorate in it.  On the way there, what troubled me about my studies was an essay called “To Civilize Our Gentlemen” by George Steiner. Its thesis ran so counter to the bedrock of an elite education – the belief that the humanities humanize – that I went to England for two years to study at Cambridge with Steiner, as passionate an embodiment of academic high culture as could be, in order to reconcile my love for humanistic learning with its apparent inability to prevent barbarism.

My copy of the essay, and the book it appeared in, “Language and Silence,” is full of a 20-year-old’s underlining and marginalia (“right on!”).  These are some of the passages that jangled me:

“We know now that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to the day’s work at Auschwitz in the morning. To say that he has read them without understanding or that is ear is gross, is cant…. The simple yet appalling fact is that we have very little solid evidence that literary studies do very much to enrich or stabilize moral perception, that they humanize…. Indeed, I would go further: it is at least conceivable that the focusing of consciousness on a written text… diminishes the sharpness and readiness of our actual moral response…. The capacity for [moral response]… is not limitless; on the contrary, it can be rapidly absorbed by fictions, and thus the cry in the poem may come to sound louder, more urgent, more real than the cry in the street outside. The death in the novel may move us more potently than the death in the next room…. [S]urely there is something terrible in our doubt whether the study and delight a man finds in Shakespeare makes him any less capable of organizing a concentration camp.”

When Wolf Blitzer asked Carson if he wanted to amend or take back his comparison of Obama’s America to Nazi Germany, he replied, “Absolutely not.” Am I comparing Carson to Nazis? Absolutely not. I’m comparing the compatibility of a scientific education and intellectual ignorance with the compatibility of a humanistic education and moral ignorance.

The simple yet appalling fact is that we have at least some solid evidence that a top scientific education and a distinguished career in medicine does not make a man any less capable of believing untruths to be true and truths to be false.

I don’t know how I’d react if a shooter opened fire in my classroom.  Maybe I’d risk my safety to protect others. Maybe I’d be too petrified do anything. But I do know the feeling that would devastate me if someone I loved became “a body with bullet holes”; it would not be the feeling that the Second Amendment is in jeopardy. It is at least conceivable that the clinical detachment required by a doctor to deal with the deaths in this room makes the deaths in the next room less urgent, less real.

I know plenty of physicians of whom that is not true. But when Ben Carson blames a mass murderer’s victims for failing to foil him, I know of at least one man of science whose capacity for moral response has been absorbed by fictions.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/americas-newest-political-curse-ben-carson-neurosurgeon-who-cant-think?akid=13565.123424.bvGefb&rd=1&src=newsletter1043830&t=2

Carly Fiorina and the GOP Outsider Boom

Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: Carly Fiorina’s rise, Scott Walker’s fall, and Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

Source:New York Magazine, via RSN

Author:Frank Rich

Emphasis Mine

arly Fiorina has risen faster than anyone in the Republican field since the last debate, while making a series of statements that have some commentators describing her “willful disregard … or ignorance of reality.” How do you explain her rise?

A willful disregard or ignorance of reality is hardly disqualifying in the GOP presidential sweepstakes! If nothing else, Fiorina’s fictional Planned Parenthood video suggests she might have more success cooking up gory B-movie scenarios in the San Fernando Valley than she had running Hewlett-Packard in Silicon Valley. In that real-life business horror story, Fiorina slashed 30,000 employees, not to mention shareholder value, while mismanaging what had been one of the most fabled corporations in American business.

Fiorina’s rise after the last debate is coming at the expense of the previous “skyrocketing” Republican contender, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson. The theory had been that Carson was the kinder, gentler “outsider” who would finally usurp Donald Trump. But, as it happened, the good doctor proved to have all the pep on-camera that one of his patients might exhibit shortly after being given anesthesia. Worse, despite his ostensible prowess as a man of medicine, Carson waffled when confronted with Trump’s debate fiction about a link between vaccines and autism. That both Fiorina and Carson have enjoyed booms, however transitory they may prove to be, makes one thing clear. The base would prefer almost anyone, and so far Trump most of all, to Jeb Bush or any of the other choices that the GOP Establishment has put its big bets on. In new polls out over the past couple of days, from Fox News and Quinnipiac, the results are markedly similar in the spreads separating Trump from Carson and Fiorina, and show that a majority of Republicans favor one of these three outsiders over the rest of the field combined.

Fiorina may be impaled by the Washington shutdown, should it happen; she endorsed what Karl Rove has called the “suicide” strategy of holding the government hostage to the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Should she crater, be assured that she has a strong understudy waiting in the wings: Meg Whitman, the current CEO at HP, who just announced her plan to lay off another 30,000 workers. The similarities don’t end there: Like Fiorina, who ran for Senate against Barbara Boxer, Whitman ran as a Republican for statewide office in California in 2010 (for governor, against Jerry Brown) and lost by double digits. Should she, too, get fired by HP, she’ll have the perfect résumé for entering the Republican presidential race.

Scott Walker, who started his run for the GOP nomination as the reported favorite of the Koch brothers, now says he’s been “called to lead by helping clear the field” of candidates — starting with himself. Does his campaign’s failure show the limits of super-pac politics?

Not necessarily. Walker was a ridiculous candidate and would remain so no matter how much money any billionaires poured into his super-pac. Back in early July, a few days before Walker announced his run, I was at a small gathering in Washington where a prominent Republican political operative (not affiliated with any of the 2016 campaigns, and not speaking for attribution) gave a rollicking tour of the field. Of Walker, he said, “There are two reasons he can’t win. First, he has a bald spot. Second, he’s stupid.”

Suffice it to say that Walker’s presidential run was farce from start to finish, from his three different positions on the issue of “birthright citizenship” to his calling Reagan’s busting of the air-traffic controllers’ strike of 1981 “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime.” At the CNN debate, he had all the charisma of a department-store mannequin. Yet not long ago he was a rock star. He’s “the one guy in the race who has shown how to defeat the media and Democrat coordinated attacks on conservatives,” said Rush Limbaugh as Walker entered the race. He’s “a truly impressive individual,” effused the right-wing Washington Post pundit Marc Thiessen. Fox News hosts fell over themselves to boost him as a union-busting “hero.” At FiveThirtyEight in March, Nate Silver used what he called “totally subjective odds” to rate the first-tier Republican candidates on the likelihood of their getting the nomination and deduced that Walker was on top (at 26 percent), ahead of Bush (24 percent) and Marco Rubio (16 percent).

This week, after Walker dropped out, The Wall Street Journal ran a news story explaining that Rubio would benefit by inheriting much of Walker’s fund-raising apparatus and donors, since he, too, is a “fresh face ready to shake up Washington.” Never mind that Rubio, unlike Walker, is already in Washington (where his strategy for shaking things up seems to have been to miss more Senatorial votes than anyone else in the race). Or that the voters Rubio might inherit from Walker do not even amount to a rounding error; Walker was polling at less than 0.5 percent at the end. In any case, Rubio’s candidacy is almost uniformly described by the press and Republican pols as more substantive than most (especially on foreign policy), and he’s been widely judged as one of the strongest contenders — if not the strongest — at both debates. But with recent polling numbers still averaging at roughly 10 percent, Rubio, like Bush, is thus far a candidate who looks theoretically great on paper to all the professionals in the media-political complex, but not so much to Republican primary voters who are the actual deciders.

Donald Trump again played the (barely) coded racism card when he didn’t contradict a supporter’s birther canards about President Obama. Can he keep doing this without paying a price?

Seems so. The true answer to this question can be found not in Trump’s various outrages — whether the latest or all those that came before — but in the fact that most of his rivals respond to his slurs by either agreeing with him or refusing to take a stand altogether. The only three candidates who immediately criticized Trump this time — Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Bush — had nothing to lose by coming out against bigotry. Two of them aren’t polling any better than Walker was, and Bush, though faring somewhat better, is fighting for his political life. The other candidates are cowering as usual or, in Carson’s case, going Trump one better by saying that Muslims should be barred from the presidency.

In 1961, Barry Goldwater advised Republicans that they should “go hunting where the ducks are” by currying favor with segregationist voters in the Deep South. Carson’s campaign manager, Barry Bennett, was similarly unapologetic about his candidate’s intentions in playing the Islamophobia card, telling the Associated Press this week that “Republican primary voters are with us at least 80-20.” Let’s not pretend otherwise.

 

See:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/32646-focus-carly-fiorina-and-the-gop-outsider-boom

Is Donald Trump Showing Republicans Can Win in the Bible Belt Without Being Overtly Religious?

For Trump, a lapsed Presbyterian, religion really isn’t important to his politics.

Source:

Author: Zaid Jilani

Emphasis Mine

Historically, the American South has been the nation’s most religious corridor, and politicians courting Republican voters in particular are quick to point to their religiosity. In 2008, deep south states such as Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee went to the pastor Mike Huckabee. In 2012, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee went to the avowed Catholic evangelical Rick Santorum.

But the country has seen a number of shifts in its religiosity. The number of Americans who identify as unaffiliated with any religion grew from 16.1 percent in 2007 to 22.8 percent in 2014, while the share of Americans who identify as Catholic, mainline Protestant and evangelical Protestant declined. This shift is particularly evident among young people; 25 percent of Americans born after 1980 say they are atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular.

This may explain why a candidate who is not religious at all — real estate mogul Donald Trump — is leading the polls in virtually every southern state.

Take Florida, where a recent poll showed Trump in the lead at 29 percent. Digging into the results of the poll, you’ll find that Jeb Bush — who comes from a family that has long courted the Christian right as a political arm — had a remarkable zero percent of support from young voters, while Trump was capturing over half of them. In Alabama, Trump is nearing 40 percent of the vote, eclipsing the second candidate, Ben Carson, who is closer to 17 percent.In Georgia, Trump is at 34 percent and Bush is at 12 percent.

For Trump, who is a lapsed Presbyterian, religion really isn’t important to his politics. When GOP pollster Frank Luntz asked him if he has ever “asked God for forgiveness” over the summer, he responded, “I’m not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.” This caused right-wing blogger and activist Erick Erickson to say that Trump made a “potentially fatal error” in admitting he was not very religious — a prediction that has fallen pretty flat.

When Ben Carson, who has managed an impressive second place in the polls over the past few months, was asked about the differences between himself and Trump, he pointed to religion. “I’ve realized where my success has come from, and I don’t in any way deny my faith in God,” he said. “And I think that is the big difference. By humility and the fear of the lord are riches and honor and life and that’s a very big part of who I am. I don’t get that impression with [Trump]. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t get that.”

This led Trump to fire back, tweeting, “Wow, I am ahead of the field with Evangelicals (am so proud of this) and virtually every other group, and Ben Carson just took a swipe at me.”

From the looks of things, Trump’s point is correct. His candidacy is proving that religiosity is not very important to the GOP voter base. But bluster, candor and cultural affirmation, all of which Trump provides with his broadsides against various liberal boogeymen, from immigrants to Hillary Clinton, are key.

(N.B.: perhaps this is a different segment of the base…)

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/donald-trump-showing-republicans-can-win-bible-belt-without-being-overtly?akid=13470.123424.EdIs2E&rd=1&src=newsletter1042267&t=4

The GOP’s Vicious Religious Warfare: The Arms Race for Extremists’ Hearts and Minds

Trump, Cruz, Huckabee & Carson are engaging in a heated campaign to get the support of the religious right.

Source: Salon, via AlterNet

Author: Heather Digby Parton

Emphasis Mine

Trump, Cruz, Huckabee & Carson are engaging in a heated campaign to get the support of the religious right.

There is a lot of talk in the political media about the “invisible primary,” which is the lining up of big donors and establishment endorsements. On the Democratic side, the winner of this invisible primary so far is Hillary Clinton, who has gathered many endorsements and has collected a healthy amount of major Democratic donor money. On the Republican side the invisible primary is almost as fractious as the campaign itself, with Bush, Walker, Kasich, Rubio and the rest of the allegedly establishment candidates wooing and being wooed by Republican billionaires of all stripes — conservative, ultra-conservative and extreme. Trump is already a big winner of his own invisible primary; at yesterday’s Iran rally he promised even more declaring,  “I’ll win so much, you’ll get bored with winning”.

But there’s another invisible primary going on as well and it’s an important one: the Evangelical primary. I’ve written here before about how important this constituency is to the GOP base. Indeed, one might even say that white Evangelical voters and the churches to which they belong are as important to the Republicans as the unions are to the Democrats. They are the footsoldiers. And as much as the elites may want to keep them under control and out of sight when the national zeitgeist shifts against conservative morality (it goes back and forth), since at least 1980 they know they cannot alienate them. And any conservative politician who is building himself or herself a long career needs to cultivate them carefully.

So, in this hugely populated race for the GOP presidential nomination, this invisible Evangelical primary could be more salient than usual. While the field is full of religious-right candidates — like Scott Walker, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal, just to name three also-rans — it is Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson who are the clear favorites. (Walker polls in the middle of the field but he’s been having problems with Christian conservatives for some time, despite his impressive evangelical bona fides.)

Trump is currently polling well among Evangelicals, but it’s unlikely that a serial divorcer with a shaky record on abortion can hold this whole group no matter how many times he declares that the Bible is his favorite book. But as I wrote here, it won’t be for lack of trying. Trump has been doing outreach with the Christian right since 2012 and spent a lot of money and time cultivating their support.

Nonetheless, Ben Carson leads the invisible evangelical primary in Iowa at the moment. Polls show him gaining significantly on Trump there and with such a large contingent of religious right voters, the very pious Carson is a natural favorite. He is a political  extremist, but then so are they. The big question has been if Carson could do as well in evangelical circles in southern states. If the new PPP poll is correct, he’s certainly doing better than any of the others in South Carolina, so that’s a good sign. Trump has almost double his support though, which is perhaps why Carson challenged the sincerity of Trump’s faith yesterday.

But what of the other two big Christian right contenders, Huckabee and Cruz? Well, they seem to be going head to head, fighting for pre-eminence among the more militant of religious conservatives. This week we saw quite a spectacle with Cruz nearly coming to blows with a Huckabee staffer at the Kim Davis rally when Cruz tried to join the group onstage. Huckabee’s campaign had reportedly done all the leg work for the rally and perhaps they thought that Cruz was crashing their event like some Code Pink protester. In any case, the little contretemps showed just how important it is for candidates of the Christian right to be seen as warriors for family values and religious liberty. Kim Davis and her stand against gay marriage was an excellent way to show fealty to the cause.

Unfortunately, there was only room for one Christian soldier on that stage, and Huckabee used all of it, strutting around unctuously begging the authorities to let Kim Davis go and take him instead — even though Davis was a free woman standing right there on the the side of the stage. Judging by the response at right-wing Twitter aggregation site Twitchy, conservatives were divided on who won that round, with some calling Huckabee disgraceful and others saying “if Ted Cruz can’t stand up to Mike Huckabee …”

Cruz pouted for a bit and then headed back to Washington to join the rally against the Iran peace agreement and once again call the president “the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.” He seemed a bit overshadowed at that event as well, as Trump and Sarah Palin took the spotlight and competed for who could serve the best word-salad for lunch.

However, Cruz did have some very good news yesterday, which may just put him over the top of the invisible Evangelical primary when all is said and done:

David Barton, an influential Christian author and activist, is taking charge of the leading super-PAC supporting Ted Cruz.

The super-PAC, Keep the Promise PAC, is the umbrella for a group of related pro-Cruz political committees that raised $38 million in the first half of the year, more than the super-PACs supporting any other candidate with the exception of Jeb Bush.

Barton’s appointment highlights the role that Evangelical Christians are playing in the Cruz campaign. The Texas senator is the son of a preacher and announced his presidential bid at Liberty University, a Christian institution founded by the televangelist Jerry Falwell.

Barton is a self-taught historian, former school administrator and the founder of Wallbuilders, a group dedicated to the idea that the U.S. was established as a Christian nation and should embrace those roots. Time Magazine named him one of the country’s top 25 most influential Evangelicals in 2005.

There is no one more responsible than David Barton for the vast amounts of misinformation and downright lies the evangelical right believes about the fundamental nature of the U.S. constitution and the founders’ intentions. He has quite literally written a parallel history, using phony documents and misconstrued facts to prove that the American Revolution was a religious crusade for the express purpose of creating a Christian nation. He was most recently exposed as a fraud when constitutional scholars of all political persuasions proved that  his book “The Jefferson Lies” was riddled with errors and his publisher withdrew it from the shelves. Not that it mattered. As usual in these cases, Barton insisted he was a persecuted martyr and his stock among the Christian conservatives went way up.

If Mike Huckabee thought he won a battle by keeping Cruz off the stage down there in Tennessee, Cruz knew he won the war. Barton is not only a Christian right superstar; he also has a huge boatload of money to spend on him. His “Keep the Promise” PAC is is funded by some extremely wealthy conservative energy billionaires from Texas and one hugely wealthy hedge fund billionaire from New York, who mainly wants to abolish the IRS. Their investment makes the statement announcing Barton’s appointment downright hilarious:

“From the outset, the Keep the Promise PACs made their mission to provide a voice for the millions of courageous conservatives who are looking to change the direction of the country. Barton’s involvement is an important step signaling that the effort will not be run by a D.C. consultant but by a grassroots activist.”

Nothing says “grassroots” like fracking billionaires and hedge-fund tycoons. But in a way it’s a perfect amalgam of the invisible donor primary and the invisible Evangelical primary. Big money and big Christian Right cred. It’s probably too early to declare that Cruz has scored a win — after all, “the Evangelicals love Trump” too and Carson remains a threat. But he’s definitely a player. And whatever happens in the presidential race, that makes Cruz an even more powerful figure on the right.

See:http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/gops-vicious-religious-warfare-arms-race-extremists-hearts-and-minds?akid=13464.123424.r84Lzz&rd=1&src=newsletter1042225&t=6