An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America

In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king.

Source:AlterNet

Author:Forsetti’s Justice / AlterNet

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: at the end of the day, belief in a White Christian God is the problem…)

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete bullshit. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to throw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t east coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is rural America doesn’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of choices they’ve made and horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

I grew up in rural, Christian, white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area in the country that has a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on, on their rural farms. I dated their calico skirted daughters. I camped, hunted, and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have also watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure turn into a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes, and a broken down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves, the reasons for their anger/frustrations, and don’t seem to care to know why.

In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism is what has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, change. When you have a belief system that is built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t “coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans.” The problem is rural America doesn’t understand itself and will NEVER listen to anyone outside their bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views are automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they WILL NOT even entertain the possibility it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.

At some point during the discussion, “That’s your education talking,” will be said, derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said. They truly believe this is a legitimate response because to them education is not to be trusted. Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are anti-quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to the certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school. For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning. For many of the young men, getting a college education was seen as unnecessary and a waste of time. For the few who did go to college, what they learned was still filtered through their fundamentalist belief system. If something they were taught didn’t support a preconception, it would be ignored and forgotten the second it was no longer needed to pass an exam.

Knowing this about their belief system and their view of outside information that doesn’t support it, telling me that the problem is coastal elites not understanding them completely misses the point.

Another problem with rural, Christian, white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white God made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.

The religion in which I was raised taught this. Even though they’ve backtracked on some of their more racist declarations, many still believe the original claims. Non-whites are the color they are because of their sins, or at least the sins of their ancestors. Blacks don’t have dark skin because of where they lived and evolution; they have dark skin because they are cursed. God cursed them for a reason. If God cursed them, treating them as equals would be going against God’s will. It is really easy to justify treating people differently if they are cursed by God and will never be as good as you no matter what they do because of some predetermined status.

Once you have this view, it is easy to lower the outside group’s standing and acceptable level of treatment. Again, there are varying levels of racism at play in rural, Christian, white America. I know people who are ardent racists. I know a lot more whose racism is much more subtle but nonetheless racist. It wouldn’t take sodium pentothal to get most of these people to admit they believe they are fundamentally better and superior to minorities. They are white supremacists who dress up in white dress shirts, ties, and gingham dresses. They carry a Bible and tell you, “everyone’s a child of God” but forget to mention that some of God’s children are more favored than others and skin tone is the criterion by which we know who is and who isn’t at the top of God’s list of most favored children.

For us “coastal elites” who understand evolution, genetics, science…nothing we say to those in fly-over country is going to be listened to because not only are we fighting against an anti-education belief system, we are arguing against God. You aren’t winning a battle of beliefs with these people if you are on one side of the argument and God is on the other. No degree of understanding this is going to suddenly make them less racist, more open to reason and facts. Telling “urban elites” they need to understand rural Americans isn’t going to lead to a damn thing because it misses the causes of the problem.

Because rural, Christian, white Americans will not listen to educated arguments, supported by facts that go against their fundamentalist belief systems from “outsiders,” any change must come from within. Internal change in these systems does happen, but it happens infrequently and it always lags far behind reality. This is why they fear change so much. They aren’t used to it. Of course, it really doesn’t matter whether they like it or not, it, like the evolution and climate change even though they don’t believe it, it is going to happen whether they believe in it or not.

Another major problem with closed-off, fundamentalist belief systems is they are very susceptible to propaganda. All belief systems are to some extent, but fundamentalist systems even more so because there are no checks and balances. If bad information gets in, it doesn’t get out and because there are no internal mechanisms to guard against it, it usually ends up very damaging to the whole. A closed-off belief system is like your spinal fluid—it is great as long as nothing infectious gets into it. If bacteria gets into your spinal fluid, it causes unbelievable damage because there are no white blood cells in it whose job is to fend off invaders and protect the system. This is why things like meningitis are so horrible. Without the protective services of white blood cells in the spinal column, meningitis spreads like wildfire once it’s in and does significant damage in a very short period of time. Once inside the closed-off spinal system, bacteria are free to destroy whatever they want.

The very same is true with closed-off belief systems. Without built-in protective functions like critical analysis, self-reflection, openness to counter-evidence, willingness to re-evaluate any and all beliefs, etc., bad information in a closed-off system ends up doing massive damage in short period of time. What has happened to too many fundamentalist belief systems is damaging information has been allowed in from people who have been granted “expert status.” If someone is allowed into a closed-off system and their information is deemed acceptable, anything they say will readily be accepted and become gospel.

Rural, Christian, white Americans have let in anti-intellectual, anti-science, bigoted, racists into their system as experts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, any of the blonde Stepford Wives on Fox, every evangelical preacher on television because they tell them what they want to hear and because they sell themselves as being “one of them.” The truth is none of these people give a rat’s ass about rural, Christian, white Americans except how can they exploit them for attention and money. None of them have anything in common with the people who have let them into their belief systems with the exception they are white and they “speak the same language” of white superiority, God’s will must be obeyed, and how, even though they are the Chosen Ones, they are the ones being screwed by all the people and groups they believe they are superior to.

Gays being allowed to marry are a threat. Blacks protesting the killing of their unarmed friends and family are a threat. Hispanics doing the cheap labor on their farms are somehow viewed a threat. The black president is a threat. Two billion Muslims are a threat. The Chinese are a threat. Women wanting to be autonomous are a threat. The college educated are a threat. Godless scientists are a threat. Everyone who isn’t just like them has been sold to them as a threat and they’ve bought it hook, line, and grifting sinker. Since there are no self-regulating mechanisms in their belief systems, these threats only grow over time. Since facts and reality don’t matter, nothing you say to them will alter their beliefs. “President Obama was born in Kenya, is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood who hates white Americans and is going to take away their guns.” I feel ridiculous even writing this, it is so absurd, but it is gospel across large swaths of rural America. Are rural, Christian, white Americans scared? You’re damn right they are. Are their fears rational and justified? Hell no. The problem isn’t understanding their fears. The problem is how to assuage fears based on lies in closed-off fundamentalist belief systems that don’t have the necessary tools for properly evaluating the fears.

I don’t have a good answer to this question. When a child has an irrational fear, you can deal with it because they trust you and are open to possibilities. When someone doesn’t trust you and isn’t open to anything not already accepted as true in their belief system, there really isn’t much, if anything you can do. This is why I think the whole, “Democrats have to understand and find common ground with rural America,” is misguided and a complete waste of time. When a 3,000-year-old book that was written by uneducated, pre-scientific people, subject to translation innumerable times, edited with political and economic pressures from popes and kings, is given higher intellectual authority than facts arrived at from a rigorous, self-critical, constantly re-evaluating system that can and does correct mistakes, no amount of understanding, no amount of respect, no amount of evidence is going to change their minds, assuage their fears.

Do you know what does change the beliefs of fundamentalists, sometimes? When something becomes personal. Many a fundamentalist has changed his mind about the LGBT community once his loved ones started coming out of the closet. Many have not. But those who did, did so because their personal experience came in direct conflict with what they believe. My own father is a good example of this. For years I had long, sometimes heated discussions with him about gay rights. Being the good religious fundamentalist he is, he could not even entertain the possibility he was wrong. The Church said it was wrong, so therefore it was wrong. No questions asked. No analysis needed. This changed when one of his adored stepchildren came out of the closet. He didn’t do a complete 180. He has a view that tries to accept gay rights while at the same time viewing being gay as a mortal sin because his need to have his belief system be right outweighs everything else.

This isn’t uncommon. Deeply held beliefs are usually only altered, replaced under catastrophic circumstances that are personal. This belief system alteration works both ways. I know die-hard, open-minded progressives who became ardent fundamentalists due to a traumatic event in their lives.

A really good example of this is the comedian Dennis Miller. I’ve seen Miller in concert four different times during the 1990s. His humor was complex, riddled with references, and leaned pretty left on almost all issues. Then 9/11 happened. For whatever reasons, the trauma of 9/11 caused a seismic shift in Miller’s belief system. Now he is a mainstay on conservative talk radio. His humor was replaced with anger and frustration. 9/11 changed his belief system because it was a catastrophic event that was personal to him.

The catastrophe of the Great Depression along with the progressive remedies by FDR helped create a generation of Democrats from previously die-hard Republicans. People who had, up until that point, deeply believed the government couldn’t help the economy only the free market could change their minds when the brutal reality of the Great Depression affected them directly, personally.

I thought the financial crisis in 2008 would have a similar, though lesser, impact on many Republicans. It didn’t. The systems that were put in place after the Great Recession to deal with economic crises, the quick, smart response by Congress and the administration helped make what could have been a catastrophic event into merely a really bad one. People suffered, but they didn’t suffer enough to where they were open to questioning their deeply held beliefs. Because this questioning didn’t take place, the Great Recession didn’t lead to any meaningful political shift away from poorly regulated markets, supply side economics, or how to respond to a financial crisis. This is why, even though rural Christian white Americans were hit hard by the Great Recession, they not only didn’t blame the political party they’ve aligned themselves with for years, they rewarded them two years later by voting them into a record number of state legislatures and taking over the U.S. House.

Of course, it didn’t help matters there were scapegoats available they could direct their fears, anger, and white supremacy towards. A significant number of rural Americans believe President Obama was in charge when the financial crisis started. An even higher number believe the mortgage crisis was the result of the government forcing banks to give loans to unqualified minorities. It doesn’t matter how untrue both of these are, they are gospel in rural America. Why reevaluate your beliefs and voting patterns when scapegoats are available?

How do you make climate change personal to someone who believes only God can alter the weather? How do you make racial equality personal to someone who believes whites are naturally superior to non-whites? How do you make gender equality personal to someone who believes women are supposed to be subservient to men by God’s command? How do you get someone to view minorities as not threatening personal to people who don’t live around and never interact with them? How do you make personal the fact massive tax cuts and cutting back government hurts their economic situation when they’ve voted for these for decades? I don’t think you can without some catastrophic events. And maybe not even then. The Civil War was pretty damn catastrophic yet a large swath of the South believed and still believes they were right, had the moral high ground. They were/are also mostly Christian fundamentalists who believe they are superior because of the color of their skin and the religion they profess to follow. There is a pattern here for anyone willing to connect the dots.

“Rural, white America needs to be better understood,” is not one of the dots. “Rural, white America needs to be better understood,” is a dodge, meant to avoid the real problems because talking about the real problems is viewed as “too upsetting,” “too mean,” “too arrogant,” “too elite,” “too snobbish.” Pointing out Aunt Bee’s views of Mexicans, blacks, gays…is bigoted isn’t the thing one does in polite society. Too bad more people don’t think the same about the views Aunt Bee has. It’s the classic, “You’re a racist for calling me a racist,” ploy. Or, as it is more commonly known, “I know you are but what am I?”

I do think rational arguments are needed, even if they go mostly ignored and ridiculed. I believe in treating people with the respect they’ve earned but the key point here is “earned.” I’ll gladly sit down with Aunt Bee and have a nice, polite conversation about her beliefs about “the gays,” “the blacks,” “illegals,”…and do so without calling her a bigot or a racist. But, this doesn’t mean she isn’t a bigot and a racist and if I’m asked to describe her beliefs these are the only words that honestly fit. No one with cancer wants to be told they have cancer, but just because no one uses the word, “cancer,” it doesn’t mean they don’t have it. Just because the media, pundits on all sides, some Democratic leaders don’t want to call the actions of many rural, Christian, white Americans, “racist/bigoted” doesn’t make them not so.

Avoiding the obvious only prolongs getting the necessary treatment. America has always had a race problem. It was built on racism and bigotry. This didn’t miraculously go away in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It didn’t go away with the election of Barack Obama. If anything, these events pulled back the curtain exposing the dark, racist underbelly of America that white America likes to pretend doesn’t exist because we are the reason it exists. From the white nationalists to the white, suburban soccer moms who voted for Donald Trump, to the far left progressives who didn’t vote at all, racism exists and has once again been legitimized and normalized by white America.

The honest truths that rural, Christian, white Americans don’t want to accept and until they do nothing is going to change, are:

-Their economic situation is largely the result of voting for supply-side economic policies that have been the largest redistribution of wealth from the bottom/middle to the top in U.S. history.

Immigrants haven’t taken their jobs. If all immigrants, legal or otherwise, were removed from the U.S., our economy would come to a screeching halt and prices on food would soar.

Immigrants are not responsible for companies moving their plants overseas. Almost exclusively white business owners are the ones responsible because they care more about their share holders who are also mostly white than they do American workers.

No one is coming for their guns. All that has been proposed during the entire Obama administration is having better background checks.

Gay people getting married is not a threat to their freedom to believe in whatever white God you want to. No one is going to make their church marry gays, make gays your pastor, accept gays for membership.

Women having access to birth control doesn’t affect their life either, especially women who they complain about being teenage, single mothers.

-Blacks are not “lazy moochers living off their hard earned tax dollars” anymore than many of your fellow rural neighbors. People in need are people in need. People who can’t find jobs because of their circumstances, a changing economy, outsourcing overseas, etc. belong to all races.

They get a tremendous amount of help from the government they complain does nothing for them. From the roads and utility grids they use to the farm subsidies, crop insurance, commodities protections…they benefit greatly from government assistance. The Farm Bill is one of the largest financial expenditures by the U.S. government. Without government assistance, their lives would be considerably worse.

-They get the largest share of Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

-They complain about globalization but line up like everyone else to get the latest Apple product. They have no problem buying foreign-made guns, scopes, and hunting equipment. They don’t think twice about driving trucks whose engine was made in Canada, tires made in Japan, radio made in Korea, computer parts made in Malaysia.

-They use illicit drugs as much as any other group. But, when other people do it is a “moral failing” and they should be severely punished, legally. When they do it, it is a “health crisis” that needs sympathy and attention.

-When jobs dry up for whatever reasons, they refuse to relocate but lecture the poor in places like Flint for staying in towns that are failing.

-They are quick to judge minorities for being “welfare moochers” but don’t think twice about cashing their welfare check every month.

-They complain about coastal liberals, but the taxes from California and New York are what covers their farm subsidies, helps maintain their highways, and keeps their hospitals in their sparsely populated areas open for business.

-They complain about “the little man being run out of business” then turn around and shop at big box stores.

-They make sure outsiders are not welcome, deny businesses permits to build, then complain about businesses, plants opening up in less rural areas.

Government has not done enough to help them in many cases but their local and state governments are almost completely Republican and so too are their representatives and senators. Instead of holding them accountable, they vote them in over and over and over again.

All the economic policies and ideas that could help rural America belong to the Democratic Party: raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, infrastructure spending, reusable energy growth, slowing down the damage done by climate change, healthcare reform…all of these and more would really help a lot of rural Americans.

What I understand is that rural, Christian, white Americans are entrenched in fundamentalist belief systems; don’t trust people outside their tribe; have been force-fed a diet of misinformation and lies for decades; are unwilling to understand their own situations; and truly believe whites are superior to all races. No amount of understanding is going to change these things or what they believe. No amount of niceties will get them to be introspective. No economic policy put forth by someone outside their tribe is going to be listened to no matter how beneficial it would be for them. I understand rural, Christian, white America all too well. I understand their fears are based on myths and lies. I understand they feel left behind by a world they don’t understand and don’t really care to. They are willing to vote against their own interest if they can be convinced it will make sure minorities are harmed more. Their Christian beliefs and morals are truly only extended to fellow white Christians. They are the problem with progress and always will be, because their belief systems are constructed against it.

The problem isn’t a lack of understanding by coastal elites. The problem is a lack of understanding of why rural, Christian, white America believes, votes, behaves the ways it does by rural, Christian, white America.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/rural-america-understanding-isnt-problem?akid=14946.123424.kspCKT&rd=1&src=newsletter1068152&t=2

Blame White Evangelicals For Trump Victory

our long national nightmare begins...
our long national nightmare begins…

Source: Pathos.com

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

White conservative Christians propel Donald Trump to the White House.

Five Thirty Eight reports national exit polls show white evangelical voters voted in record high numbers for Donald Trump, 81-16 percent. It is the widest margin for a Republican presidential candidate ever among evangelicals since they have been tracking the numbers.

The Wall Street Journal confirms that more than 80% of white evangelical and born-again Christians voted for Trump. According to national exit polling, a larger percentage of evangelicals backed Trump then backed Mitt Romney, John McCain, or George W. Bush, the GOP candidates in the past three elections.

As for women, more than 75% of white evangelical women voted for Trump, according to the exit polls.

That’s right, more than 75% of white evangelical women voted for Donald Trump. Think about that.

The irony of course is that for all intents and purposes Trump is, at best, a Christian of convenience. Indeed, he is a man that appears to have no convictions, religious or otherwise, and represents everything that Christian morality rejects, at least in theory.

The irony is only compounded by the fact that Hillary Clinton was and is a model Christian. As a lifelong Methodist, Clinton was secure in her faith, and actually tried to practice the best of Christian values, exhibited by the Methodist motto that formed a cornerstone of her campaign and personal philosophy:

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

It is stunning but not surprising to note that the majority of evangelical Christians were happy to support a candidate with a long and well documented history of racism, misogyny, and corruption, a man that brags about being able to sexually assault women with impunity.

Bottom line: Evangelical Christians are shameless hypocrites who reject morality and decency in favor of an immoral, authoritarian, bully.

And now our long national nightmare begins.

See:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/11/blame-white-evangelicals-for-trump-victory/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=progressivesecularhumanist_111016UTC011139_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=52735928&spUserID=MTIxNzQwMzMwMDkyS0&spJobID=1044382176&spReportId=MTA0NDM4MjE3NgS2

8 Reasons White People Get Suckered by Racial Demagogues Like Donald Trump

Donald Trump has written a virtual textbook about the worst aspects of right-wing American politics.

Source:AlterNet

Author:Chauncey DeVega

Emphasis Mine

Donald Trump is not a riddle, a monster or a mystery. Trump has many antecedents in American history, and his ascendance was the wholly predictable result of a broken political culture.

For progressives and those others worried about America’s deep political rot, “Trumpmania” represents a supreme and rare teachable moment, one that exposes the racism, authoritarianism, and socio-political anxieties of white movement conservatives in the post civil rights era and the age of Obama.

In many ways, Donald Trump has written a virtual textbook about the worst aspects of present-day, right-wing American politics. This book, if ever published, would include the following important concepts.

1. White identity politics. Donald Trump has been endorsed by prominent white supremacists and white nationalists as their chosen candidate.

(Political socialization begins in the home. According to recently discovered news reports from 1927, Trump’s father was likely at least a sympathizer with, if not a member, of the Ku Klux Klan.) From the end of the Civil Rights Movement onward, the Republican Party has used a strategy of white grievance mongering known as the Southern Strategy to mobilize its voters.

As a complement to the Southern Strategy, since the election of Barack Obama, the right-wing Fox News hate media has obsessively channeled racist narratives such as “birtherism,” “black crime,” and most recently the lie that the Black Lives Matter movement is an anti-white hate group.

The Republican base is almost entirely white, increasingly alienated and upset about the perceived decline in white people’s political and social power, and feeling under siege in a country that is becoming more racially diverse. Donald Trump has combined the old fashioned racism of overt white supremacists with the modern white racist “dog whistle” politics of the Republican Party. He is the new face of American white identity politics in the 21st century.

2. Right-wing producerism. Donald Trump has presented himself as an “everyman” who can speak for the “regular” people who feel alienated and frustrated by the Washington D.C. “insiders” who do not look out for the “little guy.” This is the crudest form of populist politics. Trump then aims his supporters’ anger towards an enemy: immigrants from Mexico who are coming to American to supposedly steal jobs while they rape and murder white women; or the Chinese he presents as a stereotypical devious and sneaky “yellow peril” Asian foe that only Trump can outmaneuver and conquer.

In this script, Donald Trump then promises to protect benefits like Social Security and health care, while creating a more fair tax code for “hardworking” (white) Americans who are under siege by “parasites”, i.e. the poor on one extreme, and the corporate monied classes on the other. Trump’s “makers and takers” language is then mated with hostility to some type of Other in order to excite and mobilize conservatives via right-wing populist zeal.

3. Herrenvolk politics (a system in which minorities are disenfranchised while the ethnic majority holds sway). Donald Trump is using white identity politics to win supporters. Combining overt and subtle racism, part of Trump’s appeal is that he promises to protect the resources and democratic rights of white Americans against their supposed exploitation and theft by non-whites. This is one of the foundations of right-wing producerism.

In the right-wing conservative imagination, real Americans are “hard working,” “Christian” and “white.” Their rights and privileges are to be protected at all costs against lazy black and brown people who are welfare queens, thugs or “illegal” immigrants. The social safety net—while torn at by the 1 percent and right-wing plutocrats—exists to serve white people and “real Americans” before any other group.  As was seen in Nazi Germany, South Africa, Israel, and other racist apartheid societies, the State exists to provide support and service to the “ingroup” or “master race” while the “outgroup” is denied the same benefits and rights. This is the core of Donald Trump’s herrenvolk appeal.

4. Social dominance behavior. Donald Trump’s supporters are drawn from the same core of aggrieved and angry white voters who comprise the Tea Party wing of the GOP. Research on this group shows that they are racially resentful, fearful of social change, hostile to people who are not like them, believe in natural hierarchies and order, seek out strong leaders, are deferent to authority, and exhibit a type of “bullying politics.” In many ways, Trumpmania is a frightening reflection of the authoritarian values that have infected American conservatives.

5. Know-Nothings. Donald Trump’s nativist, xenophobic and racist politics are the latest version of the 19th century American political movement known as the Know-Nothings. The Know-Nothings 1856 party platform included demands that “Americans must rule America; and to this end native-born citizens should be selected for all state, federal and municipal offices of government employment, in preference to all others…”

This is not unlike Trump’s ginning up of white anxiety and violence towards non-white immigrants.

6. The strong father and “manliness.” Donald Trump repeatedly talks about “strength” while slurring Barack Obama and other political enemies as “weak” or as “pansies.”

Trump is also not limited by what the right-wing sees as “weak” “liberal” notions of “political correctness” as he insults women and throws verbal bombs at any person who disagrees with him.

Right-wing ideologues and authoritarians idolize the strong father figure, one who often uses punitive means of discipline to maintain high levels of control over his wife and children. (The right-wing’s latest slur, “cuckservative,” also reflects their anxieties about white masculinity, race, and sexual potency.)

Donald Trump uses gendered language because America’s political class often defaults to a framework where the Democrats are framed as being weak, feminine or too intellectual. By comparison, the Republicans are depicted as strong, manly and decisive.

Donald Trump is playing the role of strongman for the right-wing ideologues and movement conservatives who are aroused by such a figure because the latter fulfills a psychological need for security and protection in a world they view as dangerous and changing too rapidly. His name-calling, bullying swagger, and indifference to norms of comportment and reasonable behavior are central to Trump’s popularity.

7. Performance art and spectacular politics. Donald Trump’s political success is a product of reality television show culture.

Reality television shows are scripted. The genre is wildly popular among American viewers because it is part of an “empire of illusion” that distracts and confuses the public while allowing them to live out their fantasies and wish fulfillment.

In keeping with that dynamic, Trump’s obsessions with “ratings” and public opinion polls that supposedly show his “popularity” are the result of a broken civic and moral culture that equates “likes” on Facebook or “votes” on American Idol with substantive measures of virtue or human value.

Ultimately, Donald Trump is using his background as a reality TV show host, business celebrity, and fan of professional wrestling to engage in a type of ridiculous and exaggerated performance art that mocks the notion of normal politics. Because Trump is not interested in normal politics—Trump is reality TV mixed with professional wrestling—he is relatively immune from derailment or substantive engagement by the news media or his political rivals in the Republican Party.

8. Conspiracy theories and the paranoid style. Donald Trump was one of the most prominent advocates of “Birtherism”—a belief that Barack Obama, the United States’ first black president, was somehow not eligible for the office because he is not a “real” citizen.

This is an absurdly racist claim; nevertheless it is one that is still believed by 66 percent of Trump supporters and 45 percent of Republicans. Birtherism was the first of many conspiracy theories that would be invented by the right-wing media in the age of Obama. Obsessions about Planned Parenthood, ACORN and Benghazi would follow. These delusions are part of a long pattern of right-wing paranoia that Richard Hofstadter detailed in his landmark 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

The right-wing media and the Republican Party’s embrace of conspiracy theories and paranoid delusions contribute to a broken political system because too much time is spent on the absurd instead of doing the work of real governance. The conspiracy fantasies of Donald Trump and the American right-wing constitute an alternative reality that is immune from facts. Consequently, these beliefs function as a type of religious cult where faith—what is a belief that cannot be proven by ordinary means—is substituted for empirical reality.

Donald Trump’s “birtherism” alternate reality is compelling and exciting for those who believe in it. Such conspiranoid delusions are dangerous because they create extreme political polarization, a political system that cannot fulfill its basic functions, encourage violence, and tear at the common beliefs and values that create a sense of political legitimacy and community in the United States.

Informed citizens can create positive political change. An ignorant public can be easily swayed, manipulated, and duped to act against their self-interest and the Common Good.

Donald Trump is a charismatic figure who embodies the fears, hopes, and anxieties of an aggrieved and frustrated white America. He is the hero they are desperate for. He is a product of a particular coincidence of broken politics, an irresponsible Fox News echo chamber media, and a scared and racially resentful public.

Chauncey DeVega’s essays on race, politics and popular culture can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com/. He is a regular guest on Ring of Fire Radio and TV, and hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Follow him on Twitter.

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/8-reasons-white-people-get-suckered-racial-demagogues-donald-trump

 

The GOP’s Problem Is Not Donald Trump

at least half of the GOP is unhinged and living in its own fact-free and perhaps Fox-fed reality

Source:motherjones.com

Author:David Corn

Emphasis Mine

Only a few weeks ago, pundits and political observers roundly proclaimed that Donald Trump, the reality-show tycoon who’s mounted a takeover of the GOP, would flame out, fade, implode, or whatever. Jeb Bush’s campaign aides were telling journalists that they had no concerns about Trump threatening a third Bush regime. “Trump is, frankly, other people’s problem,” said Michael Murphy, the chief strategist for Bush’s super-PAC. It’s becoming clearer, though, that Trump, still dominating the polls and the headlines as the Republican front-runner, could well pose an existential threat to the Grand Old Party (or at least its establishment, including the Bush campaign). But the fundamental problem for the Rs is not Trump; it’s Republican voters.

Trump is a brash and arrogant celebrity who is well skilled in pushing buttons, belittling foes, uttering outrageous remarks, causing a ruckus, and drawing attention to one thing: himself. He’s a smart marketer and a brilliant self-promoter. His name recognition is over 100 percent. He cooked up a wonderful ready-for-swag tagline: “Make America Great Again.” He’s incredible. He’s yooge. But none of this would matter if there was no demand for his bombastic, anger-fueled, anti-immigrant populism—that is, if Republican voters did not crave a leader who equates undocumented immigrants with rapists and who claims that everyone else in political life is a nincompoop selling out the US of A to the Chinese, the Mexicans, and just about every other government.

The polite way to say this is that Trump’s message is resonating with Republicans. And polls show that his support is not ideological. He’s winning over GOPers across the spectrum, from conservatives to evangelicals to supposedly moderate Rs. His assault on the GOP powers that be (or powers that were) is not the rebellion of one wing against another. (Political commentators are so programmed to view party conflicts as battles between conflicting factions.) Instead, Trump is tapping into a current that runs throughout the various strains of the GOP. It’s a current of frustration, despair, anger, and yearning—a yearning for a time when the United States will not be confronted by difficult economic and national security challenges, and when you will not have to press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish.

Republicans are pissed off. (In polls, they express far more dissatisfaction with the nation’s present course than Democrats.) And they believe the nation has been hijacked by President Barack Obama, whose legitimacy most Rs still reject. A recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus participants found that 35 percent of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States. A quarter said they were not sure. (Nine out of ten Democrats said the president was born in the United States.) So nearly 60 percent of Rs believe there is cause to suspect Obama has hornswoggled the nation. Meanwhile, according to another poll, 54 percent of Republican voters say Obama is a Muslim. A third were not sure. Only 14 percent identified the president as a Christian.

These findings—which echo a long string of surveys conducted during the Obama years—would seem to indicate that at least half of the GOP is unhinged and living in its own fact-free and perhaps Fox-fed reality. To top it off, many Republican voters have expected the GOPers in control of Congress to kill Obamacare, shut down the government and slash the budget, prevent Obama from issuing executive orders, and impeach the pretender who inhabits the White House. Oh, and there’s this: Benghazi! So they are mighty ticked off and seriously disappointed. The Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll found that half of GOP caucus-goers said they were unsatisfied with the US government and 38 percent were “mad as hell” at it. Slightly more than half were unsatisfied with Republicans in Congress; a fifth were mad as hell at them.

Given the psychological state of the GOP base, it’s not surprising that the fellow expressing the most outrage on the campaign trail—the guy who sounds like he, too, is mad as hell—has taken the express elevator to the penthouse floor of the polls. After all, he’s the only one in the pack who has confronted Obama on his birthplace. Trump has not renounced his birther ways. He has already made that point for this audience and can move on. (In the past few days, Trump also came close to endorsing another far-right conspiracy theory. He essentially accused Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide, of being a security problem because she is married to disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner and presumably shared classified State Department information with this “perv.” For years, conservative conspiracy theorists have claimed Abedin was a Muslim Brotherhood mole within the US government.)

The anti-immigrant, anti-Obama, anti-establishment sentiment that Trump is tapping runs deep within the Republican electorate. Many Republicans clearly see the president as a foreign-born secret Muslim with a clandestine plan to weaken, if not ruin, the United States—remember the death panels—and they have a dark, nearly apocalyptic view of Obama’s America. (My email box of late is full of fundraising notes from right-wing groups claiming Obama is about to confiscate all guns, suspend the Constitution so he can run for a third term, relinquish American sovereignty to the United Nations, and mount a military operation within the United States to subdue any opposition to him.)

If this is your perspective when seeking a presidential candidate who will represent your desires and demands, you are unlikely to be drawn to a politician who wants to gain your vote by presenting a 27-point economic plan or by advocating charter schools. Voters this dissatisfied and this detached from reality will be looking for someone who can vent for them. Trump does that. He also promises quick and simple action to address their concerns: a wall (not  a fence), great trade deals at a snap of the finger, the end of ISIS, you name it. And you just won’t believe how great this country will be after four years of President Trump. A focus group of Trump backers recently conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that Trumpites fancied Trump as much for his cut-the-crap manner as for the substance of his remarks.

As a way to counter Obama, the Republicans eagerly courted the tea partiers and other dissatisfied voters. They rode that tiger into the congressional majority in the low-turnout elections of 2010 and 2014. They whipped up the frenzy. (During the Obamacare fight, House Speaker John Boehner hosted a tea party rally on Capitol Hill, during which the crowd shouted, “Nazis, Nazis” when referring to Democrats.) Washington Republicans vowed they would take the country back from Obama for the tea party. They exploited the Obama hatred, but their often effective obstructionism was still not enough to feed the beast that had carried them into power.

Though Trump may beg to differ, Trumpmania is not about Trump. He’s merely supplying the rhetoric and emotion craved by a large chunk of the GOP electorate. That yearning won’t go away. Ben Carson, who in the latest Iowa poll tied for first place with Trump, is pushing a similar message—America is going to hell and the nation needs an outraged outsider to clean up the mess. His tone is kinder and gentler (and musical!). But like Trump, he is mining profound dissatisfaction and promising a national revival. Combine the Trump and Carson electorates at this point, and it’s close to a majority of Republicans.

A Trump-Carson ticket? Maybe not. (But if so, you heard it here first.) The point is, the GOP is overflowing with voters who long for a candidate who echoes their rage and resentment. Whatever happens with Trump in the months ahead, this bloc of voters won’t go away. Neither will their fury. This is the true dilemma for the Republican Party and its pooh-bahs. Trump, the deal-making businessman, is merely responding to market forces. He’s just the supplier. Trump is the drug, and the voters need to score. The demand is what counts.

See:http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/09/gop-doesnt-have-donald-trump-problem

Rand Paul: Another anti-gay, anti-woman, GOP theocrat

Source: Patheos

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

Contrary to the hype, Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul is just another standard issue Republican: anti-gay, anti-woman, and subservient to the Christian patriarchy.

Today Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul formally announced his 2016 presidential campaign for the Republican nomination for president, declaring “we have come to take our country back.”

Presumably the “we” Paul speaks of is white, heterosexual, conservative Christian males.

Speaking at his “Stand for Rand” rally in Louisville today, the 52-year-old Paul said:

Today I am announcing, with God’s help and with liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States.

While it may be disingenuous to conflate liberty with subservience to Christianity, it is a political strategy Paul will deploy in his bid for the 2016 Republican nomination. Yet Paul is quite selective about who is entitled to liberty.

Paul opposes gay rights in general, and gay marriage in particular. In addition, Paul would also deny women the right to reproductive freedom, all in the name of conservative Christian values.

Last month, Paul told a group of pastors and religious leaders at a private prayer breakfast in Washington D.C. that the debate about legalizing same-sex marriage is the result of a “moral crisis” in the country, and called for a Christian revival, proclaiming:

We need a revival in the country. We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying, ‘reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform.’

Indeed, for many months now Paul has been quietly running a stealth campaign, meeting with scores of leaders from the Christian right to gain their support for his presidential run.

Previously Paul has worried that same-sex marriage will lead to besitiality, relying upon the same ridiculous slippery-slope arguments used by many simple-minded religious conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage

As for women’s reproductive health, Paul is anything but a libertarian. Paul would deny women basic autonomy over their own bodies. Paul argues that life begins at conception, and when it comes to his anti-choice, anti-woman, conservative Christian “family values” Paul is an extremist. Paul supports fetal personhood legislation that would outlaw all abortion and prohibit contraception, stem-cell research, and in-vitro fertilization.

Perhaps even more disturbing, Paul has publicly stated that parents “own” their children, while making the absurd claim that vaccines cause “profound mental disorders.” While the idea that parents own their children is abhorrent to reasonable individuals, it is a common sentiment among conservative Christians. Paul wants to present himself as something different, but in the end he is just another Republican exploiting the fears and prejudices of conservative Christians for his own political advantage.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2015/04/rand-paul-another-anti-gay-anti-woman-gop-theocrat/#ixzz3WuuDkhgX

 

 

Let Us Not Pray

The critical principle is this: Courts have to intervene when the government coerces people into religious observance. If the Constitution’s prohibition on the establishment of religion means anything, it should mean that a citizen need not choose between the right to petition his government and the right not to pray.

Source: Slate.com

Author:  and 

(N.B.:Separation of Church and State is critical in an era in which we must be driven by science, and other forms of reason.

“In 2007 Susan Galloway started going to town board meetings in the town she lived in, Greece, N. Y., to voice support for public-access cable television. Linda Stephens attended several meetings to weigh in on a plan to build a disc golf course at a park. The women arrived to discover that their town board had adopted a new practice: opening each meeting with a prayer. Galloway is Jewish, and Stephens is an atheist. Both felt that they should not be told to bow their heads and join a collective prayer—a prayer in which they could not in good conscience participate—in order to petition their local government. They filed suit claiming that the town board prayer is an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

This week the Supreme Court will hear this challenge. There’s a lot riding on this case. In past rulings the court has drawn a line in the constitutional sand: The state cannot coerce people to join or participate in religious activities. If the court now blurs that line, government will have more power to tell citizens when, if, and how they should pray. The more power government has over religion, the more likely it is that this power will be abused.

Members of both the U.S. House and Senate (most of them Republican) disagree. They insist this is an easy case. They note that Congress begins its sessions with a prayer and point to a 1983 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the practice of opening a state legislative session this way. They say that prayers before a town board meeting are the same thing. But they’re wrong. And that’s the key to this case.

Town board meetings have a fundamentally different function from state or national legislative sessions. Most audience members in the gallery of Congress or a state legislature are simply observers. They can sit in the gallery, or they can watch the legislature on C-SPAN. Either way they’re in the same passive role. By contrast, most citizens attend town board meetings to participate in government. They come to speak up and to petition and influence the board as it makes decisions that matter locally. Much of the work of town boards involves political disputes that impact small groups, neighborhoods, and, sometimes, individual residents. Attending a town board meeting is much more like appearing in court than watching a legislative vote.

And this is where the constitutional problem lies. If your case was being argued before a judge, and he asked you to pray with him at the start of a trial, wouldn’t you feel pressured to comply? Ideally, if you declined, neither a judge nor a town board would hold your unwillingness to join in their prayers against you. In actuality, the risk of alienating the official with decision-making power would probably weigh heavily. Like a courtroom, a town board meeting is up-close and personal. If you decide not to pray, everyone, including the members of the board, will see you sitting silently or leaving the room while the rest of the audience stands and bows their heads.

If you think about it, this is a scenario that’s more prone to coerced religious observance than a graduation ceremony in which students are asked to stand in prayer. And the Supreme Court has already ruled that prayers at public high school graduations are unconstitutional.

There’s another problem with this particular town’s prayer offerings: According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, the town didn’t do a good job of making sure the prayers reflected diverse religious viewpoints. From the time they began in 1999 through the point in 2007 when Galloway and Stephens began raising concerns, every single prayer had been Christian, as was every clergy member on the list the town board used to choose its “chaplain of the month.” In 2008, after the suit was filed, the town finally started letting non-Christians volunteer to do the prayers, and that year they had two prayers from a Jewish leader, one from a Baha’i leader, and one offered by a Wiccan. In 2009 and 2010, the prayers went back to being all Christian. The Appeals Court struck down the town’s prayer practice in light of this poor record, saying it unconstitutionally endorsed Christianity.

True, but Galloway and Stephens should win not just because the prayers were almost always Christian. The government can’t burden religious freedom by pressuring people to pray, period. That pressure is unavoidable in the context of a town board meeting.

The critical principle is this: Courts have to intervene when the government coerces people into religious observance. If the Constitution’s prohibition on the establishment of religion means anything, it should mean that a citizen need not choose between the right to petition his government and the right not to pray.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/11/town_prayer_at_the_supreme_court_greece_v_galloway.html

Crucifixion and Resurrection: The Republican Warping of Christ’s Moral Lessons

Whether or not one believes in a god, Jesus Christ, or the Christian bible is irrelevant to basic humanity and caring for those in need

From: Politics USA

By: Rmuse

“All around the world today, multitudes of Christians are celebrating their opportunity for salvation and everlasting life because of their savior’s sacrifice to benefit all human kind. America is no different, but there are indications that many American Christians cannot bring it upon themselves to sacrifice anything for their fellow Americans in the present and it diminishes Christ’s sacrifice and the alleged altruism inherent in the meaning of Easter. The crucifixion and resurrection story are moral lessons for Christians that the greatest expression of love for fellow humans is sacrificing oneself to benefit all people, but the sentiments being manifest by the religious right and their Republican political leaders is more akin to the sinful greed and hate Christ condemned than his commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

In the Christian bible, it says that “For god so loved the world that he gave his only son that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  However, the bible also says that belief or faith in Jesus and his sacrifice is not sufficient to earn everlasting life and that a devotee must show their faith in Christ by following his example of having love for all human beings and expressing that love through charity and care for the least among us. In the New Testament, James, the alleged brother of Jesus Christ wrote that, “faith, if it does not have deeds, is dead in itself” and “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 26). The implication is that no matter how great one claims their belief and faith in Christ’s sacrifice is, without following his explicit commandments and examples of love for all people, it is better to have never known Christ or his sacrifice.

Every Christian has heard the bible’s stories of Christ’s directives to care for the poor and infirm even if it means caring for a hated enemy, and yet here are alleged Christians, supporting Republicans’ Draconian cuts to programs that feed, house, and provide healthcare for the poor, children, seniors, and minorities under the guise of fiscal conservatism and austerity to control the nation’s deficit. Even if the notion of reducing the deficit was sincere, Christ made no allusion to an exception for caring for the poor if a government needed help to control its deficit in the present or for future generations as Republicans are wont to claim. And yet, here are Christian conservatives in Congress and state legislatures slashing spending on food stamps, housing assistance, and healthcare for the poorest Americans and they have garnered support from the same Christians who assert their faith and belief in Christ and his ultimate sacrifice as payment for their eternal life. Christ had strong words for these so-called “Christians” and it did not include granting them everlasting life or praise for their rank greed and selfishness. Christ may as well have been speaking to 21st century Republicans, conservative Christians, and the religious right when he said, “Hypocrites, This people honors me with the lips, but their hearts are remote from me, and they adore me vainly, inculcating teachings that are commands of men” (Matt. 15:7-9).

The commands of Republicans to their loyal followers is to reward the wealthy at the expense of the poor, and they have convinced their “good Christian” adherents that it is virtuous to reject Christ’s admonition to help the poor as a requirement for being a good American. The conservative Christians supporting Republican Paul Ryan and Willard Romney’s budgets and economic plans have taken to heart not Christ’s teachings, but those of Ayn Rand and wealthy industrialists such as the Koch brothers and their think tanks that inculcate the proposition that instead of helping the least advantaged, Americans are duty-bound to heap the nation’s assets on the wealthy that Christ claimed would have great difficulty in profiting from his life-giving sacrifice.

There are millions of Christians who do not subscribe to the Republicans’ teachings that the wealthy deserve more sacrifices from Americans, and poll after poll demonstrate that, indeed, the majority of Americans believe the wealthy should share in sacrificing by contributing more to assist the poor and pay down the deficit. There are Christian clergy who have spoken out against the Republican Draconian cuts to programs for poverty-stricken Americans, and yet they have had as much success influencing conservative Christians as Secular Humanists who are closer to following Christ’s teachings than so-called Christian conservatives.

This is not necessarily an indictment of the Christian faith or all Christians,  because if its devotees followed Christ’s teachings exclusively and ignored the hate-filled exhortations of the apostle Paul and the Hebrew Scriptures’ god, then commentaries such as this would be unnecessary. But there are very few Christians who bifurcate Christ’s teachings of charity and assistance for the poor from the discriminatory, racist, and anti-woman dogmata inherent in the rest of the Christian bible, and it is the latter group that deludes themselves that Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection has any relevance in aiding their eternal life as believers and faithful followers of the Christian religion. Instead, these conservative Christians are the epitome of hypocrisy that Jesus cited for their “showy display” of lip service while their hearts are intent on rewarding the wealthy with ill-gotten gains from the poor, children, and senior citizens, and no amount of adoration for their savior, his instrument of death, or their claim of faithful devotion will save them.

Whether or not one believes in a god, Jesus Christ, or the Christian bible is irrelevant to basic humanity and caring for those in need, but when alleged followers of Christ offer their supreme devotion to Republicans who claim to be Christians while elevating the wealthy to god-status and eliminate crucial safety nets such as food, housing, and healthcare for the poor, they besmirch the Christian faith and the sacrifice of their avatar of goodness and love. However, as long as they clutch their bible to their bosom, do obeisance to the cross, and proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ, they are able to justify any actions that are contrary to Christ’s teachings. It leads one to wonder to what extent they really believe in his sacrifice on their behalf, and what reward they aspire to as adversaries of Christian charity and love for their fellow man, because their works belie faith in Christ’s sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection.

Republicans will always punish the poor to enrich the wealthy and no amount of Christian posturing or reverence for the bible will change their greed and contempt for Americans who are not wealthy. The Christians who are devoted to helping Republicans punish the poor are in the same calamitous position as their Republican heroes and one would think that at Easter, they would reflect and re-evaluate the meaning of sacrifice, but obviously they are consumed with bunny rabbits, tax cuts for the wealthy, and hatred for an African American sitting in the Oval Office. The lesson for Christians is simple; if they think that dressing up on Easter Sunday, coloring eggs, and acknowledging their savior’s death and resurrection guarantees them everlasting life at the same time they support the policies and hateful agenda of Republicans, their everlasting existence is about as likely as a Jewish man coming back to life after decomposing for three days in a tomb.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.politicususa.com/easter-republican-christ/