American secular

The founding moment of the United States brought a society newly freed from religion. What went wrong?

Source: Aeon

Author: Sam Haselby

Emphasis Mine

In the beginning was the thing, and the thing was against God. So might begin the gospel of American secularism. The sudden flourish of secularism at the time of the United States’ foundation is incongruous, a rogue wave of rationality in a centuries-long sea of Protestant evangelising, sectarianism and God-talk. But it is undeniable. In 1788, with the adoption of its Constitution, the United States became the first modern republic founded on a legal separation of church and state. In a country that holds sacred the intentions of its revolutionary-era founders, those founders’ secular ambitions are clear. Thomas Jefferson wrote a book, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, to try to prove that Jesus was not Christ, that the man was not the son of God. Around the world, his pithy expression ‘a wall of separation between church and state’ continues to represent a particular secular ideal of separating religious and political power.

James Madison, the primary author of the US Constitution, was an even more rigorous and consistent, if less poetic, secularist. On grounds of what he called ‘pure religious freedom’, Madison opposed military and congressional chaplains, believing that they amounted to government sponsorship of religion. Every step short of this ‘pure religious freedom’, he wrote, would ‘leave crevices at least thro’ which bigotry may introduce persecution; a monster… feeding & thriving on its own venom’.

So, in brief, what went wrong? How did the country founded by visionary secularists, and that made historic advances in both religious freedom and the separation of religious and political powers, nonetheless become the world’s most religious political democracy? Understanding secularism better helps to answer the question. Secularism is not one simple thing; it has distinct theological, philosophical and political lives. Its theological and philosophical versions are formed from simple, if explosive, ideas. In its political guise, ideas are less important than institutions, and it is on the shoals of institution-building that American secularism wrecked.

In theological terms, secularism is an Anglo-Protestant heresy that arose on the periphery of the 18th-century British Empire. In the past two centuries, it has developed offshoots in Catholicism and Islam, and genealogies in these and other faiths have been produced, but the influence of secularism is due in good part to the rise of US power in the modern world.

Prior to 18th-century Anglo-America – specifically revolutionary-era Virginia – no other modern society had sought to separate law, politics, social life and civic institutions from the divine. Such separation is antithetical to Catholicism, in which the truth and the path to salvation are found within the Church and its Magisterium. The Magisterium – literally the ‘offices’ ­– holds all the teachings and doctrine and history of the Church. English translators often render the Arabic din as ‘religion’, but it really means a way of life, including law, politics, institutions and more. The same is true of the Sanskrit dharma or ‘way’. It was, simply, only Protestants who systematised the idea of religion as a matter separable from the rest of life, a ‘private’ matter, in the well-known secularist formulation.

Because of secularism’s Protestant origins, its history must include the thought of Martin Luther. He argued that man needed no institution, no hierarchy of learned clerics, to broach God. Luther insisted that man could, with the Bible alone, arrive at salvation – could, as Baptists in the American South say, ‘get right with God’. From this insistence, radical implications unfolded. As the Catholic Church immediately recognised, Luther’s ideas did not just defy established religious teachings. They made religious institutions profane, rendering the experience of the sacred a private matter. They elevated private judgment as equal to or above that of the high and learned, and threw religion and religious experience beyond the reach of the state and society. It marked the creation of the modern sovereign individual.

Of course, Luther himself was anything but a secularist. For a start, his motive was to protect religion from politics, not politics from religion. As far as Luther was concerned, faith was the prime realm, to be made safe from the pollutant of worldly power. Second, Luther’s championing of the individual conscience had nothing to do with any kind of equality. The 19th-century Methodist saying ‘Methodism hates democracy as much as it hates sin’ spoke from a spirit closer to that of Protestantism’s founder, who never questioned that social status would be inherited, and that it was the lot of most to serve and suffer. Ideas of political equality born in the Age of Revolution were inconceivable to the founder of Protestantism. He would have found the relatively modest revolutionary-era American ideas about equality not just absurd but criminal, heretical.

Nonetheless, in the Age of Revolution, when America’s Virginia planters embraced the sovereignty of the individual in the name of religious freedom, they were clearly following in the footsteps of Luther. Catholicism, Islam or Judaism presented no similar path to the sovereign individual. Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786) legislated that people could hold their own religious views, whatever they might be, in the name of freedom. Following its passage, the usually cautious Madison wrote exultantly to Jefferson that they had ‘in this country extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind’.

‘It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg’

Jefferson concurred that the achievement was historic. His reply also made clear who had been history’s great enemies of freedom: ‘Kings, priests, & nobles’ had for centuries conspired to keep man in ignorant subordination. It was, he wrote, Virginia’s great honour ‘to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his opinions’. Jefferson felt the honour was also his, as he chose to have his authorship of the statute inscribed on his tombstone.

In the context of early modern political philosophy, to state that the reason of man could be trusted with the formation of his opinions was another way of stating the radical content of ‘all men are created equal’. The famous phrase did not mean that men possessed equal physical or intellectual capacities. It meant that all men could reason and were capable of acting as responsible and accountable moral agents. There is a clear intellectual link with Luther’s valuation of individual judgment.

For Luther, however, the implications of the sovereign individual were narrowly and entirely theological, rather than social or political. Princes would always be princes; peasants were to perpetually remain peasants. Luther’s sovereign individual simply had no social or political implications. By contrast, American religious freedom, as it took shape in Virginia during the Age of Revolution, contained little differences that made big differences. The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom granted broad, principled protections for freedom of thought. It granted them to everyone, including those without theological qualification or learning.

Luther was an erudite Augustinian monk. He could envision theological debate only among the tiny number of similarly learned. Jefferson captured the extent of the Virginia Statute when he said: ‘It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.’ Broad principled protection of religious belief was, in fact, far more consequential than Jefferson’s quote wants one to conclude. Beliefs tend to lead to actions; and it is actions, not beliefs, that cause injury. Historic as it was, Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom grants no protections to actions taken on the basis of religious beliefs, only to the quiescent holding of private beliefs. The idea that belief and action, faith and life, can be so easily separated is central to the secular heresy.

The Virginians’ goals were in a real sense the opposite of Luther’s. They thought they were protecting the nation by separating politics from religion, protecting political society from the poison of religious passions. From a theological perspective, their secularism was a heresy. It diminished the role of the established churches. It separated religion from the world and made it private, and this privatising imperative of secularism is one of its great victories, albeit an incomplete one. The devout tend to conceive of God or Jesus or Allah or the Quran or the Bible as incomparable, unique authorities. They interpret the secular obligation to render religion a private matter as the impious or heretical telling them that some of their sacred duties are inherently illegitimate.

While it is a matter of history that secularism was in origin an Anglo-Protestant heresy, it is also true that America’s 18th-century secularists were not themselves moved by theological concerns. Rather, philosophy drove them, and their goals were thoroughly political. The simplest way to grasp the underlying philosophical idea of the secular is to understand that its original antonym is not religious, but divine. That is, secular refers to all things that are not the prerogative of the divine, of God, but are in the world and ‘in time’. God is not in time, or worldly, because God and the City of God are eternal. It is the worldly, the City of Man, that changes.

The shadow of this philosophical meaning of secular as worldly is evident in the Catholic notion of secular law – or the law of the world, of trusts and land and inheritances, with which the Church must be involved. Secular law stands in contrast to, and beneath, the laws of God, that is to say, beneath theology, which is concerned with the divine and the eternal.

Natural history has replaced the supernatural creation story. Geology – not theology – explains the features of the Earth

The one time Jefferson used the term ‘secular’, in July 1788, it was in this philosophical sense. Writing in excitement to a friend about the work of Pierre-Simon de Laplace, Jefferson wrote that the French mathematician and astronomer had ‘discovered that the secular acceleration and retardation of the Moon’s motion is occasioned by the action of the Sun’. Laplace had demonstrated that the eccentricities of planetary orbits were further proof of (not a deviation from) Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity. These eccentricities had led Newton to speculate that occasional divine intervention kept the solar system in orbital equilibrium. Laplace’s findings removed the notion of an active God from celestial mechanics. The Moon’s changing speeds were a result not of the hand of God, but of gravitational forces, expressible in mathematics and discoverable by men.

Economists and statisticians still use the term ‘secular’ in the same sense as Jefferson’s ‘secular acceleration and retardation’. It means, essentially, change over time. For 18th-century intellectuals the question was simple: was God active in the world? To Jefferson, Laplace’s discovery amounted to the heavens themselves attesting that God did not even intervene in the cosmos. This caused Jefferson much excitement both because of the great authority of science for Enlightenment thinkers, and for its political implications. Jefferson brought this core philosophical idea of the secular from the cosmos down to Earth in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785). Describing the origin of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, he gave a geological explanation meant as a direct challenge to the Christian account of creation.

Anyone looking at the Blue Ridge Mountains, wrote Jefferson, could see that ‘this Earth has been created in time, that the mountains were formed first, that the rivers began to flow afterwards, that in this place particularly they have been dammed up by the Blue ridge of the mountains’. Simple examination of the topography, he continued, revealed how an ocean had once filled the valley then torn down the mountain. Likewise, simple examination of the rocks attested to their ‘avulsion from their beds by the most powerful agents of nature’. The phrases ‘this Earth has been created in time’ and ‘the most powerful agents of nature’ were not subtle code phrases. Natural history has replaced the supernatural creation story. Laplace’s physics explains the working of the cosmos, and geology – not theology – explains the features of the Earth.

For Enlightenment thinkers, the authority of science was such that these findings in physics and geology carried direct political consequences. If physics made the cosmos, and geology the Earth, that left men to make political society. The opening of The Declaration of Independence (1776) – ‘When in the course of human events…’ – captures this elevation of human history and authority over theology and divine authority. The events are human events. Since God had not authorised political obligations, people could choose to dissolve and remake them. That is why the same line of the Declaration goes on to say that sometimes in history ‘it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another’. By contrast, one cannot dissolve divine obligations, they are made by God and are eternal.

It is not so difficult to understand the trajectory that led from the original Protestant championing of the sovereign individual to the heresy of 18th-century secularism extending that right of individual conscience to the masses. Nor is it so difficult to see that philosophical secularism provides strong grounds to separate the political and the religious into different spheres. But when it comes to secularisation itself – that is, the building of institutions to cultivate secular ideals deeply into the society – that’s when things get difficult.

Political life is where American secularism ran into a wall: the simple problem was its unpopularity. This unpopularity is one reason why American secularism remains clouded in some obscurity. Typically, big political ideas come into the world with names and words: they have champions and proponents, usually in writing. The Declaration of Independence announced US national independence, and a new theory of sovereignty, to the world. It soon entered world political literature. The Federalist Papers detail elaborate justifications for US constitutionalism. When big political ideas are born, just as in the birth announcement of a royal heir, the theatrical public statement, as weighty as possible, aims to impart legitimacy. Sometimes, the names arrive shortly thereafter, but come screaming: Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto(1848), for example. But there was no statement detailing secularism, no birth announcement, no manifesto.

In history, these are somewhat strange circumstances. A revolution leads to a historic achievement, but the beginnings and parameters of that achievement, even its moderately specific origins, remain murky, actually unstated. No one stepped up to offer a theory of the concept, or a formal statement of its principles. No one used the word. The thing itself was not even, on principled grounds, popular. But private communications between Madison, Jefferson and their allies in the effort to push secularising measures through the Virginia legislature in the mid-1780s reveal a plan that never came to be, a plan fully cognizant of the fact that a secular society would depend on secularising institutions.

The separation of church and state was not just an idea. It was a political act, in fact a very difficult political act. In revolutionary-era Virginia, the Anglican Church’s support for Britain in the War of Independence had left it weakened. Where it had supported 91 clergy before the war, following the Peace of Paris in 1783 only 28 Anglican clergy remained, in a population of approximately 690,000 in Virginia. Still, most people expected that the Anglican Church would remain Virginia’s state church, and that Virginia would continue to recognise Christianity. Just before becoming governor, Patrick Henry had prepared a bill calling upon the state of Virginia to legally recognise Christianity as the one ‘true religion’ by, among other means, a mandatory tithe to be paid to the government by each citizen. The bill also called for the state of Virginia officially to recognise that heaven and hell exist, that the Old and New Testaments were of divine origin, and that the Christian God be publicly worshipped. John Marshall, George Washington and other major figures in Virginia politics supported Henry’s bill.

However, a procedural oversight on Henry’s part delayed voting on the bill, and Madison moved to action. Both Jefferson and Madison were deeply opposed to a state church, or to any state recognition of religion. They also knew that their views against religion were unpopular and had no chance of prevailing on principle. Instead, Madison set out to terrify Virginia’s Presbyterians, Baptists and other rival sects into fearing that the state church would be an oppressive Anglican one. To this end, he wrote a broadside: theMemorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785). The Memorial succeeded, since most Virginia Christians wanted their own church to be the state church, and if not theirs then nobody else’s.

‘The mutual hatred of these sects has been much inflamed,’ Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1785, and ‘I am far from being sorry for it.’ Virginia’s disestablishment, or separation of church and state, came to be the model for national separation. But it was made possible only by a combination of parliamentary legerdemain and elite manipulation of sectarian hatred.

This first separation of church and state was, then, a purely negative measure. It was the governing equivalent of clearing a forest to build. It destroyed what secularists saw as unnatural public privilege for a corrupt institution holding vested interests in superstition and tyranny. To create a secular society, however, destruction was not enough. Positive measures must follow and the churches must be replaced, particularly in their social functions.

No one described this necessity better than Jean-Paul Rabaut, the architect of the French state education system. ‘The secret was well known to the priests,’ he said in 1791. ‘They took hold of man at birth, grasped him again in childhood, adolescence and adulthood, when he married and had children, in his moments of grief and remorse, in the sanctum of his conscience.. in sickness and in death.’ Public schools ought to ‘do in the name of truth and freedom’ what the church so ‘often did in the name of error and slavery’.

Quite simply, a secular society required the founding of public schools and libraries, served by qualified teachers. Scientific and philosophical education was necessary to replace the moral influence, social programmes and historical teachings of the churches. In the 1785–86 session of the Virginia Assembly, Jefferson proposed three bills intended to establish institutions to secularise Virginia society. The bills proposed to create a non-religious school system, organised by county, and providing free education through the elementary grades; to sever the College of William and Mary’s church ties, and make it a republican college; and to establish a public library system built around science, philosophy and civics. An ally of Jefferson’s described the ambition of the measures. They ‘propose a simple and beautiful scheme, whereby science… would have been “carried to every man’s door”.’

There was a reason that the Bible was the only book slave-owners allowed to circulate freely on plantations: America’s leading 18th-century secularists understood that religion brought a world of ideas – and sometimes a whole social life – as well as political opportunity to Virginians, rich and poor. Very few people would turn their backs on all of this simply out of political principle. The secularists would have to offer real alternatives: schools, libraries, ideas, stories, forms of community, an active and ongoing presence in the lives of Virginians. Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia described a plan by which a system of public schools would replace sacred history with profane history. The schools were to be free, for everyone, for three years. Examinations would find the best students among the poor, and these students could receive more schooling, paid for by the state, through the College of William and Mary. ‘By this means,’ Jefferson wrote, ‘the best geniuses will be raked from the rubbish.’

The object was to provide an education suitable for people who must function as citizens. ‘Instead of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children, at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured,’ he noted, children should instead receive educations in ‘Grecian, Roman, European, and American history’, Latin, Greek, mathematics, and the sciences. No law, he wrote, was ‘more important, none more legitimate’ than one to provide secular arts and sciences education for the people at large. It would, he wrote, make them effective ‘guardians of their own liberty’.

Churches would have been the big losers of this ‘systematical plan’, but their opposition was not the only reason, nor even the main reason, it failed to materialise. The nature of Southern plantation society did not permit potential alternatives, such as state-run school systems and libraries, to planter authority. The great 19th-century American intellectual, and former slave, Frederick Douglass called literacy ‘the pathway from slavery to freedom’. In his autobiography, he recalled his master admonishing his mistress for teaching him the alphabet: ‘If you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave.’

Planter authority could not be compromised for the sake of the visions of a few eccentric deists, however prominent. At the same time, there was a reason that the Bible was the only book slave-owners allowed to circulate freely on plantations. ‘Slaves, obey your earthly masters in fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ,’ states Ephesians, one of many places where the scriptures authorise slavery, and counsel submissive obedience. Slavery was simply more important to US nation-building than secularism.

In hindsight, American secularism has experienced both clear victories and stark defeats. The Anglo-Protestant heresy of making all members of the political community into Luther’s sovereign individuals has become something of an American orthodoxy. Who is more consistently certain that the sanctity of their conscience has vouchsafed God-given rights, whatever they decide those rights might be, than Americans? However, American secularists have generally failed at building institutions that rival the special breadth and depth of religion’s involvement in people’s lives.

For their part, acutely religious Americans have understood that public education is the enemy: that it is – and must be – secularising. For the sciences and humanities offer worlds, and explanations, that the scriptures do not, and an education in the latter in particular seems to be a fairly reliable inoculation against authoritarian tendencies of religion. Indeed, historically, the purpose of public education in modern nation-states is to make people citizens, not to make them better Christians or Jews or Muslims. Finally, it is important to emphasise that the varieties of the secular are not all equal. Yes, secularism emerged out of Protestant theology, and philosophy transformed it from a heresy into a tenet of modern politics. But to its 18th-century proponents, it was at root a political project. A secular society, they were certain, would be a more enlightened, peaceful and just society. American secularism has not fulfilled those aspects of its promise. It never even secularised American political life. Whether it was a mistake in principle, or the problem is that secularists did not go far enough, is open to debate, but it is worth remembering that American secularism was always meant to be a means, not an end.


The Right Responds to Paris With Bible-Thumping, Scientific Illiteracy, Frat Boy Antics

The situation in Syria is very serious, but conservatives keep responding in idiotic and childish ways.

Source: Salon via AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

The Paris attacks brought renewed interest in ISIS and the ongoing crisis in Syria, and unsurprisingly, that means that we’ve all had to endure right-wingers rolling out the usual chest-thumping bravado from Republicans who have no personal worries about ever seeing combat. But never fear! Slobbering enthusiasm for war is far from the only right-wing neurosis that is being trotted out in response to the ISIS situation. Our friends on the right are also responding with usual mix of the Bible-thumping, anti-science rhetoric, and gross sexism they manage to work into nearly every conversation.

The right’s growing hostility to scientific evidence is on full display when it comes to the issue of how to deal with the millions of Syrians displaced by the civil war who are seeking some place safer to live. Hysteria over the refugees is reaching a fever pitch as right-wingers claim to be afraid that ISIS is smuggling terrorists with the refugees who will come kill us all.

Even on its surface, these claims of fear should provoke skepticism, and not just because ISIS is too busy begging Muslims to move to Syria to start smuggling people out. As the Paris attacks show, if ISIS wants to bomb something, they’re going to go after iconic cities that can be held out as modern Sodoms. In other words, they’d go after New York, not Birmingham. So why was Alabama the first state out of the gate to deny the refugees welcome?

But if you dig into the actual scientific evidence, it really shows how completely disconnected from reality the right is on this issue. As Michael Halpern, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains, the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that allowing people refuge from war is not only safe itself, it actually decreases the chance of future terrorism. In fact, looking over the evidence, it suggests that the best way to keep people safe is to bring in as many refugees as you can.

This isn’t just because none of the two million refugees accepted into our country since 1990 have committed terrorism, which can be compared that to the almost routine terrorism committed by native born right wingers. Research also shows that a refugee’s chance of embracing radical views is much reduced if he moves to some place like the United States or Western Europe. Relocating to a country that is closer often means being closer to the conflict and more likely to pick up on radical views that lead to terrorism. If you want a young man who is just beginning to form his views to turn away from radicalism, your best bet is moving him here.

But, as usual, Republicans don’t think they need science because they have religion. The Bible-thumping has gotten completely out of control in the past week, with Ted Cruz proposing a religious test for Syrian refugees—if you’re Christian, you’re in, if you’re Muslim, you’re not—and Mike Huckabee pretending that Muslims are the only people that commit terrorism.

Compared to this unvarnished hatred, John Kasich might look like a gentle soul, but his idea on how to deal with ISIS is the same thing in a prettier package. “We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic, to be a part of a Christian-Judeo society,” he told NBC News, adding that he wanted to start an agency “to promote core Judeo-Christian, Western values that we and our friends and allies share.”

So he wants to broadcast targeted messages at Muslim populations that argue that Jews and Christians are better and more moral than Muslims. What could possibly go wrong?

Kasich may pretend he’s a moderate, but he’s buying into the same narrative as Cruz and Huckabee that this is some grand conflict between religions. Luckily, that happens to be ISIS’s message, too! I have no doubt that ISIS would love nothing more than the U.S. sending a bunch of messages out about how we think Christians (and, as an afterthought, Jews) are better than Muslims, because ISIS thrives on the idea that the differences between Muslims and Christians are irreconcilable and that war is the only answer.

Of course, not all responses from the right to the situation in Syria have been about Bible-thumping. The frat daddy contingent of the right that is mostly motivated by the ever-present fear that you might forget they have penises has to have their say, as well. For that set, of course, you have the Daily Caller, which ran a piece aimed at those men titled, “13 Syrian Refugees We’d Take Immediately.” (As it is a naked attempt to get traffic, I will not link. Rest assured my description will be enough.)

What follows is a bunch of photos from the Instagram account Syrian Girls Got Beauty, which is just what it seems to be, a fashion and beauty photo blog, presumably from Syria. There’s no evidence that any of the women are refugees or even know that their photos are being repurposed to make mock of the crisis in their country. The blog hasn’t been updated in over three months. Indeed, the photos aren’t even of 13 separate women—as a colleague of mine pointed out over email to those of us who were too appalled to look further, one of the women in the list is pictured twice.

But you have to give credit to the Daily Caller for really distilling the right-wing mentality down to the basics: Who cares about human rights, international relations, scientific evidence, thoughtful analysis, or even giving two minutes thought about something before forming some idiotic, knee-jerk opinion about it? It’s all about them: Their bigotries, their need to be told their religion is the best, their need to remind you every five seconds that they are heterosexual.

It’s a shame that we have to thank our lucky stars, in this environment, that at least we have a grown-up in the White House. Let’s hope it stays that way come November.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of “It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.”





Ben Carson: Screw The Constitution, Muslims Should Be Banned From The Presidency

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

author:John prager

Emphasis mine

Among his peers, Ben Carson may be meek and silent, as we have seen at the most recent Republican debate, but when one gets him alone, the braindead neurosurgeon is just as bigoted as the rest of his compatriots. According to Carson, no Muslim should ever be President of the United States.

In an interview with NBC Sunday, Carson explained that Islam should immediately disqualify a presidential candidate. “Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what’s been going on, Donald Trump, and a deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim,” Chuck Todd asked the presidential hopeful. “Let me ask you the question this way. Should a President’s faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?”

“Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” Carson replied. “But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem.”

“So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?” Todd asked.

No, I don’t. I do not,” Carson said, adding:

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

The United States was not founded on one particular religion, no matter how much right-wing extremists like Carson scream it from the mountaintops, but instead on a freedom of religion. In other words, all Americans — Christian, Jew, Pastafarian, Muslim, Dudeist, or any other religion — may be President. Of course, in suggesting a religious test for the office of President, Carson’s suggestion is actually in violation of the Constitution. Article 6 of the Constitution makes this abundantly clear:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.“

For a candidate in a party that uses the word “Constitution” only slightly less than they say “Benghazi,” it is rather surprising that Carson would propose an unconstitutional idea like barring Muslims from running for higher office.

One of the right’s favorite boogeymen, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on Carson to hang his head in shame and drop out of the race after the brain surgeon‘s (a term that it is difficult to use sarcastically in this scenario) horrific remarks. In a statement, the organization blasted Carson’s ignorance and bigotry:

Mr. Carson clearly does not understand or care about the Constitution, which states that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office,’” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We call on our nation’s political leaders – across the political spectrum – to repudiate these unconstitutional and un-American statements and for Mr. Carson to withdraw from the presidential race.”

He said this incident demonstrates why the Constitution is needed to protect Americans of all faiths.”

Carson should not only drop out of the race, but out of the public eye because his sole purpose is to serve as an embarrassing reminder that we have a long way to come as a country. Carson is clearly feeling the “Trump effect” and has begun speaking more inflammatory in a desperate grasp for attention that only serves to remind us as to how unqualified he truly is for the job of President. Muslim-Americans have every right participate in the American nation and the right-wing’s campaign to marginalize minorities is an affront to our democracy.


John Prager is an unfortunate Liberal soul who lives uncomfortably in the middle of a Conservative hellscape and likes to refer to himself as an “island of reason in a sea of insanity.” While he is not a fan of politicians, period, he has developed a deep-seated hatred for the bigotry, fear mongering, and lies of the Right Wing. John also works as a counselor at one of Barry Soetoro’s FEMA re-education camps and as a HAARP weather control coordinator. John’s life’s aspiration is to rule the world with an iron fist, or find that sock he’s been looking for. John can be reached at if you have any questions or comments.


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.


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.


Post Republican Debate Reality: GOP Field and Base Dominated By Right-Wing Extremists

No matter who’s leading, the agenda is far to the right.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Stephen Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

Presidential debates matter but follow-up polls tracing shifting fortunes can also miss the big picture.

That picture isn’t whether or not Donald Trump is still the Republican frontrunner for the 2016 nomination, or whether Carly Fiorina has surged, or whether Jeb Bush has stalled. It’s that a majority of Republican primary voters are supporting candidates who share many extreme right-wing views.

That evidence is not found in Trump’s numbers, which slipped from 26 percent in pre-debate national polls by Rasmussen Reports, which specializes in GOP campaigns, to 17 percent after the confrontation with Fox News’ moderators and his competitors. Rather, it comes from adding up the percentages of the candidates with 5 percent or more, and realizing that 70 percent of likely GOP primary voters favor right-wing extremists.

The polls’ fine-print tell one story—of shifting fortunes in a crowded field. Nationally, Trump now has 17 percent, followed by Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, each at 10 percent, according to Rasmussen. Then Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina each have 9 percent, followed by Ben Carson at 8 percent, and Ted Cruz at 7 percent. State polls find even more movement, such as Trump pulling ahead of Walker in Iowa and John Kasich climbing in New Hampshire.

But no matter who is out front now—or who might be leading as the fall campaign looms, when you add up the shares up of the GOP candidates pollings at 5 percent or more, fully 70 percent of Republicans want a candidate who is authoritarian and anti-abortion, anti-LGBT, anti-science, anti-tax, anti-government, anti-labor, and more.

This big-picture is largely lost in the campaign commentary and analysis, such as Nate Silver’s recent post at, entitled, “Donald Trump Is Winning The Polls – And Losing The Nomination.”

Silver’s points are all good—but he’s looking at the microcosm not the macrocosm. Yes, the Iowa caucuses are nearly 175 days away. And states do vote one at a time; there is no national primary. And of the 17 GOP contenders, some will drop out. And many states do not award delegates on a winner-take-all basis. And many poll respondents may not end up voting.

“This is why it’s exasperating that the mainstream media has become obsessed with how Trump is performing in the polls,” he wrote, then citing other historic and political factors why performance this early in a race is not a strong indication of who will win.

But what’s also exasperating is that the media’s fine print focus of post-debate polling is missing a very big point about the nature of the Republican field and the party’s current base: it’s filled with right-wing extremists, no matter how you parse it.  

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).


What The GOP Candidates Meant When They Were Talking About God At Last Night’s Debate

What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.

George Bernard Shaw

What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.

George Bernard Shaw

What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.
(George Bernard Shaw)

Source:Think Progress

Author: Jack Jenkins

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: It might be interesting to learn how the candidates might have responded to this question: if elected, how would you perform your duty to uphold the First Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.)


Thursday night’s highly-anticipated Republican presidential debate was political theater at its finest, complete with hard-nosed questions, heated exchanges, and vaguely articulated policy positions that political pundits will continue to pore over for weeks to come.

The final question of the debate, however, was arguably the most difficult to parse.

“I want to know if any of [the candidates] have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first,” read the inquiry, which was submitted online but repeated by host Megyn Kelly.

Several candidates answered the question, but the exchange was confusing for some viewers. After all, not everyone speaks spiritual language, and many of the candidates come from very different Christian traditions.

So what were the candidates actually talking about when they referenced their faith? ThinkProgress’ God Squad is here with a breakdown of some of the more important theological ideas discussed during last night’s debate.

Ted Cruz: The classic evangelical

When Senator Cruz (R-TX) was asked if he had received “a word from God” telling him what he should do if he became president, his answer was essentially a three-pronged list of his evangelical bona fides.

He began, naturally, with his love of scripture:

“Well, I am blessed to receive a word from God every day in receiving the scriptures and reading the scriptures. And God speaks through the Bible.”

Cruz is Southern Baptist, which makes him Protestant, and the line above is a deeply Protestant axiom. During the Protestant Reformation, Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin argued that theology should be rooted solely in scripture, as opposed to the opinions of church leadership they claimed were corrupt. Thus, the Bible — also often called the Word of God — became the bedrock of what eventually evolved into Protestant Christianity. Catholics, of course, feel similarly about scripture, but Protestants place far more emphasis on the written text than on tradition.

Thus, for Cruz, his “word from God” is the Bible, which he claims to read every day.

Cruz then moved on to a story about his father overcoming alcoholism with faith:

“I’m the son of a pastor and evangelist and I’ve described many times how my father, when I was a child, was an alcoholic.”

Cruz has indeed recounted his family history many times, partly because of how deeply it resonates with his party’s evangelical base. Redemption stories are an important aspect of conservative Christianity, and alcoholism is an area where evangelicals have a lot of influence: Alcoholics Anonymous evolved out of the The Oxford Group, a Christian organization that sought to help people overcome problems with faith.

Finally, Cruz discussed his competitors:

”I would also note that the scripture tells us, ‘you shall know them by their fruit.’ We see lots of ‘campaign conservatives.’ But if we’re going to win in 2016, we need a consistent conservative, someone who has been a fiscal conservative, a social conservative, a national security conservative.”

He is referencing Matthew 7 here, which includes Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount and the following warning for followers: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”


What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.

George Bernard Shaw


Thus, Cruz wants his fellow Republicans to be wary of conservatives without “consistent” right-wing records, positing himself as a better alternative (and, presumably, a “true” prophet.)

John Kasich: The mainline Christian

Governor Kasich (R-OH) identifies as an Anglican, a more conservative variant of Episcopalian in the United States (technically all Episcopalians are Anglicans, but bear with me). His denomination is within the “mainline” Christian tradition, which includes many institutional forms of Christianity that have been around since our nation’s founding — Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.

These groups have conservative camps, and Kasich appears to be a member of a more right-wing community. Still, mainline theology, while varying wildly from church to church, tends to be more liberal and welcoming of dissenting opinions. Moreover, mainline pews are often filled with white liberals who participate in faith-based social justice movements, and many of these Christians — conservative or otherwise — balk at the evangelical tendency to lift up the United States as a uniquely holy land.

This makes Kasich a committed Christian, but one that doesn’t fit in as well among many hardline conservative groups. Consequently, it’s not surprising that he was repeatedly asked about his religious beliefs during the debate, and that his response to Kelly’s question about “a word from God” included this humble approach to the issue of faith and patriotism:

“And we’ve got to listen to other people’s voices, respect them, but keep in mind, and I believe in terms of the things that I’ve read in my lifetime, the lord is not picking us. But because of how we respect human rights, because that we are a good force in the world, he wants America to be strong … He wants America to succeed. And he wants America to lead. And nothing is more important to me than my family, my faith, and my friends.”

Kasich’s mainline tendencies were also on display in his similarly spiritual but equally openminded answer to the question of same-sex marriage. The governor was clear that he opposes marriage equality, but said he is willing to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize it because he doesn’t see an issue with living alongside people he disagrees with — and because his faith compels him to do so.

“Look, I’m an old-fashioned person here, and I happen to believe in traditional marriage. But I’ve also said the court has ruled … I said we’ll accept it. And guess what? I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Because somebody doesn’t think the way I do, doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them or can’t love them. So if one of my daughters happened to be [gay], of course I would love them and I would accept them. Because you know what? That’s what we’re taught when we have strong faith.”

“God gives me unconditional love. I’m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.”

Kasich’s faith-fueled interest in poverty also came up as a question during the debate. He was asked directly about his decision to expand Medicaid in his home state of Ohio, a decision he justified by saying that God doesn’t judge people for “what you did about keeping government small, but he’s going to ask you what you did for the poor.” When Kelly wondered aloud if he would extend this to expanding all government programs as president, Kasich didn’t take the bait, explaining that his faith inspired him to offer healthcare to the poor:

“The working poor, instead of them having come into the emergency rooms where it costs more, where they’re sicker and we end up paying, we brought a program in here to make sure that people could get on their feet … Everybody has a right to their God-given purpose.” 

Rubio: For God and country

Senator Rubio (R-FL), a Roman Catholic with ties to both evangelicalism and Mormonism, was asked to put his faith in conversation with his respect for veterans. He leapt at the chance to fuse God and country, offering a notably different vision of America’s spiritual specialness than Kasich:

“Well, first, let me say I think God has blessed us. He has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can’t even find one … And I believe God has blessed our country. This country has been extraordinarily blessed. And we have honored that blessing. And that’s why God has continued to bless us. And he has blessed us with young men and women willing to risk their lives and sometimes die in uniform for the safety and security of our people.”

Rubio goes on to discuss the need to reform the VA system, but his general position is pretty straightforward: America is blessed, and if we do what God wants, God will keep blessing us.

Scott Walker: The other evangelical

Governor Walker (R-WI), like Cruz, is a Southern Baptist and the son of a preacher. Consequently, he recited a litany of traditional evangelical expressions when answering the “word from God” question:

“I’m certainly an imperfect man. And it’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed from my sins. So I know that God doesn’t call me to do a specific thing, God hasn’t given me a list, a Ten Commandments, if you will, of things to act on the first day.”

Then, after detailing how he defeated unions in Wisconsin, he added:

“It wasn’t just how I took on those political battles. It was ultimately how I acted. Not responding in kind. Not lashing out. But just being decent going forward and living my life in a way that would be a testimony to him and our faith.”

Walker makes a classic evangelical theological argument here. He admits he is a sinner (an “imperfect man”) whose sins are forgiven by Christ’s sacrificial crucifixion (his reference to the “blood of Jesus Christ”). Since Christianity asks for boldness, he took on his political opponents (unions) — but claims he did it nicely.

Ben Carson: God wants a flat tax (but not really)

Carson, a neurosurgeon and Seventh-day Adventist, basically dodged the God-question when Kelly directed it at him. But he did try to invoke God as justification for a flat tax earlier on:

“What I agree with is that we need a significantly changed taxation system. And the one that I’ve advocated is based on tithing, because I think God is a pretty fair guy. And he said, you know, if you give me a tithe, it doesn’t matter how much you make. If you’ve had a bumper crop, you don’t owe me triple tithes. And if you’ve had no crops at all, you don’t owe me no tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about that.”

“And that’s why I’ve advocated a proportional tax system. You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one. And everybody gets treated the same way. And you get rid of the deductions, you get rid of all the loopholes…”

Excusing for a moment Carson’s theologically disputed (but common) claim that God is a “guy” outside of Jesus Christ, his analogy likely resonates with many American believers. Lots of Christians grow up with the idea that 10 percent of their income should be given to their local church as part of their faithful service. The term “tithe” literally means this, and people of faith often write checks to their churches each year for roughly this amount — especially Mormons, who explicitly ask believers to donate one tenth of their earnings.

Theologically speaking, however, Carson is a bit off. Although the Old Testament does include several clear instructions for giving back to God, they were never about cash — they were about one’s crops, and there is no evidence that people without land were asked to give. The Bible also mentions three kinds of tithing for ancient Hebrews — two given each year and a third every third year — which averages out to 23.3 percent (not 10 percent) of a believer’s annual stock. Meanwhile, the New Testament is actually a bit more vague on what tithing means: In 1 Corinthians: 16, the biblical writer simply asks followers to give “whatever extra you earn” without specifying exact proportions.

Regardless, all of this only applies to a church community, not federal taxes. In fact, when it comes to paying the government, the biblical Jesus was actually pretty clear about wanting to keep the two systems separate: “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” reads Mark 12:17.


GOP’s Woman-Haters Club Swells: Why Their Hatred Is Actually Getting Worse

From Christie to Limbaugh the right’s view of women is steeped in the 18th century. It may finally catch up to them.

Source: AlterNet

Authors: Andrew Burstein & Nancy Isenburg

” In the recently released report he commissioned on the bridge closing scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyer depicts the client as the innocent who was ensnared in the web woven by an “emotional” woman. No longer is Bridget Anne Kelly his hardworking deputy chief of staff, doing the bidding of a canny, no-nonsense governor; instead, she is your run-of-the-mill hysterical female lashing out against the multitude of commuters to get revenge, somehow, for being dumped by a guy.

Does this scenario make any sense? Why is it so common to subject to psychoanalysis a public official who is a woman? Why must she be cast as the dangerously “emotional” one in a political drama that paints Christie as a properly sensitive, duly caring public servant with “heartfelt” concern for his staff? Kelly’s attorney reacted to the obvious gender bias: “The report’s venomous, gratuitous, and inappropriate sexist remarks concerning Ms. Kelly have no place in what is alleged to be a professional and independent report.”

The Christie report’s sexist motif cannot be treated in isolation. The evidence suggests a deep-seated hatred that calls to mind the hatred directed at President Obama for his oft-imagined illegitimacy. Just like the knee-jerk “You lie!” and “subhuman mongrel” that Obama unfortunately has to hear, sexist remarks from thought-deprived men are more than an eye-rolling distraction. “Barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen” is not a dead ideology; insidious remarks about women’s “natural” helplessness are automatic in certain circles. They keep popping up like an annoying Whack-a-Mole. Can we figure out what’s going on?

The month just past was a heckuva month for know-nothingness and woman-bashing. In mid-March, responding to news of a projected National Women’s History museum, the always instructive Rush Limbaugh auto-blurted: “We already have, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know how many museums for women all over the country. They are called malls.” Pregnant pause. “Hey, I could have said brothel.” Yes, and you could have admitted that in your oafish imagination a woman who is not deferential is a militant.

The marginally less rude but equally humorless Sen. Rand Paul grabbed momentary headlines when he tried to smear Hillary Clinton by associating her with the decades-old taint of her husband’s infidelity. Meanwhile, in defense of his own political virtue, Paul added a personal reflection to his stock of convenient statistics. “I’ve seen the women in my family and how well they’re doing,” he explained. “My niece is in Cornell Vet School, and 85 percent of the people in vet school right now are women. Over half the young people in medical school and dental school are women. Law school, the same way. I think women are doing very well, and I’m proud of how well we’ve come and how far we’ve come, and I think that some of the victimology and all this other stuff is trumped up.” Nothing to worry about, ye women seeking an equal place in society. He’s got anecdotal evidence. So stop complaining.

On March 20, apocalyptic visions with political resonance came from the lips of the author, onetime Limbaugh research assistant and born-again Christian Joel Rosenberg, a guest on the “700 Club.” He assured sympathetic host Pat Robertson that God will punish America when it reaches 60 million abortions – which, he hastened to compare, would mean six times the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis. He also likened those Christians who refuse to actively oppose abortion to the German Protestants who collaborated with Hitler’s Bible-burning regime.

Then, on March 28, radio talk show host Bryan Fischer, the director of “Issues Analysis” for the American Family Association, said he only hires women as secretaries because of “God’s basic design,” which necessitates gender discrimination; a woman’s “primary outlet” was at home. The same sentiment was expressed by New Mexico Republican Steve Pearce in his new book: “The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice.” By his logic, her submission to him is equally rooted in submission before God and love for a husband. Pearce, a Baptist, places on the man the biblically inspired requirement that he “take the leadership role” in all principal issues, “and be accountable for the outcome.”

And who can forget Mike Huckabee’s precious, upside-down defense of womanhood earlier this year: “Women I know are outraged that Democrats think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have a government provide for them birth control medication … If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.” You tell ’em, Mike.

Time for a history reminder. Some appear to have forgotten that the reason women did not gain the right to vote until 1920 was because male politicians felt a female franchise threatened the institution of marriage. Under the common law definition of marriage, women were defined as subordinate and dependent on their husbands; in no uncertain terms, their identity was subsumed into their husband’s.

Case in point: adultery. It caused husbands to divorce their wives, but not the other way around. The fear was that the wife might give birth to another man’s child and corrupt the husband’s ability to reward his legitimate heirs. Another example: immigration. From 1855 to 1922, a woman who bore a child outside the U.S. was unable to confer citizenship upon the child; only an American man could do so. In the early 20th century (1907-1922), a women could be divested of citizenship if she married a non-American. Meanwhile, it was acceptable to grant citizenship to a foreign woman who married an American male. Can you say, “double-standard”?

In the 1873 Supreme Court decision of Bradwell v. Illinoisthe court ruled that a woman could not practice law because she could not represent her client. Myra Bradwell was married; her first allegiance was to her husband. She could not represent herself, let alone a client. This immutable fact was based, reasoned Justice Joseph Bradley, on the “law of the Creator” and common-law dicta from “time immemorial.” Women’s bodies undermined their authority, Bradley contended. They lacked the “confidence,” “decision,” and “firmness” of the “sterner sex.” Yes, the women of 1873 were viewed the same way Christie’s report painted Bridget Kelly. That’s the cultural and judicial tradition from which the nonsense we hear spouted today arises.

Men were men. The standard. That’s why it was always “mankind” and “All men are created equal.” Women were referred to – and this is not a joke – as “the sex,” because everything they did was viewed through a sexual lens. Eve was the gateway to evil. Without ministers, husbands and, now, Republican politicians to supervise their behavior, they invariably fall prey to uncontrollable libidos. As it was in the 18th and 19th centuries for mainstream America, it remains in select circles in the 21st.

Now then, when was the last time you read of a female gang member who shot up a neighborhood; or a young, disturbed female who went on a rampage in an elementary school, a mall, a military base; or a congresswoman who slept with an intern, a male prostitute or a campaign aide’s husband?

Women in politics do not tend to be the philanderers, adulterers, harassers, or johns. And they certainly appear the more trustworthy gender when it comes to responsible gun ownership. If Americans really prioritized sexual purity or rational behavior, they would have to assume that a vote for a woman was less likely to be regretted; and that a female politician was at least slightly less likely to be compromised in today’s court-sanctioned corporate-owned electoral money game that puts the lie to our insistent definition of the United States as a representative democracy. Note that more women than men graduate college these days. Note that more women vote Democratic, and more men vote Republican.

The real question is: Why aren’t Republican men suffering more at the polls for their bad behavior? Why, as we approach the midterm elections, is it so hard for prospective voters to acknowledge what stares them in the face? In their crippled efforts to redefine in less obnoxious language its ever-active legislative war on women, the Republican Party employs diversionary tactics to hide sad truths about a morally bankrupt gender bias.

We’re not making news, or offering a rare insight, when we denote today’s far right as a loud, angry, fear-mongering, control-oriented faction that accuses government of meddling in people’s lives when it is they who really want to enforce submission. The economic arm of conservatism protects moneyed power, while the socio-religious arm does its best to enforce patriarchy. And yet these same people never tire of tossing out the word “liberty” in their opposition to a supposedly meddlesome federal government. Apparently, to them, liberty means “you can’t take away what I hoard or what I command.” Indeed, they are the party of hoarding and commanding, keeping some people down and pushing other people around. They (more than their typical targets: IRS, Affordable Care Act, etc.) are the meddlesome ones. Why is equal pay for women – or fairness of any kind in the workplace – still at issue?

Before the weaponless, holier-than-thou Rand Paul attaches Hillary Clinton to husband Bill’s Lewinsky affair, the Kentucky senator ought to have a word with Newt Gingrich, who cheated on his second wife because he loved America so much. And he should ask Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn why he covered up Nevada Sen. John Ensign’s sordid, payoff-laced affair with his campaign director’s wife, when Ensign used their ultra-Christian bachelor pad in D.C. to stage his trysts. There are enough Republican libertines to go around – and generally speaking, they are the same men who attack women for using birth control.

Andrew Burstein is Charles P. Manship Professor of History at LSU. Lincoln Dreamt He Died: The Midnight Visions of Remarkable Americans from Colonial Times to Freud is his ninth book. It will be published by Palgrave later this month.


Emphasis Mine