Lakoff: Why Conservatives Sell Their Wildly Destructive Ideology Better Than Democrats

Framing is (or should be) about moral values, deep truths, and the policies that flow from them.

From: AlterNet

By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

“As of their kickoff speeches in Ohio, Romney and Obama have both chosen economics as their major campaign theme. And thus the question of how they frame the economy will be crucial throughout the campaign. Their two speeches could not be more different.

Where Romney talks morality (conservative style), Obama mainly talks policy. Where Romney reframes Obama, Obama does not reframe Romney. In fact, he reinforces Romney’s frames in the first part of his speech by repeating Romney’s language word for word — without spelling out his own values explicitly.

Where Romney’s framing is moral, simple and straightforward, Obama’s is policy-oriented, filled with numbers, details, and so many proposals that they challenge ordinary understanding.

Where Obama talks mainly about economic fairness, Romney reframes it as economic freedom.

As the authors of Authors of The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic, here’s a discussion of Obama’s speech.

****Obama began his kickoff campaign speech in Cleveland stating that he is “in complete agreement” with Romney: “This election is about our economic future. Yes, foreign policy matters. Social issues matter. But more than anything else, this election presents a choice between two fundamentally different visions” regarding economic policy.

Obama’s strategy is to pin the Bush economic disaster on Romney, with good reason, since Romney has essentially the same policies as Bush. Since Obama has not consistently pinned the blame on Bush over the past four years, he comes off as defensive.

Romney’s strategy is to pin the disaster on Obama. He uses the Caretaker Metaphor — Obama has been the national caretaker, so the present condition is his responsibility. Since Obama started out assuming a caretaker’s responsibility, it is difficult for him to escape the frame now. He should have avoided it from the beginning. Pinning the disaster on Bush is possible, but it will take a lot of repetition, not just by the president, but by Democrats in general. Not just a repetition of economic facts, but of the moral differences that led to both the Bush disaster and the Obama attempt to recoup.

Perhaps the most important omission from the Obama speech was any overt mention of The Publiceverything that our citizenry as a whole provides to all, e.g., roads, bridges, infrastructure, education, protection, a health system, and systems for communication, energy development and supply, and so on. The Private — private life and private enterprise — depends on The Public. There is no economic freedom without all of this. So-called “free enterprise” is not free. A free market economy depends on a strong Public. This is a deep truth, easy to recognize. It undercuts Romney’s central pitch, that is it private enterprise alone that has made our country great, and that as much as possible of The Public should be eliminated.

Romney calls free enterprise “one of the greatest forces of good this world has ever known.” In reality, America free enterprise has always required The Public.

Romney attacks The Public, speaking of “the heavy hand of government” and “the invisible boot of government.” The contrast is with the putative “invisible hand” of the market — which leads to the good of all if everyone follows their self-interest and the market’s natural force is not interfered with. Romney’s “invisible boot” evokes the image of a storm trooper’s boot on your neck. The government is the storm trooper, your enemy. You are weak and in an impossible position. You can’t move — a metaphor for being held back and not being able to freely engage in the economy. Romney uses the frame consistently: “The federal establishment,” he says,” has never seemed so hostile.” The Public is an “establishment” — an undemocratic institution — which is the enemy of the people. It is implicit in this frame that the government is not the people.

Romney’s assumption here is that democracy is based on the “liberty” to seek one’s self interest with minimal regard to the interests or well being of others. People who are good at this will succeed, and they deserve to. People who are not good at this will fail, and they should. In Romney’s speech, “The Freedom to Dream,” he used the word “freedom” 29 times. This is what he means.

Although Obama intends to argue against this understanding, he unintentionally feeds it. He does so in three ways: First, by accepting and reinforcing many of Romney’s central frames (often by negating them); second, by moving to the right in his own argumentation; and third, by not spelling out his own moral principles explicitly right from the start.

First, here are three examples of Obama repeating Romney’s frames (in bold):

“Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down.

“They maintain that if we eliminate most regulations, if we cut taxes by trillions of dollars, if we strip down government to national security and a few other basic functions, the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed and that will automatically benefit us all.

Republicans “believe that if you simply take away regulations and cut taxes by trillions of dollars, the market will solve all of our problems on its own.

Though Obama’s statements are supposed to be taken sarcastically, they actually are positive, straightforward, easy to understand versions of Romney’s positions and beliefs.

Second, Obama argues for his willingness to compromise by giving examples of his “bipartisanship,” where he did just what conservatives wanted and had argued for as the right thing to do: cutting taxes and eliminating regulations. Here is Obama:

Understand, despite what you hear from my opponent, this has never been a vision about how government creates jobs or has the answers to all our problems. Over the last three years, I’ve cut taxes for the typical working family by $3,600. I’ve cut taxes for small businesses 18 times. I have approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.”

Conservatives talk endlessly about “cutting spending.” The president uses the same frame: “I’ve signed a law that cuts spending and reduces our deficit by $2 trillion.

Language is important here, as well as policy. “Spending” is a conservative term; it suggests a needless draining of financial resources, a waste of money. But most of that money was “invested” in our people or used to maintain our infrastructure — not just “spent”. Though a tax reduction for working families may very well have been a good idea, the term “cutting taxes” is a conservative term, suggesting that taxes in general are bad and should be “cut.”

There is of course a deeper problem here. Anyone this me-too-conservatism might appeal to would most likely vote for a real conservative over Obama.

Third, in his speech, the president gives a long list of perfectly reasonable policies: ending oil subsidies, investing in education, hiring more teachers and pay them better, not deporting young immigrants, investing in clean energy, encouraging energy innovation, supporting R&D tax credits, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, reforming the tax code, eliminating tax breaks for businesses that ship jobs overseas, strengthening Medicare and Medicaid, and so on.

No such list is going to be remembered by most of those who heard it. Moreover, what is said first matters; it sets the moral frame. In his speech, Obama first repeats the Romney frames, opposes them to numbers and policy lists, and only at the end talks about his own moral vision.

What could Obama have done better?

Frame everything from his own moral perspective, including Romney’s positions and assumptions. Avoid the Romney language. Start with his own moral position, which he stated beautifully in his 2008 campaign but has since dropped: That democracy is based on empathy (citizens caring about fellow citizens), responsibility both for oneself and others, and an ethic of excellence (doing one’s best not just for oneself, but for one’s family, community, and country).

What else?

Repeat the truth that The Private depends on The Public. It is The Public that provides economic freedom. Give a vision of responsible, progressive business. Talk freedom — as well as fairness. Point out that the hoarding of wealth by the 1 percent kills opportunity, as Joseph Stieglitz has discussed at length. Speak of an “Economy for All — not just rich bankers, managers, and job killers like private equity firms.” Yes, Romney and those like him are job killers. Say it. Point out that during the economic recovery of 2010, 93 percent of the additional income went to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers. Stop using “top” to mean rich. “Top” suggests high morality, merit, and ability. “Bottom” signifies the opposite.

We are now in a situation where conservatives have framed almost every issue. The least Democrats can do is to refuse to repeat their language and so help them.

We could go on, and we do in The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic, and on The Little Blue Blog www.littleblueblog.org. Click on it now for a first visit.

George Lakoff is the author of Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate‘ (Chelsea Green). He is Professor of Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and a Senior Fellow of the Rockridge Institute.


Emphasis Mine

see:

Why Poorer States Aren’t Buying What Romney’s Selling

The Republican party appears to be increasingly divided among class lines -the Republican Party is now divided fairly sharply along class lines as well as religious ones.

From: AlterNet

By:  Walter Dean Burnham andThomas Ferguson

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one andlove the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” — Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

As Rick Santorum exits and Newt Gingrich fades out, who would have imagined that the Gospel of St. Matthew would provide the best handle on the GOPprimaries this year?Even in 2009, it was obvious that the Republican Establishment and many of America’s richest citizens were busy laying the groundwork for a very special effort to take back the White House in 2012. After the 2010 congressional elections produced the second largest swing in the two party vote against the Democrats since 1826, the focus on 2012 became ferocious. The road, though, was bumpy. But by late last year, as one candidate after another flamed out, the hopes of most Obama opponents were settling, sometimes ruefully, on Mitt Romney.

The logic behind their choice was simple and compelling: With the American economy stuck in the mud of the Great Recession, the time was ripe for a campaign centered on economics. With his glittering track record in private equity on Wall Street at Bain Capital before he entered politics, Romney stood out from the rest of the Republican field. He was someone who could convincingly lead a campaign targeted on the economy and jobs. The rush to his standard accelerated after he dramatically embraced many neo-conservative foreign policy positions and advisers.

The result was a shower of campaign money and generally favorable press. With a small army of super-rich supporters lining up to fund his super-PACs (including several who tried clumsily to hide their identities behind various corporate shells) and the rest of his fundraising racing ahead, Romney’s nomination looked inevitable. He could drown the rest of the field in a shower of attack ads.

But his campaign’s single-minded focus on economics ran squarely against the grain of the “holy owned subsidiary” that GOP elites had built up over decades to shift the focus of public discussion from their elite interests in deregulation and the upward redistribution of income through an emphasis on wedge issues like abortion and gay rights. In Iowa, Romney did indeed blow away all his main campaign challengers with a volley of expensive TV ads. But evangelical and conservative Catholic opponents coalesced around the last alternative to Romney who was still standing, Rick Santorum, to deny Romney a decisive victory.

Then came Newt Gingrich, the blast from the past who changed everything. Facing elimination in South Carolina, but retaining just enough ties to really big money briefly to float a super-PAC of his own, Gingrich boldly decided to breach the informal rhetorical conventions of GOP primaries.

The GOP’s “Occupy” Moment

He began to bite the hands that had fed him and so many others in the party for decades. Turning his legendary attack skills from Democrats on Republicans, the former Speaker of the House attacked private equity, bailouts, and federal largess to the super-rich. Rick Perry, and other Republicans, including some self-proclaimed Tea Party leaders followed. Santorum, too, drifted along with the new populist current, though far more circumspectly and only after distancing himself from Gingrich’s strident attacks.

The Republican Party’s “Occupy Wall Street” moment did not last long. Thanks to a powerful documentary attacking private equity that his super-PAC promoted and his willingness to throw red meat to voters in TV debates, Gingrich won in South Carolina.

But the reaction among moneyed party elites was fierceRush Limbaugh, theWall Street JournalNational Review, the president of Americans for Prosperity and angry business leaders hit back. A top Perry supporter in South Carolina, Colonial Group president Barry Wynn, abandoned the Texas governor’s already fading campaign and endorsed Romney, specifically citing the disrespect for free enterprise.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, who had long been close to Gingrich, continued supporting the former Speaker. But as she dispatched another $5 million for the former Speaker’s super-PAC, Miriam Adelson admonished the Gingrich campaign that the money was to be used to “to continue the pro-Newt message…rather than attack Mr. Romney.”

But on the campaign trail Gingrich is hardly Gingrich if he can’t attack. Forced to switch tactics, he started pushing a far-fetched plan to bring down oil prices to $2.50 a gallon. By comparison with the slashing attacks on private equity and unfair taxes, this was a very weak brew. We do not think it at all far-fetched to suggest that his dependence on his donors was a major factor in Gingrich’s subsequent tailspin.

Santorum, whose campaign was also heavily dependent on super-PAC funding from a handful of super-rich donors, walked a careful line. He attacked Romney for supporting the Wall Street bailout. The millionaire former senator also guardedly talked up an alleged affinity for blue-collar workers, while generally sticking with themes more beloved of his donors, such as attacking the Environmental Protection Agency and pushing an energy policy of “drill, baby, drill.”

After the Fires

As the campaign’s sound and fury die down, one might wonder what remains of the GOP’s “Populist Moment.”

Like the frozen lava from past volcanic eruptions, the trained eye can easily perceive traces of the great explosion. Consider the two figures below. Figure 1 relates the percentage of the Romney vote in the GOP primaries to a measure of the strength of evangelical Protestantism in states. (Our measure relies on data from a religious census released in the year 2000 used in an earlier paper rather than voter self reports from polls.) The negative relationship is clear: votes for Romney, in the aggregate, fall as the percentage of evangelicals rises in states.

That is no surprise. Yet, as we look forward to the general election, there is a second relationship that is at least equally interesting. Many have noticed that within states, Romney does better in high-income areas. Figure 2 suggests that this relationship also holds between states: Romney’s voting percentage rises directly with a state’s median income. Or in other words, poor states find Romney resistible.

Social scientists and anyone who is inquisitive will naturally ask what happens if you consider both of these measures together. The answer, alas, is that with only 19 data points, you can’t say anything definitive. There is just not enough information to parse the importance of each. (In statistics, the problem is known as “multicollinearity.”)But stopping there misses a key point, we think. The county maps and polls testifying to the importance of income in predicting the Romney vote within states (the latter have been oddly missing in some newspaper presentations) all suggest that the Republican Party is now divided fairly sharply along class lines as well as religious ones.

In the general election, this may be important. Right now GOP adherents are trumpeting their confidence that the “flock” (as many evangelical ministers might say) will all return to the fold, united in their desire to defeat President Obama. Many of them, in fact, are likely to do this. But we are hardly alone in observing that turnout in the GOP primaries has been mediocre. In a few states, turnout rose above the levels of 2008, but overall, turnout is down.

In the general election, moreover, Romney will have to reach well beyond his base, to independents and those less predisposed toward all things Republican. By contrast with past GOP nominees Romney’s appeal looks modest, limited largely to affluent voters. One may doubt that his endorsement of the Ryan budget will do much to broaden that appeal, either. To win in November, he is likely to need a stupefying large amount of money and a really good Etch-a-Sketch.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154917/why_poorer_states_aren%27t_buying_what_romney%27s_selling?page=entire

Romney Tells The GOP He Is The Hero Who Will Destroy Social Security

Willard, like nearly all conservatives, also parrots the fallacy that Social Security is adding to the nation’s debt, but in accordance with the Trust’s rules, Social Security is forbidden from taking one penny from the government for administrative costs or benefit payments. It is a self-sufficient program that not only works well, but is extremely popular.

From: Politicususa

By:

“Human beings are fortunate that one function of memory is to forget the enormous amount of data a person absorbs throughout their lifetime. Important events are often difficult to forget and they either become valuable life lessons or unhealthy obsessions that if left unresolved become a grudge that gives a vindictive person a reason to hold something against someone. Conservatives have held a grudge against Progressives and FDR over the New Deal and especially the creation of the Social Security Trust, and they are obsessed with destroying the most successful and popular program in the nation’s history.

In 2010, George W. Bush said his greatest failure was not privatizing Social Security even though doing so in 2005 would have left tens-of-millions of retired Americans without security in their old age after the stock market crashed in 2008. Bush’s regret at not destroying Social Security when he had the opportunity informs the level of contempt conservatives have for the American people and it seemed that Republicans learned their lesson, but their obsession with the New Deal prevents them from learning. Perhaps Republicans are competing with each other to be the conservative hero that gets even with Progressives for creating Social Security, and if presidential hopeful Willard “Mitt” Romney wins the nomination and presidency, he promises to be the hero that destroys Social Security.

Romney resorts to every conservative hero’s tactic of lying to promote an agenda that harms millions of Americans. At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Romney resorted to lying to promote privatizing Social Security. Willard said, “We’re going to have to recognize that Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable and we can’t afford to avoid these entitlement challenges any longer.” It is a typical Republican lie that Bush used in 2005, and the truth is that without any adjustments, Social Security will remain solvent for the next thirty years or more. Romney also lied when he said current retirees would not see a change in their benefits under his plan. During the same speech, Romney promised to  increase defense spending, give the wealthiest 1% approximately $6.7 trillion in tax cuts,  and slash “entitlement” spending that surely includes Medicare and Social Security as part of his balanced budget farce.

Then there is this recurring “Social Security is an entitlement” meme that Republicans use to portray the program as welfare. Every working American pays 6.2% of every dollar they earn into the Social Security Trust. The rate decreased by 1% as part of President Obama’s payroll tax holiday except for wealthy Americans like Romney who pays on only the first .5% of his income because his earnings exceed the current $110,100 cap. If Romney is concerned that Social Security is in jeopardy of running out of funds, his Republican pals can eliminate the cap on payroll tax contributions and keep the Trust bloated with cash forever. Every other American pays Social Security tax on 100% of their income and with the median income at $49,909, over 90% of Americans would never reach the cap limit.

Romney just wants to transfer approximately $2.7 trillion in surplus assets in the Social Security Trust Fund to Wall Street to enrich himself and other high-income investors. A typical conservative ploy to convince Americans Social Security does not work is to label it a failure and a fraud and Romney said, “To put it in a nutshell, the American people have been effectively defrauded out of their Social Security,” and that there is a “looming bankruptcy of Social Security.” Willard just doesn’t get that Social Security is popular with nearly every American (especially older tea party-supporting white voters) because it works and that is one reason why he is losing popularity by the second. Willard, like nearly all conservatives, also parrots the fallacy that Social Security is adding to the nation’s debt, but in accordance with the Trust’s rules, Social Security is forbidden from taking one penny from the government for administrative costs or benefit payments. It is a self-sufficient program that not only works well, but is extremely popular.

Republicans are so consumed with hatred for the New Deal that produced Social Security, that 76 years after its creation they are still attempting to dismantle the only retirement income for millions of Americans as well as the largest insurance program for children. The program has never failed to pay out benefits on schedule, and the surplus is invested in U.S. Treasury securities that are considered the safest investment in the world. More than anything, Social Security provides a measure of security that Wall Street can never match, but that doesn’t stop conservatives from lying about the system to garner support for eliminating it. Romney is not the first conservative to promote privatizing or eliminating Social Security and he will not be the last.

Romney is out-of-touch with America and out of touch with reality if he thinks he will ever convince Americans to allow him to take their hard-earned retirement savings and offer it up to his god Wall Street. It is a mystery why Republicans cannot recognize that despite their lies, misinformation, and scare tactics, Americans do not want Social Security privatized. It is telling that Bush laments not privatizing Social Security even though doing so would have left millions of Americans without income in their golden years, and it is a testament to the man’s vile contempt for Americans. Romney is worse than Bush. He is also stupider because his desire to be the conservative hero that dismantles the New Deal is taking the same path that began Bush’s popularity slide.

If Romney wants to raid programs to enrich Wall Street and his investor cohorts, he can return to Bain Capital and destroy struggling businesses because Americans will never allow him near the White House. As one pundit said, “There is a reason you are having serious trouble in primaries and caucuses in states where older white voters reside in disproportionately large numbers, such as Missouri, Maine (almost losing to Ron Paul?) and Minnesota.”  Romney will continue having trouble with Americans and it is a good lesson that holding a grudge is about as good of an idea as trying to be a hero for a losing cause; especially when the cause is dismantling the New Deal.””

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.politicususa.com/en/social-security-romney

Don’t be fooled by the Newt-Mitt-Rick show

Reagan began this counterrevolution three decades ago. Its aim was to employ the state to shift the balance of political forces to the side of the most reactionary sections of the capitalist class.

From: Peoples World

By: Sam Webb

Emphasis Mine

“Listening to the exchanges among the main Republican presidential candidates, it is easy to think that the debates are a television “reality show.”

Newt attacks Mitt for his role at the private equity firm Bain Capital. Mitt assails Newt for his ties to Fannie Mae and his dismal performance as speaker of the House in the 1990s. And Rick Santorum when he gets a word in edgewise claims that neither Romney nor Gingrich is the real deal, that is, a true conservative. That tag belongs to him, he says – only he has a franchise on it.

Oops! I almost failed to mention Ron Paul, who is no better than the frontrunners, but he is more of a footnote in the primary contests at this point.

But there is more to these debates than political theater, more than attack and counterattack. What is striking, but goes unnoticed in this clashing free-for-all, is the similarity in basic policy positions of the leading Republican presidential hopefuls.

When it comes to rapid and broad expansion of domestic oil and gas exploration regardless of environmental damage, they are for it.

When it comes to deregulation and discredited “free market solutions,” they want it.

When it comes to broad-scale privatization of education, they support it.

When it comes to tax breaks for the wealthiest, they can’t get enough of it .

When it comes to repeal of Roe v. Wade and with it women’s reproductive rights, they are chomping at the bit to do it.

When it comes to aggressive projection of military power in the Middle East and elsewhere, they strongly advocate it.

When it comes to stacking the courts with right-wing judges, they champion it.

When it comes to the elimination of racial and gender inequalitythey want none of it.

When it comes to drastic slashing of the federal budget, they are all for it.

When it comes to immigrant and gay rights, they are against it.

When it comes to overturning the Obama health care act, they salivate over it.

When it comes to disempowering people’s organizations, they are determined to do it.

When it comes to climate change, they deny it.

And when it comes to economic relief … on jobs, foreclosures and food insecurity … they do nothing about it.

In other words, even though they trade charges and counter-charges (usually true), Romney, Gingrich and Santorum (and Ron Paul too with a few variations) are of like mind. They are on the same page.

If any one of them is elected and if the Republicans gain control of Congress, they will set out to complete and consolidate the counterrevolution that Ronald Reagan initiated.

Reagan began this counterrevolution three decades ago. Its aim was to employ the state to shift the balance of political forces to the side of the most reactionary sections of the capitalist class.

Everything that was won by an aroused people over the course of the 20th century was to be eliminated hook, line and sinker. Nothing of the edifice of rights and social gains was to be left standing. The people were to be rendered impoverished as well as defenseless against the monster of a corporate-controlled market and state.

Beneath the discordant sounds of the current Republican Party debates lies a shared vision that would throw the country back to the Gilded Age when corporate elites did as they pleased and the people had no rights that corporate capital had to respect.

Some suggest that there is no difference in vision between President Obama on the one hand and Romney, Gingrich and Santorum on the other. But this is not only wrongheaded, but also politically dangerous.

Only yesterday I read an article by Chris Hedges that goes in that direction.

It sounded militant and righteous, but if taken seriously it’s a fool’s errand and will isolate the left from the broad currents of American politics this year. And nobody who cares about social progress should want to do that.”

see:http://peoplesworld.org/don-t-be-fooled-by-the-newt-mitt-rick-show/

Why Is There So Much God in Our Politics? The Religious Right’s Theocratic Plan for the 2012 Election

“; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” (Article VI, Constitution of the United States.

From: Church and State magazine, via AlterNet

N.B.: “; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  (Article VI, Constitution of the United States.

By: Rob Boston

“He’s been married three times and is an admitted adulterer, features that would seem to make Newt Gingrich an unlikely standard-bearer for the hyper-moralistic brigades of the Religious Right. But with a little mental gymnastics, all things are possible.

“Maybe the guy in the race that would make the best president is on his third marriage,” Steve Deace, a prominent Religious Right leader in Iowa, recently mused to writer Michelle Goldberg of “The Daily Beast” website. “How do we reconcile that?”

One way is to do what Deace did and compare Gingrich with King David, the Old Testament figure who committed adultery with another man’s wife but later repented.

“I see a lot of parallels between King David and Newt Gingrich, two extraordinary men gifted by God, whose lives include very high highs and very low lows,” Deace added.

The rise of Gingrich, whose campaign was on life support as recently as the summer, has stunned many political analysts. Once again, they may have underestimated the Religious Right.

In an unusually religion-soaked primary season, faith has been front and center for months, as a crowded field of GOP hopefuls seeks to assure conservative Christians that they’re ready to hoist the banner for faith and family, as the Religious Right defines those terms.

The Almighty has frequently been pressed into service. Addressing a crowd of young Republicans in Atlanta Nov. 12, businessman Herman Cain, who has since suspended his campaign, announced that God told him to run for president.

“I had to do a lot of praying for this one, more praying than I have ever done before in my life,” Cain said. “And when I finally realized that it was God saying that this is what I needed to do, I was like Moses: ‘You have got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?’… Once I made the decision, I did not look back.”

But there was a problem: Cain was the fourth Republican candidate to claim God’s blessing. The deity also convinced U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to run and gave a green light to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. For good measure, God assured Karen Santorum, wife of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, that her husband should also be in the race.

God, it is said, works in mysterious ways. Those who claim to serve God – or, in this case, the Religious Right – usually work in more predictable ways. And this campaign season has seen the Religious Right playing its appointed role: purging the Republican Party of moderates and working to keep the candidates as closely aligned with its theocratic vision as possible.

It would be easy to argue that the Religious Right is seeking to dominate the GOP race – and is doing a pretty good job of it. For months, political pundits ensconced in Washington, D.C., insisted that the race was really no race at all. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would be the nominee, they declared.

Just one problem: Republican voters hadn’t signed off on that deal. As summer blended into fall, poll watchers noted with interest that Romney rarely cracked 25 percent support in any national poll. Furthermore, other candidates were constantly nipping at his heels and sometimes overtaking him.

In late summer, Perry briefly topped Romney in national polls before self-destructing due to a string of debate gaffes. Cain then took the lead, before he tumbled over allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity and announced on Dec. 3 that he was suspending his campaign. By that point, Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, had leaped ahead.

It didn’t take a CNN political analyst to figure out what was going on: Romney’s support just wasn’t that deep, and the candidate hadn’t generated much genuine enthusiasm. Among Religious Right voters especially, the Mormon who served one term as governor of a bluer-than-blue state was looking like a crap shoot. Some Religious Right activists signed onto Romney’s campaign seeing him as the most likely person to depose President Barack Obama, whom they despise. But plenty of others continued to press for a purer candidate.

For their part, most of the GOP contenders worked hard to win Religious Right support. In October, every major hopeful spoke at the Values Voter Summit, an annual confab held by the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and other groups. (See “Bombast, Bigotry and the Bible,” November 2011 Church & State.)

On Nov. 19, the Religious Right significantly upped the ante. Three groups – the Iowa-based Family Leader, the National Organization for Marriage and CitizenLink (the overtly political arm of Focus on the Family) – sponsored a forum on “values” issues at First Federated Church in Des Moines.

For more than two hours, six candidates focused on Religious Right concerns: abortion, same-sex marriage, the role of religion in public life and so on. The moderator, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, also gave each candidate a chance to explain his or her Christian faith and tell personal stories about times when they’ve had to rely on God.

Romney, perhaps having no desire to spend two hours explaining Mormon theology to a crowd of fundamentalist Christians, skipped the event. But the other attendees were eager for the chance to assure Religious Right voters of their solidarity. Highlights included Gingrich’s assertion that no atheist is fit to be president and several candidates’ tearful retellings of medical emergencies they faced.

Aside from the forum, Religious Right forces are active across the country but especially in Iowa, where the movement’s foot soldiers have a headlock on the state Republican Party apparatus. In many other politically critical states, Religious Right groups are moving aggressively to implement “get-out-the-vote” programs to increase turnout by far-right church-goers.

Former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, having failed as a political consultant and a novelist, has gone back to his roots and is now running the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Backed by right-wing fat cats, Reed has vowed to contact 29 million religious conservative and Tea Party voters in 2012. While notorious for exaggerating, Reed’s operation is being lauded as the bridge between Religious Right voters and the anti-government Tea Party brigades.

Some new faces are also on the scene. The Response, a Pentecostal-themed movement that gave a boost to Perry by holding a massive Houston prayer rally shortly before he announced, is striving to go nationwide. The group, which has a distinctly theocratic dominionist character, held a prayer event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, shortly before the Iowa caucuses. Although pitched as a call for national revival, the rally’s close proximity to the nation’s first voting event of 2012 raised eyebrows.

In addition, a group of wealthy venture capitalists in northern California is bankrolling United in Purpose, a group that vows to register five million far-right Christians for the 2012 election. Like Reed, the Silicon Valley-funded group pins its hopes on a sophisticated voter ID program that claims to track people by how they’ve voted in the past and by their magazine subscriptions and even the purchases they’ve made online.

United in Purpose has been flogging a video called “One Nation Under God,” which it is urging supporters to show at local events. The video features “Christian nation” advocate David Barton, Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson and anti-abortion activist Lila Rose, but the only candidate it gives air time to is Gingrich.

The group also plans to target conservative pastors.

“They’re the shepherds of the flock,” Bill Dallas, the group’s head, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a great mass media channel.”

Indeed, pastors who lead fundamentalist flocks are under quite a bit of scrutiny this election season. Outfits like the Family Research Council and the Faith & Freedom Coalition will be targeting pastors for political action, urging them to exhort congregants on their Christian duty to vote. Pastors will also be asked to distribute biased “voter guides” produced by groups like the Faith & Freedom Coalition that purport to objectively compare candidates’ views but in reality always portray the GOP office-seeker favorably.

Some organizations are going beyond that. For several years now, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Religious Right legal group founded by TV and radio preachers, has been prodding pastors to openly defy federal law by endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. Every fall, the ADF sponsors “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” a day during which pastors are urged to intervene in elections.

The ADF, a $35-million-a-year operation based in Scottsdale, Ariz., claims that more than 500 pastors took part in the project in 2011, and the group is aiming for even more in 2012, when “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will take place on Oct. 7.

What does all of this Religious Right involvement mean for American politics? Although many Americans may not realize it, the theocratic right has had a profound effect on the political system and has helped reshape the American political landscape.

More than 30 years ago, when the modern version of the Religious Right was launched, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and other leaders talked openly about taking over the Republican Party. They soon began doing it. During the heyday of TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, political analysts used to track the growth of the Religious Right in the states, noting that its shock troops held a controlling interest in many state GOP branches.

Now firmly entrenched in the party apparatus, Religious Right operatives have become a force that cannot be ignored. Republican hopefuls on the national stage bypass this movement at their peril. (It’s no coincidence that one former GOP presidential candidate who refused to continually kowtow to the Religious Right, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, was mired in the single digits before quitting the race.)

At the national level, the Religious Right has helped push the GOP much farther to the right, acting as a screen that filters out moderates.

Thanks largely to the Religious Right, liberal Republicans are an all- but-extinct species. Even moderates are becoming scarce in the party. While this wasn’t all the Religious Right’s doing, the movement certainly played a key role through its constant promotion of “culture war” issues.

This year, Religious Right groups had hoped to coalesce early behind a single candidate and propel him or her to the nomination. For a number of reasons, it didn’t work out. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a favorite of the Religious Right, decided to sit out the race. Some candidates, notably Bachmann when she was in the race and Santorum, aggressively wooed the Religious Right by putting culture war issues at the crux of their campaign but are perceived as unlikely to prevail over Obama.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) actually has a fairly strong record in support of Religious Right issues but his libertarian focus on shrinking the size of the federal government and anti-war stance hurt him with fundamentalists.

That left Romney by default – until Gingrich began to rise. But the former speaker has yet to seal the deal, and some in the Religious Right remain skeptical.

In late November, Gingrich got some unsolicited advice from Richard Land, a lobbyist with the Southern Baptist Convention. Land warned Gingrich, a convert to Roman Catholicism, that evangelical women are concerned over his matrimonial track record.

“You need to make it as clear as you possibly can that you deeply regret your past actions and that you do understand the anguish and suffering they caused others including your former spouses,” wrote Land in an open letter to Gingrich. “Make it as clear as you can that you have apologized for the hurt your actions caused and that you have learned from your past misdeeds.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also believes Gingrich has some work to do. Gingrich has been on a tear attacking “secular socialism” for months and blasting courts for upholding church-state separation – he has even proposed impeaching certain federal judges – but Perkins told Fox News that the former speaker needs to stress social issues even more so religious conservatives will realize he’s sincere.

Ironically, the internal divisions among the Religious Right may do exactly what they don’t want: provide a boost to Obama. In the lead-up to the 2008 election, followers of the Religious Right splintered over the flock of GOP candidates. U.S. Sen. John McCain captured the nomination but failed to generate significant enthusiasm among the far right. Obama’s team, meanwhile, did aggressive outreach to religious groups and even managed to peel off some evangelical support.

Obama is employing the same strategy again. In October, Obama met with top leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals at the White House. He has also met with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, a key constituency whose membership includes a lot of swing voters.

In late November, Democratic leaders held a press conference in Washington, during which they vowed to aggressively reach out to religious groups and voters.

The Daily Caller, a conservative website, reported that U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who heads up religious outreach for the party, said, “As we organize going forward to next year there will be significant efforts on our part to reconnect the fundamentals of our policies to the teachings that we all learned, be it in the Old Testament or the New Testament.”

Clyburn added that in the past, Democrats “were so strong in our doctrine that there ought to be a separation of church and state, that we often took it to an extreme, and I think that’s how we got disconnected [from voters].”

Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said he regrets the Religious Right’s influence over the presidential campaign and U.S. political life. The culture war obsessions of the Religious Right, Lynn said, don’t reflect the concerns of most Americans.

“Our nation faces many serious problems, but a lack of religion in our political system isn’t one of them,” remarked Lynn. “In fact, this election has already become deeply entangled with religion, with four candidates now claiming that God told them to run. Enough is enough.”

Rob Boston is the assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which publishes Church and State magazine.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/153685/why_is_there_so_much_god_in_our_politics_the_religious_right%27s_theocratic_plan_for_the_2012_election?akid=8157.123424.Pq9QR6&rd=1&t=12

American health care is remarkably diverse.

In fact, it’s hard to avoid the sense that Republicans are especially eager to dismantle government programs that act as living demonstrations that their ideology is wrong. Bloated military budgets don’t bother them much —

From: NY Times, via Truthout

N.B.: Republicans continue to lie, while people continue to die, and before I die, I hope the word ‘socialism’ is no longer pejorative, along with ‘atheism’, and ‘humanism’, in our country.

By: Dr. Paul Krugman

“In terms of how care is paid for and delivered, many of us effectively live in Canada, some live in Switzerland, some live in Britain, and some live in the unregulated market of conservative dreams. One result of this diversity is that we have plenty of home-grown evidence about what works and what doesn’t.  

Naturally, then, politicians — Republicans in particular — are determined to scrap what works and promote what doesn’t. And that brings me to Mitt Romney’s latest really bad idea, unveiled on Veterans Day: to partially privatize the Veterans Health Administration (V.H.A.).

What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.

Many people still have an image of veterans’ health care based on the terrible state of the system two decades ago. Under the Clinton administration, however, the V.H.A. was overhauled, and achieved a remarkable combination of rising quality and successful cost control. Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.

What’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers, many of whose customers move on after a few years.

And yes, this is “socialized medicine” — although some private systems, like Kaiser Permanente, share many of the V.H.A.’s virtues. But it works — and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly.

Yet Mr. Romney believes that giving veterans vouchers to spend on private insurance would somehow yield better results. Why?

Well, Republicans have a thing about vouchers. Earlier this year Representative Paul Ryan famously introduced a plan to convert Medicare into a voucher system; Mr. Romney’s Medicare proposal follows similar lines. The claim, always, is the one Mr. Romney made last week, that “private sector competition” would lower costs.

But we have a lot of evidence about how private-sector competition in health insurance works, and it’s not favorable. The individual insurance market, which comes closest to the conservative ideal of free competition, has huge administrative costs and has no demonstrated ability to reduce other costs. Medicare Advantage, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to buy private insurance instead of having Medicare pay bills directly, has consistently had higher costs than the traditional program.

And the international evidence accords with U.S. experience. The most efficient health care systems are integrated systems like the V.H.A.; next best are single-payer systems like Medicare; the more privatized the system, the worse it performs.

To be fair to Mr. Romney, he takes a somewhat softer line than others in his party, suggesting that the existing V.H.A. system would remain available and that traditional Medicare would remain an option. In practice, however, partial privatization would almost surely undermine the public side of these programs. For example, one problem with the V.H.A. is that its hospitals are spread too thinly across the nation; this problem would become worse if a substantial number of veterans were encouraged to opt out of the system.

So what lies behind the Republican obsession with privatization and voucherization? Ideology, of course. It’s literally a fundamental article of faith in the G.O.P. that the private sector is always better than the government, and no amount of evidence can shake that credo.

In fact, it’s hard to avoid the sense that Republicans are especially eager to dismantle government programs that act as living demonstrations that their ideology is wrong. Bloated military budgets don’t bother them much — Mr. Romney has pledged to reverse President Obama’s defense cuts, despite the fact that no such cuts have actually taken place. But successful programs like veterans’ health, Social Security and Medicare are in the crosshairs.

Which brings me to a final thought: maybe all this amounts to a case for Rick Perry. Any Republican would, if elected president, set out to undermine precisely those government programs that work best. But Mr. Perry might not remember which programs he was supposed to destroy.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/opinion/krugman-vouchers-for-veterans-and-other-bad-ideas.html?_r=2