Part 1 of 2.
Summary and warning: I get harsh with certain evangelical Christians.
Why did Dr. Ralph Reed and his evangelical Christian Faith and Freedom Coalition send me an advertising pitch disguised as a voter survey? Maybe because I was a registered Republican for many years? I’m a 50ish female Independent voter in Arizona, which is shaping up to be something of a battleground state?
They’re casting their net wide to include me. I haven’t been even a casual Republican for almost 2 decades. I never saw 100% eye-to-eye with many Democratic Party issues, so I became an Independent. I see only the worst tokens of old Republicanism in the Trump cotillion. I also see disturbing parallels to the Nazi Party and Mussolini’s fascist expansion of the late 1930’s.
Even if I were somehow still ‘undecided’, the testimonial letters included in this mailing would be likely enough to push me away. When the likes of Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mark Levin, Ben Carson, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Tim Scott, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Boddy Jindal endorse your movement, I know I’m not welcome in your Big Tent.
So, I thought, I should at least look at this survey, and see what my adversaries are saying. This is new and unscripted: I just opened the thing, and am alternating reading it and typing this post.
Please bear in mind that most of the grammatical and punctuation errors are simply what I’ve copied from the mailing. I’m not editing it beyond paraphrasing when necessary for brevity. The Faith and Freedom folks have a loose idea about grammar and punctuation, I’m afraid.
- The survey itself almost exactly mimics a paper ballot in its layout, paper thickness, and size. I’m in marketing, I know this game. Create expectation and anticipation. Fake reality until enough people believe your lie. Frame your narrative to make your conclusion seem correct and inevitable.
- The survey opens with a plea to conservative Christian voters to get out and vote in November. It reminds voters that up to 30 million Christian voters stayed home in 2012. In 2014, the coalition prides itself on reaching out to Christian voters, who were only 32% of the electorate but voted 86% Republican, allowing massive sweeps in that midterm election. (Their numbers. I’m not playing fact-check right now.)
- The survey aims to energize registered Christian voters and convince the stragglers to register and vote.
- The survey expounds repeatedly on the theme that America is doomed unless Christians ‘take it back’ the ‘Left’s radical anti-Christian, anti-family, socialist agenda to transform America.’
- The underlying Vote or Die! meme is continued at lower right of the first page, with the direction ‘Continue Official Ballot Inside’ and a large black arrow. I remind my readers this isn’t a real ballot. It’s a fund raising tool aimed at getting millions more dollars for Donald Trump and lesser Republican candidates.
On the inside, again flipped vertical exactly as a legitimate ballot, the survey embarks on 13 questions. Bear with me, as I grab a black ink pen and go through each one.
Question 1: If the election were held today, for whom would you vote? I get a choice of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or a blank spot for a write-in candidate.
Even with my skepticism about Clinton’s ties to big business…and as tempting as it might be to write in ‘Giant Meteor’…I choose Clinton. Why? Because Donald Trump appears to show signs of several psychological disorders, and can’t be trusted with a New Jersey casino, let alone what I think is still one of the greatest countries on earth.
Question 2: How do you rate Barack Obama’s performance as President? I get the choice of Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Abysmal, or Undecided.
I choose Fair because I think that we did not get Candidate Obama or even The Rock Obama…we got someone who waffled a lot, was under the delusion he would get any kind of compromise from this new psychotic GOP, and allowed the Republicans to pretty much frame the national narrative over the last eight years. A typical Democratic flaw, alas.
Question 3: If Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected President in 2016, do you think she would be an improvement over Barack Obama, about the same, or worse for America’s future? (Nice leading language on that last point, folks. Frank Luntz should be proud of you.) I get the choice of Worse, A Slight Improvement, No Opinion, About the Same, A Big Improvement, and a large write-in spot for Other. (I’m estimating it’s large enough for one of several Fox Talking Point rants.)
I chose About the Same and write it in, because I see no reason she would change. But then I realize there is one good thing about Clinton’s nearly 30 years of experience with GOP adversaries: she already knows their tricks and probably won’t tolerate as many of their tantrums as Obama has. But I’ve already written in ‘About the Same’. And while Barack Obama has disappointed me in many respects, he and Hillary Clinton share an important trait: they’re both intelligent, rational adults.
Before we get to the next question, we have a block of highlighted text announcing an Issue Summary. Why? Because the Coalition wants to make sure we survey takers understand the Terrible Peril We Face if we answer the next question wrong.
Partial summary text: ‘The next President is likely to have three new Supreme Court Justices and will set the direction of the Supreme Court for generations.’ Then follows some dog-whistle language about gay marriage and other ‘outrageous and unconstitutional rulings’. Imagine the liberal orgy if more left-wing judges get appointed! I have two words to answer that: Citizens United. Liberal-leaning judges did not jam that one through the SCOTUS. The Voting Rights
After all that, the next question is almost anticlimactic.
Question 4: How important to you is it that we elect a President who will appoint Supreme Court justices and federal judges who will follow the Constitution of the United States and NOT just make up their own laws in accordance with their own personal ideological views?
Room here for a comment here about psychological transference, Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas. I’m given the choices of Essential to America’s survival as the “land of the free”, Very Important, Not Important, Important, No Opinion, or that pesky big blank line for Other (another slot for a Talking Point, yay.)
I’m choosing Essential to America’s survival as the “land of the free”, though not for the reasons these alleged patriots might want. For all his faults, Obama is a constitutional scholar. I think the Supreme Court has been hampered (and its reputation harmed) by the actions of Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas…who all played fast and loose with their take on the Constitution.
Not to mention the deep horror I feel while contemplating who and what Donald Trump might appoint as a SCOTUS judge. A business crony? A horse? His wife? A Putin or Erdogan puppet? If he appoints Christian theological judges, we’re up for the Christian version of Sharia Law. No thanks.
Oh, look, another Issue Summary. More spoon feeding leading statements.
‘It’s now obvious that Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the Democrat Party are trying to transform the voting electorate in America by granting amnesty and ultimately citizenship to the estimated 20,000,000 illegal aliens now living in America and inviting tens of millions more illegal immigrants to break into America to become voters. This is how they aim to “fundamentally transform” America (as Obama put it) into a one-party socialist country. According to a new study by the Center for Immigration Studies, 76 percent of immigrants in America who have children are now on at least one welfare program.’
My reaction: What? I think your numbers are far higher than they really are, and I wouldn’t trust any think tank you reference.
I live in the Southwest, I see immigration issues all the time. There are some real problems, but honestly it’s not as bad as you’d think. The real issue, hidden behind all this coded language, is flat out racism, fear of the future, and fear of a Zero Sum Game in which poor white people are last onto the life rafts. Lyndon Johnson pointed out decades ago that as long as poor white people have someone else to piss on, they feel better about their own faults and failures.
Immigrants made the America we love. My Cherokee ancestors might have something to say about all those white people who rolled into Georgia and the Carolinas, and thanks to Andrew Jackson sent my folks on the delightful gallivant known as the Trail of Tears. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure some of those Cherokee ancestors (and English, and German ones) also owned slaves.
I would like to believe in a changing world adapting to terrible pressures, through better social instincts and better science. We are actually in a much less violent world than the one our ancestors knew. We just see more of the awful stuff because of the 24 hour news cycle and the internet. This isn’t a Zero Sum Game in which one group’s gains mean another group’s loss. We can rise together.
So give me what is sure to be your travesty of a next question:
Question 5: How concerned are you about this invasion of illegal aliens that is now overwhelming America’s health care, welfare, and public school system? I’m given the choice of Very Concerned, Not Concerned, Concerned, or No Opinion.
I pick Not Concerned, because this is a straw man issue hiding a lot of other very real problems with health care, welfare, and the public schools. Most of those problems I can lay at the feet of my once-brethren in the GOP, plus a few idiotic Democrats.
Question 6: How concerned are you that, because of this invasion of illegal aliens, we are coming to a point when a conservative pro-freedom candidate will never win another Presidential election in America? I am given the choice of Very Concerned, Not Concerned, Concerned, or No Opinion.
To be fair, I pick Not Concerned, although I would much rather have a write in spot for I SEE YOU, YOU OLD SCARED ASSHOLES! I SEE EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS ABOUT.
This is an issue about freedom, to this coalition: Their freedom to worship and live as they chose, and deny anyone different that same choice. No tolerance. Their way or none. They and ISIS, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram are all the same mindset. It’s just that the Islamic terrorists have gotten away with it by violence, and the evangelical Christians have learned to play the game with politics over the last 50 years. It’s more subtle, but it spells the same doom for the vibrant progressive America that I love.
Donald Trump’s latest angle is repealing some tax-restrictive policies that supposedly inhibit and threaten free worship today…but were once enthusiastically championed by Republicans, when those provisions were drafted to hamper socialist organizations.
You know what, Coalition? I think those tax policies don’t go far enough. I’d like to see NO TAX EVASION from churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship. Get a crowbar into those coffers. Pay your share. Render unto Caesar, and all that jazz. Many churches do wonderful, responsible social safety-net work with their tithes. Many others allow their pastors to have gold toilets and Lear Jets. We’re talking billions of dollars in cash, bonds, stock, precious metals, and property.
What next? Oh, stars, another Issue Summary:
‘We have reached a point in America that government will crack down hard on you if you adhere to Christian moral teachings. Christian bakers, photographers, and wedding service providers are being fined by the courts and threatened with prison for declining to participate in gay wedding ceremonies. One Christian baker in Oregon was fined $135,000 for declining to make a wedding cake for a gay marriage ceremony.’
Ugh. I can’t even ponder the GIF I should use for my reaction. Other than a big fat link to all the fact check sites that tell the real versions of these stories. This is just more dog-whistle code.
So-called ‘moral’ viewpoints on gay issues are sharply generational: if you are under 35 you are much more likely to see gay marriage and other gay issues as norms and non threatening. And that scares the crap out of older white conservatives.
I’m not threatened by gay marriage. I don’t think that conservative businesses should be railroaded as much as they might have been, but some of the Culture Wars anti-gay stuff I’ve seen has been ridiculous. If I were a gay person, I wouldn’t ask a conservative to bake my wedding cake. I wouldn’t sue the baker, I’d just agree to disagree and go elsewhere.
But the baker’s side won’t back down, because their entire moral viewpoint is shaped by shutting down and shunning anything that is not their ‘norm’. They not only do not want me to have their cake if I’m gay or somehow ‘other’, they don’t want me to have any cake, or any wedding, or any legal protection against harassment and violence.
Time and again, I see language from the Christian right that conflates ‘compromise’ with ‘criminalize’. Like this next question, which I saw coming several paragraphs ago.
Question 7: How concerned are you that Christianity (which includes Christian moral teachings) is quickly becoming criminalized in America? I’m given a choice of Very Concerned, Not Concerned, Concerned, or I Want Christianity Criminalized.
Sigh. The choices ignore the nuances of compromise and coexistence. I’m an agnostic at best, atheistic to a degree, and always a skeptic. I would not mourn if the more virulent forms of *all* fundamentalist religions were contained or eradicated. I’ve been reading some fascinating and chilling social studies articles about early human societies and the possible links between religiously motivated human sacrifice, authoritarian government, and oppressed populations. Big religion almost always seeks out incestuous relationships with power and privilege. The Trumps and Putins of the world will always court legitimacy with craven or naive religious leaders.
I’m fairly certain that Putin made his deals with the Russian Orthodox Church not because he believes, but because it’s a useful alliance. In Turkey, Erdogan wants a less secular society because the pro Islamist factions are more likely to prop up his personality-cult style of government. Trump is not a moral person by many of the measures Christian conservatives know. By rights, many more of them *should* be labeling him an Anti-Christ. But they and he think they can each control and use the other.
Like any religion, the moderate expression of Christianity is not a bad thing. I have fond memories of the staunch hardworking Calvinists, gentle Presbyterians, and level-headed Methodists I knew growing up. Instead of the ancient Mediterranean cultures’ focus on individuals as cogs in destiny or a state machine, early Christianity gave revolutionary precedence to individual human beings and their personal relationship with the Divine. (That it also encouraged slaves to meekly accept their earthly lot in exchange for exalted rewards in Heaven is a bit bogus, I’ve always thought.)
So no, I emphatically do NOT want to outlaw Christianity. I would like checks and balances on irrational Christian persecution complexes before they lead to the next American Civil War or World War III.
I vote Not Concerned on Question 7, simply because you assholes didn’t give me a reasonable choice.
Ramping up the persecution complex is the next Issue Summary: ‘Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is telling Christians that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” In other words, she is saying Christians need to change their beliefs to agree with gay marriage and abortion-on-demand (including partial birth abortion) and even threatens saying, “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will,” [against those who subscribe to Christian moral beliefs].’
Okay, wow, let me unpack that for a moment. Cultures change. Secularism and humanism is on the rise, and that terrifies some Christians. Not all, I might add: Reed’s coalition and his like-minded allies certainly do not speak for all Christian-identifying folks in America. Demographics shows that younger Americans are far more likely to be un-Churched if not nonreligious than older citizens. Reed and his coalition know they are on the losing side of history, and this is their last attempt to hold onto their cherished moral beliefs.
Some of which are good, and some are awful. I’ve read my Bible through multiple times, I’ve seen the sublime passages, the ridiculous, the unsavory, and the horrifying.
The conservative right has made demons out of the liberal left. The liberal left has typically passively ignored or mocked many of the right’s complaints. But if conservatives push too far the other way, they risk utterly alienating not only this younger generation, but many more to follow. Moderation and compromise are not utter defeat. If that’s the only language you understand, so be it.
(Continued in Part 2.)