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The Moment that Freedom Of Thought Becomes Impossible: Hatred Of the Other and Blind Ideology

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Salman Rushdie one wrote: “The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.”

We seem to be at another crossroads in Western civilization, a crossroads where the classic liberalism that was the basis for democratic societies is being stampeded by zealots of various persuasions who guided by the supposed infallibility of their ideological belief systems, deliberately and without remorse seek to destroy the institutions that are the guardians of liberty.

We have seen the results of such movements in history before and each time they succeed in gaining power they have brought disaster to nations, and sometimes the world.

Proponents of ideological purity assume that their ideological bias is equivalent to sacred truth, be it a religious or secular truth. The promoters of such systems promote something more than their opinion, as Hannah Arendt noted: “For an ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the “riddles of the universe,” or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supposed to rule nature and man.”  As such, ideology is not based on knowledge, but is distinct from it and the enemy of knowledge for it binds the mind in a straitjacket in which all thought must be submitted to the truth of the ideology. As Arendt noted such ideologies must be handled with caution as they “pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.”  An ideology protects the believer from having to think for himself, it allows the insecure to grasp at the protection that it allegedly provides, and allows the believer to deny reality, and to by definition declare everything that contradicts the ideology to be heretical, and opponents to be aligned with the devil himself, allowing the believer to hate the opponent. As Eric Hoffer noted, “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” 

My favorite television character, Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in The Blacklist once said “I know so many zealots, men and women, who chose a side, an ideology by which to interpret the world. But, to get up every single day and to do the hard work of deciding what to believe. What’s right, today? When to stand up or stand down. That’s courage.” The fact is, no matter how stridently they espouse their beliefs, ideologues are by definition not courageous, because courage takes critical thinking, something that ideologues of any persuasion are incapable of doing.

As for me I consider myself to be a left-leaning progressive. I am pro LGBTQ rights, and despite being against abortion in principle,  I believe that Roe v. Wade and the right of a woman to have an abortion must be upheld. I believe in equality for women and believe that women are held to a much higher standard than men, especially in politics. Likewise I believe that women face far greater discrimination in the workplace, academia, and the military than do men.

I believe that racial prejudice, especially against blacks is still a major problem, but it is not confined to blacks, but Hispanics, Arabs, and Asians. These are mostly the provence of the political Right, the but then there is classic Anti-Semitism, a prejudice and hatred of Jews, and it spans the political and ideological spectrum. I can say that as a historian of the Holocaust and as a gentile Christian.

That being said, to offer criticism of the Government of Israel in its dealings with its Arab and Druse minorities that happen to be Israeli citizens, and to Palestinians who have been the victims of the Pan Arab nationalism of the 1950-1970s, to find themselves abandoned by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the Gulf States is not being anti-Semitic, it is observing something that is the victimization of a people caught in the middle of a greater political-military struggle.

In 2007 I came across a Palestinian refugee camp at the border of Iraq ans Syria at Al Waleed. Thousands of Palestinian Arabs were marooned there, dependent on th U.N. for food and shelter, and the good graces of Americans and Iraqis for security as they had no place left to go. The new Iraqi government didn’t want people who were allies of Saddam Hussein in their country and drove them to their farthest reaches. Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States didn’t want them either. Likewise, the government that should accept them, the Palestinian Authority didn’t want them and they were not welcome anywhere else in the Arab world. Of course, the Israeli government didn’t want them either. This is an irefruable fact. They were abandoned by all.

As far as Anti-Semitism goes, you don’t have to look hard to find it. Neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers have cottage industries that attemp to disprove or minimize the Holocaust. Most reside on the political Right, such as in France, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and in some parts of the German political spectrum. But some too make their home of the Left, the Labour Party in Britain has come under the spell of Jeremy Corbin, a Left Wing anti-Semitic leader if one existed at all. Much of the current anti-Jewish and and Israel propaganda from both the Right and Left is often lifted straight out of The Protoclals Of the Elders Of Zion, not that the polcies of the Netanyahu government are helping anyone.

I happen to be a liberal and progressive realist, but I cannot be an ideologue. That being said I think that the Presdency and policies of the Trump administration exemplify the worst of American racism and exceptualism. Barely educated racist demagogues hold power over a President whose supporters would support him even if he murdered someone on 5th Avenue. Likewise, I think that there are some progressives who are incapable of seeing both sides of an argument and who are as historically as blind, deprived, and ignorant as the most myth bound Christian Conservatives, or other Right Wing anti-Semites. I truly must be a progressive realist in wonderland.

It takes no courage to be an ideologue, and once a person surrenders to an ideology as his or her reason for existence, they sacrifice the ability to reason, the ability to think critically, and the capacity to acquire knowledge. That is the danger of the blind ideologies that are consuming our world today.

Quite obviously, a lot of ideologues from across the spectrum will disagree.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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We Were Warned about American Religious Extremists

Barry Goldwater - Preachers

It is ironic that back in the late 1970s and early 1980s that most of us were blind to the motivation and goals of the religious right. I can say that back then as a politically conservative Republican and evangelical Christian while I was all for the God and country stuff I really was not impressed by either Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority or Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition.

In fact back then it was laughable to think that the leaders of the movement whose words and actions seemed almost ludicrous. But times have changed and they are now a major force in the Tea Party and Republican Party. However, back then I think I can safely say that most people did not take these men too seriously, much less the lesser knowns of the Christian Dominion or Reconstruction movements, the New Apostolic movement, or Global Apostolic Network which is now such a force in the Tea Party and the Republican Party.

Since these people practically own that party today and honestly believe that they should use it as a political means to achieve their theocratic ideal, it is important not to forget that they were not always so powerful and that most of us misjudged them and their movement in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Back in the late 1970s such people were considered a fringe movement and not taken seriously by most mainline Republicans or liberal Democrats. They were simply a conservative special interest group.

However back then and until 2010 I belonged to churches whose leaders and members took the message of such people quite seriously, and while I might have had reservations about the legitimacy of their message in therms of scripture, reason or tradition, I said nothing. Sadly, I can empathize with Martin Niemoller who countenanced the rise of Hitler only to realize his mistake too late.

But there were those who warned us about this movement. Chief among them was not a liberal or progressive, but a man who epitomized conservative orthodoxy in the Republican Party for decades, the late Senator Barry Goldwater.

Goldwater was certainly a conservative, but he was in favor of many things scorned by his successors in the GOP including a woman’s right to choose, women’s rights, gay rights, and other progressive ideas as he matured from right wing Presidential candidate to the voice of reason and moderation in the Republican Party as he ended his Senate career.

Goldwater may have had his flaws and many progressives rightly criticize his stance on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but unlike so many politicians Goldwater was able to grow in his beliefs and change as he grew older. Today Goldwater would not be welcome in the GOP or the Tea Party movement, and though an Episcopalian would be labeled as something less than a Christian by many so called conservative Christians.

Goldwater was perhaps the last true “conservative.” He was consistent and rational and had no problem taking on religious extremists in his own party, who he realized were growing in both influence and power. He said in the Senate in 1981:

“There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’ ” Barry Goldwater 
(1909-1998) US Senator (R-Arizona) Source: Congressional Record, September 16, 1981

Sadly there are no leaders, elected or appointed, in the Republican Party today or the Tea Party movement willing to confront the American Christian equivalent of the Taliban.

After he left the Senate he continued to battle people that he labeled “extremists.” Responding to claims that the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition were the “new conservatism” Goldwater said:

“Well, I’ve spent quite a number of years carrying the flag of the ‘Old Conservatism.’  And I can say with conviction that the religious issues of these groups have little or nothing to do with conservative or liberal politics.  The uncompromising position of these groups is a divisive element that could tear apart the very spirit of our representative system, if they gain sufficient strength.” 

Goldwater also noted something that most of us missed back in 1981, he said in the same address:

“Being a conservative in America traditionally has meant that one holds a deep, abiding respect for the Constitution.  We conservatives believe sincerely in the integrity of the Constitution.  We treasure the freedoms that document protects. . .  “By maintaining the separation of church and state,” he explained, “the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars . . .  Can any of us refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers?  Can anyone look at the carnage in Iran, the bloodshed in Northern Ireland, or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state?” 

Of course Goldwater was right. Most politicians, regardless of their party are tempted to court religious groups assuming that they are basically benign. Unfortunately that is not always the case. The radical leaders who I have written about the past few nights do not care about the Constitution, nor do they even care about the integrity of Scripture, the Creeds or the Councils, and to whom reason is considered an abomination, but very few people understand this, assuming that religious people are basically good. Philosopher Eric Hoffer, a contemporary of Goldwater wrote:

“The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”

Goldwater understood this and warned:

“The religious factions will go on imposing their will on others, unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy.  They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives. . .  We have succeeded for 205 years in keeping the affairs of state separate from the uncompromising idealism of religious groups and we mustn’t stop now. To retreat from that separation would violate the principles of conservatism and the values upon which the framers built this democratic republic.”

Like Goldwater I have grown in my appreciation for basic civil liberties and the rights of others. Despite the fact that I am a Christian, I cannot countenance the evil machinations of those leading the politically motivated preachers, pundits and politicians who seek to run roughshod over the intent of those who authored the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and even the Gettysburg Address. Those that follow them thinking that they are being taught ideas that are either Christian or part of the American political ideal have been deceived and hopefully will realize it before these leaders drive them and the country over the cliff of religious intolerance and ultimately oppression.

In 1994 Goldwater wrote:

“I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state.  The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process.”

One does not have to agree with Goldwater on all that he believed.  His economic policies were much akin to Social Darwinism and his 1964 campaign and opposition to the civil rights movement were heavily tainted by racism, so much that baseball great and civil rights pioneer, Jackie Robinson, a longstanding Republican was threatened at the GOP 1964 National Convention where Goldwater was nominated as the GOP Presidential nominee. Those things being said Goldwater did change over time on a number of important civil rights issues and was absolutely correct about the nature and purpose of the leadership of the Religious Right, they seek as Gary North, one of their most eloquent ideologues noted: “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise…” 

I spent over 30 years of my life as a Republican before leaving the party in disgust following my return from Iraq in 2008, largely due to the influence of the political preachers that now seem to own the GOP. Pat robertson knew the opportunity the Religious Right had in the early 1990s and his words are still gospel to many religious conservatives. Robertson noted: “With the apathy that exists today, a well organized minority can influence the selection of candidates to an astonishing degree.”

Goldwater spoke of Robertson and others late in life noting: “When you say ‘radical right’ today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”

In that respect Barry Goldwater was a prophet. Goldwater realized the danger and was not hesitant to speak up against men that he knew would destroy the fabric of the country. Since Goldwater is dead, I will say it. These people are dangerous, extremely un-Christian and downright un-American in their approach to government. Their Orwellian doublespeak about “their” religious rights is a facade that they want to use to enforce their own brand of religious intolerance is well documented. 

Well that is all for tonight and until people wake up you can kiss it goodbye.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Trayvon Martin and the Pro-Life Movement: Do the Post-Born Matter at All?

trayvon-grave

I am perplexed tonight. I see people, many of whom are friends fight stridently against all abortion. I am not for abortion, but I do not think that it should be banned. That aside what I think the pro-life movement as a whole in the United States has become is simply an anti-abortion movement. Sometimes one where demented individuals in it feel justified in killing people who work in abortion clinics, even murdering them in church.

I am perplexed because I seldom see any of the high level culture warriors that fight the abortion battles ever raise a cry about issues of justice concerning people that are already born.

The Trayvon Martin murder and acquittal of the man that killed him should send a chill down anyones spine. In some places like Florida all someone has to claim is that they “felt threatened” to justify the use of deadly force against unarmed people. That is the law, and if there are no videos of the incident or eyewitnesses willing to lay it all on the line then there is a strong chance that the killer will go free. That is a fact and I will not go deep into the racial component of this but it doesn’t seem to me that we have advanced that much since young Emmett Till was murdered and his murderers also acquitted.

emmett-till-news-square-300x296

But going back to my main point I don’t think that we really have a true “pro-life” movement in this country. We have an anti-abortion movement which to some degree say that they are fighting for the lives of unborn babies. One does not have to agree with the theology, philosophy or science that they use, but that certainly has to be considered a part of a comprehensive pro-life ethic, abortion for the sake of eugenics including the selection of the sex of an unborn child or solely as a means of birth control are ethically problematic. That being said there are many times, more so than we would want to admit that abortions are tragically necessitated for the life and health of the mother. Sorry, the woman carrying the child should also have the right to her life.

You see I don’t think that simply being anti-abortion is being pro-life, unless you are willing to apply that right to life to already living people.

I have a hard time with people that claim to be pro-life not fighting against the death penalty, against unjust wars of aggression, against targeted assassinations, against the use of drones to kill supposed militants in the remote parts of Pakistan notwithstanding the fact that many infants and pregnant women carrying unborn babies are killed as well. But then I guess that they are just collateral damage and don’t count. After all they are all Moslems and not Americans.

I have a hard time with those that are anti-abortion who would fight against government programs designed to care for pregnant women such as good pre-natal care for the child and primary care for the medical needs of the mother.  I wonder why they are not fighting for the medical and nutritional needs of babies born to poor people and assist young families from impoverished areas get decent jobs and ensure that affordable child care is available. I wonder why supposedly “pro-life” people are not out marching against gun violence, why many will not lift a finger to help the poor, care for the needy, care for the sick and dying, including the elderly who our society seems to be throwing under the bus in every imaginable way unless they are fabulously well off.

Why does it seem that many pro-life leaders are not concerned about issues that effect the lives of pro-life people who happen to be poor, or members of racial or ethnic minorities? But what seems to be the case is that the most vocal and prominent leaders that call themselves “pro-life” or “family values” conservatives both the preachers and the politicians are more concerned about low taxes for the wealthiest people and corporations than they are about people.

Some conservatives and libertarians will say that these are not government responsibilities but the responsibility of churches and charities. I understand the philosophy and in fact I would love to see more churches doing more to alleviate the need for the government to step in. But by and large churches in general and especially conservative evangelical Christian churches have abdicated this responsibility which is mandated in the Gospels and exemplified in the lives of people like Saint Francis of Assisi and so many others. But now even churches that run hospitals frequently subordinate care to the insurance industry and while considered “not for profit” are as for profit as any non-religious hospital.  If evangelicals put half the money that they did into Sunday morning entertainment sessions masquerading as worship and building massive mega-church, media and television empires dominated by the families and friends of their pastors maybe I would have some faith that they were indeed “pro-life.”

I know that some of my conservative friends will see this as some sort of liberal screed. I get that but please, I ask that if people only want to be anti-abortion and not rest of the pro-life ethic then be honest and say that.

The fact of the matter is we are not a pro-life society now in any way shape or form and from our history including slavery, the genocide committed against native Americans, the exploitation of poor countries for the sake of our economy I have a hard time believing the myth that we ever were such a society.

Trayvon Martin is dead. The Florida law was followed, but justice was not done. A young black man was denied his right to life and it doesn’t seem to matter to the “pro-life” movement as a whole. I can’t wait to hear some of the political preachers and politicians that claim to be pro-life defend this verdict.

I guess that is why I am perplexed. It just doesn’t seem to me that the post-born matter to supposedly pro-life people.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under christian life, civil rights, healthcare, News and current events, philosophy, Political Commentary, pro-life anti-abortion

Ecumenical Jihadists and Hurricane Sandy: At Last Something that Christian, Moslem and Jewish Extremists can Agree On

While much of New York, New Jersey and West Virginia struggle under the effects of the damage of Hurricane Sandy and millions of people are either homeless, without power or transportation there are those that know why this happened. Close to 60 million Americans have been affected as well as people in Jamaica and Cuba.

While men like President Obama and Governor Chris Christie, elected officials from opposite sides of our partisan chasm work together to coordinate the assistance needed for the millions of people now homeless or without power there are some people that know why this happened.   I don’t know about you but I was impressed by how well Governor Christie and President Obama laid aside the partisanship and worked together to fulfill their respective Oath’s of Office and responsibility to the people that they were elected to serve. That is how real leaders deal with crisis, be it natural or manmade disasters, economic crisis or something like war.

However there are people out there that do not agree. To them the current crisis has nothing to do with global warming or climate change. No it has nothing to do with the fact that like most major metropolitan regions worldwide New York and New Jersey are maritime areas, what we in the Navy like to call the littorals. Over 70% of the worlds population lives on the littorals. The major trade, banking and industrial cities of the world, those on which the world economy depends sit alongside the oceans of the world.

No, geography, economics, or climatology have no answers. After all scientists are stupid political hacks dependent on the government who don’t believe in God anyway. According to those that really know the facts, you know, people that say that God talks to them and reveals things to them that non-believers don’t understand the issue is secular America, gays and abortion. In fact there is a broad ecumenical agreement among religious fundamentalists, Christians, Moslems and Jews that is almost taking a perverse Schadenfreude, or joy in the sufferings of others going on whenever a natural disaster occurs.

Yes my friends there are Christian ministers in the United States, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Rabbis and Moslem Imams and Mullahs are all chiming in, all citing their Scriptures and their dark understanding of a God who hates his creation. Just google “Hurricane Sandy  God’s judgement” or “Katrina and God’s Judgement” or whatever disaster you want to name with “God’s judgement” and see what pops up. You’ll be surprised at the perverse joy that some religious people take in the sufferings of those that they believe to be God’s enemies.

The sad thing is that many of the people suffering are Christians, Jews and Moslems, which kind of makes me wonder about the people writing the screeds that say that God judging these people. I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot what they would be saying.

It is really amazing to me to see the amount of Ecumenical Jihad that a natural disaster inspires among the faithful. One would think that such zealots wouldn’t be able to agree about anything but but they are surprisingly in agreement when it comes to death and destruction of the people that they deem to be heretics, unbelievers or infidels. At least a leading Saudi Cleric has condemned the Moslem extremists comments but I don’t see many big name Christian leaders condemning the nutty and hateful views of Christians. Maybe it is just that they are too busy doing partisan campaigning for political candidates in states that are not affected by the storm to be bothered with caring about people in states that won’t vote for their candidate anyway. But then maybe I’m wrong and just have become cynical.

I wish that was so. However there is a reason that many if not most mainline Evangelical leaders won’t criticize the nut cases. That is because in their hearts many agree with them and actually say similar things year round and have said them for years but are smart enough not to say it during the storm because it might cut down on donations to their ministries, their market share in Christian broadcasting or their political influence before an election that they have gone all in for one party. Likewise almost all of the leaders of these ministries are have their headquarters in places far from any real danger of natural disaster other than blizzards, thunderstorms and tornados or drought. I hate to say but having lived through all of those disasters plus major hurricanes, floods and earthquakes I can say that those a child’s play compared to events such as Hurricane Sandy, Katrina, the Japanese Tsunami or a massive earthquake.

I don’t know about you but I have a hard time with those that decide that somehow they know all that is in God’s heart and are quite willing to throw other people that don’t believe like them under the wheels of their God’s bus. Well, c’est la vie.

Please pray and act to help the people in need. There is plenty of work to do and needs to be met. I posted information last night on how to give to the Red Cross and Salvation Army relief efforts. Those links are provided here again:

http://www.redcross.org/support

http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, leadership, natural disasters, Religion

Don’t go Akin my Heart: Todd Akin Earns the Ire of Mitt

Irony Personified

When one can’t think of anything else to do a political candidate should be like the Governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas played by Charles Durning. One should dance around subjects and not say really stupid things, especially about things as sensitive topic as rape, which according to law and morality is a violent crime.  However there is no law against political stupidity. Good politicians know how to “Dance a little side step.” Stupid ones don’t know when to shut up.

Dance a Little Sidestep 

Todd Akin, until this morning a Tea Party favorite U.S. Congressman running for Senate in Missouri is obviously the kind of man who doesn’t know when to shut up or when not to try to play medical expert. While defending his anti-abortion position which gives no exemptions for rape he made one of the most bone-headed comments I have ever heard from a politician since Republican Texas candidate for Governor Clayton Williams did in 1990. Williams said that since rape is inevitable like bad weather that rape victims should “just relax and enjoy it.” Williams’ little off the cuff gaffe cost him the election as he was leading Democrat candidate Ann Richards with just a few weeks prior to the election by a hefty margin. I was a Republican in Texas at that time and was so disgusted that I couldn’t vote for the man.

Yesterday while being interviewed by a local news station Akin said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

I wasn’t watching much news yesterday and had been taking most of the day away from the computer spending time with Judy on her visit to the Island Hermitage. So when I head about late in the evening when making a quick check of headlines I was rather dumbfounded. I really thought that I had to be misreading it so I went to bed after finishing an episode of Boston Legal season four on my DVD. Then listening to The Morning Joe on my Sirius radio on the way to work I was really taken aback. I couldn’t believe that he actually said what he said.

I have dealt with a lot of rape victims in my time as a military chaplain as well as a civilian hospital chaplain. To quote the President who said the same thing that that  thought when I heard the comment: “Rape is rape.” So what is the difference between “legitimate rape” and “rape?” Is there such a thing as “illegitimate rape?”

Akin’s comments have drawn the fire of many of his backers including Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan who co-sponsored legislation basically saying the same thing as did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Romney called the comments “insulting, inexcusable and frankly wrong.” Karl Rove’s Super-PAC Crossroads GPS which had spent $5 million in Missouri, withdrew it’s funding from the state. Radio talk-show host Sean Hannity and pundit Ann Coulter have all called on Akin to withdraw from the race, Coulter saying “for the good of the country.” He has been asked not to attend next week’s GOP convention in Tampa and the National Chairman of the GOP pretty much told him to withdraw from the race. Even major anti-abortion groups condemned the remarks. The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a long term anti-abortion activist and head of the Christian Defense Coalition called the remarks “offensive, repugnant and troubling.” But Akin, at least as of tonight is rebuffing their calls and claiming that he is staying in the race. Republicans are running from Akin like vampires from the sun despite having for the past number of years endorsed similar ideas.

I find the whole thing politically inept. I am not going into the politics of abortion on either side of the line. I am just commenting on the political ineptness of a candidate that has dropped a bomb on his party and his soon-to-be Presidential nominee the week before the nominating convention. It is not like that Romney himself has been great on the campaign trail routinely blowing himself up with unbelievable gaffes. It is also true that Romney is not liked by much of his own party, the only thing that many of his supporters find endearing is he is not Obama, who in the words of Hank Williams Jr. “they hate.”

Akin’s comments yesterday and actions today have taken the wind out of Mitt Romney’s campaign.   Romney now has to take his message off of the economy and defend a view that while popular among the conservative-Christian base is at odds with the majority of the electorate, even among those that support some restrictions on abortion. I fall into that category. In a close election which will be decided by a narrow minority of swing voters, especially women this could doom Romney’s campaign despite many people’s unhappiness with the Obama presidency and the continuing problems of the economy.

Regardless of what one thinks about abortion the political fact is that Akin has blown himself away and hurt his party’s nominee who has named an ideological clone of Akin as his running mate. It was a politically inept and stupid move by Akin. If the Republicans are smart they find a way to get him out of the race before he can cause more damage to their national campaign. Democrats of course are praying that Akin digs in and gives them a wedge issue that could give President Obama a slight edge and lessen support for Romney. Even Mahoney, who certainly has “street cred” among pro-life activists commented that if Akin stayed in the race “these comments will follow the Congressman throughout the entire campaign.”

He also may have driven a wedge into his own party as his supporters at the Family Research Council and American Family Association are digging in to support Akin, even making veiled threats at the campaigns of Akin’s Republican detractors such as Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

Akin is breakin’ their hearts. We’ll see how long this goes. I think he will be gone from the race by Tuesday night but I do believe that the damage is done. He has given the Obama campaign and the re-election campaign of Senator Claire McCaskill a gift.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Update as of 2100 hours 21 August: I was wrong. Akin is digging in and the panic is only beginning. Even Rush Limbaugh is against him but he tweeted that the “liberal media” was out to get him. From my viewpoint I think that they want him to remain in the race while his conservative friends want him gone yesterday.

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Party Like it’s 1996: Romney Wins the Granite State but…

Mitt Romney Unloved Frontrunner?

Mitt Romney as most believed won the New Hampshire primary by a comfortable margin and now the fight moves south to South Carolina where Romney will face a big challenge. Despite the wins in Iowa and New Hampshire most Republicans and Independents are not in love with him his record will cause him problems in the South, especially in regard to Romney’s record on abortion.

Romney is the first GOP candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire which many analysts are saying is significant. However I don’t see it as significant as some would. He won New Hampshire handily but against a significantly weaker GOP field than he and John McCain faced in 2008.  On the other hand Ron Paul polled nearly three times the number of votes that he received in 2008.  To further complicate the matter in actual number of votes cast the two social conservatives Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have more combined votes than 2008’s social conservatives led by Mike Huckabee.

Wild Card: Ron Paul and his True Believers

Despite his success in New Hampshire Romney may have great difficulty in the south. Many Republicans, especially those of the Tea Party and Libertarian factions may see Romney as someone that might be able to defeat President Obama but may not want to surrender their party to a man that they really do not trust for the next 8 years.  That is something that I do not hear many people saying.  Buying Romney now means buying him until 2020 and I do not think that Tea Party, Libertarian or Social Conservatives will be willing to do that even if it means 4 more years of Barak Obama. They can run against Obama but once Romney is President it will be much harder for them to get him out.

This could well be like 1996 where the Republicans nominated Bob Dole but despite their hatred of Bill Clinton and desire to see him defeated could not rally behind Dole.

Romney has not helped himself with numerous gaffes and comments that are easily taken out of context and have been put into sound bites by his opponents in the GOP and will be by the Democrats when the battle is truly joined.  He sounds great behind the teleprompter but not very good in the moment. In that aspect he is much like President Obama in style.

No one is leaving the race and all the candidates are heading to South Carolina which is much more a predictor of the eventual nominee than either Iowa or New Hampshire. This is Republican campaign is going to be bloody as it is personal especially for Gingrich who now has massive amount of money to spend and willingness to use it to sink Romney. Romney has a comfortable lead in the last poll over the divided social conservatives in South Carolina and probably wins the state. This will probably take out one or more of his opponents but could lead to the social conservatives to unite behind one candidate, most likely Rick Santorum but possibly and this is a stretch Rick Perry.

I believe that Ron Paul and his supporters will leave the party because they are in no mood to compromise with Romney who they see as “Obama Lite.”  Social conservatives  especially Evangelicals that in their hearts believe that Romney’s Mormon faith makes him a cultist may sit out the election or support Paul or splinter social conservative parties such as the Constitution Party.  This weekend the most prominent of the social conservatives are getting together to see if they can find a conservative alternative to Romney.

When all is said and done I do think Romney wins South Carolina and will get the nomination. Some of his opponents in the GOP will fall in line but ideology matters now in the GOP whether it is social conservatism or libertarianism. However he will look like a ship that survived a Kamikaze attack. He’ll survive but he will be so wounded that he will lose in November despite the weaknesses and unpopularity of President Obama.  The question will be will the GOP galvanize itself behind a candidate that few really like and many view with great suspicion and distrust on a multitude of issues to defeat President Obama?

Back to the Future? Bob Dole and Jack Kemp in 1996

A few months ago I thought that Romney was sure not only to win the nomination but to go on and defeat President Obama in the fall but while I’m pretty sure that he will win the nomination I can easily see him now going the way of Bob Dole.  Party like it’s 1996 because it could be back to the future.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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