Jan 242011
 

The Religious Right is a powerful force in American politics and society, tipping elections and making themselves one of the most influential voting blocs in the country. Their objectives are worn on their sleeves; their zeal unquestionable. Yet for everything that is known far more remains just out of common knowledge. In this series we will delve into this unknown tracking down more on their most powerful players, money, influence, and how they achieve their goals.

In the political circles of the Religious Right few have better connections and influence than long-time Christian conservative Gary Bauer. Yet in spite of his considerable influence he has largely stayed out of the spotlight. Unlike the more famous megapastors like the late Jerry Falwell or John Hagee Bauer does not need the notoriety and attention to advance his cause. This has enhanced his effectiveness in the movement as a very capable behind the scenes organizer founding and leading several highly influential and well-funded socially conservative PACs.

Bauer has been with the Religious Right since it first became a major force in American politics. His political career began in 1982 when he was appointed to the position of Deputy Undersecretary for the Department of Education by President Reagan. He was later promoted to Undersecretary at the same department and served in this role until 1987 when he was named domestic policy adviser to the President. While in office he headed Reagan’s Special Working Group on the Family which presented their study on family issues in “The Family: Preserving America’s Future” in 1986. It declares, “This fabric of family life has been frayed by the abrasive experiments of two liberal decades.” Very true to Christian Fundamentlist thinking Bauer casts followers of traditional family values as a persecuted element of society in dire need of government protection. In particular he singles out abortion, teen sex, children born out of wedlock, and the divorce rates blaming these all on a decline of solid Christian values.

In 1989 following the election of George H.W. Bush Bauer left the White House and was recruited by the Family Research Council, a rising star of the Religious Right. As President of the organization Bauer expanded the small group from a budget of one million with a staff of three to a $14 million operation and a headquarters in Washington DC. To improve their muscle he founded FRC Action, a political action committee, in 1992. He followed up in 1996 with the founding of the Campaign for Working Families who would make their mark in the 1998 midterm elections by raising $7 million for Christian conservative political candidates. Under Bauer’s tenure the FRC and its allies established themselves as a formidable force in the Republican Party and the pro-life movement. Along with cementing their lobbying and fundraising prowess the FRC bulked up their information campaigns to shape the political discourse. From humble beginnings Bauer’s leadership turned the FRC into the political powerhouse it is today and made a name for himself as a staunch Culture Warrior.

With his position assured in 1999 Bauer resigned as President of the FRC to campaign for the Republican nomination for President. Central to his campaign was the emphasis on moral values decrying the “culture of death” in America. Bauer’s run for the Presidency, thanks to a crowded field, would end in February of 2000 when he dropped out of the race. Following his defeat Bauer would found another PAC, American Values, and was tapped as president of Christians United for Israel. Like his other PACs American Values would quickly establish itself as a strong member of the Religious Right’s growing army of lobbying groups. In the mid 2000s Bauer’s group would sign up with the secretive Arlington Group with his presence touted as a badge of honor for the organization.

In spite of his relatively low profile Bauer has remained an active figure in the Culture War. During the Bush Supreme Court nomination debates Bauer weighed in against Harriet Miers taking part in the campaign to derail her nomination on the grounds that she was a “stealth candidate” who appeared to be a conservative but would advance liberal ideas once on the high court. Following the nomination of Samuel Alito Bauer, along with other prominent Christian conservatives, came out in support of Bush’s new pick for the Supreme Court rallying a campaign to ensure Alito’s nomination. Bauer has remained highly active since with regular articles at Human Events and his reputation as a successful and influential organizer. Since 2008 Bauer in particular has been vocal in his support of Governor Sarah Palin for her strong socially conservative credentials. In spite of losses and setbacks he has continued to press the Religious Right’s case to make their vision for America reality.

Bauer’s history and track record makes him one of the more effective and dangerous operatives in the Christian fundamentalist movement. He rarely takes center stage, leaving the spotlight to more bombastic and flamboyant figures working to build up the Religious Right’s political and organizational muscle. So far he has seen considerable success on this front with his most successful PACs exercising considerable influence and power in Washington to this day. Working behind the scenes and day to day in Washington Bauer continues to be a major force in the movement. With his string of successes and connections Gary Bauer’s involvement in any major campaign or candidate is a clear sign that the social conservative establishment has a major stake in the outcome.

Also published at Ryan’s Desk

Jan 102011
 

On Saturday the United States saw unfold a terrible tragedy that has left many dead, including a Federal judge and a nine year old girl, and more wounded.  Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona only just escaped death by luck and remains in critical condition.  Yet this act did not take place in a vacuum.  It happened hot on the heels of one of the most vitriolic and downright vicious elections in recent memory.  Now this charge may sound hyperbolic until you look at snippets from the 2010 campaign trail with examples like an appeal to “Second Amendment remedies”, resorting to the “bullet box” if the ballot box fails, declarations that Obama’s election was an assault on America’s soul, the urging of  “don’t retreat, just reload”, declarations that the Vietnamese are after “my” seat, and the infamous target map.  It cannot be said with any certainty that any one of these acts was what led to the bloodbath this past Saturday.  It is highly unlikely that the increasingly hostile political climate, with the flames recklessly and cynically fanned by political personalities, candidates, and elected officials, had nothing to do with the tragedy in Tuscon.  If this were an isolated incident, a one-time act by an unhinged individual, then such claims would be over the top, laughable, and easily dismissed.

If only that were the case.

Far from being a single act by a lone gunman Saturday’s explosion of violence has much in the way of recent and infamous company.  In early 2009 a Pennsylvania man ambushed and killed several police officers out of fear that the new Obama administration was going to take his guns away.  A little more than a month later abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, a man repeatedly called a  “baby killer” by political pundit Bill O’Reilly, was gunned down in his church.  In February of this past year a small plane deliberately rammed the IRS building in Austin, Texas.  In August a lone man exchanged fire with California Highway Patrol officers while on the way to attempt to attack the Tides Foundation, a frequent target of the rants of Glenn Beck.  October 25th saw the brutal beating administered by a Rand Paul supporter to a MoveOn activist in Kentucky.  Most recently, only just on the heels of the Tuscon attack, was today’s discovery of the dead body of the Congressional affairs director for Progress Energy in a burning car.

These attacks show a disturbing pattern of violent action rising to meet the siren song of violent rhetoric.  Far more troubling is the increasingly cavalier attitude public personalities are taking to the handling of freedom of speech.  In none of these incidents, so far, has an apology for previous violent speech been offered.  There has been no attempt by the loudest voices to dial back the heat but to stoke the flames to a roaring inferno.  All the while the oh-so-objective media has supplied the fuel to these modern day demagogues by giving them coverage without consideration for content and creating sensation for the sake of puffing up ratings.  Instead of shunning such radicals, as a civil society should, they have been consistently given the loudest megaphone the broadcast world can find.  They rage freely with no concern for the potential consequences of abusing a position of public trust ducking responsibility every time they are cornered.

There is something terribly wrong with this picture.  Far from what the old child’s rhyme says words have the greatest power of all.  In virtually every cosmology the world over speech and writing are of divine origin.  Skalds, bards, messengers, and scribes were under divine protection and their speech given great weight.  Our ancestors understood that words have the power to undo kings and lay low empires.  Our own history validates this.  It was not the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord that pushed the colonies to secede from Britain but the bold words of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson that ignited the hearts of the first American patriots.  While bloody battles and the hail of lead would begin and end the Civil War it was the clarion call of the Emancipation Proclamation that truly turned the tide of the conflict and our nation’s history.  It was the words of Upton Sinclair that led to the creation of the FDA and the soaring dream of Dr. Martin Luther King that lit the night during the battle for Civil Rights in the 1960s.  Now we have loud, shrill voices screaming for attention with no regard for the effect their speech may have on society.

This dangerous, reckless attitude has already borne much in the way of poisonous fruit.  Our ancestors understood that as much as freedom isn’t free rights come with responsibilities.  Part of why we keep those rights is because we have a civil society which will defend both our rights and protect those who exercise them from retribution.  It is this lack of violence in the political sphere, just as much as the blood and honor of America’s finest on battlefields the world over, that secures the blessings of liberty for both us and our posterity.  The attack in Arizona is a rare moment where, on the brink of madness, we can stop and pull ourselves back from the abyss.

If we do not pull back from the brinksmanship that dominates our discourse then we will fall into something much worse.  Hopefully it will not take another shooting, another bombing, or a Congressman beating a Senator senseless to drive home how serious our situation truly is.

Also published at Ryan’s Desk

Dec 222010
 

Socialism, even though it has yet to become a major political force in America, has manged in the last two years to dominate the political dialog.  This is very ironic and surprising considering there is only one federal elected official who actually is a Socialist.  In spite of that the backbone of the opposition to health care reform, a plan very similar to one proposed by no less than Richard Nixon, was cries of government takeover and socialism.  Recently the Senate Minority Leader decried the recent health care reform, highly inadequate Net Neutrality rules, and financial reform as a government takeover of the economy.  Some of the opposition to the First Lady’s nutrition bill was on the grounds that it was government interference in private lives.  We have seen elected officials go so far as to block a bill to provide for the health care of 9/11 first responders because the bill would be funded by closing a tax loophole exploited by outsourcing companies.

All of these actions show a much larger and far more worrying pattern.  Consistently the cry of socialism has been taken up against any form of government action that does not favor entrenched interests.  The message from these declarations has gone beyond opposing a specific political philosophy to railing against public or community action of any kind.  In the minds of the proponents of this extreme philosophy action for the public good is an inherent threat to civil liberties regardless of what the action actually is or why.  In this Ayn Randite worldview life is everyone for themselves and greed is enshrined as inherently virtuous.  It is this philosophy that has shoved the political spectrum in Washington DC so far out of whack that Richard Nixon, the original Red fighter, would be an unrepentant big government liberal.

This entire line of thinking is fundamentally inhumane and immoral.

It says you should take the check from BP and waive right to suit because justice hurts profits.

It says enforcing fairness in the marketplace for all players, large and small, will wreck our economy.

It says heroes, in spite of great courage, do not deserve anything from the society they gave everything for.

It says good health is a commodity one must purchase even if the cost runs you out of house and home.

It says look out for number one and anything you step on while climbing the ladder of success deserved it.

It asks us, in exchange for promises of wealth, power, and security to cast aside obsolete ideas like honor, family, public good, and community.

This is not, by a long shot, principled opposition to communism and socialism.  These people are not the glorious watchmen on the battlements of democracy.  This is naked contempt for any act or idea that asks us to give of ourselves for the sake of others.

This philosophy is nothing less than the sanctification of antisocial behavior as virtuous.

Also published at Ryan’s Desk

Feb 192010
 

Just a quick update: Since signing up for a local Tea Party group I’ve been looking through their (and other Tea Party groups) blogs, forums, and reading the Twitter feeds. There are two main topics that are being discussed quite passionately: To Third Party or Not to Third Party and growing resentment over the GOP, in the guise of the Tea Party Nation, trying to control the Tea Party.

I don’t normally read Newsmax, but this story is being linked to talked about more than any other.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s statement that tea party activists need to start “picking a party” is part of a “coordinated assault” against the conservative grass-roots movement by the Republican establishment, tea party leaders tell Newsmax.

A series of events this week have pushed some tea party leaders to the brink of firing back at GOP officials they see as potentially compromising their organizations’ independent status.

“Anybody who expects tea party members to vote based on party lines fundamentally misunderstands the movement,” says Mark Meckler, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots and one of its national coordinators. “The tea party movement is made up of people who value principle above party.”

This week’s meeting between RNC Chairman Michael Steele and “tea party leaders” appeared to aggravate the growing divide. Most of the major tea party groups steered clear of the four-hour sessions, and some even suggested Steele was trying to “hijack” the movement for his own purposes.

Tea party insiders say that whenever the tea parties are portrayed as aligned with the GOP, the independents and disenchanted Democrats within the grass-roots movement feel alienated.

Publicly, Republican leaders insist they respect the movement’s independence. But tea party leaders see indications their true intentions are otherwise.

“I think we are facing a coordinated assault by the GOP to a bend the tea parties toward them,” Everett Wilkinson of the Tea Party Patriots tells Newsmax.

The entire article is worth reading and is, based on a short time reading Tea Party blogs and tweets, representative of the frustration people within the movement are feeling at GOP encroachment and strong arm tactics.