They hate you
Amy Sullivan is clueless. Just mind numbingly clueless.
It's hard to believe, but Bush does disdain evangelicals.
by Amy Sullivan
arly Monday morning, a tell-all book from a former Bush White House official hit Washington like a small explosion, generating at least a color orange political threat level. Here was a conservative Republican, someone who had been on the inside of the president's signature domestic policy agenda of the first term, leveling damaging accusations of hypocrisy, wide-scale manipulation, and deceit. Conservatives reacted accordingly. They charged the traitor, former Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives David Kuo, with timing the book to do maximum damage in the midterm elections, and they compared him to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. "What David Kuo is saying about the President and his efforts," said David Contreras, Texas director of the Council on Faith in Action, "is nothing more than a cynical attempt to sell books and line his pockets with 30 pieces of silver [a reference to the payment Judas received for turning Jesus over to the Pharisees.]"
The reaction from the left has been, to put it mildly, slightly less vigorous. It is in stark contrast to the way in which liberal commentators and bloggers embraced other revelations, such as former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's memoir or the latest Bob Woodward book. This time, the responses have ranged from total silence to yawns to fears that the book could backfire on the Democratic Party. In general, most liberals have chosen to distance themselves from Kuo and his case.
This could just be smart politics. After all, Republicans are in such a free-fall at the moment that it might be best for liberals to stay out of the way and let conservatives fling recriminations at each other, as has largely been the case with the Mark Foley scandal. But something else is at play, too. Despite the evidence Kuo presents in Tempting Faith, liberals simply don't believe him. They've spent so much time fear-mongering about American theocracy that a book illustrating the opposite simply makes no sense to them. In fact, the real revelation of Kuo's book is not that the Bushies don't care about evangelicals; it's that liberals are too wedded to their views to capitalize on it.
The first clue that the left didn't see any political value in Kuo's book came last week on msnbc's "Scarborough Country." Another msnbc show had obtained an advance copy of the embargoed book and reported passages on how White House aides routinely referred to conservative evangelical leaders as "nuts" and "goofy." In response, Lawrence O'Donnell--former Democratic Senate aide and the resident liberal commentator at msnbc--dropped the ball. "I think the good news here is that people working in the White House think that Pat Robertson is nuts," he said. "They should. Pat Robertson is nuts." It seemed a little off-message--after all, this was a politically embarrassing book for the Bushies, and here O'Donnell was praising them. True, Robertson does regularly spout off truly nutty and dangerous statements (his call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez; his prayer for the death of liberal Supreme Court justices; his belief that UPC symbols are the Mark of the Beast as foretold in Revelation). But what rankled O'Donnell the most was Robertson's "insane" belief that Jews are going to burn in hell. "
While most of them would put it more delicately than Robertson, it is an article of faith for millions and millions of evangelicals that the only way into heaven is through belief in Jesus Christ. (The good reverend has also said he believes Methodists will burn in hell, but that's not really the point.) By condemning and mocking that doctrine, O'Donnell managed an impressive feat. He took Robertson, a figure widely disliked and discredited throughout the evangelical community, and found a way to criticize him that would also insult and alienate evangelicals. Congratulations, Lawrence O'Donnell--you're the new poster-boy for secular liberal intolerance.
Since they haven't done so yet, they're missing a golden opportunity. Evangelicals have become increasingly disillusioned with the Bush administration and the Republican Party in general over the last two years. While 78 percent of white evangelicals voted for Bush in 2004, only 57 percent approve of the job he's doing now, and only 52 percent say they are likely to support Republicans in the November elections.
Those numbers have not dropped because conservative evangelicals picked up Kevin Phillips's American Theocracy and became worried that Bush was too religious. Instead, evangelical support has plummeted in large part because they, along with other religious conservatives, have begun to suspect they've been played by Republicans--used for their votes and then ignored
Amy Sullivan , a contributing editor at The Washington Monthly, is writing a book about religion and the left
Amy Sullivan, who was extremely pissed when I suggested that she missed the anti-semitic tone behind attacks on Hollywood, which oddly enough came out during the war on Christmas campaign.
Now, she's blowing off the anti-semitism rampant in the fundamentalist movement. Oh, it's not really a big deal that Jews are doomed in Robertson's world view. A lot on the Israeli right has unwisely accepted fundie support, not realizing that the ultimate outcome is conversion or death.
It's not a minor deal, it really isn't. Robertson repeated a key anti-semitic tenet of the fundie faith and Larry O'Donnell is supposed to ignore it? Why? When Muslims make similar comments, they are excoriated in the American media. I can't accept that as an idea which needs to be validated in our democracy. If they're insulted, so what? It's a foul idea, a wrong idea and ignoring it is immoral.
Sullivan was one of the big voices screaming about "values voters" meaning toss the gays and pro-choice people under the bus. Of course she was wrong, and her downplaying the Dominionists creates a massive blind spot.
The leaders of the religous right aren't playing. They want power and they want it to make Christianity the dominant religion. Sullivan thinks if we just talk nice to them, they'll vote for Democrats. Which is insane.
The best comparison would be to the Klan of the 1920's. People joined socially, but the movement was undone by it's corruption. Sullivan constantly undervalues Democratic beliefs in order to appeal to the minority of Americans who are evangelical.
What Sullivan will find out when they stop bullshitting her is that a lot of these people are evangelicals because it is the way they can preserve their world view, and it isn't a happy one.
posted by Steve @ 6:12:00 PM