Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
This has been a rather remarkable week in American politics. It began last Sunday when Vice President Joe Biden said that he believes in marriage equality for same-sex couples. A couple of days later, President Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to say that he too believes in marriage equality for same-sex couples.
The following day we learned that his presumptive opponent this fall, Willard "Mittens" Romney, is not the squeaky-clean "got milk" aw shucks dullard he projects, but rather has a dark side of mean-spirited intolerance and abuse epitomized by a high school "prank" (bullying) in which he organized a posse of preppies to hunt down a classmate, sit on top of him and cut off his hair. Mitt Romney's prep school classmates recall pranks but also troubling incidents. The article suggests the classmate was perceived to be gay.
Romney at first tried to laugh it off, then denied any knowledge of the incident -- which begs the question, were there similar incidents of such "pranks" that now blend together in his memories that he can no longer remember which incident is which, so he is exercising extreme caution in his comments?
The right-wing noise machine predictably attacked the Post story, but it checks out. Romney story holds up to scrutiny. This story only lends credibility to the "Mr. Potter" image of Romney as the ruthless vulture capitalist at Bain Capitol who likes to fire people and to force businesses into bankruptcy to make money. And that's not a good thing.
But this week also ends remarkably. Willard "Mittens" Romney is delivering a commencement address at televangelist Jerry Falwell's ironically named Liberty University. These are the culture warrior Christian Reconstructionists and Dominionists who view Mormonism as a cult and even satanic (look it up).
And yet they are now willing to make league "with the devil" to support him against that falsely defamed "secret secular-socialist-Muslim from Kenya," Barack Obama. This is equally a remarkable moment in American politics, and should not go unnoticed.
McKay Coppins writes at BuzzFeed Cultist for President:
On page 173 of the course catalog for Liberty University, the country's largest Evangelical Christian college, there's a graduate course labeled Theology 678—Western and New Religions.
Its innocuous title belies the description of its curriculum:
"The history, doctrines, and present state of the major cults such as Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventism. The course will also include a study of the Occult Movement. Emphasis is placed on the errors of these groups and on methods and materials for confronting them effectively."
The course is just one reminder that when Mitt Romney takes the stand on Saturday to deliver the commencement speech at Liberty U, he will be addressing more than 2,000 evangelical students who have been taught that his Mormon faith is a cult that must be defeated.
But that doesn't mean they won't vote for him. As the Republican Party sits poised, for the first time in modern history, to nominate a presidential candidate who's not a protestant Christian, conservative Evangelicals across campus — and, indeed, across the country — are struggling to reconcile their theology with their politics. Can they really support a heretic for president?
Ed Kilgore writes at the Washington Monthly, Cultural Antietam:
While Mitt Romney may not have been their ideal candidate, their conquest of the GOP—and for that matter, of Romney—on all the issues that matter to them is too far advanced to let the identity of the nominee get in the way of ejecting the hated secular-socialist-Muslim from the White House and claiming the spoils of victory.
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But what seems to be eluding happy Republicans right now is the possibility that having a fresh grievance against Obama won’t necessarily convince culture warriors to quiet down and assume their position in the back of the Romney campaign bus, carefully avoiding any utterances that might frighten swing voters.
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Check out this remark from Pat Buchanan, who may be a self-disgraced ex-pundit to most people but who remains firmly in the mainstream of Christian Right opinion:
Obama, by declaring that homosexual marriages should be on the same legal and moral plane as traditional marriage, just took command of the forces of anti-Christian secularism in America’s Kulturkampf. And Nov. 6, 2012, is shaping up as the Antietam of the culture war.
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More to the immediate point, it’s not entirely clear to me that the self-proclaimed exclusive representatives of Christianity on the Right have the troops to win a culture war, determined as they are to wage it not just on the relatively strong (if lagging and ultimately doomed) ground of opposition to same-sex marriage, but on issues like banning abortion and restricting contraception where they are in a distinct minority. Matter of fact, even if they can keep themselves from campaigning against every social development of the last half-century, polls are showing that the level of intensity among supporters of same-sex marriage is as higher or higher than among those opposing it.
But what is entirely clear to me is that Kulturkampf ‘12 will play directly into the Obama strategy of making the election a choice between two directions for the country rather than a referendum on the last four years in which all Mitt Romney has to do is to bob and weave and make himself seem vaguely moderate. Anything that polarizes the electorate even further into a judgment on the ideology of the two parties is not likely to turn out well for the party of Pat Buchanan and Paul Ryan.
Steve Benen adds in This Week in God:
Delivering a commencement address at Falwell's school is itself a strange decision -- at this phase of the campaign, shouldn't Romney stop pandering to extremists and start Etch A Sketching towards the American mainstream? -- but for the speech to come now makes it all the more significant.
There's no shortage of compelling angles to this story. Note, for example, "The Liberty Way" -- the university's all-encompassing code of conduct -- which dictates much of students' lives, even off campus. Dancing and R-rated movies are prohibited, for example, and the punishment for student abortions is the same as for dabbling in witchcraft. (Perhaps "Liberty" was not the best choice of names for the school.)
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[F]or the larger mainstream, the commencement address suggests Romney's post-primary shift away from his party's more extreme elements still isn't happening. What's more, despite all the talk about his focus on the economy, the Republican's anti-gay agenda is reinforced, not just with his push for a constitutional amendment, but with his decision to visit a school that considers itself a "hard liner institution against the homosexual menace."
What will all the high priests of "centrism" on the Sunday bobblehead head shows have to say about Romney not Etch a Sketching to their secular religion of centrism? Will they even notice? Or wil they redefine far-right extremism as the new "centrism"?