|The Repubs.’ New – Old – ‘New-Trumpian’ Base: The Religious Right, Part 1 by Steve Jonas|
January 12, 2017
In the 1980 Repub. primaries, Ronald Reagan won a convincing victory over George H.W. Bush. Reagan was considered a “new” Republican, in the Barry Goldwater mold, while George Herbert Walker Bush was considered an “old” Republican, in the Nixon mold, but with the latter’s many rough edges burnished away. Bush was indeed an old Republican, but from a line of true right-wingers, very unlike Ike “Let’s Continue on with the New Deal but Just Modify it a Bit here and There” Eisenhower. In fact, a G.H.W. Bush grandfather, George Herbert Walker, was a very early (1923) foreign contributor to Adolf Hitler and the German Nazi Party. GHW’s father, Prescott Bush, was a banker for Nazi Germany, who continued doing business for them after Nazi Germany declared war on the United States following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Indeed, Franklin Roosevelt, who of course knew the Bushes socially, had to call Prescott in February, 1942 and threaten him with arrest and imprisonment under the Trading with the Enemy Act if he did not stop doing so.
None of this information was ever made very public, however, and GHW Bush sailed along, both politically and in government, becoming CIA Director under President Gerald Ford, 1976-77. Of course, among other things, this Texan was “Texan oil” while Reagan, the former “B movie” movie star and spokesman for Chesterfield cigarettes and General Electric, later Governor of California, was, in part, at least, backed by California oil (as well as a group of very wealthy, right-wing, California businessmen, brought together behind him by his second wife’s (Nancy) far right-wing physician father). And in the primaries Reagan was moving steadily Right, never letting Bush outflank him, beginning what I have for some years now called the Rightward Imperative of the Republican Party. It had started when Nixon developed what was called “The Southern Strategy” (politically taking over the South when the Democrats pushed through civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s) and the “War on Drugs,” both racist enterprises aimed at cornering the racist/white supremacist vote for the Repubs. (a strategy that has worked very effectively for them down to this very day).
Reagan added a new wrinkle for them, which has also worked down to this very day: forging a close alliance with the Religious Right. Now both George and Barbara Bush, as noted being, in relative terms, old-line Republicans, and certainly traditional Protestants, were believers in birth control and in fact had been long-time Board members of the Texas Branch of Planned Parenthood. Reagan surprised Bush with the offer of his Vice-Presidential slot. One of the conditions he placed on the offer was that both Bush’s resign from their Planned Parenthood Board seats. Which they promptly did. And so began the Republicans’’ alliance with the Religious Right, which has grown ever-closer over the years.
As is well known, the Religious Right is against equal rights for the LBGTQ community, is against freedom-of-choice in the outcome of Pregnancy, is against birth control in general and using public funds for its support in particular, is for taxpayer funding for parochial schools and home-schooling (most of which is carried out by Religious-Rightists who don’t want their children “tainted” by “modern” ideas like the theory of evolution or the scientific understanding that human-caused global warming is a very real and very present danger), and in general are against any government regulations that offend their “religious sensibilities.” And these policies have been central planks in both Repub. policy and the Party’s platforms for many years now.
The Party has long fought to maneuver the anti-abortion rights (hardly “Pro Life”) movement into a position where Roe v. Wade could be successfully overturned by a Republican Supreme Court. In modern times, the Party is violently opposed to the Obergefell decision extending gay marriage rights to all 50 states, strongly opposes any efforts the Federal and State levels to provide discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community, and so-on-and-so-forth, and many elements in it would hope that a Repub. Supreme Court would overturn it too.
And so, in every election from 1980 through 2012, win or lose, the Religious Right was a central part of the Republican base. For example, in the 2004 Presidential election, Karl Rove, running an increasingly unpopular candidate (President George W. Bush), arranged to put antigay marriage amendments-or-such on the ballots of 12 swing-and-usually-reliably-red-but-not-always states to draw Religious Rightists to the polls. The strategy worked, to perfection. In 2012, Mitt Romney supported the “person-at-birth” Constitutional amendment.
But then came the 2016 election and the rise of you-know-who. Not exactly an ideal candidate with whom to woo the Religious Right: twice-divorce/thrice-married, a proudly boastful “lady’s man,” a former Democrat who had supported abortion and gay rights, and who as an upper-crust New York businessman has many gay friends and associates, who in his businesses did not, shall we say, operate at the highest level of ethical standards, was not a regular church-goer, mis-cited the Bible when given the opportunity, and so on and so forth. Furthermore, he appeared to be appealing to white workers left behind both by the export of capital and the automation of production.
Indeed, A) Trump was openly running on racism (from his birtherism to his anti-Mexican xenophobia), B) he undertook what in hindsight was a brilliant and brilliantly executed strategy to develop a totally non-traditional base, for Repubs., in the white working class, his racism certainly appealing to some of them, and C) openly revealed a strong authoritarian streak.
Now that set of positions just happens to appeal to persons who believe that a particular English translation of the Bible, created by a committee of 52 scholars and theologians at the beginning of the 17th century for the English ruling class --- the “King James Version” --- somehow represents the “inerrant word of God.” And not only that, that following its prescriptions, as interpreted by the true believers, of course, should be enforced on everyone else, by the use of the criminal law if necessary.
This theory of government places “God,” as interpreted by certain persons, of course, above the Constitution. It is known as “Reconstructionism/Dominionism.” Among the prominent Republican Dominionists are the Vice-President-elect, Mike Pence, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, and Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Nevertheless, Trump, even if not an obvious true believer himself, and apparently not a Dominionist (if for no other reason that being one would place God above himself) did appeal in one or another way to Republican Religious Fundamentalists.
The speed at which the volte face in terms of who and what the true Trumpite base is/are is being undertaken is quite remarkable. I will begin to deal with how the Left may be able to deal effectively with this ever-growing threat in my next column.