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Monday, January 08, 2007

The Religious Right, Ford, and Bait-and-Switch Politics

Salon has a very interesting interview with former New York Times bureau chief and author of War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges. Hedges' new book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America, is a hard-hitting reminder that just because the religious right got beat big in the midterms, it doesn't mean they're going anywhere or that they've changed their minds about anything or gotten any saner.

As the title suggests, he sees parallels to fascist movements he's seen firsthand. Hedges asks, "Does this mean that this is Nazi Germany? No. Does this mean that this is Mussolini's Italy? No. Does this mean that this is a deeply anti-democratic movement that would like to impose a totalitarian system? Yes."

He doesn't have a lot of good things to say about Ohio 'Patriot Pastor' Rod Parsley, who told an audience in 2004, "If you think 2004 was something, we have not reached critical mass! We are the largest special interest group! … We’re building order from chaos! We’re fighting the sword with the word! We’re fighting savagery with hope! I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! Lock and load!"

"[T]he heart of the Christian religion, all that is good and compassionate within it, has been tossed aside," Hedges writes in his book. "Ruthlessly gouged out and thrown into a heap with all the other inner organs. Only the shell, the form, remains. Christianity is of no use to Parsley, [Former OH Sec. of State Ken] Blackwell and the others. In its name they kill it."

He has a different opinion of Bush than I do, "I think he's a believer, to the extent that this belief system empowers his own arrogant sense of privilege and intellectual shallowness. When you know right and wrong, when you've been mandated by God to lead, you don't have to ask hard questions, you don't have to listen to anyone else. I think that plays into the Bush character pretty well."

My opinion is that Bush is a christian in pretty much the same way that most christians are -- not especially. I see Bush as an opportunist and snake oil salesman. I doubt he's a man of deep faith.

I don't mean this to be an abridged version of Salon's interview, just as a way to put this story in perspective. (American Family Association press release):

The AFA boycott of Ford Motor Company continues to impact its sales. December sales dropped 13% compared to the same period a year ago. In December of 2005, Ford agreed to basically follow the path taken by Wal-Mart - remain neutral in the culture war over the homosexual agenda.

However, Ford later reneged on that agreement after meeting with a group of homosexual leaders. AFA has continued to ask Ford to take a neutral stance like Wal-Mart, but Ford has consistently refused.

See, the problem with Ford is that they want to sell cars to -- *gasp* -- gays. After Ford placed ads in The Advocate, a magazine for lesbians and gays, the religious right and AFA in particular decided that Ford was promoting a 'homosexual lifestyle.' The reasoning, as always, is completely illogical. People reading The Advocate are already living the life.

And how effective can a boycott on an automaker be? It's not like spaghetti sauce. You're not buying a car every week. If it's years between auto purchases, wouldn't the effect of any boycott be seen years down the road?

The truth is that no american automaker is doing well. To claim that this boycott is having an effect is dishonest. The point is to make people feel good about themselves by becoming part of a successful movement that requires absolutely zero sacrifice on their part. You sign the pledge not to buy a Ford, you plan not to buy a Ford, and this hurts Ford on the showroom floor somehow. Planning not to buy a car is the same as buying a different car... I guess...

And the religious right needs these sort of phony victories -- mostly because they get very few of the actual sort. I make this point over and over and never get tired of it, because it never stops being true. They elect Republicans because of abortion and get tax cuts, they elect Republicans because of a 'homosexual agenda' and they get drilling in the Arctic Refuge, they elect Republicans because of evolution in schools and they get relaxed environmental standards for industry. They knock themselves out over and over and they don't get one hell of a lot for their trouble.

So the leadership lies to them about success, to keep them from becoming discouraged or, worse, to keep them from noticing that Republicans aren't doing a damned thing for them. They are sheep and gullible chumps. They're useful idiots and guaranteed votes. You just say the magic words -- abortion, homosexuals, feminists, liberals, atheists, muslims, etc. -- and they freak out and pull the lever for the GOP, never noticing that it gets them nothing. The Republican party is the corporate party. All those years that this 'party of God' had the executive, the congress, and the Supreme Court, and what did they accomplish? They were the 'do-nothing' congress. The GOP was given everything they needed to fulfill the campaign promises they made to the religious right and they didn't deliver.

And they never will. They'll throw a bone every once in a while. Hold a doomed last minute vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, give some anti-abortion quack family planning funding, or make an obscure method of abortion illegal in certain circumstances. But nothing substantive.

Why should they give them anything? If the one issue voter wins their one issue, there's no reason for them to ever vote again. So the GOP continues its bait-and-switch; promising to serve Jesus in office, then turning around and bending over for corporations. And all the while ginning up phony 'victories' that, even if they were bona fide, wouldn't have been accomplished by getting Republicans in office anyway.

Hedges is right to call them fascist. They use people's fears of phantom enemies and straw men to earn support, which they then throw to the corporations. "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power," Benito Mussolini once said. The GOP -- and their front group, the religious right -- is corporatism run amuck.


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