What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
MSNBC is carrying an article (CNSNews offers an opposing perspective) discussing a forthcoming book titled Tempting Faith. The author is David Kuo, who served as special assistant to the president from 2001 to 2003 in the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.
From the article:
[The author] says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”
“National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy,'” Kuo writes.
Olbermann offers his view on the subject:
Olbermann: “Kuo’s bottom line? The Bush White House is playing millions of American Christians for suckers.”
I’ve assumed this all along. Politicians will go to great lengths to court the vote of a bloc in society. In the early days of the church the members shifted back and forth between the Democratic and Whig parties based on whose candidate could offer them the protection they so direly needed. Referring to this situation, Richard Bushman writes:
Their single issue was protection from mobs… Mormons voted for the good of the Church, not for personal interest, so the huge Mormon vote, a majority in Hancock County, pivoted on this single factor. Mormons swung back and forth, tipping this way and that depending on extradition writs, militia threats, and attacks on the charter. (Rough Stone Rolling, p. 509)
Like the politicians sympathetic to the Mormons in the 1830s and 40s, the Republicans today have long enjoyed the support of the “right-wing” evangelical base. These voters have come to see the GOP as a group that represents and supports their ideals and beliefs. Not so, purports Kuo’s upcoming book. Based on Kuo’s claims, Bush’s administration has, for quite some time, been usurping the support of these voters, promising much but giving almost nothing in return. As the Washington Post reports:
Even a small shift in the loyalty of conservative Christian voters could spell trouble for the GOP this fall. In 2004, white evangelical or born-again Christians made up a quarter of the electorate, and 78 percent of them voted Republican, according to exit polls. But some pollsters believe that evangelical support for the GOP peaked two years ago and that what has been called the “God gap” in politics is shrinking.
A nationwide poll of 1,500 registered voters released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base.
Even before the Foley scandal, the portion of white evangelicals with a “favorable” impression of the Republican Party had fallen sharply this year, from 63 percent to 54 percent, according to Pew polls.
In the latest survey, taken in the last 10 days of September and the first four days of October, the percentage of evangelicals who think that Republicans govern “in a more honest and ethical way” than Democrats has plunged to 42 percent, from 55 percent at the start of the year.
The Republicans are losing their voting base. The GOP is going to be creamed come this election. Expect to see Bush continue to use fearmongering as a tactic to scare voters into submission on increasing executive powers and justification for the ongoing disaster in Iraq. The polar “good vs. evil” mantra will be used to conjure up the mental image that we’re the good guys fighting against the bad guys, thus facilitating ignorant evangelical voters to picture Bush as a world hero spreading truth and liberty across the globe.
When Bush starts practicing what he preaches, then he might win back some respect and support of the voting bloc that has supported him for so long. I won’t hold my breath.