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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

The entire Trump presidency has been pretty much a nonstop horror show for progressive Americans, but the month of June made it clear that if you are worried about President Trump and the Republican Congress rolling back advances made during the Obama administration, you aren’t worried nearly enough. Right-wing strategists seeking to undo what they see as federal overreach are looking back as far as the New Deal, and some even further, to the Progressive era at the turn of the 20th Century. With Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and hundreds of Gorsuch-like judicial nominations in the pipeline, they’re making big plans.

Earlier in the month, the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference brought Religious Right activists to Washington, D.C. The atmosphere was triumphalist, almost giddy, in sharp contrast to previous years’ complaints about Barack Obama and dire warnings about a potential Hillary Clinton presidency. Religious Right leaders had hitched the movement’s wagon to the Trump train, and they had already begun reaping the rewards.

Candidate Trump had overcome conservative Christians’ qualms about his character with a set of too-good-to-resist promises. He said he’d give them the Supreme Court of their dreams and he pledged to make them more politically powerful by doing away with restrictions on churches’ political activities. He won their trust by making one of their own, Mike Pence, his running mate. Religious Right leaders pulled out all the stops to help Trump rack up a massive margin of victory among white evangelicals.

Faith and Freedom’s founder, political operative Ralph Reed, was happy to reel off numbers that he said represented the group’s outreach: 1.2 million doors knocked, 10 million phone calls, 22 million pieces of mail, 30 million voter guides.

Republican leaders’ gratitude was evidenced by their extraordinary participation at Road to Majority. President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows all spoke at some point during the three-day event, along with other right-wing luminaries like Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. So much for perennial predictions of the Religious Right’s political demise.

Trump spoke at the event’s opening luncheon, where Reed declared, “We love him because he is our friend.” Trump in turn told the conservative Christian activists, “You didn’t let me down and I will never, ever let you down, you know that.” And, offering a subtle olive branch toward activists who were disappointed that last month’s executive order on religious liberty did not include sweeping exemptions for anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religion, Trump assured them, “Believe me, we’re not finished yet.”

A number of Trump actions won loud cheers, including his withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord and his sweeping ban on foreign aid funds going to groups that even support, much less provide, access to abortion. But by far the biggest prize for Trump’s right-wing supporters was the Supreme Court seat that McConnell kept vacant for a year by refusing to allow Senate consideration of Barack Obama’s nomination of the widely respected Merrick Garland. For that step alone, McConnell has entered the Religious Right’s pantheon of heroes.

Religious Right leaders have a half-century-long grudge against the Supreme Courtover rulings on church-state separation, the right to privacy, legal equality for LGBT Americans and more. Religious Right leaders were thrilled when Trump nominated Gorsuch. They rallied support for his nomination and celebrated when he was confirmed. They made it clear that they are counting on him to undermine the separation between church and state. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown saw in him the first step toward overturning the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling. Anti-abortion activists are dreaming of the day that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

But today’s conservative evangelicals are interested in far more than abolishing legal abortion and reversing civil rights gains for LGBTQ Americans. Much of the Religious Right is also fully committed to the Tea Party’s radically restrictive view of the proper role of the federal government. At Road to Majority, Trump adviser Steven Moore said the government should get out of education and health care. That stance draws on both a right-wing ideological view of the Constitution and a Christian Reconstructionist worldview that God did not grant government the authority to be involved in education or the alleviation of poverty, jobs that they believe He assigned to the church and family.

When Cruz addressed the gathering, he drew cheers with a challenge to his fellow Republicans: “We have a Republican majority in the House. We have a Republican majority in the Senate. We have a Republican in the White House. How about we act like it?”

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia gave one hint about what Cruz might mean, declaring, “We are in a war for the future of this Republic.” Perdue cited the New Deal and the Great Society as consequences of periods with Democratic political dominance. “The great progressive experiment of the last 100 years, with bigger and bigger government, has failed, period.”

A primary vehicle for reversing the “great progressive experiment” will be by packing the federal courts with judges committed to a far-right view of the Constitution and laws. Gorsuch was part of Trump’s list of potential justices pre-approved by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, which has been working for decades to achieve right-wing ideological dominance in the federal judiciary. In 2001, during the first 100 days of the George W. Bush administration, the Federalist Society held a forum on “Rolling Back the New Deal.” While the Obama administration interrupted that effort, a Trump administration and a Republican congressional majority could put it back on track.

This year’s Road to Majority featured a session with a group of GOP staffers from the White House and Congress: Paul Teller, a special assistant to the president for legislative affairs and liaison to conservative members of Congress and movement groups; Erica Suares, a policy adviser to McConnell; and Will Dunham, policy director for McCarthy.

Teller has clearly adopted his boss’s hyperbolic style, describing Trump’s first few months as “fantastic,” with “great success” on healthcare and a “huge, huge, huge victory” with the Gorsuch confirmation. He said that getting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court is “something that is really going to change America.” Another Supreme Court nominee, he said, would let Trump create “epic, titanic shifts.”

Suares, who said that McConnell has “a laser-like focus on judges,” echoed Teller, saying another Supreme Court nominee could “fundamentally change the country.” What kind of change? She cited government programs that Democrats had passed when they had wide congressional majorities, including the New Deal and Great Society. Said Suares, “We now have to undo so much.”

Suares said that, along with lifting the economy, a major goal for Republicans is making sure that legislation is geared to “shifting the culture” toward a more limited role for government. Suares celebrated the “100-plus” vacancies on the federal courts, acknowledging “a lot of that is because of what we did last year and the year before” with “slow-walking” Obama nominees. Legislation has its ups and downs, she said, but “with these lifetime appointments, we can really change the country in a short period of time.”

Faith and Freedom Coalition executive director Tim Head picked up on that point, saying that there are 120 positions open on the courts “because of the, uh, deliberation of the Senate” during the Obama administration. He said that during an eight-year period, typically about 400 federal judges would be replaced; adding that number to the current vacancies could mean 525 new judges in a two-term Republican administration, something he called “extraordinary.”

Dunham, who formerly worked at the Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee, agreed that for conservative activists there is “pent-up frustration” with eight years of Obama, “and even further back, all the way back to the New Deal.” Said Dunham, “We are, one piece at a time, incrementally, slowly but very surely, restoring freedom in America.”

McConnell himself said that he was looking forward to Trump nominating Gorsuch-like judges for every judicial opening, giving him an impact “far beyond his time.”

Not long after Road to Majority, Gorsuch gave Religious Right leaders evidence that he will indeed be the far-right justice they have longed for. He joins Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito at the far-right end of the bench, signaling a willingness to further dismantle regulations on money in politics, undermine church-state separation, and reverse gains on LGBT equality. Right-wing activists celebrated Gorsuch’s end-of-term contributions as a harbinger of things to come.

One other point worth noting: Religious Right leaders have been telling their supporters — and Trump himself — that he is on a divine mission. Religious Right leaders had warned that the election of Hillary Clinton would mean an end to religious freedom in America. They had given their supporters dozens of religious rationales for supporting Trump, declaring him anointed by God to save America by destroying political correctness and bulldozing the Washington establishment. During a Road to Majority session on Capitol Hill, McCarthy said of Trump’s election, “I think that was God’s hand.”

At Road to Majority, author Eric Metaxas was one of those portraying Trump’s election as a sign that God has given America one more chance to stave off His judgment, saying, “the governor of the universe has given us a reprieve in this election but we now need to stand and fight.” Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., told Road to Majority activists that he is “genuinely excited about what God is doing in America right now.” He said God had given Americans “an opportunity to have a re-founding of our nation” and return it to “those ideas of our founding fathers, those principles, those things that our founders were clear were biblical mandates.” Loudermilk said Election Day was like the landing at Normandy, with the real fight ahead against the enemy, which he defined as “an ideology that is destructive not only to our ideas but to mankind altogether.”

During a Road to Majority session on Capitol Hill, Meadows, whose Freedom Caucus is most closely identified with hostility to big government, demonstrated the extent to which the Tea Party and Religious Right have always been overlapping movements. Meadows told Faith and Freedom participants that he was their “brother in the Lord” and that “we have work to do to take this city and return it to its rightful place to honor God and faith.”

Meadows also echoed Religious Right leaders’ claims about religious persecution in America, saying “there is an attack that is going on.” It’s OK, said Meadows, “to be of a faith as long as it’s not a Christian faith, in this city.” There is an effort, he said, “to silence the pulpits and the pews across this country.” Meadows urged attendees to pray for President Trump, who he said “is trying to do what he can do for the unborn and for marriage” and “Judeo-Christian values.” Meadows said “the option of failure is not possible” because “our God still reigns over the affairs of nations.”

 

Peter Montgomery is a senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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23 responses to “Donald Trump And Neil Gorsuch Have The Religious Right Thinking Big—Really Big”

  1. FireBaron says:

    Team Teflon Donnie wants to make America 1950s again! However, it’s the 1950s of “Leave it to Beaver”, “Father Knows Best” and other slices of Americana that never really existed.

    They want the right for Christians to discriminate against anyone they wish, and to deny the vote to anyone who could challenge them in their discrimination.

    They want the right to limit immigration and refugees to “acceptable” Christians and non-Christian immigrants (No Muslims, Roman Catholics, Coptics, or Syrian Christians, thank you very much, but we will take those nice Russian Orthodox Christians that Vladimir Vladimirovich and Kyril wish to send here. SOME Jews and Hindus are all right, but no Sikhs, please – their turbans make them look Muslim!)

    They want vouchers so they can send their children to all-white, Church-run schools where they can be fed the same hate their parents have. Not attend a “public school” where they may not be as smart as other kids, and have a Liberal teaching them!

    They want “redlining” of neighborhoods and banks to openly return, so they can keep “undesirables” from living near them.

    And do you know what? Teflon Donnie and his cohorts will try to deliver that to them. However, he will also make sure that those who did support him will still be at the bottom of the economic ladder with no possibility of rising on their own merits. But as long as they believe they are better than any Black, Brown, Yellow or Red man, and can treat them as such they are willing to follow this Tin God they have erected. This is the same tactic used by the “Boss in the big house on the hill” back in the more overt Jim Crow days. Make the poorest White man believe he is better than the most well-educated and wealthier Black man, and that he will receive no reprimand for his treatment of that Black Man and he will do whatever else you tell him.

  2. CrankyToo says:

    “During a Road to Majority session on Capitol Hill, McCarthy said of Trump’s election, “I think that was God’s hand.”

    Wrong again, Numbnutz. It was only one finger.

  3. The Religious Right has made some key and monumental errors, and the reasons for this should be clarified by me. Not that I’m an official spokesperson for what is or should be, but I do know when something conforms to Religion, and to Christianity in particular, and what deviates from the Message of Jesus, and by extension also deviates from Islam, The Baha’i Faith, and all the other Religions which God has sent.

    1) The Religious Right makes the most egregious error, one which puts them beyond the pale of acceptance by God. by associating Jesus with politics, and especially to a Party that seeks to divide humanity rather than bring humanity together. By espousing as vile and mean-spirited and spiritually vapid a person as Donald Trump is a clear and obvious sign that they no longer regard the Message of Jesus as important enough to follow the Letter and the Spirit of the Message. This is unforgivable in my humble estimation, unless God has had a private conversation with the Religious Right that it’s OK to distort His Plan and Message.

    (STRIKE ONE!!)

    2) The Religious Right, by showing support for a man who brags of grabbing women by the genitals doesn’t strike me as being a follower of Jesus. Rather, it suggests a faction of Christianity that has decided to hitch its wagon to “Satan”—the metaphorical being intended to denote that which is Evil and having no place in the Realms of God. In other words, the Evangelicals and other Religious Right elements, have decided to be supporters of immorality, and show a preference for hedonism. A charge for which the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is an allegory warning of this sort of attitude.

    (STRIKE TWO!!)

    3) The Religious Right, by showing its preference to turn back the clock of progress in the calming and correcting racial bigotry by showing disapproval of the gains made in Civil Rights, and therefore are showing a refutation of God’s intent by creating all humans as members of the same Human Family. This is an open challenge to Baha’u’llah’s Vision, and call as ordained by God for this Day and Age, and therefore is a refusal to accept what God had called all of humanity to aspire towards, as proclaimed in clear and uncertain terms in numerous places by Baha’u’llah in His call to humanity the world over.

    (STRIKE THREE!!!)

    The Religious Right, and Trump and the GOP, and all others who align themselves with these malfeasant and demonic entities therefore are out of the game, and headed for an abysmal ending, even though they may have gained a modicum of political success. The “confusion of the tribes of the defeated”, a reference to a saying in Islam, as reiterated by Baha’u’llah and His appointed Center of the Covenant in several places in the Baha’i Writings, points out the general blindness and deviation from the straight path by the Religious Right—a path that leads to an infernal condition for perversion of the Message and the intent of Religion.

    This is why the Religious Right no longer can be said to be religious, nor do they espouse by word and deed anything that remotely suggest that they follow the Straight Path. The following should provide a succinct and clearer implication of the deviation of “The Religious Right” and why and how they’ve strayed:

    “O YE children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity. This is the straight Path, the fixed and immovable foundation. Whatsoever is raised on this foundation, the changes and chances of the world can never impair its strength, nor will the revolution of countless centuries undermine its structure. Our hope is that the world’s religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requires…. It is incumbent upon them who are in authority to exercise moderation in all things. Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence.”

    (from a Tablet by Baha’u’llah, addressed to the secular and religious leaders at the time, and for now, as well as to the rest of us)

    • dbtheonly says:

      Always very well put Aaron.

      While I oppose and condemn the actions of the Religious Reich, I won’t go into anyone’s relationship with God. That’s not my business.

      I suspect there’s some horrible deal between the big Polluters, Reconstrictionist, or Dominionist theology, and the Republican Party. But I’ve never cared enough to look into it too closely.

      • Sand_Cat says:

        Their “realionship” with god very much is your (and all of our) business when they’re using it to aatck you or other people!
        Their “relationship” is simply the BS they use to avoid difficult questions about how their actions and ambitions square with the puroported words of their “savior” and about their “theology” – if I can dignify fantasies based on stretching various unrelated scriptural passages beyond recognition and combining them with self-serving and selfish desires of their own with the term.

        • dbtheonly says:

          You can decide everyone’s state of salvation. I’ve learned that those calls are not my business and I’m happier leaving that call to a higher pay grade.

          • Sand_Cat says:

            I can decide that now: none of the gods worshipped by any religion are likely to be anything like the real creator and maintainer of the universe, in the unlikely event such a being exists, and such “Christians” are likely headed for the same fate as the rest of us, possibly including the worst, but that’s not what I was talking about.
            One can and should judge the alleged “relationship” by how strongly it contradicts the bulk of the purported sayings of the alleged founder, especially when the human parts of said “relationship” say they believe all those attributed sayings are inerrant and literally true – as most of the worst abusers do – AND those “believers” are using their own highly-selective and often purely fantasized “interpretation” to compel others – legally or otherwise- to act as they demand. Should these people be minding their own business, such inquiry and judgment would be both unnecessary and inappropriate, but they have BIG plans for the business of the rest of us, and saying hands off to their massive hypocrisy, ignorance, and often malice are likely to result in their success in controlling YOUR life.

          • dbtheonly says:

            You have usurped the role of Judge of Creation? You decide on people’s relationship with the Almighty? You can see into everyone’s heart?

            Humility is not your long suit.

            Suggest you restrain yourself to dealing with people’s actions. There’s more than enough there to occupy your time.

          • Sand_Cat says:

            Clearly, attempting to reason with you is pointless. You hide your arrogance behind a mask of false humilty.
            Since the “Judge of Creation” doesn’t exist, it’s a bit hard to usurp the role.
            Guess you’re too dull to understand I was doing precisely what you “suggested” in your last sentence: I spoke only of those who seek to ACT against us.

          • dbtheonly says:

            Yep, I’m too dumb to understand you.

            “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble.
            When you’re perfect in every way.”

          • Sand_Cat says:

            I doubt if anyone would say I’m perfect, especially me.
            Consider this: we probably have few if any political differences, based on your other posts. It also appears we think much alike on “religious” conservatives who are trying to get their theology and their claimed behavioral norms (which they usually don’t seem to follow that closely) into law. But you seem determined to make a mountain out of the molehill that – as an atheist – I believe their “relationship” with “god” and their state of salvation are the same as anyone else’s, i.e., a relatioship with a non-existent being and “his” promise of salvation are both meaningless. I guess you also object to my applying the same kind of judgment to them that they apply to me: I don’t follow the generally nasty stuff they demand and point out that on the things that seem important to me – compassion, empathy, acceptance, and reconciliation – which their “master” purportedly taught, they’re not just below average, they often seem to actually scorn and despise those things and people who attempt to practice them. I don’t generally make these judgments against Chrisitans who leave the rest of us alone, only on those self-righteous hypocrites who call prohibition on their interfering LEGALLY and socially with MY religious freedom “persecution” and abuse of theirs. Since you seem to consider yourself a Christian, you’ll have to forgive me for being totally clueless as to why you find this not only objectionable, but arrogant.

          • dbtheonly says:

            As a atheist, anyone’s state of salvation ought to be meaningless, not a subject of discussion.

            You fail to make a distinction that I consider vital. Religious practice is one thing, how one acts, professes faith, supports political causes, and such. Our actions.

            But I refuse to take the step that actions I object to make a person inherently bad or evil. Existential good or evil is not my call to make. It’s enough for me to object to the behavior. Condemning people, not actions.

            Aaron and I have discussed the issue as well.

            The RW trolls made the argument that we weren’t tolerant when we objected to their intolerance. You sail close to those waters.

          • Sand_Cat says:

            This is getting tiresome.
            I DID NOT fail to make the distinction you put such stock in. Besides, does it matter if someone isn’t “inherently bad” if they’re trying to imprison or kill you, or otherwise use compulsion to impose their (often sick and twisted) views on you? Their state of salvation – whatever that means – is totally meaningless in this context, atheist or not.
            I don’t give a hoot in HELL what a bunch of lying trolls project on me: they’re going to say whatever lies they think will be most offensive. The question is, why should YOU? More important, my stand is not in ANY WAY even close to intolerant of anything but intolerance, whatever they or YOU say.

          • Sand_Cat says:

            Guess you missed the whole point.

          • dtgraham says:

            I never miss the point on his head.

  4. I of John says:

    The fundamentalist Christians will regret their heavy handed foray into government. They will win battles but lose the war as they try to impose their way on the rest if us. History shows us that religion loses when it tries to govern. This will be just as true for they will pay a heavy toll by trying to rig the justuce system. Soon we turn our backs on the righteous who would try to rule us with their flawed hypocrisy and religion will decay into myth because its over reach.

  5. Gary says:

    Remember, the Sanhedrin, which claimed to be following God, crucified Christ.

    “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

    Revelation 13:11-17
    11) And I beheld another beast (a beast represents a kingdom or nation, see Daniel 7:17) coming up out of the earth (an uninhabited area as opposed to Europe, which was settled); and he had two horns like a lamb (Christian appearance), and he spake as a dragon (Satan).
    12) And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him (the persecuting power of Europe during the Dark Ages, which was an amalgamation of church and state), and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
    13) And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
    14) And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
    15) And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
    16) And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
    17) And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

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