As expected, Sunday night's FOX News debate was awesomely ridiculous. After a few minutes, this is all I heard:
GIULIANI: "9/11, 9/11, 9/11, Reagan, Hillary!"
ROMNEY UNIT: "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, Beep-boop-beep-beep, Reagan?"
THOMPSON: (smacks lips) "Reagan, Reagan, Reagan, I'm old and sleepy! 9/11."
RON PAUL: "When it comes to Iraq I don't---"
AUDIENCE: "BOOOO! Hissss! You make Hannity cry!"
What struck me as particularly farcical was Senator McCain's post-debate assertion on Hannity & Colmes that America is a "right of center" nation.
Republicans try to sneak this one by us quite a bit and, when it's repeated, the full implication is that the United States has always been right of center. It's a lie that fits nicely with the "America was founded as a Judeo-Christian Nation" lie.
The United States of America is composed of around 300 million mostly good people who are sometimes misguided, destructive, religious, arrogant, ignorant and self-important -- conditioned to consume everything. We're fat, prone to addiction and we love awful things like Steve Doocy and BK Stackers. We're a lot of crazy things, Senator McCain, but America is definitely not "right of center."
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee (actual Microsoft Word spell check suggestions: chickadee, huskies, hoecake) tried to tell us this week that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were "mostly clergymen." That's another lie -- a corollary to the Judeo-Christian Nation lie. At most, five of the 56 signers of the Declaration were clergymen. And that's a generous accounting.
America was founded by men of the Enlightenment: a movement which emphasized reason, rationality, liberalism, anti-authoritarianism and political equality. The founders were revolutionary liberals who believed strongly in secular government. This is nowhere near "right of center" or indicative of a Judeo-Christian Nation.
Many of the founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, while claiming to believe in God, were deists and didn't believe in the resurrection or the divinity of Jesus Christ; they didn't believe in Christ's miracles or the holy trinity. Bill O'Reilly would've poked their eyes out with his pointy fingers.
Thomas Paine, whose writing inspired the Declaration of Independence, rejected all religions: "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church." (The Age of Reason, 1794)
John Adams, as president, signed a treaty in 1796 which stated unequivocally: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." There's no gray area there.
And, naturally, we have the First Amendment which includes that pesky Establishment Clause, defining the separation between church and state. That, and Article VI which forbids a religious test for holding public office. Clearly a section of the Constitution the Republican candidates have overlooked.
Make no mistake, the founders absolutely believed in the existence of a God or a Creator. George Washington often spoke of "Providence." But they were fighting and dying to escape the tyranny of a theocratic government. Why would they risk everything only to establish -- hell, to establish exactly what today's Republican Party wants: an imperial, conquering superpower fronted by a strong executive who legislates Judeo-Christian dogma?
The founders knew that theocracy and authoritarianism were the weapons of tyrants. Likewise, in establishing a constitutional democracy, they knew that if they sanctioned a national religion, then government would be able to tax and regulate religion -- suppressing religious expression. So the founders created a secular nation in which any and all religions would be free to prosper without government intrusion -- and vice versa.
As for the political and ideological views of the founders, you can't get much more liberal than instigating a rebellion and engaging in revolutionary warfare against a standing imperial army, a monarch (unitary executive) and a monopolistic mega-corporation (the East India Company, which received the most infamous corporate tax cut of all time -- triggering the Boston Tea Party).
Sorry Republicans. The founding fathers were secular liberals. And so are a majority of Americans right here and now. According to Gallup:
-Americans are pro-choice (67 percent)
-Americans support the Geneva Conventions with regards to torture (57 percent)
-Americans don't want the government snooping in their bank and internet records (67 percent)
-Americans want the USA Patriot Act changed or eliminated entirely (81 percent)
-Americans support protecting the environment at the expense of economic growth (55 percent)
-Americans believe that global warming is happening (86 percent)
-Americans believe that it's the government's responsibility to provide health care (69 percent)
-Americans support the decriminalization of marijuana (55 percent) and support the legalization of medical marijuana (78 percent)
-Americans think we've lost the war in Iraq (64 percent)
-Americans are opposed to attacking Iran (68 percent, according to a CNN Poll)
-Americans support labor unions (60 percent)
-Americans want government funding of embryonic stem cell research (56 percent)
-Americans believe that free trade hurts American workers (65 percent)
-Americans believe rich people and corporations aren't paying enough taxes (66 and 71 percent respectively)
-And overall party affiliation? 54 percent of Americans are Democrats (with leaners) and 39 percent are Republicans (with leaners).
That's "right of center"? I call bullshit aboard the Straight Talk Express.
And even if the numbers aren't so convincing, at the very least our political leaders are supposed to be well-educated, rational, reasoned, forward-thinking, progressive and, yes, secular... so we the people don't always have to be.
We can be religious zealots or we can be atheists. We can be rednecks, wingnuts, wonks, hoopleheads or layabout geeks. Just so long as our leaders aren't. Our American leaders ought to reflect not necessarily who we are, but who we ought to be. Senator Chris Dodd, for example, is representative of who we ought to be.
Before Reagan came along, Republicans were political moderates -- even liberal -- by today's standards. President Eisenhower established the Department of Education, Health and Welfare. And President Nixon, despite shitting all over the country, ended the war in Vietnam, established OSHA, the EPA and the first government affirmative action program.
Conversely, the most liberal of all modern presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, built the mightiest army the world has ever known. He built this army from scratch and used it to simultaneously defeat Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.
Yet somehow liberal is a bad word.
At some point in the last 30 years, the Republican Party totally flew off the rails, and in doing so must've sustained a blunt force trauma to the brain. The neoconservative movement decided that an imperialist, preemptive foreign policy combined with a deliberately moronic, Larry the Cable Guy, Wrestlemania, knee-jerk, warmongering, fearmongering style of politics would make the GOP more relatable to "Middle Americans."
And it's worked out, more or less. There are Republican voters watching FOX News at this very minute who, if they knew what the Enlightenment was, would probably think it was somehow "faggy."
I wonder what Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson or James Madison (a Christian who vetoed a faith-based initiative, by the way) would've said about a president who boasted that God told him to invade and occupy another country? Jefferson would probably convene an emergency meeting about authoring a brand new, shall we say, declarative document.
But I don't think Senator McCain, President Bush or Mike Huckabee would be allowed within a hundred miles of that meeting. Then again, I suppose they wouldn't have to be. They'd probably just wiretap the meeting and render the participants to secret overseas torture dungeons.
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