In their recently published books, two authors claim responsibility for where we are politically as a country. Stephen Marks and Frank Schaeffer didn't work in tandem, but both admit because of their assistance--one as an opposition researcher and the other as an organizer for the political efforts of religious fundamentalists--our country's integrity has been compromised. Both authors share their regrets while Schaeffer in his book Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take it all (or Almost All) of it Back (Carroll & Graf) seems to bear the burden with more sincerity than Marks does in Confessions of a Political Hitman: My Secret Life of Scandal, Corruption, Hypocrisy and Dirty Attacks that Decide Who Gets Elected (and Who Doesn't). (Sourcebooks, Inc.)
Marks admits early in his book that Democrats cannot hold a candle to the GOP's hypocrisy when it comes to their so-called family values. This was one revelation that opened an eye for the author, even though it is too late for the damage caused. Yet, it is these ambiguous "family values" that empower the Republican Party, generated by none other than the Fundamental Right, of which Schaeffer provides his own revelations. His dad, the renowned Francis Schaeffer, was grudgingly pulled into America's mainstream evangelicalism. Once he saw it for what it was, realizing it was led by "lunatics, psychopaths, and extremists" he came to believe that "America would be in deep trouble" if the evangelicals won. Well, they did and we are. Son and Crazy for God author eventually came to that same realization, but not until the Religious Right became a force too powerful to contain.
It doesn't take a preacher's son or an Oppo Man, as Marks likes to refer himself throughout his book, to realize the duplicity in politics and religion. Unfortunately, by the time the sins have been exposed for all to see, people are in power who have no business being there. And Marks exposes the sins of many, including his own. Marks went into negative mode early in his career by being paid to dig dirt on a handler's political opponent. According to Marks, this action is justified because he believes negative campaigning is what wins elections. As much as I wish that can be refuted, it doesn't appear to be the case.
While I kept reading Confessions of a Political Hitman, I wondered when the moment of enlightenment would occur for Marks. After all, the book description promises as much. Yet, while he admits his disenchantment for the Republican Party, Marks also says that he has "absolute contempt for liberals." He confirms this when he attempts to compare how the Right and Left differ concerning the war in Iraq when he writes, "those on the left actually root for American casualties and for America's defeat." Needless to say, the ah-ha moment never arrived.
Marks has retired as Oppo Man, but not before helping George W. Bush into the White House by using negative campaigning. Certainly, there are many other opposition researchers busy at work today while voters are left to sift through the dirt in order to sort fact from fiction. I do appreciate Marks' assessment as to the differences between Republicans and Democrats: both have shortcomings when it comes just to about everything while the Republicans like to preach the talk on morality, God and country without doing the walk.
What both books do is confirm how problematic the human condition is. In politics, perhaps opposition researchers are a necessary evil; otherwise, egregious behavior will go unchecked. In religion, in spite of a higher power being the conscience of fundamentalists, as is their claim, the thirst for theocracy mocks any message of morality. The thing is, we are in the midst of a very precarious period, our candidates invoking the name of God, morality and family values as their platform while democracy is slipping from the country's grasp. The admitted failings of the authors are well and good, but until we can end self-serving politicians and religious leaders with their less-than-ethical agendas, it's going to be more of the same.
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