The Picture Says It All

Is there a reason why we have to suffer through all of these political debates? The candidates seem to be on tour, stopping in all the big venues, trying to extract something from the ticket holders, but it’s not money, it’s votes. It reminds me of Bob Dylan’s Neverending Tour (which actually started in 1988), only there’s less drugs and you can’t dance at the events. I know we used to complain that there were never enough debates, that the candidates should all get on the same stage and hash out their differences before a public audience on a regular basis, so that we uninformed voters could become informed, but I thought that was only after we had whittled it down to two. This is getting ridiculous. With 57 varieties stumping across the country, with less distinction between them than between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (another Dylan reference), things just begin to smell, and it ain’t the fresh odor of lemons, either. There seems to be a conscious effort to lull us to sleep, or perhaps asphyxiate us with the smell of ripe methane gas, in the hope that when (or if) we wake up, we’ll have a new President, and we won’t even remember how we got him (or her).

But that’s not really the point of this post.

Hillary Clinton visited Pastor Rick Warren’s megachurch today. The ostensible purpose was to address the annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church which Warren hosts at his Saddleback Church. Warren invited all the current candidates to appear, but Clinton was the only one who showed up in person; the others sent in pre-recorded videotapes. I have to commend Clinton for being the only one to show up, but I’m a bit disturbed by what she had to say.

Don’t get me wrong. AIDS is a serious subject, one that should be addressed by every one of the Presidential contenders, but it’s a health issue, not a religious issue. Only fundamentalist Protestants could make it a religious issue, because they equate AIDS with homosexuality, and of course we all know their stance on that. (Wide.) The problem with AIDS will eventually be resolved by medicine, not religion. Frankly, there’s not a lot religion can do about AIDS, except perhaps convince the Catholic Church to reverse itself and advocate the use of life saving condoms in the third world. But Clinton didn’t mention that.

She did, however, take the opportunity to exhibit her religious bona fides, in a blatant attempt to remove the fundamentalist and evangelical vote, or at least a significant and influential portion of it, from the Republican camp.

Clinton delivered an unusually personal, often emotional speech that quoted regularly from Scripture – and explored issues including her religious experiences.

“I was fortunate enough to be raised to understand the power and the purpose of prayer … but had I not been, probably one week in the White House would have turned me into one,” she said to laughs.

And she said that in her most difficult times, there was a White House prayer group “whose love and support sustained me.”

Do you think she’s telling them what she thinks they want to hear? Is she pandering to her audience? You can be the judge, but I say yes.

Don’t get me wrong (in case this is getting to be a habit). If she’s the Democratic candidate when the smoke clears next spring, then she’s my candidate, and not because I necessarily like her, but because I’d vote for a dead goat before I’d vote for any of the current crop of Republicans in November. I’m pretty much a staunch Democrat, mainly because it’s my party by default. The Republicans have screwed this country over during the past 30 years, evidencing moral and intellectual bankruptcy in the process, and I’m not happy about it.

But this bothers me:

The visit by the Democratic front-runner to the Orange County megachurch highlighted a changing political strategy among Democrats. National Party chairman Howard Dean, who once dismissed Republicans as a “white Christian party,” has more recently urged Democrats to open their arms to young evangelicals and a new generation of religious leaders such as Warren.

WTF are they thinking? The candidates should be emphasizing science, medicine and technology, not prayer and superstition. The religious fundamentalists should be marginalized, not by us, but by themselves. Their thinking, their contributions to society, their morality represents bronze age mentalities, not 21st century intelligence. They’re on the decline, and they should be allowed to go the way of all flesh, not pandered to because some politician wants a vote. In getting into bed with them, the Democrats are giving credence to backward thinking and superstition, and in the process bestowing power and influence on religious leaders that don’t deserve it, nor should have it, in a secular country and government such as ours.

Clinton, in her talk at Saddleback, told the audience of what she said was one of her favorite Scriptural passages, “the line from James: ‘faith without work is dead.’ “

Do you think she actually was aware of that passage before her speech writer dug it out?

Call me cynical, but I smell something.

9 thoughts on “The Picture Says It All

  1. SI, you said, I’m pretty much a staunch Democrat, mainly because it’s my party by default.

    I won’t get you wrong if you don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to suggest that we all vote Republican suddenly.

    But I think maybe we need to force the party to redefine “Democrat.” I’ve always thought of of the Democratic Party, as, first of all, the one that was more likely to fight for civil liberties and the ideas codified in the First Amendment.

    When Democrats pander to the religious right, it disgusts me far more than when Republicans do it. I expect Republicans to do it, but I feel betrayed when Democrats do it. Every vote Hillary gets as a result of her cozying up to Rick Warren is another IOU he can call in from her later. I will under no circumstances vote for a Democratic candidate who has kissed up to the “social conservatives” the way Hillary has, with her evangelical consultant and her frequent avowals of faith. If she wins, her catering to the theocrats becomes a blueprint for the party. And then who will represent and speak up for the dwindling number of us who believe strongly in the separation of church and state?

    Republicans learned that the so-called extreme members of their party were the vote-getters, the candidates and rabble-rousers who could impassion that part of the populace that agrees with them. Democrats, in the last two elections and in this one so far, seem to be the vote-not-losers. They don’t want to appeal to the “extremists” who champion individual freedoms. They stand for nothing, and get no one excited. A candidate like Hillary is dangerous if she gets swept into the White House on a wave of apathy; apathy always works to the detriment of citizens who value freedom over niceness.

    I won’t cast my ballot for the Republican candidate, but there’s no way I’ll be voting for Hillary. I’ll write in “The Exterminator” rather than do that.

  2. First off, in an attempt not to piss off anyone and lose their vote, politicians for years have been vanilla and boring. Each election is usually the choice of who sucks less, finely articulated on South Park with the election between a shit sandwich and a giant douche.

    2nd, yeah, I think she’s pandering. Hillary is REALLY good at this. You know what? I’m starting to change my mind on it when there’s shit like this, when it’s so obviously pandering. Yeah, pander away! Exploit them. Show them that there’s nowhere they can turn in politics to REALLY have their agenda fully forwarded. Disillusion them, like many were disillusioned by the Republicans as Kuo so aptly wrote. Hell, you know what? Let them form their own party. I think it would be fucking great because then both the Dems and Reps would have to do either one of two things, either openly denounce the role of religion in politics or at least pander to the religious moderates by showing they’re not as loony as those from the bible-thumper party. Hell, those people have the money, and they have enough influence to force their party onto the scene even more forcibly than Perot did.

  3. I understand your frustration, Ext. & SI, but I’m pretty much on the same page as Philly here. I wish the state of American politics in the 21st century wasn’t so pathetic, but the fact is that candidates are forced to pander to religious interests. The media plays a large role in this. When you get idiots like Chris Matthews asking a viewer-submitted question regarding the candidates’ views on the efficacy of prayer re: Katrina, candidates not bent on political suicide have little choice but to feed stupid people the vapid noise candy they crave. I nearly threw my laptop through my TV screen when that question was asked.

    It’s weird, because the far-right wingnuts are not going to vote for Democrats in any case. Some of them were raising some hell recently about not voting Republican if Giuliani is nominated, but we all know that was just noise. They know there’s no way they could form an independent party and win more than a bag of shit in an election. They’re stuck with the Repubs and vice versa – truly a marriage made in hell. Well, you know what they say, one person’s heaven is another’s hell. If they’re in hell, I’m in heaven.

    But, I think Dems have a chance to appeal to moderate religious voters. Believe it or not, there are some of those too. There are religious folks like Jim Wallis who are democratic and reasonably sensible politically. For whatever reasons, they want some reassurance that their candidates are not soul-less heathens (sometimes confused with humanists and other atheists). I think Hillary, Obama and the rest are more or less sincere when they say they pray, but I think they are also, for the most part (apart from their religious quirks) realists. I trust them more than any of the Repub field right now.

  4. Sadly, a lot of it comes down to charisma. It’s pathetic but true. Look at who the Dems put up. Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry. Yawn. I’m worried that Obama falls into that trap of being too stoic and intellectual. Hillary I feel gets blasted no matter what when it comes to charisma. When she’s sedate, she’s a cold bitch. When she’s emotional she’s either seen as being disingenuous or irrational.

    There was a speech Obama gave about a month or so ago about whether or not America is ready for a black President. He had emotion and that preacher cadence and emphasis on the right points in a sentence. Sadly I have to refer to one speech “about a month or so ago” instead of saying yesterday, or at least saying something to distinguish that speech from all the other great speeches of his because there aren’t any other great speeches of his. He’s got a bad case of that affliction Kerry and Gore and Dukakis and all those lame Dems have. What, are they all afraid they’ll have a Dean moment somewhere and completely tank their careers? Fuck! I want to see some damn passion! Bunch of milktoast losers. No wonder Republicans win.

  5. Atheists like to think that they look at evidence and evaluate it. So far, the evidence all over the world overwhelmingly supports the idea that pandering to a religious right has an ill effect on freedom. Here in the U.S., when Bush kissed up to the RR, he put some of its agenda into practice as soon as he hit the White House; I don’t think he even stopped to take a piss first. I’m cynical enough to think that there’s always a political quid pro quo lurking in the background at mass events like Hillary’s visit to Saddleback. I’m not necessarily saying that individual religious zealots will get state-funded prizes. But, certainly, if history is any evidence at all — and I think it is — people like Rick Warren, who have thousands of voters under their control, will get rewarded for motivating their followers to vote in a certain way. And that reward will come in a very specific form: the linking of church and state in some way.

  6. SI: Great post on a disturbing trend. We might even take a further step back and consider how politics and campaigning has turned into a freaking ad campaign that has more to do with courting people and playing your political agenda close to your vest than trying to actually solve problems and inspire people.

    Chaplain: I don’t know. I have an hard time believing that Hillary, Obama, or any of the Democratic candidates pray unless you count the clearly obligatory P.R. of attending services. I otherwise agree with you, but, I have never understood how anyone who can say that they take christianity seriously, believe that life begins at conception, believe abortion is the destruction of a human life, and then honestly look themselves in the mirror and say “But, hey, one woman’s murder is another woman’s lifestyle choice.” You cannot tell me that you are willing to permit what you perceive to be murder simply because someone else doesn’t see it that way and you can’t impose your beliefs. You (not YOU, chappy) think it’s MURDER! You either believe in christianity and accept what that belief committs you too, or you’re trying to fool yourself or everyone else. You either take it seriously or you don’t, and I think most of what we see from the Democratic side is pure pandering. Religion does not matter to them at all, but they can’t come out and say that. Personally, I think the funniest moment of the campaign was when Wolf Blitzer asked them all at a debate to quote their favorite bible passage– just to see them all fumbling for an answer was priceless. As if they read the bible?

    Philly: I think you’re right on the money as far as letting the religious right get as disillusioned as the rest of us and literally forcing them to split from the Republican’s. That’s actually one of the more original ideas I’ve read on the subject. As for Obama, I think he’s actually a pretty emotional speaker without going overboard, it’s just in the debates he comes off like a bit of a dead fish (which goes great with milktoast I here).

    Ex: Who are you going to vote for? Ralph Nader? Ron Paul?

    Whatever. The whole thing is very sad, but it stems from the fact that every person running, or at least the front runners, care more about WINNING than they do their principles. I know that’s cynical, but it’s the truth. You don’t get to be that powerful in politics without being a little ruthless, without sometimes choosing your own political gain over your personal moral principles. I honestly believe the system breeds that. And once you do it, even in a small way, it gets more and more permissible.

    Sucks… I wish Kinky Friedman would run for President.

  7. Ex: The thing is Bush IS a believer. Even Kuo makes a point of asserting that. If Hillary rewards someone’s efforts, it’s going to be in a way that makes good business sense. What I mean is she’ll “pay” what she feels is the least amount she can and in the way that will least hurt her. This is a big difference from actually believing the message of the religious leader who helped you and actually wanting to advance his goals. The two people I see who would best exemplify this religious crap as a business transaction are in fact Hillary and Guilliani, who more than likely will be next year’s shit sandwich and giant douche.

    In classic “who sucks less” form, all we can do is try and discern who is just pandering and who actually drinks the kool aid.

  8. Philly:
    What evidence do you have to show that Hillary ISN’T a believer. It sounds like you’re making shit up based on what you’d like to believe.

    Lifeguard, you asked me:
    Who are you going to vote for? Ralph Nader? Ron Paul?
    Well, Ron Paul’s out since he’s a theocrat. Nader’s out because he’s … Nader. A power-hungry lunatic.

    I may actually resort to writing my own name on my ballot. I feel very strongly about my refusal to rubber-stamp a choice that’s unacceptable. Yeah, the Democratic candidate will probably be slightly more to my liking than the Republican on a number of issues. But on the issues that really matter to me — free speech, freedom from religion, public access to decision-making, foreign policy, governmental accountability, no quid pro quos … shit, the list could go on and on — there’s very little substantive difference between the parties and certainly no major difference between a candidate like Hillary and, say, Giuliani. Both are hypocrites, and both have been professional liars for years. If anything, in fact, Giuliani has been more courageous about standing up for abortion rights, gun control, and stem-cell research funding than Hillary has. But he’s unacceptable because, among other things, he’s a thug. He’d also be a disaster for lovers of free-speech.

    But voting for Hillary, particularly if she wins, will send a message to the Democratic Party’s power-brokers that will ricochet for years and years. It’s OK to get in bed with the theocrats if that gets you votes. It’s all right to go along with the “crowd” in our foreign policy if that helps you avoid taking a stand. It’s just fine to show governmental favoritism to your wealthy friends if that buys you power. And it’s hunky-dory for the president to keep secrets from the citizens if that keeps them quiet.

    Uh-uh. Not for me. I’m not saying “yes” to the lesser of two evils this time. Because even the lesser is far too evil for me.

  9. Well, after reading all this, there’s obviously only one candidate for me.

    Me.

    Campaign promise: I will declare Rush Limbaugh a traitor and a moron and put him in Guantanamo for the rest of his life. He gets the cage between Bush and Coulter.

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