The Republican Circus Can Get Even Wilder

The Republicans have a real problem. Mitt Romney has been running for the nomination, and sometimes has even led the race, since before Barack Obama became president, but the Republicans just don’t want him. Conservatives have been trying to find an acceptable candidate to promote their beliefs but it is just not possible to find a sane leader for a movement which has become outright bat-shit crazy. To demonstrate my point, at the moment they are stuck with Newt Gingrich.  I’ve speculated in the past that that this could lead to none of the current candidates winning and the race going to the convention. The possibility of someone else winning the nomination received further attention after Nate Silver wrote a post today on this topic.

This possibility exists because of the problems with the candidates and the structure of the primaries. Republican caucuses and primaries held before April 1 cannot be winner-take-all, but afterwards they can. This means that it will be hard for anyone to take an overwhelming lead early, making it possible for a candidate with momentum late to win winner-take-all contests and win a larger number of delegates. Theoretically this could be a candidate entering late, but I wonder if this is really possible as anyone not currently in the race will lack the campaign infrastructure and will miss many of the filing deadlines to enter the contests. I suspect that if some of the other candidates recover it might be possible for different ones to win in different states, preventing anyone from clinching the nomination prior to the convention.

Once caucuses and primaries begin they create a new atmosphere and the previous pecking order might be meaningless. If someone wins convincingly in the early contests they should be able to lock up the nomination. The lack of a conventional campaign infrastructure creates doubt as to whether Newt Gingrich can win despite his current lead in the polls, but if the conservative movement, including the Tea Party, line up behind him this might be enough to beat Romney. It certainly doesn’t look good for Romney to be trailing Gingrich in Michigan as he is at the present. A loss in Michigan would probably be the end for Romney, but on the other hand the Michigan polls, as most other states, will probably shift based upon the results in the early states.

If none of the Republican candidates please conservatives, there are a couple of names being raised as potential independent candidates. Donald Trump, angry that only Gingrich and Rick Santorum are attending his debate says, “I am unwilling to give up my right to run as an independent candidate.”

Trump is particularly angry at Michelle Bachmann:

“She came up to see me four times,” Trump said. “She would call me and ask me for advice. She said if she wins, she would like to think about me for the Vice Presidency.”

As I’ve suggested in the past, it makes more sense for Trump to run as an independent than in the Republican primaries as it allows him to continue on Celebrity Apprentice this season. That said, there is a strong likelihood that Trump is only talking about running to attract more publicity. Ron Paul, who has declined to offer support to any other winner of the Republican nomination, is also increasingly being discussed as a possible independent candidate. Paul has been on an upward trajectory, but there is also a low ceiling for his potential support. He will suffer the same fate as candidates such as Bachmann and Cain when his views and past receive greater scrutiny. Speaking  of Cain, he never had a chance to become president, but one organization is interested him–Fox.

Newt Gingrich’s Theocratic Views

Newt Gingrich is surging in the polls but as he is running an “unconventional” campaign (which means one which might lack the organization needed to win), it remains difficult to predict who the Republican nominee will be. The Obama campaign is concentrating its fire on Romney, believing that Gingrich will be far easier to beat, but there are some reasons to question if the conventional wisdom is really correct on this. Gingrich’s views are far more in line with the far right Republican base, making him more likely to motivate the base to turn out, assuming that Gingrich doesn’t self-destruct and assuming the religious right doesn’t reject him for his past actions.

Those in the religious right who fail to recognize the importance of our heritage of separation of church and state will find Gingrich’s theocratic views appealing, while those who respect individual liberty, the Constitution, and the views of the Founding Fathers will find Gingrich’s views to be appalling. Sarah Posner has accumulated some statements from Gingrich on this topic:

Rob Boston, senior policy analyst at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, was at the Heritage Foundation in 1994 when Gingrich announced his push for a school prayer amendment. “He wasn’t speaker yet,” Boston told me, “but all of the polls showed that the Democrats were headed for shellacking, and many analysts interpreted the announcement as one last effort to rally the religious right voting bloc.”

At that announcement, Boston later wrote in the November 1994 issue of Church and State magazine, Gingrich called the 1963 Supreme Court school prayer decision “bad law, bad history and bad culture.”* He lauded David Barton’s book, The Myth of Separation, calling it “most useful” and “wonderful.” He insisted that there needed to be a full debate “over secularism versus the right of a spiritual life.” Foreshadowing his more recent pronouncements on American execeptionalism, Gingrich stated that “to be an American is to be aware that our power comes from a Creator.” (This was around the time that he began having an extramarital affair with his current wife, Callista.)

It appears from his actions afterwards that Gingrich was more concerned about raising this topic to receive the votes of the religious right as opposed to stressing school prayer while in Congress.  This should give religious conservatives further reason to question his integrity, but is hardly reassuring to those who understand the importance of separation of church and state:

But the amendment obviously didn’t mean all that much to Gingrich. According to Boston, “Once in power, Newt promptly began serving his corporate masters and handed the school prayer project off” to Rep. Ernest Istook. But Istook, Boston added, “aided and abetted by religious right groups, overreached and drew up a monstrosity called the ‘Religious Freedom Amendment,'” which “went beyond school prayer and would have also guaranteed religious groups access to tax money and allowed the placement of religious symbols on government property.” Although the amendment won a majority vote in 1998, it fell short of the two-thirds majority required for constitutional amendments.

Gingrich shows either amazing ignorance, or dishonesty, in his attacks on Obama as a “secular socialist.” The Founding Fathers intentionally founded the United States as a secular state   to guarantee freedom of religion, making Gingrich’s use of secular as a derogatory term absurd. He also appears to have adopted the new Republican definition of socialism as a few percentage point increase in the marginal tax rate on the wealthy, as opposed to the traditional meaning of support for public ownership of the means of production. Gingrich has discussed his beliefs regarding a “Judeo-Christian heritage” vs. “secular socialism.”

 Gingrich’s book, Rediscovering God in America, co-written with his wife Callista, first published in 2006, became the basis for his speeches at Pastors’ Policy Briefings, the purpose of which were to mobilize “pastors and pews to restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage.” It was at these meetings that the idea for Gingrich’s organization Renewing American Leadership was hatched. When Barton, who serves on ReAL’s board, appeared on Glenn Beck’s program last year, the organization boasted that “David’s appearance builds on the mission of ReAL. We work to protect our God-given freedoms in Washington, D.C. and around the country. Educating Americans is critical to preserving those freedoms and spreading the truth about our Judeo-Christian heritage.(ReAL was a Gingrich self-reinvention, which followed an earlier reinvention effort, American Solutions.) The current chair of ReAL is California pastor Jim Garlow, a veteran of the Proposition 8 wars, and who, like Gingrich, claims to also be a historian. At Rick Perry’s August The Response, Garlow said the event was not about whether Perry became president, but rather “about making Jesus king.”

To contrast his “godliness” to that of President Obama’s, Gingrich has claimed that the Obama administration is a “secular, socialist regime” and “the most radical administration in U.S. history.” Just today, Gingrich maintained that the Occupy movement is “un-American.”

This is reminiscent of John McCain’s claim that the United States is a Christian nation, which was debunked by Alan Dershowitz:

Recently John McCain–whose presidential campaign is in the sewer–declared that “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.” What an ignoramus! McCain should go back to school and take Civics 1, where he might learn that the United States Constitution was called “the godless constitution,” by its opponents, because it was the first constitution in history not to include references to God or some dominant religion. The Constitution mentions religion only once, in prohibiting any religious test for holding office under the United States.

The Bill of Rights mentions religion twice, once in prohibiting an establishment of religion (a clear reference to any branch of Protestant Christianity, which was then the dominant religion) and a second time, in guaranteeing the free exercise of all religions. Several years after the ratification, the Senate ratified a treaty with the Barbary regime of Tripoli which expressly proclaimed that “the Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” In fact, many of our Founding Fathers, including the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, were not Christians but rather were deists. In other words, they believed in the existence of God, but not in the divinity of Jesus or the divine authorship of the bible. Today they might be called Unitarians; in fact, John Adams, another author of the Declaration, and the President under whom the treaty was ratified, is buried in a Unitarian church, along with his wife Abigail and his son John Quincy.

Roger Williams–the religious leader most responsible for separating church and state in America–put it very well a century earlier: “no civil state or country can be truly called Christian, although the Christians be in it.” That is what is so striking about American history, namely, that a nation of Christians ratified a Constitution that did not in any way establish “the United States as a Christian nation.” We are in fact the most diverse nation in the history of the world and that is the secret of our success. McCain may prefer to vote for someone who “has a solid grounding in [his] faith,” namely, Episcopalianism (though he is apparently thinking of changing his faith to Baptism), but in doing so, he is violating the spirit of our Constitutional prohibition against requiring a religious test for the holding of office in our diverse country.


Donald Trump To Host GOP Debate

The Republican debates have already been compared to a bad version of Survivor in which losers don’t get voted out. The reality-show comparisons are even stronger now that Donald Trump is going to moderate a Republican debate in Des Moines on December 27. If anyone objects that Trump lacks real journalistic credentials it shouldn’t matter. Trump is joining with Newsmax to host the debate. Newsmax presents right wing fictions as “news”  to a degree that by comparison Fox is almost Fair and Balanced.

Some bloggers such as Steve M are saying that the Republican Party cannot be taken seriously after having Trump moderating their debate. It is already way too late. Trump’s lunacy fits in perfectly with the off the wall views of Michele Bachmann, the sexual scandals surrounding Herman Cain, the ignorance of Rick Perry, the push to repeal the 20th and 21st century by Newt Gingrich, the promotion of wild conspiracy theories by Ron Paul, and the total lack of consistency or sincerity in the views of Mitt Romney.

There was a time when Donald Trump might have responded to the inevitable nonsense to come from the Republican candidates by telling them, “You’re fired.” That was when Trump was calling George Bush, “probably the worst president in the history of the United States.” That was also when he was saying, “it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans.” This year Trump has preferred to adopt the know-nothing attitude of the far right, between his promotion of Birtherism to Trump asking, ““It’s cold outside…so where’s the global warming?”

The winner of the debate is clearly Jon Huntsman who is not attending the event and sent this comment: “”Lol. We look forward to watching Mitt and Newt suck-up to The Donald with a big bowl of popcorn.”

Update: Ron Paul also not taking part, calling Trump as moderator ‘”wildly inappropriate.”