A Defeat For Trump And The Religious Right In The GOP Tax Bill

This week has seen some good with the defeat of Roy Moore, some bad with the ending of net neutrality, and we appear to be closer to the Republicans passing a “tax reform” package designed to greatly increase the wealth of the ultra-wealthy. There is a one piece of good news related to the tax bill today. As the Republicans are forced to pass this through budget reconciliation, there are limits on what can be included. The  Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the repeal of the highly popular Johnson Amendment cannot be included.

The Hill reports:

The Senate parliamentarian has blocked language repealing the Johnson Amendment and allowing churches and 501(c)3 nonprofits to endorse candidates and engage in partisan politics from inclusion in the tax bill.

Sen. Ron Wyden‘s (D-Ore.) office confirmed to The Hill on Thursday night that the Senate parliamentarian had determined the inclusion of the Johnson Amendment repeal did not meet Senate rules that require elements of the tax bill to have something to do with the budget.

The Senate is seeking to move a House-Senate conference report under special budgetary rules that prevent Democrats from using a filibuster. To use those rules, all parts of the bill must have a budgetary effect, and the parliamentarian ruled the Johnson language did not meet that standard…

The proposal was a major priority for President Trump, who vowed to repeal the amendment during his 2016 presidential campaign, saying it would “give our churches their voice back.”

Specifically, the House bill would have temporarily allowed nonprofits to engage in political speech in the ordinary course of its activities, so long as the organization didn’t incur significant expenses while doing so.

The Johnson Amendment, named for then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas), has been part of the tax code since 1954. It prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from participating in some political activity.

This is another political setback for Trump, who has (fortunately) failed at getting through much of his agenda or fulfilling most of his campaign promises. To put it in language which Donald Trump would understand, he is a loser.

While a defeat for Trump and the religious right, most Americans should be pleased by this development. A poll earlier this year showed that 72 percent of Americans want to keep the Johnson Amendment. Many church leaders also agree in supporting the Johnson Amendment.

The Washington Post also notes that repeal would have allowed a further increase in dark money in politics:

There were concerns that a repeal would create a new dark-money channel for powerful donors to quietly funnel funds to political candidates. Under the House plan, both the Clinton Foundation and Trump Foundation would be able to openly get involved in U.S. political campaigns, for example.

USA Today Blasts Donald Trump Following His Attack On Kirsten Gillibrand

The loss by Roy Moore following Donald Trump’s endorsement was not the only humiliation for Donald Trump this week. USA Today, hardly known for their editorials, blasted Trump following his tweet yesterday attacking Kirsten Gillibrand. From their editorial:

A president who’d all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama’s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes: Our view

With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.

If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office. Let us count the ways:

  • He is enthusiastically supporting Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing — and in one case molesting and in another assaulting — teenagers as young as 14 when Moore was a county prosecutor in his 30s. On Tuesday, Trump summed up his willingness to support a man accused of criminal conduct: “Roy Moore will always vote with us.”
  • Trump apparently is going for some sort of record for lying while in office. As of mid-November, he had made 1,628 misleading or false statements in 298 days in office. That’s 5.5 false claims per day, according to a count kept by The Washington Post’s fact-checkers.
  • Trump takes advantage of any occasion — even Monday’s failed terrorist attack in New York — to stir racial, religious or ethnic strife. Congress “must end chain migration,” he said Monday, because the terror suspect “entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.” So because one man — 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who came from Bangladesh on a family immigrant visa in 2011 —  is accused of attacking America, all immigrants brought to this country by family are suspect? Trump might have some credibility if his criticism of immigrants was solely about terrorists. It isn’t.  It makes no difference to him if an immigrant is a terrorist or a federal judge. He once smeared an Indiana-born judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico. It’s all the same to this president.
  • A man who clearly wants to put his stamp on the government, Trump hasn’t even done his job when it comes to filling key government positions that require Senate confirmation. As of last week, Trump had failed to nominate anyone for 60% of 1,200 key positions he can fill to keep the government running smoothly.
  • Trump has shown contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory.  He has refused to release his tax returns, with the absurd excuse that it’s because he is under audit.  He has refused to put his multibillion dollar business interests in a blind trust and peddles the fiction that putting them in the hands of his sons does the same thing.

Not to mention calling white supremacists “very fine people,” pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a respected FBI director, and pushing the Justice Department to investigate his political foes.

It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

RNC To Support Roy Moore

The RNC’s moment of standing for principle didn’t last very long. The Hill reports, RNC reinstates support for Moore after Trump endorsement.

For a brief moment, it appeared that they would draw the line and not support Roy Moore due to his sexual misconduct involving teenagers. It is a shame that they did not stick with this view.

I also wish there was as much outrage in this country over war mongers running for public office as there is over sex offenders.

Junk Both Major Parties

Jennifer Rubin is right about the Republican Party, but her recommendation to junk the Republican Party applies to both parties. The specifics differ but the general principles apply to either party. The conservative columnist wrote:

I get asked a lot what I think is the future of the Republican Party. These days, with increasing conviction, I say that it doesn’t have one. You need not look beyond the Roy Moore allegations to understand why it’s better just to start from fresh…

I would like to think that Americans have gotten a good look at this Frankenstein-esque party and will repudiate it in 2018 and 2020. I still carry the belief (bolstered by Tuesday’s election) that most Americans have not lost their minds and souls.

Evan McMullin, the independent conservative 2016 presidential candidate, says, “It’s time for the GOP to start over with new leaders, new solutions, new strategies, and a new commitment to basic human decency and American values.” I would add: And a new name, a new logo and …  well, just junk the whole thing. Its brand, as they say, has been tarnished, and virtually none of its political leaders possess the moral judgment and intellectual honesty to hold office in the future.

What will be the excuse for enabling Trump and sticking by Trumpism, for sublimating every other value to tribal protection? The GOP needs the Senate seat. We can’t let the left win. But the Supreme Court! These are not defensible arguments if your highest priorities are democracy, decency and the rule of law. They are the childish arguments of people who see politics as a game in which you always root for the home team.

How could one “rebrand” this, or trust these people again? I find it hard to imagine how. So the future of the GOP? It’s either a nationalist front party or a battleground mostly between Trumpists and strident ultra-right-wingers whose platform (repeal Obamacare; corporate tax cuts; reckless foreign policy that imagines war with Iran and/or North Korea are viable options) is unacceptable to the vast majority of the country. It’s not a civil war in which I’d have a favorite side.

In short, the GOP, I think, is kaput. The real question is what sprouts up to fill some of that space, the ground occupied by those who favor reform conservatism; responsible internationalism; free trade and robust immigration; tolerance and the rule of law; and market economics with an ample safety net. I don’t have the answer. I only know it cannot be the GOP.

While the specific issues might vary, so much of this could be changed to liberals/progressives and the Democratic Party, including in response to liberals who used the Supreme Court as justification for voting for a corrupt warmonger like Hillary Clinton despite how she has spent her career undermining liberal values.

Hypocritical Christians Cite Ten Commandments & Story of Joseph and Mary To Defend Roy Moore

The original reports of sexual molestation of a fourteen year old girl committed by  Roy Moore are bad enough. The responses by some on the right in defense of Moore present another story of the hypocrisy of many on the right. For example, see the attempt to defend Moore on religious grounds as reported by Religion News Service:

Conservative Christian supporters of Roy Moore are defending the U.S. Senate candidate against allegations of molesting a teenager decades ago — and one of them used the biblical story of Mary and Joseph to rationalize an adult being sexually attracted to a minor.

These supporters don’t expect voters will abandon Moore — a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice and darling of a segment of the American religious right, in the Alabama race for a seat in the U.S. Senate — for the same reason they didn’t turn away from Donald Trump when several women came forward during last year’s presidential campaign with allegations he had sexually assaulted them.

“It comes down to a question who is more credible in the eyes of the voters — the candidate or the accuser,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of evangelical Liberty University who has endorsed Trump and Moore, both Republicans.

“The same thing happened to President Trump a few weeks before his election last year except it was several women making allegations,” Falwell told RNS in an email. “He denied that any of them were true and the American people believed him and elected him the 45th president of the United States.”

…American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, who has endorsed Moore, told RNS in an email the report “does not change our support for Roy Moore.”

“I don’t think this kind of story will change support for him among Christians since he has categorically denied it. Most will see it as dirty politics,” Wildmon said.

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver also continued to back Moore, saying, “Having personally known Roy Moore and his wife of 32 years, Kayla, I know him as a man of integrity who respects women.”

Conservative radio host Sean Hannity invoked the Ten Commandments to suggest the women who spoke to the Post could be lying.

“We do have 10 commandments. One of the commandments is, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness.’ We know human beings break, with regularity, the other nine commandments. Did they break this one? I mean, it’s something to think about,” Hannity said on his show.

And Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler used the biblical account of Jesus’ birth in Moore’s defense.

“(T)ake Joseph and Mary,” Zeigler told the Washington Examiner. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

While the article quotes several conservatives defending Moore, it also includes a number of conservative politicians criticizing Moore, along with conservative religions leaders:

Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, made clear in a blog post on Christianity Today’s website: “THIS IS NOT WHAT EVANGELICALS BELIEVE.”

“Bringing Joseph and Mary into a modern-day molestation accusation, where a 32-year-old prosecutor is accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl, is simultaneously ridiculous and blasphemous. … Even those who followed ancient marriage customs, which we would not follow today, knew the difference between molesting and marriage,” Stetzer wrote.

Many other conservative Republicans, including Jonah Goldberg, have also condemned Moore beyond those quoted in this article.

Beyond these attempts to defend Moore, there was a rather disgusting attempt by one Alabama State Representative to blame the victims to the point of wanting to bring charges against the women making the accusations against Moore:

Republican Alabama State Representative Ed Henry said on Friday that he wanted someone to bring charges against the women who accused GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of making sexual advances on them when they were teenagers.

In an interview with The Cullman Times, Henry raged that the women interviewed in the Washington Post’s bombshell report about Moore’s sexual behavior waited so long to publicly accuse him of having improper relations with them when they were teens.

“If they believe this man is predatory, they are guilty of allowing him to exist for 40 years,” Henry fumed. “I think someone should prosecute and go after them. You can’t be a victim 40 years later, in my opinion.”

I do not think it is necessary to comment on the various reasons that women, especially teenage girls, are often in a poor position to report abuse.

Religious Right Showing Increasing Influence on Tea Party Movement

Initially the tea baggers (at least at times) sounded like they came more from the libertarian wing of the right as opposed to the religious right. Unfortunately it was a populist sort of anti-government viewpoint which lacked understanding of the issues. Such an intellectually weak movement risks being taken over by those who better understand their goal. The American Prospect describes how the religious right is infiltrating the movement:

Next month’s Tea Party National Convention has been making news for the fat fee Sarah Palin is commanding — $100,000, according to many reports. But the gathering, to be held at Nashville’s Opryland Hotel, is interesting for another reason as well: It marks the attempt of the old-school Christian right to take over the tea-party movement. Speakers joining Palin include Rick Scarborough, Roy Moore, and Joseph Farah, men who are radical even by religious-right standards. Their presence shows that the tea-party movement is no longer merely populist, libertarian, or anti-government, if it ever was. It is theocratic. Indeed, after several months in which the religious right seemed lost and dispirited, it has found a way to ride the tea-party express into renewed relevance.

From the beginning, of course, there’s been overlap between the tea parties and the Christian right. Both have their strongholds in the white South, and both arise out of a sense of furious dispossession, a conviction that the country that is rightfully theirs has been usurped by sinister cosmopolitan elites. They have the same favorite politicians — particularly Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is also speaking in Nashville. Glenn Beck, the media figure most associated with the tea-party movement, has a worldview deeply shaped by apocalyptic Mormonism; he is contemptuous of the idea of church-state separation and believes the United States was founded to be a Christian nation…

Naturally, enterprising theocrats would look to the tea parties for salvation. And Scarborough, for one, is nothing if not enterprising. For years, the Baptist minister has been positioning himself as a next-generation Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. In 2002, he left his post as pastor of Pearland First Baptist Church to form Vision America, a group dedicated to organizing “patriot pastors” for political action. That year, Falwell identified him as one of the new leaders of the Christian right. The author of books like In Defense of … Mixing Church and State and the pithier Liberalism Kills Kids, Scarborough spent the Bush years organizing conferences that brought together conservative Republicans with preachers and activists working for the imposition of biblical law.

The fall of Scarborough’s closest political ally, the once-formidable Tom DeLay, eroded Scarborough’s political influence. So did the broader decline of the religious right. “His group has been puttering along with a tiny budget, and he has practically no national presence,” says Rob Boston, assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “His goal was to be the next Jerry Fawell, and it has not worked out. The tea-party movement could be the vehicle to give him a much-needed boost.”