Religion Continues To Influence Public Policy Even With GOP Out

Sarah Posner argues in The Guardian that the influence of religion on government has continued despite the Democrats replacing the Republicans. The most obvious example was in the restrictions on the funding of abortion added to the House health care legislation.

Instead of questioning how religion – exclusively the conservative variety – became so intertwined with politics in a secular democracy, Democrats decided to embrace it themselves. Candidates now need the imprimatur of a Bible verse to have credibility with “religious” voters. Democrats must abandon their supposedly strident views on reproductive choice to satisfy pastors who essentially campaign from their pulpits. Candidates now feign embarrassment that they once spoke at a Planned Parenthood dinner. The party believes it must recruit candidates who are “pro-life,” even if they oppose providing basic health services for women, and participate in misinformation campaigns designed to portray coverage for abortion as complicity in genocide.

The “new” and avowedly more “centrist” evangelicals and Catholics sought by the Democrats claimed to care about global warming, poverty, and healthcare reform. Yet some of them have signed onto the Manhattan Declaration, which too compares abortion to genocide, and elevates gender and sexuality issues above all others. This constituency may indeed care about those other issues. But when it comes down to the wire, the abortion issue matters to them most.

Democrats need to decide what matters to them: winning elections by compromising the freedoms of American women, or standing up to church bullies.

Washington Cop Killer Dead, Possibly Along With Huckabee’s Presidential Aspirations

Maurice Clemmons, the suspect in the police shootings in Washington, was killed during a confrontation with Seattle police this morning. Now that this phase of the story has ended, the lingering question is how it will affect the political career of Mike Huckabee. Huckabee had commuted the sentence of Clemmons while governor of Arkansas.

This will certainly leave Huckabee open to the Willie Horton type of ads run by George H. W. Bush against Michael Dukakis. Huckabee cannot necessarily be expected to have been able to predict the consequences of his decision, and I would hope the result of this is not to inhibit all governors with political aspirations from showing leniency when deserved.

The important question is how Huckabee came about making this decision. Joe Conason argues that it was based on Huckabee’s religious views, believing Huckabee’s decisions were biased by those who claimed to be born again:

Huckabee has proudly declared on many occasions that he disdains the separation of church and state, insisting that his strict Baptist piety should serve as the bedrock of public policy. Nowhere in his record as governor was the influence of religious zeal felt more heavily than in the distribution of pardons and commutations, as his own explanations have indicated. During those years he granted more commutations and pardons than any governor during the previous four decades, many of them surely justified as a response to excessive penalties under the state’s draconian narcotics laws. But others were deeply controversial, especially because so many of his acts of mercy appeared to depend on interventions by fellow Baptist preachers and by inmate professions of renewed Christian faith.

No doubt word spread among the prison population that the affable governor was vulnerable to appeals from convicts who claimed to be born again. Clemmons too was among those who benefited from Huckabee’s tendency to believe such pious testimonials. “I come from a very good Christian family and I was raised much better than my actions speak,” he explained in his clemency application in 2000. “I’m still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought upon my family’s name … I have never done anything good for God, but I’ve prayed for him to grant me in his compassion the grace to make a start. Now, I’m humbly appealing to you for a brand new start.”

Surely the most notorious instance of misplaced mercy involved Wayne Dumond, a rapist and murdered now deceased, who was originally sent to prison in Arkansas for raping a distant cousin of Bill Clinton. During Clinton’s presidency the Dumond case became an obsession among certain right-wing pundits and politicians, who insisted that Dumond had been framed and brutalized by the “Clinton machine.” When Huckabee became governor, he supported a parole for Dumond, winning applause from the Republican right — until the former prisoner raped and killed a young woman in Missouri. Dumond later died in prison, under suspicion that he had murdered at least one other woman after his Arkansas release — a tragic outcome for which Huckabee has repeatedly tried to blame others, including his two Democratic predecessors in the statehouse.

It does sound like there is valid criticism of Huckabee on this, but I would prefer to see more sources on the decision before coming to any conclusions. As for the 2012 race, it looks like Tim Pawlenty has fired the first shot:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty became the first likely GOP presidential candidate to criticize Mike Huckabee’s pardon of a suspected killer during his time as Arkansas’s governor.

Pawlenty said that he would not have granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who was suspected of fatally shooting four police officers in Washington state on Sunday before being shot and killed by police in Seattle Tuesday morning.

He continued, “In Minnesota, I don’t think I’ve ever voted for clemency. We’ve given out pardons for things after everybody has served out their term, but again, usually for more minor offenses. But clemency, certainly not. Commutation of sentence, certainly not.”

Charles Johnson’s Reasons For Leaving the Right

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has been rejecting the excesses of the right wing movement for several months. Today he issued a list with the following reasons why he has parted ways with the right:

1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, Pat Buchanan, etc.)

2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)

3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.)

4. Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.)

5. Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.)

6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)

7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.)

8. A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic, Ace of Spades, etc.)

9. Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.)

10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source)

The reasons are similar to those I have frequently written about here. There is some hyperbole here. For example, while I have had a few posts disagreeing with Robert Stacy McCain I have never thought of him as a fascist.  McCain responds to Johnson here). Even in the case of Pat Buchanan, while he has certainly shown sympathy for the Nazis, I’m not certain that he outright supports fascism.

One irony here is that much of what he writes here could have applied to his own blog in the past, but he still deserves credit for rejecting that mind set.

To be fair, some of what he says could apply to some on the extreme left. I’ve noted some of the anti-scientific views of people such as Bill Maher on medicine and vaccines, but this is far less prevalent than the belief in creationism and denialism of climate change on the right. I’ve also criticized some on the left for conspiracy theories of their own,  but again this is far less prevalent than on the right.

The significant difference between the right and the left with regards to extremism is the degree to which the extremists dominate on the right. The extremists on the right have driven out virtually everyone else. They dominate the major organs of the right from the right wing media to the Republican Party. The left has a handful who, in their own ways, are as nutty as the extremists of the right but they are marginalized rather than the dominant players.