News Intelligence Analysis
Gingrich v The Separation of Church and State
By mick arran Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 10:53:55 AM EST
Newt Gingrich is launching a new and ambitious committee aimed at re-making American society in the neoconservative image. But just below the surface lurks an assault on the doctrine of separation of church and state that has been dear to his heart for decades.
When last we saw the diminutive Georgian, mastermind of the Contract with America and the '94 Republican takeover, he was lurching from Washington with his tail between his legs and charges of corruption, influence-peddling, and various other "unethical behaviors" nipping at his heels. He's been quiet the last few years, giving the rumpus a chance to die down, but according to a story in today's NY Times, he's back and he has big plans.
Mr. Gingrich's...agenda includes a new political action committee to try to identify changes America must make to survive. It is an effort that he said would be 50 times as ambitious as the political action committee Gopac, which in the 1980s and '90s he turned into a training ground for hundreds of Republican politicians and a personal fund-raising fief. It will be, in Mr. Gingrich's telling, the 1994 Contract With America, which swept Republicans into power on Capitol Hill and him into the speaker's chair, on an extra-large scale.
The new committee, called American Solutions for Winning the Future, will be organized as a so-called 527 group, he said. Those committees, named for a section of the tax code, can raise and spend unlimited money with minimal disclosure.
Mr. Gingrich said he would try to raise tens of millions of dollars through the committee to find bipartisan solutions to the nation's problems. Any candidate of any party who wants to share in the effort will be welcome, he said.
The committee will also promote Mr. Gingrich's latest manifesto, a 10-point Contract With America for the 21st century, which includes Social Security privatization, electoral reform, radical streamlining of government, and "patriotic education" for schoolchildren and immigrants. The document also includes a call to "recenter America on the creator from whom all our liberties come" and to appoint judges who understand "the centrality of God in American history." (emphasis added)
The NYT article, in standard MSM fashion, wastes a lot of time pretending that this is some kind of presidential bid and handicapping it on that basis, but Gingrich - who knew what the reporter (John Broder) wanted to hear - gave him a lot of help.
Mr. Gingrich acknowledged that he was probably better at formulating ideas than at carrying them out, more of a revolutionary agitator than an elected executive. He said that unexpected events swept him into the speaker's office -- though he had spent years planning to get there -- and that the same could happen with the Oval Office.
"It all depends on whether the movement I'm building gets big enough and how large the vacuum of leadership is," he said.
Uh-huh. Let's dispense with this bit of disinformation as quickly as possible.
Merle Black, a professor of government at Emory University and an authority on Southern politics, said Mr. Gingrich was dreaming. His appeal is limited to a relatively narrow slice of right-wing voters, Professor Black said, with virtually no support from independents and Democrats.
"He couldn't get elected to statewide office in Georgia," Professor Black said, citing a recent poll of Georgia Republicans that placed Mr. Gingrich a distant third in presidential preference in his home state, behind Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain. "I cannot imagine him winning a presidential race in the United States."
Amen. And let's add to that the fact that the above laundry list of conservative shibboleths is the same one the right has been flogging for 25 years and the same one that's been consistently rejected by American voters with 2 exceptions: "patriotic education" (a terrifying phrase coming from someone like Gingrich whose defense of the genocide practiced against Native Americans in the 19th century is legendary) and the election or appointment of theocratic judges. Both are worrying but the former is an annoyance; the latter is bloody dangerous.
Everything Gingrich says and believes may be demonstrably wrong but that doesn't mean he's stupid. He's a shrewd politician with a dead-on instinct for what rich right-wingers will donate scads of money to do and for what middle-class right-wingers and moderates will support. And while the neoconservatives of the Bush Administration may have been embarrassed in November, they're still in control of the Republican party and showing no sign whatever that they're willing to give that up.
In a T2A diary by Joan Bokaer titled "The Fight for the Soul of the GOP Is On!", Ms Bokaer points out that the disenchantment of the religious right with the way neocons in the Bush Admin shuffled their concerns onto a back burner in order to concentrate on an attempt to control Middle east oil caused mucho defections.
And now -- perhaps the final? -- battle for the soul of the GOP is on. Karl Rove and associates still believe they have a winning formula - keep the Christian Conservative base of the GOP happy. Rove thinks the last election was a fluke and he is sticking to his strategy. But many traditional Republicans, independents, libertarians, mainstream Christians, and, yes, evangelicals left the party. Some notables such as Jim Webb (newly elected Senator from VA) was a Republican and the former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. He unseated a darling of the religious right, Senator George Allen (R-VA).
What Gingrich has hit on is a perfect set of targets with wide potential appeal to the the GOP's base, wide enough, perhaps, to bring the defectors back. It's hard to argue against the concept of "patriotic education" being injected into our curricula when it will most likely be sold as nothing more than an extra emphasis on American history, and easy to argue that such an effort is necessary, desirable, and even important.
Theocratic judges are a bit dicier but the fundamentalists want them badly and lots of evangelicals wouldn't mind having them. The idea of a movement to bring their version of Christ into US law is more than attractive, it's a motivator. It gets their juices (and their contributions) flowing, maybe not as much as abortion but a lot more than evolution. Packaged inside a glittery platform of high-minded platitudes and grandiose visions, there's every reason to believe that the simple-minded scions of the right, who dearly love slogans behind which flags can fly and choirs of angels can sing, might very well flock back to the neoconservative banner to do battle, united once more, with the evil, godless liberals.
In a comment on Ms Bokaer's diary, I took a particularly Pollyanna-ish view that the fresh split between those in the religious right who remained avidly political and those who were beginning to think that maybe politics wasn't the way to get what they wanted after all might very well be the spark to the ultimate disintegration of the religious right by causing it to break down into dozens of splinter groups more intent on fighting each other than us.
Yes, there will be a fight for control of the GOP but it isn't even clear that the religious right will be anything other than bystanders, possibly of their own choice. A split has developed in the last year or two between those who believe, like Brownback, that the dominionist camp should be in complete control of the Pubs and ought to work toward using their leverage and true control at the local level to hijack the Federal govt, and those who are now questioning whether they ever should have gotten involved in the political process to begin with.
The outcome of that split is unclear as is the question of whether or not what's left of the "new" GOP after Bush's meltdown even wants the religious right on their side - polls have been showing for years that a majority of the country isn't interested in overturning Roe v Wade or passing a Constitutional amendment "protecting marriage" or forcing ID into science classrooms, and it is dawning on the PTB that in the long run the fundies may be more of a drag than a help.
Gingrich's new effort could very well heal that split before it has a chance to do its work, and in the process face us with a whole new well-financed war on the Constitution and the SOCAS doctrine.
That can't be good for anybody.
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