Thursday, June 23, 2016

Political Theater: Donald Trump Discovers his "Christian Values" and Congressional Democrats Stage a Sit-in to End the Gun Lobby's Choke Hold

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For those of you who are curious and/or waiting, this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show will post later tonight or tomorrow--I am contemplating seeing the "new" Independence Day movie and will include my thoughts in the podcast.

It is all political theater folks. But even by the political rodeo-freak show standard set so far during this 2016 presidential campaign, it was quite a fascinating and absurd week.

After conducting a master class in the Right-wing paranoid style that featured a "speech" on Hillary Clinton's various evils, and recited tired lies that are based on "evidence" from conservative hate media propagandist sites such as Breitbart, Donald Trump sought out the blessings of Right-wing Christian fundamentalists at a summit held with "evangelical leaders" on Tuesday in New York.

This meeting is a reminder that power rules over principles...or perhaps power is a principle onto itself that both Trump and the American Religious Right pursue with reckless abandon and as prime directive number one. 

Donald Trump is a serial liar, hypocrite, adulterer, con artist, narcissist, and plutocrat. His "policy positions" on gay marriage and abortion rights ought to be anathema to the Christian Right. Trump's lifestyle should also see him condemned by the same people.

This is not necessarily the case. As NPR explains:
Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, addressed Trump's personal flaws that bother some evangelicals — including his multiple marriages, past support for abortion rights and foul language. 
Graham pointed out that in lots of stories in the Bible, people messed up. After all, Graham told the crowd of devout Christians, the prophet Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt but disobeyed God; King David committed adultery and murder; and the apostle Peter, who, as one of Jesus' closest followers, really should have had his back, denied three times that he'd ever known Jesus. 
"There is none of us that are perfect," Graham said. "There's no perfect person — there's only one, and that's the Lord Jesus Christ, but he's not running for president of the United States.
There are other dimensions to how Christian theocrats such as Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, and others can justify their support for a "spiritually challenged" man such as Donald Trump. 

The radical Christian Right believes in the concept of "prayer warfare". This twisted, perverse, fantastical, and magical belief system urges its adherents to advance a "Christian" agenda in America by any means necessary, means that include lying, deception, and trickery. As such, supporting Donald Trump is but a means to an end.

The Christian Right is also authoritarian. They are enraptured by "the flag and the cross". Donald Trump is a proto fascist whose supporters exhibit high levels of authoritarian and social dominance behavior. Again, there is an overlap of political attitudes and values.

A belief in the "prosperity gospel", i.e. that being rich is a sign of divine providence and selection can also move some "Christians" to support Trump because of his inherited wealth.

Or maybe the support for Donald Trump by "evangelicals" could be based in how they can personally relate to his moral failings. In short, as Think Progress suggests, when Christian Right-wing evangelicals look at Donald Trump they see a version of themselves:
Most evangelical churches discourage divorce, for instance, yet conservative Protestants who attend church less than twice a month have higher divorce rates than any other group — including the nonreligious. You would be hard pressed to find a major evangelical leader who endorses violence in the home, yet the states where women are most likely to endure domestic abuse include South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee — regions with sizable populations of theological conservatives, including many that skip Sunday service. And evangelicals overwhelmingly condemn premarital sex in fiery sermons and through abstinence-only campaigns, yet poor, theologically conservative Americans regularly report high numbers of unplanned pregnancies and S.T.D.s — in fact, evangelical teenagers are actually more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. 
As it turns out, these biblically “prodigal” evangelicals are the heart of religious support for the equally prodigal Trump: According to the Wall Street Journal, only 38 percent of Trump supporters attend worship weekly or more, compared to 56 percent of social conservative voters and 43 percent of Republican establishment voters. 
This partly explains why this group can relate to someone like Trump, a man who doesn’t try to hide his less-than-pious ways, but who doesn’t apologize for them either. It also sheds light on the continued popularity of passionate Trump supporter Sarah Palin, whose family claims an evangelical identity but whose children are infamous for becoming pregnant out of wedlock and allegedly engaging in domestic violence.
But it could all be as simple as Donald Trump is a political con artist. Likewise, the Religious Right are also con artists who use a belief in mythological beings to manipulate their followers. Both Trump and the Religious Right are fleecing the rubes of their money and just want the power necessary to enforce their will on other people. 

On Wednesday, led by American civil rights freedom fighter and icon John Lewis, Congressional Democrats began a sit-in to protest the Republican Party's supreme deference to the gun lobby and the ammosexuals over the will of the American people. The sit-in ended several hours ago. When compared to Trump's political rodeo and freak show, this is political theater in the best sense. 

1. Such a strategy draws on a long tradition of non-violent resistance in the face of power. 

2. The sit-in against the gun lobby, the ammosexuals, and the Republican Party creates a moral narrative that highlights how those who oppose gun control are aiding and abetting the murder of innocent people in events such as the recent Orlando massacre. 

3.  It highlights in a clear way how the Republican Party is irresponsible and ineffective in governing. For example, they have no standing in their protests against the Democrats' sit-in because the GOP has failed in its basic responsibilities to appoint judges and conduct confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. Most important, the Republican Party in the Age of Obama has abandoned all precedent and standing norms about consensus government. This was most starkly demonstrated when Republicans took the unprecedented step of threatening to have the United States default on its debts in an effort to humiliate Barack Obama, the country's first black president.

Yes, it is worrisome and sad that a group of elected officials have had to resort to non-violent resistance in order to try to force their colleagues to follow through on the people's will. Moreover, it is increasingly apparent that America's governing institutions are dysfunctional. This is not the fault of John Lewis and the other Democrats who are struggling so that the desires of the American people regarding gun policy will be positively responded to by their elected representatives. The Republican Party has systematically destroyed standing norms about governance and consensus politics. One cannot put people in power who hate the very idea of government, governance, and the commons, and then be surprised when democratic institutions begin to rot from within.  

The events of this week would be great fun and absurdist political theater if the consequences did not impact the health, safety, prosperity, and security of many millions of peoples lives. In a strange and bizarre political season, matters will likely only become more surreal.

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