From Robert Glenn Plotner:
Despite David Kuo’s recent book “Tempting Faith” that exposes the Bush Administration’s and RNC’s disingenuous, contemptuous exploitation of evangelicals, the same foul church-state smoothie is being blended in churches ahead of the 2006 elections. An overlooked story as America goes to the polls for a hard self-examination over the next week is the Rove-Mehlman strategy to target not only close battleground races with their theocratic believers but also to employ them to pick off vulnerable Democratic or gerrymandered districts in their own stomping ground, the Bible Belt. In Georgia and Alabama, for instance, where local polls run contrary to the rest of the country in support of Bush and the Iraq War, the focus is to balance House losses in other areas with gains against Democratic incumbents in rural districts. Indeed, while Bush is shunned by all but the most desperate Republicans running for office nationwide, he has made several stops on behalf of rural Republican candidates in the South. The target audience — the evangelical flock.
Ahead of this background strategy there has been an interesting development with the RNC’s favorite bed mate, the Christian Coalition. In a settlement reached with the IRS last year over the group’s tax-exempt status, the Christian Coalition was required to allow all candidates to write up to 25 words to explain their views on issues in the comparative voter guides with which the Coalition floods churches the Sunday before elections. Frustrated that they would have to allow Democratic candidates equal space in their “guides”, several state chapters have broken ties with the national Coalition to form renamed organizations as a way of explicitly thwarting the IRS ruling. What states? The battleground states of Iowa and Ohio and the Bible Belt Buckle states of Georgia and Alabama.
Also cited by Sadie Fields, chairman of the splinter Georgia group, as reason for the break with the national Coalition was the national Christian Coalition’s “liberal drift.” What does that mean? According to an article that appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in September, Fields was upset that the national Christian Coalition had taken up “such issues as global warming, an increase in the minimum wage, and control of the internet.” The solution to these unacceptable moral inroads of doing something about planetary destruction and battling poverty? Withdraw and rename the state organization, the “Georgia Christian Alliance.” It is as brazen an admission as it gets. The great reformation of the Christian Coalition has nothing to do with religion, but it has everything to do with a Republican political machine that seeks to feed what they believe are precast evangelical votes into the system. The address and phone number of the newly created “Georgia Christian Alliance” is identical, by the way, to the Christian Coalition of Georgia (http://www.vote-smart.org/issue_rating_detail.php?sig_id=001772M).
This past Sunday, October 29th, one million or so “2006 Georgia General Election Voter Guides” from the “Georgia Christian Alliance” in association with the “Georgia Conservative Coalition Education Fund, Inc.” began to infect churches across the state. I assume similar initiatives are under way in Alabama, Iowa, and Ohio. The flier lists the statewide races and the respective candidates under which are listed four or five issues presumably important to Christians. All Democratic candidates are listed as “no response,” unless the authors of the guide have deemed it important to answer for them. All Republican candidates have stated responses in accordance with the particular wedge they are exploiting. Included is a judicial race for the Georgia Supreme Court in which Carol Hunstein is given an asterisk to her “no response” while Mike Wiggins heartily agrees with all their tailored views on Roe v. Wade, school vouchers, etc. Hunstein’s asterisk is a response letter posted to their website in which she reserves her judicial responsibility of impartiality on issues that might come before her. But of course this is not what they want to hear — that is, unless it suits their purposes for a favored Supreme Court nominee to use it in congressional hearings.
It is the specific issues themselves, in their wording and in their very selection, that give away the pure political gamesmanship. Issues are excluded where the Democrat might agree with their view on a moral issue. Every Democratic position must read “No Response” or “Oppose.” Other obvious straw issues are raised in races meaningless to the issue such as “Prohibit abortion except in cases where the life of the mother is endangered” as an issue for Labor Commissioner. It allows them to mark down the Republican as “Supporting” the statement while the Democrat is marked as “No Response.” No issue appears regarding poverty, global warming, genocide in Darfur, anything that in any way might be misconstrued as a Christian wanting to help the unfortunate or downtrodden or to take seriously the role of Earth’s caretaker, seemingly defining Christian issues.
But what is most telling about the Voter Guide (in pdf at http://www.gachristianalliance.org/) is the unmitigated pandering to racial fear in the South. This is clearly an organization that understands the racial divide in evangelical churches and plays to it as a cynical wedge issue. They are courting white voters based on race over issues that have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with religion. “Affirmative action programs that provide preference to minorities in hiring and promotion” appears as an issue beneath six races, all (R) Oppose (D) No response. GA’s photo ID bill that would require a state issued photo ID in order to vote and has already been struck down in the courts as discriminatory towards minorities receives prominence in three races, all with Republicans supporting it and Democrats either marked as “No response” or “Oppose.” The issue of in-state tuition and scholarships for the children of illegal aliens also apparently gets their moral goat. There is absolutely no reason for these and other similar issues to be pushed as moral issues to white churches except that the Republican lackeys know that they are white and are courting them based not on morality but on immoral prejudice.
Also of note are two (and only two) special guides directed at churches in specific districts, Georgia’s 12th and 8th, the two districts recently given the royal visit by Bush to stump for Republican House candidates. Indeed, from the specifically targeted house races alone, it’s laughable to read “The Voter Guide is provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any candidate or political party.” It is so explicitly an *absolute* propagandistic endorsement of and by a crafted cog in the Rovian machine that I’m certain when the next ruling is handed down against them, they’ll simply perpetually rename themselves and continue their unholy alliance under a new “Christian” brand name. Where is the simple counter strategy to produce a progressive and fair Christian guide with an emphasis on poverty issues? It might have gone a long way to balancing Rove’s math. In Georgia, subtract two from any potential Democratic gains and add two for the strange bedfellows as they continue their unholy alliance.