2004-12-17 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach


James Carville, a top Kerry strategist, perhaps best defined the difference between his party and President Bush.

“They produced a narrative, we produced a litany,” he said on Meet The Press. “They say, ‘I’m going to protect you from the terrorists in Tehran and the homos in Hollywood.’ We say, ‘We’re for clean air, better schools, more health care.’ And so, there’s a Republican narrative and a Democratic litany.”

I believe that statement defines the past election in a nutshell. While the Democrats tried to define those things that the nation needs to move ahead, the Republicans told everybody what they should be afraid of. And, what they should be afraid of are those “Liberals” who live in the “blue states.”

Because of that, Bush now has “political capital” to spend and the Neo-Conservatives (Neocons) have the “con” of our ship of state.

And, unfortunately for those of us who are “blue” to one extent or another, that’s just the way the electorate wants it. This is, after all, a democracy and the majority rules.

Democracy, however, and the U.S. Constitution demand that the majority rule benignly.

It does not look as if that will be the case.

The Neocons are reportedly demanding their pound of flesh for the part they played in Bush’s win.

Their conservative wish list includes such things as conservative judicial appointments, a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage, restriction on abortions, tougher rules against what they consider to be pornography, school vouchers for parochial school students, a ban on human cloning, a ban on birth control information (and condoms) in federally-funded programs, an absolute end to stem cell research and the right of those in the health care industry to refuse services in cases where they deem those services to be immoral.

“We are going to demand a conservative agenda,” a Republican official told Newsweek. “If we don’t do it now, when do we do it?”

In a letter dated November 3, the day after the election, the President of a politically influential bible college, sent a public letter to Bush

“In your reelection, God had graciously granted America – though she doesn’t deserve it – a reprieve from the agenda of paganism, Bob Jones wrote. “Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the Liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ.”

Bush’s reelection has emboldened many conservatives, including Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“We are fools for Christ’s sake,” the Supreme Court Justice told a Red Mass for Catholic lawyers. “We must pray for the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”

A few days later, talking to a Jewish congregation in Manhattan, he said, “There is something wrong with the principal of neutrality between religiousness and non-religiousness. It is between denominations of religion.”

Contrast those statements with that of then-senator John F. Kennedy before he became president in 1960.

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or upon the public acts of its officials,” he said. I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair.”

The feeling that Bush’s reelection has given a blank check to those who want to push a conservative agenda is already manifesting itself in a number of states in what is traditionally called the “Bible Belt.”

In a number of Southern states, state law now allows pharmacists who are morally opposed to birth control to refrain from dispensing prescriptions for the devices as well as condoms.

In one recent case, a female pharmacist ripped up a birth control pill prescription in front of the customer, yelling at her for using birth control against God’s commandments.

The House of Representatives, now firmly under control of the Republicans, is looking to pass a similar ban nationwide.

In addition, the President is planning on changing the Health Policy Board, to include several conservatives whose stated policy is to end the sale of birth control devices, stop stem cell research and work to overturn Roe Vs. Wade and legal abortion.

Over the next few years, Bush will undoubtedly be able to nominate at least three and possibly four Supreme Court members. I am not one of those who believe that the President does not have the right to pick nominees that represent his political philosophy.

As much as I would personally hate to see more conservatives on the beach and an end to Abortion, Bush won the election and will be doing just what every president before him, and that is to appoint kindred spirits to the bench. Given the large majority in Congress, there is little doubt that any but the most rabid conservatives will clear Congress’ right to “advise and consent” on judicial nominations.

There is a real “kicker” in the process, however and that is the fact that over and over again, people appointed to the court have fooled the presidents who appointed them by moderating their radical opinions once they put on the black robe and took a seat at the table.

A few weeks ago, two letters to the editor sparked some controversy in the office.

One pointed out that having a religiously-driven White House was good because a dose of religion will be good for the country.

The person who wrote that letter ignores the fact that more people have died in the name of religion throughout history than for any other factor, including nationalism.

Witness the Crusades, where Christians on their way to the Holy Land to kill Muslim infidels practiced by killing tens of thousands of Jews in Europe on the way.

Witness Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Dufar, Croatia and hundreds of other examples.

Religion does not bring people together, it isolates them from each other.

In order for democracy to work, people have to go to school together, to live together in communities, to work together in order to understand our differences and our similarities as well as to understand that our differences, even our religious differences are minor and meaningless in the real scheme of things. Religious conservatism has no room for any other religions or any other ideas. Any extremism is bad for America.

Secondly, there was a letter that told me to read the Constitution, that there is no guarantee of separation of church and state. The person who wrote that letter should read the First Amendment. Enough said.

Kennedy was right. The religious views of one group, even if that group is the majority, should not control the political agenda.

That is what happens in Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Is that what we want for America?

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