Another Trip Through Fundamentalist Politics
By Mark Kittel
When it comes to politics, I hate being right.
In November, 2003, my first article for The Moderate Republican discussed the political tactics employed by fundamentalist
Christian organizations in driving and controlling the Republican party. In short, these groups keep a tight grip on Republican
politics and agendas by withholding their support for Republican candidates who do not follow the agenda of the religious
right, even voting against such candidates in the hopes that these politicians will be removed from office, and later replaced
with Republicans who do follow the fundamentalist plan. They simply use their voting power to send a message to all Republicans
that theyd better get in line with the fundamentalist agenda or be prepared to lose elections.
Recently and article showed up on the American Family Association web site that justifies my original article 100%. AFA
is, of course, one of many fundamentalist Christian organizations operating in America and on the web. The original article,
Dobson Emphatically Endorses Pro-Family Republican in Penn. Senate Primary, written by Jody Brown and published April 19,
2004, can be read at http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/4/afa/192004a.asp. In summary: the article refers to an open
letter that Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus On The Family, wrote on March 22, 2004 (the original letter can be seen at
http://www.agapepress.org/JDobsonLtr.jpg ) that endorses Pat Toomey, a three-term representative from Pennsylvania, over current
Republican senator Arlen Specter in the April 27th Republican primary elections; the article further explains why Specter
is at risk of losing his position, and that he should be replaced with Toomey.
The article and the letter speak for themselves.
The article describes Specter as having earned the moderate Republican label by opposing such things as school choice
and the Boy Scouts access to public facilities unless they agree to allow homosexual troop leaders; and supporting legislation
that would allow human cloning and expand hate crimes legislation. (Of course, the authors own agenda influences how she presents
these charges. School choice is commonly used to put a legitimate and friendly face on legislation that would use taxpayer
money to fund private schools, particularly religious schools. Human cloning is a nebulous term that could mean anything from
research into using stem cells to cure genetic diseases, to the full cloning of human beings; but its clear that the author
considers any such research to be reprehensible, and so does not specify exactly what it is Mr. Specter supports. And as odd
as it may seem for a Christian to oppose hate crimes legislation, fundamentalist groups do oppose further expansion of such
laws because they fear the laws would make it a crime for fundamentalists to speak out against homosexuality and against gay
Dobsons letter does not mince words. He describes Specter as a one man roadblock to the confirmation of conservative pro-family
judges on the federal courts. He tells his audience that Pat Toomey would be a splendid pro-family, pro-life voice in the
Senate and that the defeat of Arlen Specter would send a mighty signal that the days of waffling, devious, anti-family Republicans
who are liberals in disguise is finally over.
Dobsons statement is chilling to me because it clearly states that, at least for that fundamentalist Christian, there is no
room in the Republican party for anyone that does not follow the fundamentalist agenda. Specter is by no means a liberal;
the moderate Republican label that Ms. Brown puts on him would be more accurate, but its clear that for Dr. Dobson moderate
and liberal are two sides of the same coin. Specter can hardly be characterized as anti-family or waffling. He has two children
and several grand-children and has demonstrated through his voting record that he supports many issues central to average
American families. I couldnt speak for devious, but Dobson clearly means to state that any Republican that does not oppose
gay rights and gay marriage, does not support repealing abortion rights, and generally does not support fundamentalist stances,
is not really a Republican.
What benefit would Pat Toomey bring? According to Ms. Browns article, Pat Toomey has been given a 96 percent lifetime
rating from the American Conservative Union, regarding his voting record in the House of Representatives. Senator Specter,
by contrast, only has a 43 percent rating. (Rick Santorum, for reference, rates an 87.) The use of this statistic in the article
suggests that Toomey would be a nearly perfect candidate for advancing the fundamentalist Christian agenda. It is also implied
that Toomey would be a more attractive candidate than Specter to the states conservative Republicans, citing statistics from
a column by Tom Ferrick that suggest a decline in Specters moderate Republican base and an increase of more conservative Republicans
in suburban and rural areas.
What the article does not state, of course, is that Specter would be a guaranteed win against a Democratic opponent because
of his center-right politics and his influential positions on numerous Senate committees; these traits attract centrist Democrats
and independents, as well as moderate Republicans. Toomey, on the other hand, would be playing purely to the ultra-conservative
Republicans in the state; he would certainly lose most of those centrist Democrats and independents that have supported Specter
in the past. He would have to count on moderate Republicans to vote for him over a moderate Democratic candidate in order
But as I stated in my November article, moderates and centrists should not allow themselves to be suckered into voting
for Republicans of all stripes. They need to vote for the person that agrees with their beliefs and politics, not necessarily
with the person that happens to share that Republican label. Should Toomey win, he will have to count on moderate Republicans
voting for him, in the belief that Republicans will always vote Republican, regardless of platform.
If Dobson and fundamentalist organizations believe they can control the Republican party by sabotaging moderates, then
moderates need to fight the same war with the same weapons. Toomeys supporters, as implied by the article, will be counting
on a low voter turnout and low voter numbers for Specter on April 27th. And they will be counting on Republicans to choose
Toomey in the general election. Moderates, centrists, and anyone else opposed to fundamentalist politics need to prove Dobson
and the AFA wrong. If you know a Republican in Pennsylvania, contact them now and make sure they understand what is at stake
if Specter loses. If you live in Pennsylvania, vote. Dont assume that a four-term senator is always guaranteed for a fifth.
If Toomey manages to take the nomination, join with others in the general election and defeat him. Send a message to the Republican
party that we will not abide a fundamentalist agenda nor will we support fundamentalist candidates. Do it before you lose
your voice in your own party.
Mark Kittel is a regular contributor to the Moderate Republican.