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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 rights.)

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 to win.

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.

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