Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Arizona Republicans' War on the Constitution, Again

Point One: Let's get clear. Proposition 102 isn't about marriage.

Proposition 102 is only one state-level deployment of a powerful weapon in radical Christianist Republicans' war on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. That weapon is a fierce 30-year PR campaign to gin up heterosexual Americans' suspicion, dislike, and fear of gay men and lesbian women.

Again, their target--keep this front and center--is not gay marriage. Gay marriage is merely the decoy. Their target is the US Constitution.

Here's why.

All that stands between you and me and the kind of radical fundamentalist theocracy that Sarah Palin represents are the US Constitution and Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court that interprets them.

At present, only a tiny handful of constitutional guarantees, explicit and implicit, keep a possible President Sarah Palin from, say, criminalizing homosexual conduct, defining those who protest as "terrorists" under the Patriot Acts, and seizing our assets. Absurd? Not if you've paid attention to Guantanamo and St. Paul.

The distinction is merely one of degree. The thing is, if these few constitutional protections can be neutralized, there's nothing in US law to stop a powerful movement from turning its guns elsewhere: On you, for example. Even the little that we citizens have been permitted to know of the Patriot Acts makes that clear.

Exaggerated? Not at all. After all, that movement has already seized control of the Republican Party. Fact, not opinion.

The so-called "marriage protection" campaign has nothing to do with marriage except in the minds of a sector of citizens--evangelical and fundamentalist Republicans--who've been bombarded with virulent anti-gay propaganda for 30 years. This has taken the form of mass-distributed CDs, videos, direct-mail campaigns, and voter guides, and a whole host of home-schooling and private Christianist academy curricular materials, and conservative church and legal initiatives orchestrated by the extreme Christianist Right. Fact, not opinion.

The point of all this is to reverse 250 years of traditional American legal thought in order to neutralize the Constitution's defense of women, minorities, and the interests of the people as a whole vs. the rights of the individual. Campaigns like "Defense of Marriage" exist solely to draw conservatives to the polls to directly assail a handful of key constitutional protections, and to vote into office the next phalanx of radical Christianists to make laws and appoint judges who will reverse the great liberal legal tradition that has made America the beacon for freedom all over the world. Fact, not opinion.

The Targets

The Constitution's 14th Amendment guarantee to every individual of equal protection of the law is the springboard from which judges and justices at every level have found in favor of minorities since Brown v. Board of Education (1954). From that Supreme Court decision flows every subsequent legal advance in US human rights.

Its privacy protection, implicit in the 9th Amendment and reinforced in Amendments 3, 4, and 5 of the Bill of Rights, is absolutely central to each individual's defense against unwarranted state intrusion into personal matters such as non-exploitative sexual relations between consenting adults, and a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy under strict and limited conditions. It also underlies the sensible search warrant.

The Constitution's powerful 1st Amendment affirmation of every individual's freedom to choose his or her religion (or to decline religion), and the wall it imposes between your religion and mine, between my religion and yours, and between a state religion and all of us, are the last and greatest defense each of us has against the radical ideology represented by Sarah Palin, James Dobson, and John McCain.

The Strategy

It isn't a matter of opinion. It's a fact that a radical, extraordinarily powerful, richly-funded, highly orchestrated Christian Right already virtually controls the Republican party. Moderate Republicans know it and discuss it openly. If you doubt it, consider this. A few days ago, its own presidential candidate was powerless to select his own vice president. John McCain knuckled under to the Christianist Right because he had to.

Radical Christianists' takeover of the party began in 1991. Why?

Because when extreme fundamental Christianist Pat Robertson lost his White House bid in 1988, radical Christianists got it that they could never take control of the country from the top down. In 1989, they founded the Christian Coalition and developed a winning strategy to seize control of the country from the grassroot up, by seizing control of the Republican party.

This they accomplished by fielding closeted radical fundamentalists for grassroots offices in order to gain, and eventually dominate, delegates to the Republican National Convention. By this means they can, and as we can observe today, they do, write its platform and determine its presidential candidates. Obviously, with control of the platform and the presidency, they control political appointees at every bureaucratic level, dictate what happens in state and local elections, and above all, determine federal appeals court and US Supreme Court appointees.

The fundamentalists' decisive take-control strategy first came to national attention in the well-known San Diego Stealth Initiative. It continues today, more powerful than ever. If in 2000, John McCain could still denounce its takeover, by 2008, John McCain has been forced to capitulate to it and to advance it one giant step by placing extreme Christianist Sarah Palin one heartbeat from the presidency.

Paralleling this GOP take-over strategy is Part 1 of radical Christianists' legal strategy. Their lynchpin legal initiative is the "original intent" campaign, a point-blank assault on traditional American constitutional values as enunciated since the founding of the country. It asserts (absurdly) that at some unknowable place and point in time, all the founders universally concurred on one interpretation of every constitutional issue for all time. That this never occurred--and that the idea itself was denounced even by Madison himself--doesn't stand in the way of fundamentalist extremists. Truth is irrelevant.

Part 2 is the fear-based, seductive PR campaign against so-called "activist judges," also a chimera: The fact is that any so-called "activist" judge exists only in the eye of the beholder. It's a PR tactic obvious because radical Christianists deem only mainstream judges who interpret the Constitution in accord with traditional American values as "activist."

Not surprisingly, in other words, the only "activist" judges are those the Christianists denounce as "liberal." These are the judges and justices who find that the Constitution and Bill of Rights actually give equal protection to women, minorities, labor, and--powerfully--sometimes to the people as a whole (as in environmental protection and gun control) over individuals.

Given this reality check, in the real light of day, Proposition 102, Arizona's GOP-dominated legislature's upchucked version of a measure we defeated just two years ago, can be seen for what it is, and the reason it's back on the ballot can be exposed for what it is.

These are heavy duty weapons aimed at the heart of American freedoms. They and the radical theocratic ideals they serve constitute the most serious threat to democracy in our history. Such propositions are first-line guns in a war on the ideals that make Americans uniquely Americans. The ironic thing is, those guns aren't just aimed at queers.

What the founders who drafted our majestic core documents saw is this simple paradox: A Constitution that defends the rights of one American defends the rights of all Americans. Without our Constitution intact, and without a committed, staunch legal tradition and Supreme Court unshakably devoted to that simple principle, we're all at the mercy of the next commander in chief and the hidden strings that control him or her. That's not democracy. That's fascism.

So don't be stupid. If you vote for Prop 102, it's just youself you're firing at.


kyledeb said...

You're absolutely right, Pico. Repubs us this and migration as wedge issues. It is so much of what is wrong with the U.S.

PICO said...

Kyle, you make this point so well at Citizen Orange and The Sanctuary. And it can't be made often enough.

Wedge issues like gay and lesbian people and immigrants (not mutually exclusive, I must point out) don't merely divide Americans. They are cynical, actually treasonous tactics in the war on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Republican extremists demonize precisely those sectors that look to the Constitution for affirmation of their, our human rights--feminists, labor advocates, GLBT people, immigrants. Republican and Christianist extremists target us BECAUSE, by demonizing and literally exiling us, they hope to strengthen their assault on the concept of human rights itself. This is part of what the Patriot Acts have so heinously achieved. If the GOP has its will, rank and file Republicans will have been not only the agents of our dehumanization, but ironically of their own dehumanization as well. I hope they can crawl out of the gutters of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and heterosexism soon enough to see that what they do to us, they do to themselves.

Thanks for writing.

Morning Angel said...

I notice California is voting on a similar proposition, prop 8, trying to overturn their Supreme Court's decision earlier this year.

Word said...

Even though I don't live in Arizona, I read this and learned WAY more than I already knew about the workings of what Pico calls the "Christianist" movement. Thanks for the edification, Pico! Great writing! (And a brilliant closing line!)

Ready & Willing said...

This is a right-on commentary by Pico. Having seen the Christian movement work for the last 27 years in Maine, they have found their cash cow in the gay community and now in Arizona in the gay immigrant community. Their organization was in debt $500,000 after their last loss in 2006 and HAD to pass this Marriage legislation to "earn" some money to continue their organization's visability. Now they've collected $3 million from around the nation and watch out, gay community~!
The world vision that the Christianists promote will ultimately strike all of us. Only together and fighting back will we be able to succeed in our mission for equality for all.

PICO said...

Hi, Ready & Willing,
Great comment, thanks. It would be so wonderful if Americans woke up to the threat the Christianists pose, the hollowness of their values, the way they manipulate the public with shameless lies and distortions, up to and including invented "research" studies. So much for "Thou shalt bear no false witness."

Thanks for commenting, and do come back often!