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Republican Tug-of-War

November 16, 2004
By Mary Pitt

While the influence of third, fourth, and even fifth political parties appears to have been suspended during the 2004 elections, it is not unreasonable to consider what effect the coalition of multi-national industrialists and "born-again" Christians will have on the future makeup of the existing parties and the future of the national political scene.

The Republican party has seized majority control of both houses of Congress through a coalition of these factions - now they will exert pressure on President Bush to concentrate on their agendas, and may become militant in the process.

With the exponential growth of military spending, there is a handy excuse for the demise of the Social Security system as we know it, a reduction in education funding and welfare programs which will find little opposition from either camp. However, it will also require some spending of President Bush's "political capital" in order to accomplish it on behalf of the industrialists and the anti-tax conservatives. As with the budget surplus which he inherited, he may find that his account will soon be overdrawn. One can hardly consider his slender victory to be overwhelming support.

The impact point will be when the Christian conservatives demand that their agenda also be pushed to fruition. The "political capital" account may be as far in deficit as is the national budget and the administration may be unable to deliver as promised the "support of marriage" amendment or the one that would "outlaw" all abortions, much less the Constitutional amendment that would allow Arnold Schwarzennnegger to run for President in 2008. While broken campaign promises are nothing new to the Bushes, either the former or the latter, these are very bad people to whom to break a promise.

Almost sixty years ago, a similar problem arose among Democrats which displeased the Southern faction of the party. This faction spun off a new party - the Dixiecrats - which devastated the Democratic party, splitting their vote and their public influence. This party eventually passed into history as their needs were met by either of the more-established parties, but their influence was felt for years. We can foresee a similar occurrence in the Republican party of today.

Some years ago, some evangelical Christians decided to politicize their congregations and to make their influence felt in all levels of government and they have determinedly forged ahead toward the goal of "converting" the United States into a Christian nation, according to their views. In many states, there are now two Republican parties, one of the old-line political conservatives and another of the evangelicals.

While the states are comfortably "red," they can concentrate on in-fighting among the factions without fear of outside influence. These conflicts are seldom witnessed outside the boundaries of the state involved until they become newsworthy and the national media takes notice.

A prime example of this occurred in Kansas when the evangelicals gained control of the State Board of Education and voted to ban the teaching of evolution in schools, requiring instead that "creationism" be part of the curriculum. This move was beaten back at that time by a compromise to include both doctrines under the title of "intelligent design," but it will arise again as the same electoral outcome has once again been accomplished.

The ban on organized prayer in schools was met with organization of a "Meet Me At the Pole" groups who met around the flagpole before or after school for public prayer and demonstration. They did give up the religious invocation at graduation ceremonies but prompted selected students to offer their own "spontaneous" prayers as part of their speech in acceptance of honors or awards.

These people are as inspired, determined, and diligent as any group of secular protestors in our history and are totally convinced that their cause is just.

If President Bush does not, for whatever reason, fulfill his repayment of the debt which he truly owes to this wing of his political coalition, we may see an empowered and militant third party rise out of the Republican party which will split it completely and leave it powerless for years to come. However, whether or not this happens, we are faced with a fight to the death for democracy as we know it.

Fundamentalist Christians subscribe to the same Mosaic Law which governs the fundamentalist strains of other religions, providing "commandments" and prescribing punishment for all public and private actions. These laws, if literally enforced, would be as restrictive and brutal as those which we so abhor in other cultures in backward areas of the world and are not a pleasant prospect for those of us accustomed to living in a modern free civilization.

For those with a complacent mindset, the first impulse would be to chortle at the thought of this occurrence, but it is a time of great danger for democracy and for this nation. Even the advances that have already been made on the political scene have created problems in the area of civil rights which will, under the best of circumstances, take some time to correct.

The Patriot Act's incursion into our civil liberties, the national debt created by Bush's ill-conceived tax cuts, the loss of respect for America in other parts of the world - these will take a long time to repair and the further they progress, the harder it will be to recover. In the meantime, the poor, the ill, the handicapped, and the old will be sacrificed to Biblical neglect while the progress of two centuries will be discounted and destroyed.

The alternative would be to start now, by opening the eyes of the leaders of the Democratic party to the fact that they do not truly represent all those who are not Republicans. They must come out of their east- and west-coast habitats, spend time with the people of the "red states" to learn of their specific concerns and to offer possible solutions.

Conceding this bloc of voters guarantees defeat for the left. People who are not convinced of our concern for them cannot be expected to support us. They demand answers, and "more of the same" vs. "the unknown" is not a happy choice to be asked to make.

While the electoral votes reside in the cities and the more populous states, without a plausible plan for the rural sections of the country, the Democratic party is doomed to perpetual defeat, no matter the leanings of the opposition.

Mary Pitt is a septuagenarian Kansan who is self-employed and active in the political arena. Her concerns are her four-generation family and the continuance of the United States as a democracy with a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people". Comments and criticism may be addressed to mpitt@cox.net.

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