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Where the Real Battle is Being Waged

I saw a report about how Republicans are trying to take over the election and policy infrastructure of various states. They are running for Board of Elections positions. They are trying to get positions on education boards which oversee the school systems. They are thus “working from the ground up,” in their efforts to exert control at levels which most people who follow politics scarcely have thought about until the last few years.

But this is something that the evangelicals have been doing for years. I remember reading an article in “The New Republic” decades ago, which recounted at length the efforts being made by the growing evangelical movement to take over state legislatures and local groups. And I didn’t think too much of it then. But we should have. I didn’t realize how large this movement was, and how unremittingly dedicated these mostly devoutly intransigent and even fanatical people could be.

I have read that the evangelical movement now is not what it was decades ago, that it has gotten more radical, and that it is now a religion which often is awash in weird conspiracy theories, akin to the QAnon cult. I do not know that much about evangelicals from personal experience, I had thought that they were mostly in the South and then lower Midwest, “Bible Belt,” the types of people who were portrayed in the play and movie “Inherit the Wind,” about the Scopes trial in the 1920’s, where a high school teacher was imprisoned for teaching about the theory of evolution. When William Jennings Bryan came to town to prosecute the trial, they greeted him by singing, “Give Me That Old-Time Religion.”

Those people may actually have been Baptists, or of various religious groups. It really doesn’t matter that much in this context, what exactly the Evangelicals believe in, or how they rationalize their behavior as always being godly, while their enemies, the Democrats, the liberals, the intellectuals, are evil. I don’t think that any of us is going to change their perceptions or beliefs, though it is important to know more about them.

What they do have, is almost a fanaticism, maybe not “almost,” where they are absolutely determined to have their way. The key fact is that most people, and certainly most on the liberal side, do not have such an intensity of pursuit of their goals.

How many of us, or how many of the younger people who would see themselves as “Progressives,” would take the time to run for School Board, so that they could have great influence on what is taught in schools? How many of us would spend our time working on election boards? Yes, some would, but the evangelicals are apparently now all over the Red states, and maybe some that aren’t Red, trying to force their positions into practice. And without much in the way of pushback from the populace, they can get away with it.

I remember some of this from boyhood. We lived in a nice suburb in the foothills, where the air was dry and clear, and my mother’s and my allergist strongly recommended they move, because I had severe allergies to pollens, and coughed all the time. My parents essentially moved there for me, and my mother said that in three months I stopped coughing. It was a nice enough town, but it was filled with what we would now call right-wing people from various states. It actually became one of the centers of the growing John Birch Society.

This didn’t affect me much; the kids were pretty decent, and the parents I met at their houses, were polite. But there were residents who were trying to purvey Far Right issues, such as warning about the dangers of fluoridation of water, that it was some kind of Communist plot. More directly, since my mother volunteered to be on the PTA, they were trying to label the PTA as a Communist front organization. This might seem ridiculous to you, but it was very real to them. I didn’t follow much of what was going on with that, but I know that my mother was frustrated with their efforts to get rid of PTA, and to go to the meetings and interrupt them.

That gave me at least some background in what we are dealing with in rural communities, particularly in the less populated states. We can analogize the Evangelicals as a horde of religious fanatics who seek to control everything, and to destroy their perceived enemies. If overrunning election boards so that they can simply install the Republican candidate as the winner, is the task for them, they will very energetically do it, as they are doing now.

This is bad enough, and we hear about it on the news. But the real concern is that there does not appear to me, at least at a distance, to be much in the way of resistance. And of course I am generalizing, but how many liberals or even moderates are there out there who not only want to take their time to volunteer or run for these positions, but who even want to stand up and fight against these angry and even dangerous people?

We have heard about how well meaning people who have worked at the polls or on school committees are being physically threatened, to the extent that they are quitting, for who wants to subject themselves an their families to that? And pretty obviously, the people supposedly charged with protecting them, are on the side of the fanatics, and thus do nothing. So we have a virtual physical takeover of these positions, with potentially dire consequences.

Again, I did not really experience religious fanaticism growing up, though I did certainly meet some adults who were steeped in right-wing conspiracy fantasy, such as the nice mother of one of my best friends, who gave me a copy of books like “None Dare Call It Treason,” and urged me to read it. My parents, very intelligent, told me that it was complete nonsense, these books saying that the Democrats and other people were selling out America to the Communists, in the State Department, Hollywood, everywhere else. But these folks believed it,. That was bad enough, but not nearly as bad as the insanity coming from the Far Right today, about which we all know, so I won’t go over it.

They have, for whatever psychological reasons one might imagine, turned into people who will believe things out of medieval superstitions, all in service to a way of seeing the world which makes Democrats in league with dark forces who are trying to destroy them and the America they love. Thus any actions in service of their attempts to defeat them, are considered necessary and heroic, which include handing all local and state elections, and national electoral votes, to Republicans.

We saw some of this in the Virginia election for governor. The rich Republicans like Youngkin and his backers, know what they are doing, know the power of the forces they are calling into action. So they somehow made the election about whether parents should have strong influence over what is taught in schools. “They are trying to indoctrinate your children into Critical Race Theory!” (Give us that old-time religion instead!). And you can be sure that this is going to be one of the major themes of the next elections; not necessarily CRT, but rousing the evangelicals to fight and cheat and threaten their enemies, in the name of protecting their belief system from liberal and freethinking forces.

Do liberals have a counterforce, one which will impel their voters to turn out? Maybe, though “The Supreme Court! Abortion Rights!” did not seem to sway enough of the Far Left into voting in 2016. Obama as a “transformational candidate” seemed to. Getting rid of Trump did. But is there still enough of that fervor to bring out enough voters? There was not in Virginia last year, though that is just one off-year election.

But beyond that, into the realm of Stalin’s and now Bannon’s “It doesn’t matter who votes, it matters who counts the votes,” are there enough fair-minded and caring people to do the kinds of things the evangelicals are doing to pack the election and school boards?

Very unfortunately, fanaticism can only be countered, not with fanaticism, but with a desperate effort to stop the fanatics from gaining control. That was what World War II was about. But in a mostly non-shooting war, the kind of relentless effort needed to protect the foundations of democracy, has to be there. And most unfortunately, but realistically, it is now not just going to the polls on election day, and standing in line for hours, it is is stopping the Far Right, the millionaires, and their troops of devoted fanatics from completely overtaking the apparatus of elections, so that, as in all totalitarian countries, they are just a convenient sham which lulls the populace into thinking that they still have a democratic system.

Does anyone think the Supreme Court, stacked with Opus Dei, is going to ever stand up for democracy as against religious fanaticism? No one should. We can only hope that there are forces in these Red States which are determinedly trying to stand up for it, and are doing something concrete to stop the evangelicals and QAnon cult from taking over the internal apparatus of state and local governments, from schools to voting sites, in the service of their increasingly insane, and ultimately fascistically theocratic, belief systems.

6 Responses

  1. There’s a Republican state representative in Oklahoma who just introduced a bill requiring school libraries to remove any book that even a single parent objects to on grounds of “sexual morality”. It’s part of an effort to remove anything even remotely LGBTQ+-friendly from the eyes of kids.

    I think someone should object to the Bible. Adultery, polygamy, rape, incest, prostitution, masturbation-that’s-really-coitus-interruptus…it’s hard to imagine a more damaging book for delicate young minds. It’s worse than P*rnHub, I tell ya.

    • Yes, these people were the original book burners and censors. Hays Codes, Catholic League of Decency, Savonarola. One of the many differences between us and them, is that they don’t even see a bit of hypocrisy in their declamations against what they call “cancel culture,” and their centuries-long fight to ban any ideas or art that they don’t like.

      BTW,thank you for sending the Patrick McGoohan interview. What a great show; and a real shame that so many British people were upset with the last episode, which he had to write on very short notice, and which I liked much better on a more recent second viewing, that they were very likely responsible for him having to leave England and come to California!

    • Propertius, you are in the Boulder area, IIRC. The fires there are incredibly horrific from the pictures I have seen. I hope you and your loved ones are safe.

      I am going offline as of New Year’s and will not be back, so I want to tell you how much I admire your intelligence and knowledge, Propertius. There are a lot of glib poseurs on the Internet but you are truly brilliant. I have enjoyed your comments and have learned a great deal from you. Thank you. You are also a compassionate soul. Such brilliance combined with compassion is a rarity, indeed.

      • Beata. I am sorry to hear that, and we will certainly miss you here. Wishing you the best of health!

      • Beata,

        Thank you so much for your kind words. We live on the North side of Boulder and the fires are to the Southeast. The (100mph+) winds were coming from the West so they were blowing the fire away from us. We didn’t even get any smoke. As of the last time I checked the news there were no fatalities – I hope that holds up. I hope everyone got evacuated in time.

        I am saddened by the news of your departure and what I suspect it portends. I know it sounds trite, but we all wish you well

  2. The fascists of the Axis looked pretty damn near invincible 80 years ago today.

    They proved not to be.

    Weimar Germany was the tragedy.

    Our White Man’s Ghost Dance is the farce.

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