Remember, the voice of opposition is complete bullshit.
Republicans and their voters are lead by hatred and ignorance. Facts from yesterday are distorted for today’s conservative narrative.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ended this Supreme Court session with a bang, writing the majority opinion in two cases that gave for-profit corporations the right to make religious liberty claims to evade government regulation and set the stage for the fulfillment of a central goal of the right-wing political movement: the destruction of public employee unions.
Neither of the decisions were particularly surprising. Samuel Alito is the single most pro-corporate Justice on the most pro-business Court since the New Deal. Still, Alito’s one-two punch was another extraordinary milestone for the strategists who have been working for the past 40 years to put business firmly in the driver’s seat of American politics.
Many would suggest that the modern right-wing movement began with the failed presidential bid of Barry Goldwater. But there’s a strong case to be made that it begins in earnest with a 1971 memo by Lewis Powell, who argued that American businesses were losing public support and called for a massive, continuing campaign to wage war on leftist academics, progressive nonprofit groups, and politicians. The memo by Powell, who was later appointed to the Supreme Court via a nomination by Richard Nixon, inspired a few very wealth men like Adolph Coors, John M. Olin, and Richard Mellon Scaife, who set about creating and funding a massive infrastructure of think tanks, endowed academic chairs, law schools and right-wing legal groups, including the Federalist Society, which has nurtured Alito’s career.
Chief among the right-wing movement’s tactics has been building sufficient political power to achieve ideological dominance over the federal judiciary. As activists like Richard Viguerie recruited foot soldiers to help win elections for the GOP, the Federalist Society built the intellectual foundations for an extreme conservative legal movement that would gain traction when its members won confirmation to the federal bench. That process began in earnest during the Reagan administration and reached new heights during the George W. Bush administration with the ascendance to the Supreme Court of John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Samuel Alito was, is, and always has been a man of the movement, an ideological warrior with a clear set of goals. His commitment to achieving those goals by any means available to him is reflected in his record in the Reagan Justice Department, the White House Office of Legal Counsel, as an appeals court judge, and now as a Supreme Court justice, where he is helping to wage a legal counterrevolution aimed at reversing hard-won advances protecting workers, the environment, and the rights of women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBT people.
He remains an active part of the political and legal movement that shepherded his rise to power. The Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo steered Alito’s Supreme Court nomination through the White House and Senate. Alito has returned the favor, participating in numerous events for the Federalist Society even after he became a member of the Supreme Court. He has shown no concern about positioning himself as part of the movement, telling listeners at a Federalist Society dinner in 2012 that the Obama administration is promoting a vision of society “in which the federal government towers over people.” He has also helped raise funds at events for the right-wing American Spectator Magazine (where he mocked VP-elect Joe Biden), the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the Manhattan Institute.
Alito’s class at Princeton was the last all-male class at the university, and when Alito was angling for a promotion within the Reagan-Meese Justice Department in 1985, he bragged that he was a “proud member” of Conservative Alumni of Princeton, a group that aggressively fought the university’s efforts to diversify its student body by accepting more women and people of color. (He developed a surprisingly thorough amnesia on the topic between his Justice Department days and his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.)
At the Justice Department, Alito was part of a team that pushed to limit civil rights protections and advance a right-wing legal ideology. Even in that hothouse of right-wing activism, he was an outlier, unsuccessfully trying to push Ronald Reagan to veto an uncontroversial bill against odometer fraud on the grounds of federalism. Alito argued that it is not the job of the federal government to protect the “health, safety, and welfare” of Americans. He continued to push that kind of federalism argument as a judge, dissenting from a ruling that upheld a federal law restricting the sale of machine guns. On the Third Circuit Court of Appeals he was often the lone dissenter staking out far-right interpretations of the law that consistently sacrificed the rights and interests of individuals to powerful corporate or other institutions.
Among the right-wing movement’s key long-term goals – from the Nixon era up until today – has been to rig the system to prevent progressives from being able to win elections and exercise political influence. They have sought to “defund the left” by starving government agencies and progressive nonprofits of funds and by weakening or destroying organized labor, which is a crucial source of funding and organizing efforts for progressive causes and candidates. For example, the DeVos family pushed anti-union “right to work” legislation in their home state of Michigan, and the Koch brothers and their political networks have poured massive resources into the political arm of the movement, exemplified by politicians who, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, are hell-bent on the destruction of public employee unions.
Alito’s recent decision in the Harris v. Quinn case was just the latest step towards that goal. In that case, Alito and his conservative colleagues invented a new employee classification in order to declare that one class of workers paid by the state are not subject to the same labor laws as other public employees. The decision was prefigured in a 2012 case, Knox v. SEIU, in which Alito led an attack on unions by deciding to answer a question that had not even come before them in the case. In essence, he and the other conservative justices argued that a system that allows workers to opt out of assessments for unions’ political work was suddenly unconstitutional, and required an opt-in. Justice Sotomayor slammed the Alito decision for ruling on an issue which the SEIU had not even been given an opportunity to address. That kind of right-wing activism moved People For the American Way Foundation’s Paul Gordon to write that the Court’s conservative judges “might as well have taken off their judicial robes and donned Scott Walker T-shirts in their zeal to make it harder for unions to protect workers.”
In his Harris decision, Alito went out of his way to invite right-wing legal groups to bring a more far-reaching case, one that would finally give him and his pro-business colleagues an opportunity to take a sledgehammer to public employee unions by eliminating, in the name of the First Amendment, the requirement (specifically upheld by the Supreme Court over 30 years ago) that workers benefitting from a collective bargaining agreement help pay for the costs of negotiating that kind of agreement. That would devastate union financing, sharply limiting their ability to protect their members and potentially setting up a death spiral as fewer employees would see the benefits of joining (and paying dues to) the unions. Not coincidentally, this would also severely weaken the progressive political organizations and parties that unions have long supported. Movement conservatives have long looked forward to checking that off their “to do” list.
Alito’s determination to re-write federal law in ways that strengthen corporate power and undermine workers’ rights was also on display a few years earlier, when he wrote an indefensible opinion – joined by his conservative colleagues – in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Alito ignored judicial precedent, common sense, and the clear purpose of the law in order to create an unreasonable deadline for making a pay discrimination claim, one that would be insurmountable for someone who was not immediately aware that they were being discriminated against. Lilly Ledbetter, a loyal Goodyear employee who learned she had been paid less than male colleagues for years, was, in the words of law professor and PFAW Foundation Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin, “judicial roadkill along the highway in the majority’s campaign to restrict, rewrite, and squash anti-discrimination law.” Alito also wrote the 5-4 majority opinion in last year’s Vance v. Ball State decision, which made it easier for companies to avoid liability in discrimination cases by declaring that someone who directs an employee’s day-to-day activities doesn’t count as a “supervisor” unless they have power to take “tangible employment actions” against them like firing them. As in the Ledbetter case, Alito ignored how workplaces really work in order to reach his result.
In Hobby Lobby, the other blockbuster case this week, Alito wrote a decision declaring, for the first time ever, that for-profit corporations have “religious exercise” rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In order to do so, Alito had to ignore common sense (for-profit corporations don’t have religion), to say nothing of the clear historical record and explicit statutory language that RFRA was intended to return the state of the law to the era before the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith (which many believed undermined protection for religious minorities). In the face of all evidence, Alito argued, in Ginsburg’s words, that RFRA was “a bold initiative departing from, rather than restoring, pre-Smith jurisprudence.”
In an effort reminiscent of the Supreme Court’s “applies only in this case” approach to Bush v Gore, Alito argued that his ruling was “concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate” and applied solely to closely held corporations.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t let him get away with it, calling Alito’s ruling “a decision of startling breadth.” Having created an entirely new legal avenue by which closely held for-profit companies (which includes about 90 percent of American businesses, hiring more than half of the nation’s workforce) can try to evade regulation, Alito has undoubtedly generated excited activity in right-wing legal organizations who are likely to use the ruling to try to claim exemption from anti-discrimination laws for business owners that oppose homosexuality or gender equality, or perhaps for evangelical business owners who believe the Bible opposes minimum wage laws and collective bargaining. And he gave no limiting principle on extending RFRA to for-profit corporations, leaving open the question as to whether an enormous publicly-traded corporation like IBM or GE would also count as a “person” with religious liberty rights under RFRA.
Alito’s insistence that the Court must accept the plaintiff’s claim of “substantial burden” on religious free exercise based on their belief that some forms of contraception cause abortion – in spite of the consensus of the medical and scientific establishment to the contrary and Justice Ginsburg’s explanation of why that belief does not translate into a “substantial burden” – was prefigured by an argument he made when working in the Office of Legal Counsel, where he helped write a memo arguing that, in spite of anti-discrimination provisions, employers in federally funded program could exclude people with AIDS regardless of whether or not their “fear of contagion” was reasonable.
Given that the Hobby Lobby case has been trumpeted by the right as a victory for “religious liberty,” it is worth noting that, in this year’s 5-4 Town of Greece decision, Alito joined his conservative colleagues in a decision that showed little regard for the religious beliefs of citizens of minority faiths whose public town board meetings were consistently begun with sectarian prayers. During consideration of his nomination to the Supreme Court, the editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution had written that Alito would be “likely to further erode the protections that have kept the majority from imposing their religious views on the minority.”
Alito also joined the Court’s 5-4 majority in last year’s decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, another long-pursued goal of the right-wing movement. That decision, in Shelby County v. Holder, is another example of the step-by-step shift in the law being pursued by the conservative justices. Shelby was built in part on a 2009 Voting Rights Act decision in which the Court declined to vote on the constitutionality of the provisions they threw out in Shelby, but in which Chief Justice John Roberts included language about “constitutional concerns” that he would later cite in Shelby. Earlier in his career, Alito made clear that he disagreed with Court decisions that established the crucial “one man, one vote” principle that undergirds many voting rights protections.
As a Supreme Court justice, Samuel Alito has demonstrated the traits of the right-wing movement from which he emerged: he denounces judicial activism while aggressively pursuing it; he is willing to twist laws, precedents, and established processes in order to advance his political goals; and he has often demonstrated contempt for those who disagree with him, as when he rolled his eyes and shook his head while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent in the Shelby County case.
Much of the initial news coverage of the Hobby Lobby and Harris cases focused on the description of them by their author as being “limited” rather than “sweeping” in scope. That ignores the clear evidence from those cases, and from the record of the Roberts court, that Roberts and Alito are playing a long game. They have decades in which to relentlessly push the agenda that has been fostered by right-wing legal and political groups for the past four decades. Their one-step-after-another dismantling of campaign finance law, from Citizens United to McCutcheon, makes it clear that Roberts and Alito see the value of patience and of presenting a public image of restraint while carrying out a revolution. But a revolution they are pursuing, one in which the First Amendment’s protections for religious freedom and free speech are manipulated in the service of undermining religious liberty, the rights of workers, and the ability of the government to regulate corporate behavior.
Looks like Republicans are in need of a History Lesson. Again. Especially former prisoner of war John McCain, who now “has concerns” over how Bowe Bergdahl was released. If that isn’t emblematic of GOP hypocrisy then I don’t know what is
One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.
This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: “I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story,” Falwell writes, “growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.” Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.
Some of these anti-Roe crusaders even went so far as to call themselves “new abolitionists,” invoking their antebellum predecessors who had fought to eradicate slavery.
But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.
Today, evangelicals make up the backbone of the pro-life movement, but it hasn’t always been so. Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society andChristianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.
When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”
Although a few evangelical voices, including Christianity Today magazine, mildly criticized the ruling, the overwhelming response was silence, even approval. Baptists, in particular, applauded the decision as an appropriate articulation of the division between church and state, between personal morality and state regulation of individual behavior. “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision,” wrote W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press.
So what then were the real origins of the religious right? It turns out that the movement can trace its political roots back to a court ruling, but not Roe v. Wade.
In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to prevent three new whites-only K-12 private academies from securing full tax-exempt status, arguing that their discriminatory policies prevented them from being considered “charitable” institutions. The schools had been founded in the mid-1960s in response to the desegregation of public schools set in motion by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. In 1969, the first year of desegregation, the number of white students enrolled in public schools in Holmes County dropped from 771 to 28; the following year, that number fell to zero.
In Green v. Kennedy (David Kennedy was secretary of the treasury at the time), decided in January 1970, the plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction, which denied the “segregation academies” tax-exempt status until further review. In the meantime, the government was solidifying its position on such schools. Later that year, President Richard Nixon ordered the Internal Revenue Service to enact a new policy denying tax exemptions to all segregated schools in the United States. Under the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbade racial segregation and discrimination, discriminatory schools were not—by definition—“charitable” educational organizations, and therefore they had no claims to tax-exempt status; similarly, donations to such organizations would no longer qualify as tax-deductible contributions.
On June 30, 1971, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued its ruling in the case, now Green v. Connally (John Connally had replaced David Kennedy as secretary of the Treasury). The decision upheld the new IRS policy: “Under the Internal Revenue Code, properly construed, racially discriminatory private schools are not entitled to the Federal tax exemption provided for charitable, educational institutions, and persons making gifts to such schools are not entitled to the deductions provided in case of gifts to charitable, educational institutions.”
Paul Weyrich, the late religious conservative political activist and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, saw his opening.
In the decades following World War II, evangelicals, especially white evangelicals in the North, had drifted toward the Republican Party—inclined in that direction by general Cold War anxieties, vestigial suspicions of Catholicism and well-known evangelist Billy Graham’s very public friendship with Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Despite these predilections, though, evangelicals had largely stayed out of the political arena, at least in any organized way. If he could change that, Weyrich reasoned, their large numbers would constitute a formidable voting bloc—one that he could easily marshal behind conservative causes.
“The new political philosophy must be defined by us [conservatives] in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition,” Weyrich wrote in the mid-1970s. “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Weyrich believed that the political possibilities of such a coalition were unlimited. “The leadership, moral philosophy, and workable vehicle are at hand just waiting to be blended and activated,” he wrote. “If the moral majority acts, results could well exceed our wildest dreams.”
But this hypothetical “moral majority” needed a catalyst—a standard around which to rally. For nearly two decades, Weyrich, by his own account, had been trying out different issues, hoping one might pique evangelical interest: pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion. “I was trying to get these people interested in those issues and I utterly failed,” Weyrich recalled at a conference in 1990.
The Green v. Connally ruling provided a necessary first step: It captured the attention of evangelical leaders, especially as the IRS began sending questionnaires to church-related “segregation academies,” including Falwell’s own Lynchburg Christian School, inquiring about their racial policies. Falwell was furious. “In some states,” he famously complained, “It’s easier to open a massage parlor than a Christian school.”
One such school, Bob Jones University—a fundamentalist college in Greenville, South Carolina—was especially obdurate. The IRS had sent its first letter to Bob Jones University in November 1970 to ascertain whether or not it discriminated on the basis of race. The school responded defiantly: It did not admit African Americans.
Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation. For decades, evangelical leaders had boasted that because their educational institutions accepted no federal money (except for, of course, not having to pay taxes) the government could not tell them how to run their shops—whom to hire or not, whom to admit or reject. The Civil Rights Act, however, changed that calculus.
Bob Jones University did, in fact, try to placate the IRS—in its own way. Following initial inquiries into the school’s racial policies, Bob Jones admitted one African-American, a worker in its radio station, as a part-time student; he dropped out a month later. In 1975, again in an attempt to forestall IRS action, the school admitted blacks to the student body, but, out of fears of miscegenation, refused to admit unmarried African-Americans. The school also stipulated that any students who engaged in interracial dating, or who were even associated with organizations that advocated interracial dating, would be expelled.
The IRS was not placated. On January 19, 1976, after years of warnings—integrate or pay taxes—the agency rescinded the school’s tax exemption.
For many evangelical leaders, who had been following the issue since Green v. Connally, Bob Jones University was the final straw. As Elmer L. Rumminger, longtime administrator at Bob Jones University, told me in an interview, the IRS actions against his school “alerted the Christian school community about what could happen with government interference” in the affairs of evangelical institutions. “That was really the major issue that got us all involved.”
Weyrich saw that he had the beginnings of a conservative political movement, which is why, several years into President Jimmy Carter’s term, he and other leaders of the nascent religious right blamed the Democratic president for the IRS actions against segregated schools—even though the policy was mandated by Nixon, and Bob Jones University had lost its tax exemption a year and a day before Carter was inaugurated as president. Falwell, Weyrich and others were undeterred by the niceties of facts. In their determination to elect a conservative, they would do anything to deny a Democrat, even a fellow evangelical like Carter, another term in the White House.
But Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale.
By the late 1970s, many Americans—not just Roman Catholics—were beginning to feel uneasy about the spike in legal abortions following the 1973 Roe decision. The 1978 Senate races demonstrated to Weyrich and others that abortion might motivate conservatives where it hadn’t in the past. That year in Minnesota, pro-life Republicans captured both Senate seats (one for the unexpired term of Hubert Humphrey) as well as the governor’s mansion. In Iowa, Sen. Dick Clark, the Democratic incumbent, was thought to be a shoo-in: Every poll heading into the election showed him ahead by at least 10 percentage points. On the final weekend of the campaign, however, pro-life activists, primarily Roman Catholics, leafleted church parking lots (as they did in Minnesota), and on Election Day Clark lost to his Republican pro-life challenger.
In the course of my research into Falwell’s archives at Liberty University and Weyrich’s papers at the University of Wyoming, it became very clear that the 1978 election represented a formative step toward galvanizing everyday evangelical voters. Correspondence between Weyrich and evangelical leaders fairly crackles with excitement. In a letter to fellow conservative Daniel B. Hales, Weyrich characterized the triumph of pro-life candidates as “true cause for celebration,” and Robert Billings, a cobelligerent, predicted that opposition to abortion would “pull together many of our ‘fringe’ Christian friends.” Roe v. Wade had been law for more than five years.
Weyrich, Falwell and leaders of the emerging religious right enlisted an unlikely ally in their quest to advance abortion as a political issue: Francis A. Schaeffer—a goateed, knickers-wearing theologian who was warning about the eclipse of Christian values and the advance of something he called “secular humanism.” Schaeffer, considered by many the intellectual godfather of the religious right, was not known for his political activism, but by the late 1970s he decided that legalized abortion would lead inevitably to infanticide and euthanasia, and he was eager to sound the alarm. Schaeffer teamed with a pediatric surgeon, C. Everett Koop, to produce a series of films entitled Whatever Happened to the Human Race? In the early months of 1979, Schaeffer and Koop, targeting an evangelical audience, toured the country with these films, which depicted the scourge of abortion in graphic terms—most memorably with a scene of plastic baby dolls strewn along the shores of the Dead Sea. Schaeffer and Koop argued that any society that countenanced abortion was captive to “secular humanism” and therefore caught in a vortex of moral decay.
Between Weyrich’s machinations and Schaeffer’s jeremiad, evangelicals were slowly coming around on the abortion issue. At the conclusion of the film tour in March 1979, Schaeffer reported that Protestants, especially evangelicals, “have been so sluggish on this issue of human life, and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? is causing real waves, among church people and governmental people too.”
By 1980, even though Carter had sought, both as governor of Georgia and as president, to reduce the incidence of abortion, his refusal to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing it was viewed by politically conservative evangelicals as an unpardonable sin. Never mind the fact that his Republican opponent that year, Ronald Reagan, had signed into law, as governor of California in 1967, the most liberal abortion bill in the country. When Reagan addressed a rally of 10,000 evangelicals at Reunion Arena in Dallas in August 1980, he excoriated the “unconstitutional regulatory agenda” directed by the IRS “against independent schools,” but he made no mention of abortion. Nevertheless, leaders of the religious right hammered away at the issue, persuading many evangelicals to make support for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion a litmus test for their votes.
Carter lost the 1980 election for a variety of reasons, not merely the opposition of the religious right. He faced a spirited challenge from within his own party; Edward M. Kennedy’s failed quest for the Democratic nomination undermined Carter’s support among liberals. And because Election Day fell on the anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis, the media played up the story, highlighting Carter’s inability to secure the hostages’ freedom. The electorate, once enamored of Carter’s evangelical probity, had tired of a sour economy, chronic energy shortages and the Soviet Union’s renewed imperial ambitions.
After the election results came in, Falwell, never shy to claim credit, was fond of quoting a Harris poll that suggested Carter would have won the popular vote by a margin of 1 percent had it not been for the machinations of the religious right. “I knew that we would have some impact on the national elections,” Falwell said, “but I had no idea that it would be this great.”
Given Carter’s political troubles, the defection of evangelicals may or may not have been decisive. But it is certainly true that evangelicals, having helped propel Carter to the White House four years earlier, turned dramatically against him, their fellow evangelical, during the course of his presidency. And the catalyst for their political activism was not, as often claimed, opposition to abortion. Although abortion had emerged as a rallying cry by 1980, the real roots of the religious right lie not the defense of a fetus but in the defense of racial segregation.
The Bob Jones University case merits a postscript. When the school’s appeal finally reached the Supreme Court in 1982, the Reagan administration announced that it planned to argue in defense of Bob Jones University and its racial policies. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against Bob Jones University in an 8-to-1 decision. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court.
I personally consider the beginnings of the modern-day Religious Right in the USA were founded around the time that Engel v. Vitale was being decided by SCOTUS in 1962. In the 1970’s, Roe v. Wade, Ronald Reagan, Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell, and backlash against LGBTQ acceptance led by Anita Bryant were the main causes of the catapulting the Religious Right into a potent political force.
The GOP candidate for the open Nebraska Senate seat who believes that the “government cannot force citizens to violate their religious beliefs under any circumstances” wrote a dissertation while at Yale documenting the number of times the government…
Steve Kornacki’s collection of conservatives jonesing for impeachment is pretty instructive. When I first saw the segment I thought he was basically stating the obvious, but it’s a great compilation of their build toward impeachment.
If you go back to my post about the Groundswell plotters and their meeting to “message” that tragedy, you’ll see clear strategic planning around how best to use it to their advantage.
That got me thinking about other times where US Consulates were attacked. One in particular stands out — the attack on our embassy in Beirut in 1984, which followed a devastating attack in 1983 and a deadly attack on a Marine base that killed 241 people. It was a terrible time for diplomats to be in dangerous places. At the very same time Islamic extremists were bombing the hell out of our diplomatic installations, President Ronald Reagan was responsible for the sale of weapons to Iran, a designated state sponsor of terrorism.
One might imagine that if impeachment can be considered for Benghazi over some perceived talking point failure that Democrats missed an impeachment opportunity for Saint Ronnie. After all, selling weapons to the same guys that are killing your diplomats and military personnel could be considered downright treasonous.
From the 05.11.2014 edition of MSNBC’s Up With Steve Kornacki:
The two programs are now a staple of American political culture. But a backward glance at the political environment during their inception reveals equally fierce, ugly antipathy from conservatives — including screaming warnings that they’d be ruinous to freedom.
During the 1935 debate over Social Security, Republicans likened it to slavery and dictatorship.
"Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people," said Rep. John Taber (R-NY).
"The lash of the dictator will be felt," said Rep. Daniel Reed (R-NY), "and 25 million free American citizens will for the first time submit themselves to a fingerprint test."
Rep. James W. Wadsworth (R-NY) cautioned that passage of Social Security would open the door to a government power “so vast, so powerful as to threaten the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendants.”
Three decades later, when Medicare was first conceived in the early 1960s, the public was deeply divided, and similar warnings were voiced. Embodying the conservative movement’s sentiments at the time was Ronald Reagan, who taped a recording on behalf of the American Medical Association warning that the program would, quite simply, lead to the destruction of freedom.
"If Medicare passes into law, the consequences will be dire beyond imagining," Reagan said. If opponents failed to scuttle it, he warned, "One of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free."
Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, in 1964, likened Medicare to free vacations and beer. “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind,” he said, “why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink?”
Half a century later, Republicans loudly and proudly proclaim their support for both programs, and are loathe to admit their party ever opposed them.
But history repeats itself. In 2010, Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act — the largest expansion of the safety net since Medicare — following a similarly intense debate. Democrats heralded it as a step toward a more humane society, and Republican opponents warned it would pose a grave threat to economic freedom. Unlikely Social Security and Medicare, Obamacare failed to win over even a fraction of Republicans, who were reduced a small, deeply ideological rump in both chambers of Congress after two landslide elections for Democrats.
This week, Obamacare took a leap toward sustainability as it crossed the milestone of 7 million insurance sign-ups. Even as conservative wonks concede that the program is probably here to stay, the residue from the hyper-partisan and polarizing debate lingers, and Republicans remain committed to dismantling it. But if past is prologue, over time as the coverage expansion and benefits fully take effect, the fatalistic warnings will fizzle and Republicans will come to terms with the new health care program.
"In politics, losses always worry people more than abstract future gains entice them. Now, every vote to repeal or eviscerate Obamacare risks offending millions – and the potential to arouse pushback will only grow," argued Theda Skocpol, a Harvard professor, sociologist and liberal author. “This story isn’t like Social Security, where most potential beneficiaries saw few gains for two decades. Affordable Care is already a massive presence in U.S. health care. It cannot be rolled back and those who keep championing that Lost Cause will do so at rising political peril.”
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM
#WIGov, #2016GOP: Crackpot Conservative Scott Walker Claims Reagan Ended The Cold War By Busting Unions
In a desperate attempt to make himself look presidential, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is claiming that Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War by busting U.S. unions.
According to the Washington Examiner, Gov. Walker said:
When Ronald Reagan took that action against the air traffic controllers, that in my mind was the beginning of the end of the Cold War. And the reason was, from that point forward nobody doubted how serious Ronald Reagan would be as president. Our allies knew that they could trust him, that he was rock solid. Our adversaries knew not to mess with him. And even though he presided over an incredible buildup in our nation’s national defense, in our military, we had very few, very limited military engagements during his eight years as president.
To me, if you have a strong America led by a strong president who makes serious statements about what they mean not only on national security and foreign policy, but on all other issues, we’re not going to be faced with many of these situations because people will know if they’re allies we can be counted on and if they’re adversaries not to mess with us. And when we have an America where … Prime Minister Netanyahu was in the White House getting the cold shoulder from the president who still can’t figure out exactly where they stand on Israel, and when you have… a red line in discussions about Syria which apparently (he) was never serious about doing anything about, no wonder, whether you were in Iran or Russia, or anywhere else around the world, no wonder people feel certain comfort taking action because they don’t see this administration as willing to act. I’m not necessarily encouraging that we draw red lines all over the place. My sense is just, you shouldn’t point a gun at somebody if you’re not prepared to shoot.
Gov. Walker (R-WI) envisions himself as a 2016 Republicans presidential candidate, and he thinks that he is ready to lead the free world, because he too, busts unions. Walker’s retelling of the Reagan myth is so far off base that it is absurd.
The Soviet Union did not watch Ronald Reagan bust the air traffic controllers union, and then decide to call it a day. Scott Walker has taken two unrelated events, lumped them together, and drawn a laughably illogical conclusion. As with all Republican presidential nominating contests real issues don’t matter. The whole process is nothing more than a showcase of who can talk the toughest.
Republicans love tough talk. They are addicted to it, but Scott Walker’s problem is that he has no foreign policy experience. In order to make himself look like a viable national contender in 2016, Walker had to invent the myth that Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War by busting American unions.
His argument was illogical, ridiculous, and it made no sense. It also perfectly sums up the crackpot conservatism that Scott Walker is using to destroy Wisconsin, while plotting a 2016 run for the White House.
Hopefully the citizens of Wisconsin boot out Koch Brothers/ALEC/union-busting toady and renegade corrupt thug Scott Walker in November. And his reign as President— if elected in 2016— will destroy our nation worse than Bush 43/Reagan ever did.
#WIGov, #2016GOP: Scott Walker Gets Busted For Lying About Voting For Ronald Reagan - politicususa.com
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is claiming that he voted for Ronald Reagan, but this is impossible because Walker wasn’t old enough to vote in 1980 or 1984.
During an interview with Right Wing News, Walker said:
It was, I mean, it’s so frustrating. I mean, you think in modern American history we’ve never had someone running for re-election with an unemployment rate so high that ultimately won the election. I believe Mitt Romney is a good man. I think he would have been a good president, but I think he was mis-served by many in his campaign, many of whom believed, I think incorrectly, that Ronald Reagan won under similar circumstances almost exclusively on the idea that the question was making the election an referendum on Jimmy Carter. In fact, I quote the famous line that Reagan used, “You’re better off today than you were four years ago.” The problem is the Romney camp thought that was the entire focus of the campaign.
They failed to see that Reagan’s campaign…… that statement was the closing argument in one of the last debates. It was a way of wrapping things together, but his campaign was much more than just being against Jimmy Carter. It was much more aspirational and Americans could see — and to this day 33 years later — you can still look back and say that and vote for Ronald Reagan. I remember, I was a teenager, had just become a teenager and voted for Ronald Reagan — limited government, you know, smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense. You knew what you were getting. You knew how a Reagan administration, a Reagan presidency was going to be better for you.
The problem is that Scott Walker was 13 years old in 1980, and 17 years old in 1984. The legal voting age is 18. There is no way that Scott Walker could have legally voted for Ronald Reagan unless he committed voter fraud. This is another example of why Scott Walker could be a formidable 2016 candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. The man will lie about anything. He has no conscience when it comes to lying.
Walker has taken the strategy that every Republican candidate uses of selling themselves as the next Reagan to a whole new level. He has invented a fictional connection between himself and Ronald Reagan. Scott Walker isn’t the heir apparent to Ronald Reagan. His ability to lie, and bland personality, puts him right in line with Mitt Romney. The difference is that Walker has the credibility with the far right that Romney always lacked.
After Robin Roberts of Good Morning America came out of the closet, it was only a matter of time before Americans For Truth About Homosexuality head Peter LaBarbera attacked her for being gay. In an interview with Vic Eliason of VCY America yesterday, LaBarbera blasted Roberts for her “defiance” and lamented that “every coming out is a tragedy.”
“And how sad that our First Lady and the White House in general and President Obama as well, all celebrate homosexuality,” LaBarbera added.
Eliason also seemed to be confused by Roberts’ gender.
Later in the interview, LaBarbera invoked Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech to explain his campaign against gay rights.
“The homosexual so-called marriage movement is evil,” LaBarbera said. “We need to do what Reagan did with communism, we need to come right out there and say: this movement attaching the God-ordained good of marriage to an abomination which is homosexuality, calling that marriage, that’s evil, it’s an evil movement.” He went on to claim that “the homosexual so-called marriage movement has become a huge platform to corrupt children” as its message “corrupts the minds and the souls of young children.”
Later, the two also railed against the transgender community as Satanic, and Eliason likened transgender people to circus “freak shows”.
From the 01.02.2014 edition of VCY America’s Crosstalk:
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Calling the delegation “nursery school stuff,” Beck declared that Putin “eats people like you for breakfast” and asserted that the entire nation of Russia is “mocking you and laughing at us.”
Instead, Beck suggested that Obama should show up unannounced at the opening ceremony and enter flanked by two gay athletes, because that would send a message!
But, on the bright side, Beck said that Obama’s feckless weakness is making Americans ready for a strong, decisive leader like Ronald Regan again … one who just might happen to be named Ted Cruz.
“Ted Cruz may be Ronald Reagan,” Beck said. "He may be our Ronald Reagan because that guy does not take prisoners. That guy is a thousand times smarter than 99% of the politicians I have ever met - and many of them combined. Really smart. Plays for keeps. Knows what’s true. Is clean, is ethical. I mean, that guy might be Ronald Reagan."
From the 12.18.2013 edition of TheBlaze Radio Networks’ Glenn Beck Radio Program:
Ted Cruz would be the worst president this country’s ever (worse than Dumbya AND Reagan combined) had if he gets elected to the White House.
Pat Buchanan helped craft Ronald Reagan’s strong stance against sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime, and in a column today questions former Secretary of State James Baker’s claim that Reagan regretted his veto of sanctions legislation.
Buchanan writes that he “never heard a word of regret” from Reagan and “nor should there have been any,” since Reagan’s opposition to sanctions was “both courageous and correct.”
“Reagan was determined to block Moscow’s drive to the Cape of Good Hope. And in that struggle State President P. W. Botha was an ally,” Buchanan writes of the apartheid leader.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Shilling For Profit: A Case Study Of ALEC's Campaign Against Divestment From Apartheid South Africa | Right Wing Watch
As the movement for public and private divestment from apartheid South Africa grew throughout the United States in the 1980s, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) aggressively mobilized against South African divestment, stymying state and federal efforts to sanction, isolate, and divest from the Pretorian regime, according to documents newly uncovered by People For the American Way and the Center For Media and Democracy.
ALEC used state and federal policy papers, monthly newsletters, “fact-finding” missions, panel discussions led by lobbyists on the payroll of the South African apartheid regime, and other means to pursue an anti-divestment agenda, one that relied solely on “corporate beneficence” to pressure the country to reform. This effort, in turn, was funded by corporations that were heavily invested in South Africa and had the most to lose from divestment.
In 1984, ALEC described itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest individual membership organization of state legislators and Members of Congress, with over 2,000 members.” ALEC’s reach and access to policymakers was then, just as it is now, formidable.
ALEC used this access to lobby state legislators and even key members of the Reagan administration to stand against divestment, playing a key role in delaying meaningful U.S. action to pressure the apartheid regime.
The Serious Threat of Social Investing
In 1984, ALEC held a “Celebrity Golf Tournament” at its annual meeting in San Diego. The tournament’s champion, a financial services company representative, won a silver tea set donated by the Zale Corporation, a diamond retailer with operations in South Africa. For hitting the longest drive, state senator John Donley of Colorado received a go-cart replica of an Indianapolis 500 race car donated by Texaco, Inc., an oil company with operations in South Africa. ALEC’s annual fundraising report that year featured aphoto of a state representative from Missouri standing alongside then-ALEC executive director Kathleen Teague as they admired these prizes. “ALEC,” the report noted, “serves as a liaison between lawmakers and the business community.”
Protecting corporate interests was (as it still is) ALEC’s raison d’etre, and corporate interests were severely threatened by the South African divestment movement. Large American corporations including Exxon, the Dow Chemical Company, IBM, and Pfizer Inc. held substantial, high-yielding assets in South Africa. All of these were members of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
By 1985, the United States was South Africa’s largest trading partner and the source of one-third of the country’s international credit. American corporations controlled roughly 50 percent of South Africa’s oil industry; 75 percent of its computer industry; and 23 percent of its auto industry. U.S. investors held approximately $8 billion in shares in South African mining industries. The divestment movement directly threatened the bottom lines of many major ALEC corporations.
Yet, as ALEC made clear in its literature at the time, the divestment movement indirectly threatened much more than just profits made from South Africa. The possibility of “social investing” taking off in the United States threatened profit margins of corporations across the world. “The underlying problem is the strategy itself,” ALEC posited in a 1983 policy paper. “Although South Africa is the initial target it is not likely to be the last… If successful on the South African issue, these activists can be expected to broaden their disinvestment strategy. And, it will be increasingly difficult to contain because a precedent for it will have been established by state law.”
With so much on the line, ALEC and ALEC corporations knew they had to act swiftly to squash divestment efforts.
ALEC and the Reagan White House
In 1983, ALEC distributed a “legislative update” to its members and coalition partners titled, “The States and South Africa: A Study of the Disinvestment Issue.” The 16-page memorandum was published on ALEC letterhead and edited by J. Daniel Bray, the director of ALEC’s research department – a department that, according to ALEC fundraising literature from 1982, “strive[d] to facilitate the exchange of information and greater cooperation between the private sector and state government.”
ALEC distributed the memorandum to key members of the Reagan administration, with astounding results. In an article published in ALEC’s monthly newsletter in January 1984, the organization boasted of the impact the memorandum had on administration policy, writing “Since the publication of … ‘The States and South Africa: A Study of the Disinvestment Issue,’ several prominent leaders and groups, including the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Agriculture, the United States Trade Representative, and the Secretary of Commerce have gone on record against divestiture.”
ALEC had good reason to assume that it had directly influenced Reagan administration policy on divestment: Both U.S. Trade Representative William E. Brock and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldridge wrote personal letters to ALEC’s executive director, Kathleen Teague, to assure her of their opposition to divestment. Baldridge’s letter directly referenced ALEC’s white paper:
We urge American firms doing business there to improve their obligation to social responsibility. Without mandating that they must do so, we will continue to encourage U.S. companies to voluntarily adhere to the Sullivan principles, which are committed to equal pay in employment practices, non-segregation of work facilities, and the training and promotion of blacks. Your Legislation Update does an excellent job of highlighting the accomplishments of U.S. firms in promoting real social change in South Africa. I hope that State and local legislators carefully consider these accomplishments.[emphasis added]
ALEC’s ties to the Reagan administration ran deep. Every year for the first six years of his presidency, Reagan addressed ALEC’s annual “Washington Briefing,” which brought state legislators to Washington to discuss White House initiatives and “solicit their active support back home.” In the words of one White House official, the process helped identify “a cadre of effective spokesmen for the president’s policies.”
ALEC demanded reciprocation for such access to state lawmakers. A 1986 White House memo discussed ALEC’s request that the Reagan administration hold “some sort of ‘event’ for the top players in each state” working against South African divestment because “ALEC believes some sort of ‘reward’ or recognition would be useful” in keeping up morale for anti-divestment efforts.
Yet even the Reagan administration, which staunchly opposed divestment throughout the ‘80s, was viewed by many in ALEC to have “sold out” when Reagan issued a toothless executive order in 1985 prohibiting certain trade with South Africa.
ALEC and the States
As a state-based organization, ALEC was also tremendously effective at pushing anti-divestment policies at the state legislative level. In the previously mentioned 1986 White House memo, an administration official confirmed that “ALEC is providing most of the intellectual firepower to those state legislators fighting disinvestment petitions.”
One way ALEC provided this “firepower” was by hosting training sessions for ALEC lawmakers led by industry insiders. At its 1983 annual meeting in Philadelphia, ALEC offered a “legislative working session” led by a Mobil Oil Corporation lobbyist and the director of a South African business association whom a South African business magazine later named “the most effective foreign lobbyist in Washington.”
In 1986, ALEC held an “issue workshop” at its annual meeting in Denver titled, “The South African Divestment Movement: 1986 and Beyond.” The workshop was led by International Public Affairs Consultants Inc., a lobbying firm that was on the payroll of the South African government at an annual rate of $390,000.
When divestment legislation was pending in a statehouse, ALEC would disseminate talking points to its members in that state. A front-page article in ALEC’s May 1984 newsletter demonstrated how effective the organization could be at blocking divestment legislation.
“Illinois political observers are convinced,” the article stated, “that the pin that punctured the balloon was the disinvestment economic impact analysis of the Illinois pension fund portfolios prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council and distributed to House members in the late afternoon on the day before the expected vote.” According to ALEC board member and Illinois House Minority Leader Penny Pullen, because of the ALEC memo, “[the bill’s] central nervous system is dead.” The article went on to explain how ALEC members used similar tactics to thwart divestment bills in Rhode Island and Nebraska.
ALEC’s playbook for opposing South African divestment in the 1980s provides something of a guide for its efforts today to unravel social, economic, and ecological progress. Notably, as activists mobilize to divest endowment funds from fossil fuel companies and transition to a green economy, ALEC is doing everything in its power to stop these efforts from taking off.
In issue areas from worker’s rights to prison privatization to corporate tax breaks, we can expect that ALEC will continue to use skewed polling and cherry-picked spokespeople to push the agenda of its corporate funders to state and federal lawmakers.
h/t: Calvin Sloan at RWW
Some of the very people lavishing praise on South Africa’s first black president worked tirelessly to undermine his cause.
The world is celebrating Nelson Mandela as a selfless visionary who led his country out of the grips of apartheid into democracy and freedom. But some of the very people lavishing praise on South Africa’s first black president worked tirelessly to undermine his cause and portray the African National Congress he lead as pawns of the Soviet Union.
In fact, American conservatives have long been willing to overlook South Africa’s racist apartheid government in service of fighting communism abroad. Below is a short history, and some explanation, of how conservatives approached Mandela with the hostility they did:
National Review predicts end of white rule would result in “the collapse of civilization.”
After Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, the magazine observed that “The South African courts have sentenced a batch of admitted terrorists to life in the penitentiary, and you would think the court had just finished barbecuing St. Joan, to hear the howls from the Liberal press.” By March of the following year, conservative Russell Kirk argued in the pages of the magazine that democracy in South Africa “would bring anarchy and the collapse of civilization” and the government “would be domination by witch doctors (still numerous and powerful) and reckless demagogues.”
Reagan described apartheid South Africa as a “good country.”
After President Jimmy Carter imposed sanctions on South Africa Reagan reversed course, labeling the African National Congress a terrorist organization. As he explained to CBS’ Walter Cronkite in 1981, the United States should support the South Africa regime because it is “a country that has stood by us in every war we’ve ever fought, a country that, strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals.” In 1985, he told an interviewer: “They have eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country — the type of thing where hotels and restaurants and places of entertainment and so forth were segregated — that has all been eliminated.” He later walked back the comment.
Jerry Falwell urges supporters to oppose sanctions.
The late Jerry Falwell urged “supporters to write their congressmen and senators to tell them to oppose sanctions against the apartheid regime.” “The liberal media has for too long suppressed the other side of the story in South Africa,” he said. “It is very important that we stay close enough to South Africa so that it does not fall prey to the clutches of Communism.”
180 House members opposed free Mandela resolution.
In 1986, 145 Republicans and 45 Democrats voted down a none-binding House resolutionurging the Government of South Africa to indicate its willingness to negotiate with the black majority by granting unconditional freedom to Nelson Mandela, recognizing the African National Congress; and establishing a framework for political talks. This included Dick Cheney, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Dan Coats, Pat Roberts, Joe Barton.
20 Senators and 83 House members oppose sanctions.
The 1986 bill cut virtually “all U.S. economic ties with South Africa, requiring American companies to cease operating there within 180 days.” Lawmakers had to override Reagan’s veto. Sens. Thad Conrad, Orrin Hatch and Reps. Hal Rogers, Joe Barton, and Howard Coble all voted against imposing sanctions on the regime.
Jack Abramoff leads think tank dedicated to tearing down Mandela.
In 1986, the South African government helped fund and establish The International Freedom Foundation (IFF), a conservative think tank designed to “reverse the apartheid regime’s pariah status in Western political circles” and “portray the ANC as a tool of Soviet communism, thus undercutting the movement’s growing international acceptance as the government-in-waiting of a future multiracial South Africa.” The Washington branch of the IFF listed, among others, Senator Jesse Helms, James Inhofe as advisers. The lobbyist Jack Abramoff led the organization.
U.S. Senator testified in support of the apartheid government.
“In the late 1980s and early ’90s, after returning from his Mormon mission to South Africa,” Flake lobbied for South African interests and in 1987, “testified before the Utah State Senate in support of a resolution expressing support for the government of South Africa while racial segregation laws were enforced — largely to support U.S. mining interests in the region.”
Now, it would be unfair to say conservatism spoke univocally in condemnation of Mandela. A group of upstart Republicans in the mid-80s, led by Reps. Vin Weber, Robert Walker, and Newt Gingrich pushed hard for the United States to take a more critical stance on apartheid.
But this group was bucking the conservative mainstream at the time. “South Africa has been able to depend on conservatives in the United States … to treat them with benign neglect,” Weber said. That has a lot to do with the enduring conservative hostility towards rapid change. Conservatives see broad challenges, even to oppressive systems, as dangerous “revolutionary” change, whereas slower “evolutionary” tweaks in a better direction would be preferable.
Reagan’s South Africa point man, Chester A. Crocker, made this revolutionary/evolutionary binary into one of his three main principles for thinking about South Africa policy. “The circumstances in South Africa do not justify giving up on the hopes for evolutionary change (as distinguished from a revolutionary cataclysm),” he wrote in a famous Foreign Affairsessay. Many in the West, Crocker believed, held “a mistaken assumption that American and South African clocks are synchronized-that our impatience signifies the imminence of the revolution.”
It was Crocker, of course, who was mistaken, writing only about a decade before Mandela was freed from prison. But this skepticism about the possibility and desirability of radical change (Crocker seemed to think any dissolution of the apartheid government would necessarily be in part a violent one), together with the obvious cultural affinity that mainstream conservatives felt with Westernized Afrikaner elites, made conservatives distinctly inclined to view Mandela’s calls for political transformation with jaded eyes.
Heritage Foundation says Mandela is no “freedom fighter.” “Americans nevertheless have reasons to be skeptical of Mandela,” the foundation warned as he planned to visit the United States in 1990. “First, Nelson Mandela is not a freedom fighter. He repeatedly has supported terrorism. Since Mandela’s release from prison and his subsequent refusal to renounce violence, the Marxist-dominated ANC has launched terrorism and violence against civilians, claiming several hundred lives.”
Conservative think tank links Mandela to communists. “When Mandela made his first visit to the United States in 1990, following his release from prison, the IFF placed advertisements in local papers designed to dampen public enthusiasm for Mandela,” Newsday reported. “One ad in the Miami Herald portrayed Mandela as an ally and defender of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. The city’s large Cuban community was so agitated that a ceremony to present Mandela with keys to the city was scrapped.
National Review labels Mandela a “communist” for opposing the Iraq war.
“[Mandela’s] vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise, given his long-standing dedication to Communism and praise for terrorists. The world finally saw that his wife Winnie, rather than being a saintly freedom-fighter, was a murderous thug.”
This positioning of Mandela as being on the wrong side of a divide between “friends” and “enemies” — once communism, in the 2000s Saddam and terrorism — is the most important ideological lesson to learn from this history of hostility to Mandela. Conservatives have a deep tendency to judge foreign conflicts principally by the proximity of each side to the enemy du jour.
The treatment of South Africa in Jeane Kirkpatrick’s famous “Dictatorships and Double Standards” essay, where she argued that authoritarian anti-Communist states were more amenable to transition to democracy than revolutionary socialist governments, exemplifies this point nicely. She listed Jimmy Carter’s more confrontational South Africa policy as an example of the Carter Administration taking “at face value the claim of revolutionary groups to represent ‘popular’ aspirations and ‘progressive’ forces–regardless of the ties of these revolutionaries to the Soviet Union.”
Modern conservatives explaining the movement’s Mandela position in the past 12 hours have repeatedly employed Kirkpatrick-style to argue that conservative positions were, at the time, reasonable. “In retrospect, it’s easy to think of Mandela as the grandfatherly statesman,” Matt Lewis writes, “but the Soviet Union posed an existential threat; it’s not like nuclear weapons weren’t aimed at us. Such a thing has a way of focusing your priorities. In that milieu, one can understand why the U.S. would have been very cautious about anyone who had even ‘dabbled’ in Communism.” Deroy Murdock describes the view at the time as “Nelson Mandela was just another Fidel Castro or a Pol Pot, itching to slip from behind bars, savage his country, and surf atop the bones of his victims.”
Now, both Lewis and Murdock readily admit that this view was in hindsight mistaken. But the overemphasis on the friend/enemy distinction that blinded conservative’s to the justness of the ANC’s cause has hardly gone away.