Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Guest Blog: Texas Republicans and Oral Sex - What Is The Deal?
This is a guest blog by Stuart Heady, a freelance writer and political activist who was active in Austin, TX for many years before moving to Washington State, where he helped found a DFA Chapter in Snohomish County, north of Seattle. He recently moved to Albuquerque.
Why in the heck is the Texas Republican Party going XTreme by adopting a platform that would outlaw oral sex -- as well as gay marriage, and crack down more severely than Arizona on illegal immigrants?
They want to deport children not born to naturalized citizens, end bilingual education except in a first few years, and they call for an end to Pre-Kindergarten education (Head Start.) It goes on. Here is a link.
Having grown up in Waco, in the Heart of Texas (H.O.T.) I can venture some explanation (beyond standing around in the sun too long without a hat).
This is pretty worrisome, because some aspects of this may drift over this way, through evangelical influence. On the other hand, it is a grand spectacle that may just give way to a future that is likely to be Democratic, ironically.
How Did We Get Here?
First, some political background. Karl Rove, Ralph Reed and others made their mark by forging a marriage of convenience to benefit Republicans. Houston Ship Channel interests, big oil and petrochemical (fertilizers, plastics, etc.) multinationals were annoyed by the rise of environmental protection and the early interest in non-chemically produced farm products that Jim Hightower became prominent promoting. The first time their money was cultivated for political power was actually back when Lyndon Johnson raised money by talking people like Clint Murchison into helping re-elect Franklin Roosevelt.
This history arises out of a deeper psychology. In a lot of towns, there is a ruling elite that from generation to generation are the same few families. They usually own a bank or two, and buy up a lot of property during recessions.
They have traditionally kept unions at bay, and have used the legislature to install the concept of "The Right to Work" as enforceable law. Churches have been at the service of the wealthy pretty much since the beginning. So, Right to Work has also been preached from pulpits in various forms that suggest that Heavenly reward for those who play by the rules is sweet indeed. Unionism is vaguely socialist.
This might sound twisted, but actually it is a brand of Calvinism that came in with pioneers from England and Scotland back in the early 19th Century. A lot of these people were farmers and making a go of ranching or cotton farming really took very hard work. So it was a hard work religion. If everyone works extremely hard and stays on it, they might prosper. There is no slack. When oil entered the picture, you had very poor dry dirt farmers becoming wealthy overnight. What explained this? God conferring power upon the righteous, who needed to do the Lord's work with this money.
Bush era politics arose back when I was in college, back in the early '70s. At that time Karl Rove was the Washington D.C. director of campus Republicans. Back then, Democrats were the only game in town, if you wanted to get elected.
To break in, they worked through campus Crusade for Christ groups and Bible study programs. This worked at the time because the progressive reforms of the sixties made them all afraid the End Times were coming. They felt that they had to do something to prevent America from becoming lost.
At the core of this, as I heard it at the time, was a sort of sophomore level logic. The public, seduced by the siren song of Hollywood and Liberalism, was not going to vote for people like them saying what they really thought. But, for the truly righteous, the ends justify the means. So, righteous people, standing for office, could say what the public wanted to hear and when in power, begin to work changes that would bring American back to the right path.
By the end of the 1970s, the true believers had found a partner in corporate interests, which were largely amoral and didn't have an investment in the religious goals, but which saw that the anti-environmental message could be a common interest. They were certainly in favor of the Right to Work orientation. Money + volunteer labor = win. As in most marriages, it was simple at the outset.
Now, with the Gulf Oil spill and all, the thing they have left to rile up the evangelicals is -- you guessed it. Oral Sex. And Creationism.
This whole power thing is driving the controversy over the Texas State Board of Education. The reason that the 15-member board has a majority of members who want to re-write educational curricula for Texas schools and school texts, is that evangelicals are tired of losing arguments over the fundamental facts of history. Therefore, rewrite history to say that the Founding Fathers in fact did not intend for there to be a wall of separation between Church and State. They meant to establish a specifically Christian nation, and ipso facto, only the evangelical interpretation of what Jesus preached is the correct one.
Now, demographically, one of the drivers in Texas politics is the prospect that Hispanic voters will arrive at a majority or near-majority in the next ten to twenty years. At that point, the politics will begin to be more complicated. You will know that this point has been reached when an Hispanic candidate for governor actually wins.
This may not immediately make Texas a progressive, blue state, but it will put the more hardcore evangelicals out of the reach of having real power.
That prospect is why evangelicals are getting more X Treme in demanding control of the Republican Party agenda.
The danger this poses is that, in a time when the problems of our time are harder to resolve, get more complex and when they proliferate (possibly about the time that gas goes back over $4.00 a gallon) suburban voters may decide that the more extreme right wing has a clear handle on the problems.
That likelihood makes it all the more important that those who have a realistic sense of what is going on have their act together. It could get crazier.
This is a guest blog by Stuart Heady. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page. To see previous guest blogs, visit our archive.
"Hispanic candidate for governor actually wins.
This may not immediately make Texas a progressive, blue state, but it will put the more hardcore evangelicals out of the reach of having real power."
You are so wrong about this. Hispanics can be very socially conservative and very religious. Many of Hispanics are strict Catholics and if you look around you will see small Spanish speaking evangelical churches in barrios.
Posted by: qofdisks | Jun 22, 2010 10:26:16 PM
Well, to clarify, there certainly would not be quite such a lock on the Legislature and statewide elected office were it not for Hispanic conservatives.
But a lot of this has to do with keeping America a place that looks like its English ancestors. That is probably why Calvin gets mixed up in all this.
Progressive politics in places like Austin has meant creating coalitions to include those usually excluded from decision making in the past, in recognition of the need to build a real multicultural society. That has always been a contrast with Republican aims.
Posted by: StuartH | Jun 22, 2010 10:51:21 PM