While We Were Sleeping
Joan Bokaer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Dec 04, 2005 at 06:53:56 AM EST
[editor: Theocracy Watch founder Joan Bokaer covers the late 1980's through early 1990's Christian right push to take over state GOP party structures. The success of that effort the was subject of two consecutive surveys, in 1994 and 2000, conducted by academics Kimberly H. Conger and John C. Green, the results of which are summarized in Spreading Out and Digging In; Christian Conservatives and State Republican Parties: by 2000, the Christian right had established a strong or moderate presence in 44 state Republican Party structures across America. As Dr. Bruce Prescott describes, one of the earliest epicenters of this effort was in Texas.]

During the years 1991 to 1994 the Christian Coalition took working control of the Republican Party. Fred Clarkson, co-founder of Talk To Action, wasn't sleeping. After slipping into two Christian Coalition strategy sessions, he wrote in 1993:

The wildest dreams of the Far Right in America may actually be within their reach - control of the Republican Party.

[ This is a continuation of last week's article, The Woman in A Mink Coat]

The Early Warning System

As with a tsunami, the early warning systems were there if people had just read them. Back in 1991, Clarkson reported on his experience at a Christian Coalition Road to Victory gathering – a pep rally combined with nuts and bolts political organizing seminars held before national elections. “Believe!” Clarkson warned us in 1992:

[Christian Coalition] is certain to make 1992 much more interesting, and disturbing, than the conventional wisdom is ready to believe. Believe.
How long has it taken for people to believe?

Clarkson’s articles, written between 1991-1994, can be found on the TheocracyWatch website.

When Clarkson told us to “believe,” he was writing about the elections of 1992. Could he possibly have anticipated the coup of 1994? Even today, do journalists understand what happened in 1994? The Republican Party won majorities in both Houses of Congress for the first time in forty years. I regularly read about Newt Gingrich’s contract with America as the main force behind that event, or disaffection with the Democrats. Rarely do I read about the pivotal role of the Christian Coalition.

Today the Christian Coalition, described as a “sinking ship,” suffers from severe financial and morale problems. But the candidates it got elected to Congress are still running the show. At its zenith, the Coalition, founded by Pat Robertson in 1989, actually made the cover of Time magazine Time credited the Christian Coalition with roughly half of all the Republican victories in 1994. Ralph Reed, the Coalition’s former executive director, is featured as “The Right Hand of God.” :

From the Mouths of Babes

San Antonio, Texas: The GOP Becomes A Religious Cult

"The Grand Old Party is more religious cult than political organization" wrote the President of the Alamo City Republican Women's Club in her letter of resignation.

The rich Republicans of San Antonio's Bexar County consider themselves very conservative.  And they are.  But the politics of this new crowd gave them a bad scare.  Not long after the Christian rightists staged their coup, the president of the Alamo City Republican Women's club just gave up and quit. "The so-called Christian activists have finally gained control," she explained in her resignation letter, "and the Grand Old Party is more religious cult than political organization." (From Joe Conason's article in Playboy, 1993. [To read the complete article, click here .]

Houston, Texas: Falling through a time warp

One long-time Republican couple told Joan Lowy, a reporter from the Scripps-Howard News Service, "We honest to goodness felt like we had fallen through a time warp into a Nazi brown-shirt meeting,"

In cities and towns across the country, the precinct-by-precinct battle for control of the GOP between mainstream Republicans and conservative Christian activists is going full-tilt.

Moderates who were awakened by the Republican National Convention in August to the gains within the party by the Religious Right have begun to organize and fight back. But they have a long way to go.

Working at the grassroots, fundamentalist activists have either gained control or made sizable inroads into state party organization in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Oregon, Washington and Virginia.

A loosely affiliated network of Religious Right organizations led by televangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition has also mobilized millions of evangelical voters across the country. While they failed to re-elect President Bush, those voters helped to elect hundreds of religious activists and Republicans sympathetic to their conservative social agenda to school boards, city councils, state legislatures and Congress.

More than a dozen county meetings to elect party officers in Washington state erupted into shouting matches in recent weeks as mainstream Republicans and religious activists battled for control. Last summer, the GOP state convention under the control of religious activists passed a party platform denouncing witchcraft and yoga, among other subjects.

(To read Joan Lowy's full article, click here.)

These articles and more, written between 1991-1994, can be found on the TheocracyWatch website.

Where were you between 1991 and 1994? Were you among the somnambulant masses or one of the few whose eyes were wide open? Please use the comment section below to take credit and claim your rightful place in this troubling history.

Coming next - Methodology: nuts and bolts of taking over the party.


[ed: Joan Bokaer's four part series is:
The Woman in A Mink Coat,
While We Were Sleeping,
Angels on A Pinhead
Under Cover Of Night

for it describes accurately and succintly how the organisational fervour of the theocrats has translated into the hijacking of the Republican party, and the conservative elements of the Democratic Party.

In Canada, Stephen Harper is the man who engineered the hijacking and dissolution of the Progressive Conservative party. He had the complicity of the PC leader and former PM Brian Mulroney, a neocon and theocrat. They had the opposition of two former PC prime ministers as well.

Now, the former Reform and Alliance MP is the leader of the sole Conservative Party of Canada. It is no longer conservative, but neo-conservative, and it is no longer pluralistic, it is theocratic.

The election programme has begun. The US political operatives in Canada are using the moderate voices to conceal their true agenda. They speak words of tolerance and diversity while simultaneously planning using the Notwithstanding Clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to overturn both legislation and Supreme Court decision on the definition of marriage in Canada.

The "Notwithstanding Clause" was added by the neocons twenty years ago in order for the Charter to pass the House of Commons. It in fact, allows the country to practice legal discrimination on an issue of concern to the theocrats.

Although I doubt it will work, the liberal and progressive citizens are in full gear. The moderate voices include the statement that same sex couples could retain their marriage licences after they remove the right for everyone else. There is a political truth there. Ayn Rand would hail it as the virtue of selfishness.

Again, thank you for posting this. It should inform all that both the players and the strategy are the same on the Brazos as it is on the St. Lawrence.

by LIBERAL CROZIER on Sun Dec 04, 2005 at 11:08:51 AM EST

The truth is that the Republican Party took control over the Christian Coalition, not the other way around. People like President Bush and the Republican Party use the Christian religion and its followers to maintain power in America. They use the pro-life position, prayer in school, teaching creationism, the word "God" in their speeches, and other Christian symbolism to deceive voters into believe something that is not true about their morality or political ideology.

The reality is that the Republicans in Congress, President Bush, and a few right-wing media personalities are colluding and conspiring with a few mega wealthy families to rob our government and undermine our democracy (republic). They are creating an un-Godly fascist plutocracy in America and they are doing so using Straussian-Machiavellian methods; one of which is promoting strong religious ideals to motivate, control, and mislead the population.

The evidence of this reality is in the details of their actions and legislation. For example, Bush tells lies even in the face of the facts, and he promotes and passes legislation that is helpful to the very rich but at the expense of everyone else. He started a totally unnecessary war in Iraq that is very costly, both in dollars and in lives, and that has been carried out using torture, collective punishments, chemical weapons, and killing tens of thousands of non-combatant Iraqi citizens. He is a huge advocate for the death penalty despite that the fact that many innocent people have been put on death row, and some even put to death. He supports tort reforms that limit jury's powers and prevent corporate accountability. He has shifted the tax burden onto the middle class. He refuses to increase the minimum wage. The Republicans in Congress are currently trying to cut school lunch school programs, cut college tuition assistance, cut overtime pay requirements, and cut food stamps for the poor, and at the same time pass more tax cuts for people who make over one million dollars a year.

And I could go on and on with more examples and better details but these examples expose values that are the opposite of Christian values. Jesus did not preach and the bible does not teach these values that are based on greed, gluttony, killing, and torture, but rather the opposite.

Personally, I'm not a Christian I'm a Deist. I believe in God but I look to science, knowledge, and personal experience to find meaning and answers. As a Deist I support capitalism, democracy, and freedom, and I even like many conservative ideals, however, I agree with Kenneth Galbraith when he said "Economic justice can be measure by the screams of anguish from the very rich". And with President Roosevelt when he said "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad for morals; we now know that it is bad for economics." and "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.". Even President Lincoln warn us about the danger to our democracy from the concentration of wealth into the hands of a few.

Finally, you shouldn't believe what Bush and the Republicans in Congress say, but rather believe what your mind tells you is the truth by studying their actions through their legislation. Once you realize that they are corrupt fascist who are creating a plutocracy you should make the decision to start fighting back. We cannot allow them to get away with this. In Robert F. Kennedy's words "If we do not attack organized crime with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us.".

I recommend we start by badgering, boycotting, and using civil disobedience to get the GOP out of power, and if these methods don't work we should increase our actions until they are gone. Otherwise, you may find yourself living in a cardboard box under a bridge without the ability to change anything.

by Chris Fick on Sun Dec 04, 2005 at 01:07:23 PM EST

You claim to have "the truth" about this piece of history -- yet you present zero evidence for your contentious revisionism.  

I have written a great deal about this, and was present at a few key moments. One thing I can say with certainty: there is no truth to your assertion that the Republican Party took over the Christian Coalition.

Joan is correct that the Christian Coalition and thier fellow Christian Rightists sought to take over the GOP, and there is plenty of evidence that they not only sought to do so, but that they systematically went about carrying out the plan and have had considerable success in doing so.

It is fair to say that the Christian Coalition was and is a GOP faction, contending for power within the party, as is most of the rest of the Christian Right.

This does not mean that the GOP "took over" the Christian Coalition.

My advice is listen to Joan. You might learn something.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Dec 04, 2005 at 02:54:34 PM EST

Just for the sake of limiting debate lets assume Joan and Frederick are correct and I'm wrong. What does that say about the Christian Coalition and other people on the Christian right? I seriously doubt that any intelligent and informed Christian, whether a fundamentalist or a moderate, would agree that Christian values and the GOP's values are in sync. Christian people who do think they are in sync with the GOP are either ill-informed, hypocrites, bigots, or fools.

I'm sorry I to be so blunt but I don't know a more sincere way to state my well-informed personal opinions. I have a bad habit of offending people with my politically incorrect personal opinions, but the truth can be like a slap in the face, and especially for people who have some history or vested interest in a previous position.

Finally, I agree with Frederick's statement about the leaders of the Christian right not being stupid and cutting their deals with the GOP just like any other faction, however, if deals on smaller issues are blinding them to the bigger picture their small victories are going to be muted and negated by a huge loss in the end. They need someone like me to point that out so they have more leverage in their deal cutting negotiations. We need to force the Republican Party to move back to the middle and away from the extreme, or we are going to lose our democracy and our government's assets.  

by Chris Fick on Sun Dec 04, 2005 at 03:29:20 PM EST

Think of it this way - throughout the history of the past 2 millenia, Christianity has been interpreted and expressed in a fantastic profusion of forms, many of which are wildly at odds with each other both in terms of theology and practice.

Some of the newer ideological driving forces behind the Christian right have less to do with the Social Gospel tradition in Christianity and - indeed - are in part recrudescenses of the Calvinist tradition. In other words, in some recently emergent interpretations of Christianity within the Christian theocratic right wealth is not seen as a shameful or scandalous thing at all but - indeed -  an indication of divine favor. In fact, the doctrine of "Divine Election" has recently reemerged.

That such theological views can function as perfect justification for social, economic, and political inequities in society does not mean they are not sincerely held.

In other words, I'm observing that - rather than the Christianity you are familiar with, GOP values might be perfectly in sync with different expressions of Christianity, ones which have a good deal in common with pre-Enlightenment Christian tradition and also with Calvinism - as forms of Christianity which accepted inequality  - and not so much to do with subsequent, more equalitarian Christian belief.  

In short, we may be witnessing a reemergence, in some garb, of "The Divine Right of Kings" concept, that Divine sanction confers on certain individuals of classes special privilege.  "Regency" under Dominionism might not in practice prove all that different from from "Kingship".

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Dec 05, 2005 at 12:01:18 AM EST

Very wisely put... "by their fruits ye shall know them" I figured out Bush a long time ago and what he stood for... I did research on the candidates before I even voted..I didn't go by what tv campaign ads said...I dug deeper...and I was shocked to find out how much deception this president has pulled on  the American people....people are easily mislead .unless they keep their eyes and ears open....

by akaladystar on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:58:07 PM EST

I understand your explanation and it does explain away a lot of apparent un-Jesus like actions by the Bush administration and the GOP. However, if the term "Christianity" can be used to justify actions from one end of the moral and ethical spectrum to the other does it really mean anything at all, or is it just used like Thomas Paine suggested (paraphrased) "....(Christianity is) no other than (a) human invention (s) set up to terrify and enslave mankind and monopolize power and profit."?

Also, you suggest that these extreme Republicans, like President Bush, might be sincere in their nebulous Christian believes as it relates to social inequality, but social inequality is only one aspect of the GOP's immoral and unetichial actions during the past few years. What about lying, stealing, killing, and bribery?

I strongly suspect, and greatly fear, that Bush and his pals, who like to wear their Christian faith on their sleeves, are frauds. They are only using Christianity to deceive us while actually enriching themselves and their mega wealthy contributors. They worship gold, period.  

by Chris Fick on Sun Dec 04, 2005 at 06:27:17 PM EST

Many ( including Newsweek, back in 1980 ) have identified Christian Reconstructionism as central to the Christian right . This movement calls for the establishment of a radical sort of fundamentalism - as defined by R J Rushdoony - but subsequent leaders have injected concepts which could be seen as amounting to moral relativism justified in the service of advancing Rushdoony's absolutist, or radical, goals.

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Dec 05, 2005 at 12:12:03 AM EST

Joan asks, "Where were you between 1991 and 1994? Were you among the somnambulant masses or one of the few whose eyes were wide open?"

I would have to say that my eyes were being opened, from reading the work of researchers and writers such as Chip Berlet and Frederick Clarkson, and from listening firsthand to some of the dominionists and theocrats tell their own stories in their own words.

From the summer of 1993 through the summer of 1995, I was doing a bit of research for Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) on the history, structure, and funding of anti-choice groups such as the National Right to Life Committee and the militant underground Operation Rescue. Both of these groups had been around for a while, but much research remained to be done on their genesis, leadership, funding sources, allies, and vision for the future.

That's where PPFA's Front Lines Research came in. It was a carefully researched and footnoted journal that provided credible information and penetrating analysis of these groups. The articles were of such quality that they influenced mainstream media coverage by, for example, The New York Times, Newsweek and CBS's "60 Minutes." And I give most of the credit to our editor at Front Lines Research -- Frederick Clarkson, who helped shape the vision of that influential journal, and contributed some of its best pieces.

Today, I'm glad to be working with a community of dedicated researchers and writers who take dominionism and theocracy seriously, and also take seriously our responsibility to do something in response to these gathering threats to American democracy.

by jhutson on Sun Dec 04, 2005 at 06:54:30 PM EST
That research was critical and highly influential.  I wish it were still going on at the same level ... or perhaps it is?  Even the Feminist Majority seems to have cut back?

by cyncooper on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 11:02:27 AM EST

I know they say the religious right doesn't have the support it once had... but I still think they are a force to be contended with...since they are rallying behind certain judicial nominees to further their agenda..they still must have considerable power to have such control over the republican party...my question what do we do to stop them.. I've been politically active..and I  am very much concerned with them achieving their goal and turning our country into a theocracy.. I personally believe in a strong democracy,separation of church and state and freedom of speech , religious freedom(or freedom from it.)  Our founding fathers  had a reason for the separation of church and state, namely to keep religious tyranny and oppression out of our state of affairs. A theocracy would be something akin to a religious dictatorship.... why would people want this... throughout history, there has been religious persecution, we know what influence the church had over the monarchy in England, before we landed in America...  It's like the blind leading the blind actually... I certainly don't want a religious cult ruling over us.

by akaladystar on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:48:51 PM EST

And I was talking with a lot of people about how the party was being taken over by religious zealots and that I did not think that was who should be running the party or that was in our best interest.  Most people denounced me as being mistaken at best and delusional at worst.  I finally just gave up and didn't involve myself any further in local politics.
However, I have only recently come to understand that today; Democrats don't understand what has happened to the Republican Party.  They think it is just a few fanatics that will soon fade to black.  They have no understanding as to how well organized the religious right is or how long they have been putting this coup together.  There are a few who are beginning to understand where the religious right wants to take us, that being a theocracy, but they clearly are the minority.
Time is quickly running out.

by FreedomfromChains on Fri Nov 03, 2006 at 12:47:59 PM EST

After reading the "Handmaid's Tale" and seeing the movie of the same name I started doing research. What I found was extremely disturbing---and it hasn't let up since. Things are actually worse now than back then. But then the novel was political science fiction and was set in either 2012 or 2022. Suffice it to say that whatever differences they have are minor. They put them aside as something they should tackle after taking care of the rest of us who they agree they find radical and dangerous to their world view. They have been very patient. I hope Ms Bokaer can look at inroads into the Democratic party too. I have been disturbed at how the leadership seem to be supporting the Republicans on issues important to the Reconstructionists. Thank you.

by Nightgaunt on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 02:24:50 AM EST

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