Vanderslice and the Undermining of Liberal Democracy.
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 10:16:14 AM EST
From early on in his 2006 campaign for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. was well on his way to trouncing Religious Right darling, incumbent Republican Sen. Rick Santorum. But one of his campaign consultants, Mara Vanderslice of Common Good Strategies advised Casey to take an unusual step. She thought it would be smart, to speak to the Pennsylvania Pastors Network--a prominent religious right coalition, comprising even such extreme elements as Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life. Apparently the idea was to attract more conservative, and antiabortion Catholic voters and show that he was friendly to "people of faith." Casey sent a pre-recorded statement that was played to the September 24th, 2006 conference attendees.
If then-candidate Casey had visited the Pennsylvania Pastor's Network's (PPN) web site, he would have learned that the group is not merely "pro-life," but are proponents of laissez-faire economics. PPN is a project of Let Freedom Ring, Inc., a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, reveals that it's mission is to promote "Economic Freedom," a thinly disguised code for pre-New Deal "Liberty of Contract" economics. PPN's religiosity is the sheep's clothing for the wolf that is LFR true economic agenda. LFR's web site links to such ideologically compatible institutions as The American Conservative Union as well as The Hudson Institute.

Had he attended the conference in person, Casey would have heard Pavone compare the events of September 11, 2001 with an abortion procedure.

"Is there any difference that anyone can identify, morally speaking, between disregarding someone else's right to life if you use an airplane or if you use surgical forceps? What's the difference? What's the difference, morally speaking, if the victim is five feet tall or five inches tall? Those variables do not introduce any moral difference to the evil that we're talking about."

Casey should have ignored Vanderslice's reckless counsel for a variety of reasons, including that there was no reason to seek additional support from those who would never provide it. Contrary to Vanderslice's notions, engaging the leadership of the hard Religious Right does not demonstrate respect for "people of faith." Instead it sends a clear message of capitulation to the long discredited Aristotelian notion of inherent inequality. Any continued acceptance of this unnecessary strategy of pandering will have its ultimate end in the furthering weakening of liberal democracy.

But there is a greater issue here: competency. Why would Vanderslice and Common Good Strategies advise Casey to pay respects to a group of not-so-closeted economic royalists -- let alone Frank Pavone? Did she not consider Pavone's involvement with folks such as Tom Monaghan and US Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS)? These are men whose economic agenda is clearly at odds with Casey's adherence to justice. Monaghan, for example, has hostility challenged efforts by Ave Maria employees to organize. More importantly, with all their neo- Carlist tendencies and wanting to impose on the rest of us their particular recipe for eternal salvation -- they are the true enemies of religious freedom.

Pavone is perhaps best known for his role in the Terri Schiavo affair as the "spiritual advisor" to the Schindler family. But his standing on the Religious Right will be underscored on March 2-3, 2007 when he will be a featured speaker at televangelist D. James Kennedy's Reclaiming America for Christ conference in Ft. Lauderdale. Florida one of the premier Religious Right political conferences in the U.S. Other featured speakers include Ann Coulter, Tony Perkins and Phyllis Schlafly. It is well known that all of these folks are hostile to liberal democracy-- especially when it comes to keeping church and state separate. But much less well known is their cynical use of religion as a means of undo the legacy of New Deal economics--a plan that had much of its basis in the Protestant Social Gospel and Catholic Distributive Justice movements. One has to wonder if Ms. Vanderslice thought about this aspect of her advice to pay homage, directly and indirectly to this cast of characters.

Ms. Vanderslice's pandering to the Religious Right is dangerous for a variety of reasons. First as Frederick Clarkson pointed out recently, she and Common Good Strategies recommended that the Democratic Party shy away from using the term "separation of church and state." That--just like her advice to kow-tow to the likes of PPN--is sign of spinelessness. Her argument that the term raises "red flags with people of faith," feeds the Religious Right's myth that the separation of church and state is synonymous with hostility towards religiosity. Beyond that, it sends out a message of fear, the scent of which the true enemies of religious freedom can detect from miles away. Indicative of her failure to appreciate the harm she has caused, is her bragging about her advice to candidates to The New York Times. Recommending that her client address to that group was, in my view, a betrayal of the progressive Christian values that she purports to represent.

Instead of trying to make nice to those who openly sneer at their values, Vanderslice and the folks at Common Good Strategies would be wise to take a page from the ACLU. Like the ACLU, they should tell their candidate clients to confront the likes of Pavone, Dr. Kennedy and Phyllis Shlafly, and embrace the concept of church-state separation by framing its meaning within the context of religious freedom. And when they do, they might consider the example of a Catholic schoolboy who understood the meaning and importance of separation of church and state as integral to the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Thomas Whall was a Catholic student at the Elliot School in 1859 Boston. The school, although public, used Protestant prayers and followed Protestant theology. When young Whall was required to recite the King James version on the Ten Commandments, he refused on the grounds that Catholics abide by a different interpretation of the Second Commandment.

The King James translation of Second Commandment reads "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth[.]" This refers to "graven images instead of the Catholic version that states, "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name." For Whall and other Catholics, this was a rebuke of the Catholic use of shrines and statues. Whall's reward for making his stand for religious freedom was a sound whipping by his teachers.

The Vanderslices of the world must understand that pandering to the Religious Right may very well bring us back to a place we should never return. As the Whall affair teaches us, once certain Christian sects have the power to suppress non-Christians, they can well attempt to turn their suppression upon each other. It is not slippery-slope conjecture, but a hard-learned lesson of American history. And that, not religious hostility, is one of the primary reasons why Liberalism values the separation of church and state.

But perhaps the politcal take-away lesson for Vanderslice and associates should be that rather than pandering, it is better to make clear distinctions between Democrats and the Religious Right, and standing our ground rather than conceding it. Ever since the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy there has been a severe shortage of Liberals who have the courage to stand on principle-even when it is unpopular to do so. How many times have we heard former Reagan voters say that while they disagreed with his politics, they voted for him simply because he had the courage of his convictions? Clearly, there is a lesson to be learned about consistency, clarity and courage of our convictions.

I wrote this piece as a Democrat who wants my party to show character and stregnth; as a Liberal who believes in political equality; and as a Catholic who wants to practice his faith freely.

In this spirit, there must be no unnecessary compromises!

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 10:20:30 AM EST

One vanderslice at a time ?

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 03:51:41 PM EST

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 04:57:11 PM EST

Seems all the information on Vanderslice and others (in shorter, edited form) needs to reach Howard Dean, the DNC, candidates, and congressional leaders. They need to hear the downside of these PR efforts if they're as oblivious as they seem. Unless significant numbers of politicians read this site, we're preaching to the choir.

by Psyche on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 04:49:03 PM EST
It's not the politicians who need to understand this, for most of them are far behind the wishes of the public. There is an urgent need that issues such as these being clearly and succinctly explained.  Simplicity is key and then we MUST utilize the internet and let it fly as mainstream media is not on our side.

by Darwin on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 09:58:20 PM EST
People who run this forum tend to be using the internet almost much as they are able ( we can all do better, of course ) .

But, they need help - maybe that's why you're here.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 11:10:10 PM EST

send them to people like John Aravois at Americablog. Bob Casey was one of those for whom our little community at Americablog raised money.

by ecoflame on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 06:01:11 PM EST
Some of us are already yelling as loud as we can. More voices would help project the message.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 11:12:57 PM EST

I'd say, to everyone -- if there is something you read here that you think certain people, or certain, pols or bloggers, should know about -- please email it to them.

We are an all volunteer operation here, and the success of the project depends on the participation of everyone.

Our purposes here are not merely to talk to ourselves, although that is certainly valuable, but to reach more people than we do, we need help.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 11:05:33 PM EST

When reading the diary, I couldn't help thinking of something Chris Hedges mentioned in American Fascism, that no amount of attempts to reach out and court the Christian Right dominionists will work to appease them. They want it all, political and religious power, and nothing else will satisfy them.

by khughes1963 on Mon Feb 05, 2007 at 07:10:18 AM EST
They certainly want it all. But hey, why should hypocrisy get in the way?

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Feb 05, 2007 at 02:40:04 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (330 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (180 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (102 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (93 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (106 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (127 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (118 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (81 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (229 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (56 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (155 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (173 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (53 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (56 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (214 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (242 comments)
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (89 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (174 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (143 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (142 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (151 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (146 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (125 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (190 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (144 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (84 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (189 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (79 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (108 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (106 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.