Frank Schaeffer is the go-to guy for the scoop on what the Religious Right is up to. Wednesday he appeared with Thomas Roberts to discuss Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and the sudden preoccupation Republicans have with religion and wedge issues like abortion and contraception.
Schaeffer had three really important observations. First, he points out that this is something that's been brewing for a long time, that there's absolutely nothing unexpected about it. His father and cohorts set up the strategy and laid the groundwork. He specifically mentions Robert George of Princeton University who is founder and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions is largely funded with donations from the Bradley, Olin and Scaife foundations, all of whom are known for donating very large sums of money to right-wing causes. As Max Blumenthal notes in his excellent article for The Nation, Robert George is a culture warrior, virulently anti-gay, and the point man for the "50-year project," Schaeffer also mentions Richard John Neuhaus, the Lutheran minister turned Catholic priest who advised the Bush administration.
Moment of snark: Surely this wasn't what Rick Santorum was thinking of when he criticized President Obama for encouraging kids to get a college education, was it? This wouldn't be snobbery at all, right?
Schaeffer's second point is political. He believes Republicans have painted Mitt Romney in a corner by making religion an issue at all. Even though it hasn't come up yet, Romney's Mormonism (including the more bizarre rituals like baptizing the dead) will be an issue at some point, not because Democrats made it so, but because Republicans made it so.
Schaeffer argued that the current state-level legislative push, combined with faux outrage over contraception in Washington, DC leaves Mitt Romney high and dry in the general. He said "I think the Republicans have bought themselves a problem. They've painted themselves into a corner, and as I say again, the intellectual figures like Robert George, who have been so clever in getting the Roman Catholic bishops to have this trumped-up issue about civil liberties and religious civil liberties of the Roman Catholic church over contraception, these same guys who are putting bills in statehouses to force women to have ultrasounds before they can have an abortion, it's all going to come to haunt them because they've made religion the center of the campaign, and of course that means religion is going to be an issue for Mitt Romney. So if they had all just been quiet about this, they would have had a chance with him. Now they've made it an issue and it will come back to bite them."
Indeed. There is a tension there and a true clash of theology that no one is really talking about yet. Schaeffer's linkage of the state actions to the federal action makes a case for fundamentalist Christianity, and most fundamentalist Christians do not view Mormonism as anything other than a cult.
Finally, he ties it all up in a bow with his thoughts on the plan to turn this country into "Theocracy Lite," and his prediction is one that's chilling indeed. After a quick reference to Iran and how the moral restrictions in that country limit their potential and even their economy, Schaeffer sums it up, saying "the logic of where they're pushing is not to take us to Iran but it's a theocracy lite. It would be American democracy tempered by what they would call biblical absolutes which means we're no longer under the Rule of Law as most Americans would understand it. It's not a level playing field. If you're a white Christian, evangelical, conservative Roman Catholic, all of a sudden you get special privileges -- you get tax exemption but you also get to say, oh, well, we're not going to insure women for contraception. That's the world they would create, what it is headed towards."
In that context, it makes the privatization of prisons, schools, and Social Security particularly chilling. By removing those services from a menu of public services which may not discriminate against any group, mixing in preferences for specific religions and even races, they would create a country of deep inequality, sending women and people of color right back to the rear of the bus, or worse yet, they'd just throw them off the bus altogether.