Archive for March, 2005
Just in case readers here in Massachusetts were feeling that the Gannongate scandal was but a bizarre, far away, inside-the-beltway story, check this out:
Blogger Ron Brynaert, who has been researching the alleged reporting of Jeff Gannon and his colleagues at (the now defunct) Talon News, has revealed that Gannon plagiarized an exclusive June 13, 2003 story by Melissa Beecher which appeared in the MetroWest Daily News and The Daily News Tribune, that serve suburban Boston and are owned by the The Boston Herald. Brynaert writes: “In response to a ‘You Got plagiarized By Jeff Gannon’ e-mail that I sent, Ms. Beecher informed me that she ‘was the only reporter at this event’ and reported on a first-hand experience.”
Brynaert’s report was picked up by The Raw Story, which further interviewed Beecher and her editor, Richard Lodge. “What bothers me,” Lodge told Raw Story, “was that it was so clear that it was our story… He was not there, and yet he represented to his readers that he was. She was the only reporter in that room. The fact that he didn’t attribute it, that he represented to readers that he was that was a lie. He is a liar.
Raw Story notes that Beecher and Lodge were shocked to learn that Gannon (whose real name is James Guckert) would be speaking at a National Press Club panel discussion on journalism and blogging, in Washington, DC next week.
“He’s not a journalist,” Lodge told Raw Story. “And he misrepresented to anyone reading that website that this was his work, and it was not his work, plain and simple.”
“When somebody sets himself up to be a credible journalist, however the heck he did that, and I think it happened because nobody questioned him, then he is tainting all of us legitimate journalists,” Lodge added. “Because whatever questions he’s asking, and whatever stories he’s allegedly writing, are suspect. And I think that makes readers suspect all of us.”
Jeff Gannon, the esteemed former White House correspondent and male escort service entrepreneur, has been invited to speak at the National Press Club on a panel of, well, others. The trade journal Editor and Publisher reports that including Gannon on an April 8 panel discussion about journalism and blogging called “Who is a Journalist?,” has caused “a flurry.”
“In a letter published …[March 29th] on the Poynter Institute’s Romenesko site,” Editor and Publisher continues, “Jonathan Salant, vice chairman of the Press Club, asked: ‘Is E&P suggesting that we should not invite controversial figures to appear at the Club and be questioned by reporters? … People get invited to speak at the Club, whether a luncheon, a newsmaker event or a forum, because they are newsworthy.’
Salant was responding to a March 28th article in Editor and Publisher that had questioned the validity of Gannon’s inclusion on the panel.
E&P Editor Greg Mitchell responded in letter of his own, according to E&P, noting that “Gannon is appearing as part of a serious journalism discussion, not as a solo newsmaker: ‘Should a non-journalist who has worked as a male escort be invited to speak on a journalism panel at the National Press Club?’ He asked Salant to supply the names of any suspected ‘hookers’ who ‘have previously appeared as speakers at the Press Club, especially as part of journalism panels.'”
Indeed. This “newsmaker” sat among the elite White House press corps for two years, having zero journalism background, operating under a pseudonym, writing for a fake news agency that was really a GOP political front, and well, immediately prior to his new life as White House correspondent and escort service proprietor, he worked as an office manager at an auto body shop. Now leaders in the Washington press corps have placed him on a panel discussing the difference between blogging and journalism. How’s that for muddying the waters?
Now how is it exactly that Gannon got access to the White House for two years to lob softball questions to press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan and president George Bush? Oh, never mind, let’s focus on really important questions like, are bloggers really journalists? Let’s ask Jeff Gannon!
In fairness, the members of the National Press Club may pose some good questions to Gannon next week, and they may force some interesting answers — but they are not the folks reporting the story.
The new ePluribus Media (an organization with which I am pleased to be a part) continues to crack open new elements of the Gannongate story. But before we get to the latest news, please consider making a contribution to help ePluribus Media get started. (Formal organizational launch coming in a few weeks!)
The mission statement of ePluribus Media declares that it is a “cooperative of citizen volunteers dedicated to researching issues of common concern, exposing government propaganda and corruption, and encouraging the highest standards of ethics and journalism.”
The group is committed to the principles enumerated in the Statement of Shared Purpose and the Citizen’s Bill of Journalism Rights composed by the Committee of Concerned Journalists.
Now back to our story.
Susan Gardner, cofounder of ePluribus Media, has a new story, posted on The Daily Kos: Fake Reporter Running Sham Nonprofit?
Gannon advertised that his group, Free Speech Foundation was registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, but, Gardner suggests that its real purpose was to raise money for lawyers defending Gannon’s pals in a libel suit.
“Like almost everything else connected with The Great Pretender,” Gardner writes, “‘Jeff Gannon,’ aka J.D. Guckert – his name, his ‘news agency,’ his purported conservative family values while selling his ‘escort services’ on the internet – his Free Speech Foundation is looking more and more like a sham ‘tax-exempt’ organization, with the timing of its founding suggesting it was created primarily in response to a $5 million libel lawsuit filed against a rabidly pro-Bush website called, appropriately enough, ProBush.com.”
“It is apparent that the Free Speech Foundation may have been a front organization set up to launder money and provide contributors with tax-exemptions,” Gardner stated in an ePluribus Media press release. She also notes that ePluribus Media volunteers have documented much of the evidence available on the Internet before it was “scrubbed,” or erased. “Over the past months, we have seen several sites close down altogether or delete all references to Jeff Gannon and the rest of his activities,” said Gardner.
Since becoming a blogger about 6 months ago, I have occasionally written about blogs and blogging. But being relatively new to the blogosphere, I am not as deeply steeped in its conventions and history as many others, so I am taking my chances whenever I venture into this area. Unsurprisingly, I have made some errors and significant omissions, (probably more than have been called to my attention).
Time to correct the record.
Awhile back I wrote about the recent rise of progressive religious bloggers. I was immediately notified that I had left out an early and significant progressive religious blog, The Village Gate (formerly known as The Right Christians.)
Sometime later, I noticed a number of recent start-up progressive political blogs, all spin-offs of The Daily Kos. But I missed Newsfare — that got started when over 550 blogs took a stand against the nomination of the author of torture, Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. Newsfare features headlines from both blogs and major news outlets.
Then yesterday, I wrote about ePluribus Media, the organization forming to continue the Gannongate investigation — and launch new ones. I wrote that it was the first large-scale example of open source journalism. I was quickly informed that, without taking anything away from the remarkable achievements of Susan Gardner and her team of citizen reporters, it would have been more accurate to describe it as but the latest example of open source, collaborative journalism, of which there have been a number of varieties over the years. Fair enough.
I appreciate the extraordinary role and promise of blogging and the Internet — both for politics and for journalism. I, like many of my colleagues, see all this as a democratizing corrective to the trend towards concentration of wealth and power in the U.S. — and to the antidemocratic movements these concentrations have unleashed. So while carving out my own modest role, I do try to recognize the pioneers and to appreciate what has gone into creating all of this. But I know it is not possible to know, and to be properly respectful of all that I should, and would like to be. So much has gone before. So much is happening even now.
I do try to get the story right. But I can’t promise that I will not stumble again. If I do, I hope people will write to me to set the record straight.
For two years the White House press corps turned a blind eye to a ringer in their midst. The ringer was James Guckert — known to them, and now to the world, as “Jeff Gannon.”
“Jeff,” as President George Bush called him at the fateful White House press conference on January 26th, turned out to be not only a fake reporter, working for a fake news agency, and operating under a false name — but he also operated web sites promoting male prostitution.
The bloggers at The Daily Kos, (one of the nation’s most popular political web sites) who led the way in exposing Guckert and the GOP front group, Talon News, will go down in the history of journalism as the first large-scale practitioners of what is being called “open source journalism.” The term “open source” derives from an element of the computer software community that seeks to make information widely accessible instead of narrowly proprietary or shrouded in mystery.
They are not only continuing their ground-breaking investigation, but they are also building a new organization — ePluribus Media — to carry it and other worthwhile investigations forward. (Full disclosure: I am honored to be among the founders of this organization.)
Meanwhile, ePluribus Media cofounder Susan Gardner and Todd Johnston have a new story published on The Daily Kos, on how Gannon’s debut in the national media coincided with the first known published review of his male escort services.
According to an ePluribus Media press release, Guckert first emerged “as conservative pit bull ‘Jeff Gannon,”‘ on Nov. 12, 2002, as author of an article published on ConservativeMonitor.com. This was the same date one of his male escort clients published a “rave review of his services,” said Gardner.
Gardner and Johnston detail Guckert’s career moves from office manager at an auto body shop in West Chester, Pennsylvania, to Washington DC-based male escort service entrepreneur and White House correspondent. His rise “was nothing short of meteoric,” Gardner said. “That this metamorphosis occurred in conjunction with his male escort business leads us to believe that the two may be connected. We are pursuing that investigation.”
The group has recently incorporated as a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization and needs your help to get off the ground: ePluribus Media
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has audiotape of top Republican leaders promising to support the agenda of the Christian Right. The tapes, made at a closed door “Washington Briefing,” sponsored by the Family Research Council at the Willard Hotel, in Washington, D.C., March 17-19, 2005 — are making big news.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay(R-TX) is heard on the tapes comparing criticism of his ethics with the situation of Terri Schiavo, according to the Associated Press. “One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo to elevate the visibility of what is going on in America, that Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death,” he said in remarks Friday to a conservative group and made public Wednesday.
“This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others,” added DeLay, lately at the center of a controversy concerning his overseas travel.”
The AP story also quotes DeLay as saying: “The point is the other side has figured out how to win and defeat the conservative movement,” he said after mentioning Schiavo, “and that is to go after people personally, charge them with frivolous charges and link that up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by [liberal billionaire] George Soros and then get the national media on their side.”
“That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and one purpose only, and that’s to destroy the conservative movement. It’s to destroy conservative leaders.”
In a press release about the tapes, Americans United reports that DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) “assured attendees that they would do what it takes to keep Schiavo connected to a feeding tube and also would exert great power to push a whole host of issues central to the Religious Right’s agenda.”
DeLay urged the gathering to contact lawmakers in both chambers to support legislation that would allow churches to become much more involved in partisan politicking. The Texas Republican blasted current federal tax law, which bars both secular and religious nonprofit groups from endorsing political candidates.
“It forces Christians back into the church and that’s what is going on,” DeLay claimed. “That’s not what Christ asked us to do. We have to fight back.”
FRC President Tony Perkins assured DeLay of the group’s support and asked audience members to contact Republican lawmakers and demand that they back the House majority leader.
Frist also told the FRC attendees that he was dedicated to issues dear to their hearts.
“You stand up for our families, our children, you never back down,” Frist told the gathering via speakerphone. “That’s why we are winning these larger battles today. Together we are leading our nation forward. We have a president, a House of Representatives, a Senate that shares our values and the American people are on our side.
“In this Congress we are going to continue to work on the issues that are important to you, to me and above all, America’s future,” Frist continued.
Those issues include, Frist maintained, the confirmation of “good judges,” protecting the “sanctity of marriage” and protecting “the unborn.” He said, “I’m also committed to ending the [Senate Democratic] minority’s filibuster [on judges] and restoring this 220 years or more of Senate tradition and history.”
Frist was particularly adamant about fighting for a Federal Marriage Amendment, saying that, “We will take action to preserve and protect and defend the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.”
“Religious Right leaders are determined to run all of our lives, from the moment of conception through the end of life,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “And top congressional leaders are conspiring behind closed doors in Washington to help them do it. It’s appalling.”
The GOP may have miscalculated and blown thier historic opportunity. Iraq is a disaster. The economy is tanking. Bush’s Social Security plan is a non-starter. The public is unimpressed with Congressional interference in the Schiavo case and the apparent corruption of DeLay and his cronies.
How desperate must House Speaker Tom DeLay be to compare himself to Terri Schiavo?
(Thanks to Bruce Prescott for flagging the story.)
James Guckert, the principal figure in the still-unfolding Gannongate scandal, is back in the news.
Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, served as a White House correspondent for Talon News, until he was exposed as a GOP operative, with no journalism experience, who was using a false identity (Jeff Gannon) for two years, while lobbing softball questions to press secretary Scott McClellan and president George Bush. Guckert resigned on Feb 9th, and Talon News shut down soon thereafter. Guckert also maintained web sites apparently advertising his services as a male prostitute. A featured part of his appeal was his claim to be a Marine. Apparently, like much about Guckert, this was also false.
“Fake name. Fake reporter. Fake news agency. And now this … Fake Marine,” writes Susan Gardner on The Daily Kos.
Gardner is co-founder of ePluribus Media, a volunteer organization with
more than 700 citizen journalists who are currently researching the Gannongate story. According to an ePluribus Media press release:
“‘We first conducted a search of military personnel records at the National
Personnel Records Center in St. Louis,’ Gardner said. The facility, a central
repository which purports to hold all military records, can find no service
record under the name and Social Security number of James D. Guckert.'”
“‘Our contact there advised us to check directly with the Marine Corps in
Quantico,’ Gardner said. ‘An inquiry there produced the same results, she
“On Guckert’s gay escort web sites, he claims he is a Marine veteran,’
Gardner said. ‘Yet the U.S. Marine Corps has no record of his service, nor
does the U.S. military’s central records division. We are beginning to doubt
he was ever in the military.'”
“Gardner said that Guckert — as ‘Jeff Gannon,’ the name he used to gain
entry into White House press briefings for more than two years — claimed
military service on political web sites such as conservativeguy.com.”
“‘To falsely claim military service as a way to ingratiate oneself with
conservative political organizations or gay escort service clients seems not
only fatuous but highly insulting to American servicemen and women who
are fighting and dying right now in Iraq and Afghanistan,’ said Gardner.”
When the history of blogging is written, The Daily Kos will certainly be recognized as the blogfather of many. His offspring are not only striking out on thier own, but they epitomize the rapid growth of high quality, diverse and innovative sites that are not only changing the blogoshere, but politics and culture. Recently a number of veteran kossacks, (as they call themselves), have developed their own group blogs with distinctive identities and progressive purposes. Some of these go back a few months, one is new last week, and one is new last night.
Here is a brief round-up of kosspring worth checking out.
Liberal Street Fighter is a feisty bunch — who are in the middle of a promising-looking site redesign, so they might prefer you wait to visit until Friday. Faithforward: Progressive Christianity, Progressive Politics has been home to some of the most interesting and humorous writing about politics and religion on the internet.
The Next Hurrah started a few weeks ago, featuring several former Daily Kos front pagers who write with great clarity and force about politics, public policy, and whatever is on their minds. It also sports a design that facilitates easy reading.
A week or so ago, something completely different suddenly appeared: The Booman Tribune. Like The Daily Kos, it features lots of diaries and lengthy comment trails. Unlike its blogfather, the Trib is promoting a culture of not taking itself too seriously — even when writing about matters of the utmost seriousness. Booman may be onto something. (He has also appointed an equal number of women and men as his front pagers.)
Finally, last night, just after midnight, Tom Tech, (aka Tom Davis), launched BringVisibility.net. Concerned about what he considers to be distinctly fascist trends in American politics, he made a point of launching the site on the 86th anniversary of the birth of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy. In his announcement on The Daily Kos, he wrote that he sees the new site as “a place for organizers and others to announce events,” both local and national; and for writers, including “the quiet voices” to “highlight their work.” On BringVisibility itself, he writes:
“Welcome to what I hope will revolutionize activism in America… The goal of this site is to provide the tools for action.
Bloggers will be able to submit their columns so others can recommend them for everyone else.
Organizers will be able to submit their events so people can find out about events in their areas.
Readers will be able to submit events in their areas where others can affect the political process.
The site will send out personalized e-mails informing members where they be effective locally, or nationally. These E-mails will inform them where they can find out information on issues that interest them.
The site will use a vast list of user preferences to limit the size and content of the E-mails sent to ensure readers will not be overwhelmed… “
I have never seen anything like it. Is it too iconoclastic, too breathtakingly ambitious and unconnected to established groups to catch on? Or is a brilliant idea that in a few months, activists and journalists will be wondering how they ever did without it? I have no idea.
There are alternatives to the top-down, all-centrally organized campaign model that dominates electoral life.
An exceptionally well informed activist discusses this today on The Daily Kos in a diary titled:
“Neighbor to Neighbor works”. It crystallizes the debate going on in democratic political circles. Its a must-read. And if you are a registered user of The Daily Kos, please hurry on over and “recommend” this diary. It deserves a wide audience and discussion.
What can we do about the Christian Right? (I have been asked this, in response to various diaries on The Daily Kos.) This essay is the beginning of an answer. I suppose its directed to everyone, and no one in particular — except you, the reader. There is, as you might imagine, no one short answer to the question. But farther down, I am going to offer one anyway. I am convinced that it is the place to begin; the lens through which to view all other elements of the struggle. It is the foundation. Without it, everything else is unconnected dots.
The good news is that it is simpler than you may think, and you may already be doing it.
But no scrolling ahead! There are reasons why I save the answer ’til the end.
I was inspired, as I often am, to write this essay in response to the Christian Right itself. It happens that there is a small, but significant Christian Right conference in Atlanta next month. It will not get the national attention that D. James Kennedy’s recent “Reclaiming America” conference received. And it will probably not be as large, or draw very many people from beyond Atlanta. But it is important for other reasons. The conference sponsor, American Vision, is one of the leading hubs of theocratic education and activism in the United States. And I think a look at the conference agenda, tells us much about the theocratic movement, and how it seeks to take power. And because this is so, or at least thats how it appears to me, it offers us some insight into what we must do in response.
The conference, titled Restore America Rally, looks from this distance like an ideological indoctrination seminar in Christian nationalism, and a pep rally for the political movement that emanates from it. Let’s take a quick look at the featured speakers.
Gary DeMar, is the head of American Vision, which publishes books for the Christian school and Christian home school market. DeMar’s own books tend to be works of Christian historical revisionism, which among other things, seek to persuade young people that the U.S. was founded as a “Christian nation.” His first presentation at the conference, intended for young people, is on “America’s Christian Heritage.” This is one way of framing the basic premise of Christian nationalism. And it is important because it is a central underlying premise of all of the Christian Right, and is arguably a necessary ingredient to their success. But it is also a major weakness, because it is a premise that is more than faulty, it is just plain wrong. I have written about this before, and there is plenty of good source material to support this, so I will not dwell on it here. But its a subject we all need to get very good at. I think it is part of the key to turning the tide.
DeMar’s vision for America, and his widening influence in the Christian Right in Georgia, and nationally, is disturbing. DeMar is a leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement, which believes that the U.S. should be governed by a harsh theocracy and impose what they call “Biblical law.” I happen to have written a great deal about DeMar and his fellow theocrats in my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Here is a sample: “Gary DeMar in his book Ruler of the Nations wrote that “The law that requires the death penalty for homosexual acts effectually drives the perversion of homosexuality underground, back into the closet…”. The longterm goal, he adds, “should also be the execution of abortionists and the parents who hire them. If we say that abortion is murder, then we must call for the death penalty.’ DeMar claims that Christians ‘are not to impose a top-down tyranny to ram the Bible down people’s throats.’ However, he insists “we must elect public officials who say they will vote for Biblical laws.” (page 82)
Of course, DeMar probably won’t be talking about the more gruesome and totalitarian aspects of the theocratic agenda for America when he addresses young people at the Restore America Rally. The darker side of the Christian Nation will remain deep in the shadows until they are able to take power; and when they do, they will say they are only doing what God requires, even if it is unpleasant. Smart, if disingenuous politics.
During the evening rally, DeMar will answer a rhetorical question: “Is Reclaiming America a Futile Exercise?” And when he is done, young and old will learn just what they can do to restore America’s Christian heritage — the true intentions of the Founding Fathers that, sadly, have been so twisted and thwarted by secular humanism and the runaway federal judiciary.
They will hear a “challenge” from Sadie Fields, president of the Christian Coalition of Georgia. She will tell the rally goers, assembled in the pews of Trinity Chapel, that they can reclaim America by becoming active Christian citizens; by lobbying, and most importantly, engaging in electoral politics, and learning how to do it well — as has been key to the success of the Christian Coalition, and its historic role in transforming politics in the Republican Party, and in the country.
Finally, they will hear a stem winder from keynoter Roy Moore, who in the program, is referred to as “Chief Justice.” Moore will tell his revisionist and self-serving account of how he violated the order of a federal judge to remove the monument to the Ten Commandments that he had installed in the Alabama state courthouse; and how he was fired for it by a panel of retired judges and how the courts turned down his appeals. Then he will tell his audience how the problem is “judicial tyranny,” and how he is standing tall, remaining righteous, and true to his understanding of his Oath of Office and the will of God. People will see him as a hero of the faith, a Christian patriot, and a role model. He will also seek to persuade his audience that they, and the true intentions of the Founding Fathers have been betrayed, and that they must restore America’s Christian heritage and reclaim America.
Or something pretty close to that.
An aside: That Moore and his fans continue to use the title “Chief Justice,” tells us much about the culture and worldview of the theocrats. Moore was ousted from his post for his crackpot theatrics and his defiance of a federal court order. But notice in the bio on Moore’s web site, almost every sentence begins with “Chief Justice,” as if he were to the title born.
“Chief Justice Moore served our Country as a Captain in the Military Police Corps of the United States Army. He also served as Battalion Staff Officer at Ft. Riley, Kansas, and Illesheim, Germany, and as a Company Commander in Vietnam. During his professional career, Chief Justice Moore became the first full-time Deputy District Attorney in Etowah County and served in this position from 1977 until 1982. In 1984, Chief Justice Moore undertook private practice of law in Gadsden, until he became Circuit Judge, Sixteenth Judicial Circuit in 1992. Chief Justice Moore served in this capacity until his election as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama in November, 2000.”
It is a similar sense of entitlement that animates the Christian theocrats; they believe that God has anointed them, as Christian Right leader D. James Kennedy has put it, as “God’s vice-regents” The resentment they feel when they don’t get their way, often manifests itself in their political behavior.
There is a tendency, especially among those who are just learning about the Christian Right, to get very worked up about “the dominionists,” “the theocrats” and “the Reconstructionists,” and so on. And this is understandable. (If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have spent so many years learning and writing about these things.) But once you do know, once you do understand, what then? What do we do with what we have learned? How much information do we need to take action? Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that learning about the Christian Right is something we should not do, or ever stop doing. What I am saying is that one does not need to be an expert to begin to take action, and the knowledge that we gain should inform our activism.
Here is the good news. The answer lies in what the what the theocrats themselves are doing to gain power. Electoral politics. Yup. Electoral politics.
The Christian Right spent years systematically raising their constituency’s consciousness about politics and public policy; building a culture that includes, rather than excludes electoral politics, a culture that actually sees electoral politics as a natural outgrowth of their religious and home life. We need to find ways to do this in ways appropriate to our own communities, and our own institutions. I am not talking about big opinions about what the Democratic Party should do; or what the mainstream churches, or organized labor should do. I am talking about what I should do, and what you should do, in our own lives, in our own communities, and in the institutions we relate to. These will be different for most of us. I have been trying to do this in my own life, and this is part of why I write this piece. (My main involvement is Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts.)
So the next time someone starts breathlessly talking or writing about what “the dominionists” (or some other powerful opponents) are up to: Don’t panic. And don’t let that person panic. We know they’re bad. We know they have some considerable political strength and momentum. Take a deep breath. Do what so many of us are doing, or are learning to do. Electoral politics. Collectively, we have great power.
I repeat. The answer to the power of the Christian Right is electoral power of our own. No excuses. Many of us have tended to abandon this cornerstone of citizenship in favor of other things. It is time to get our priorities straight. Less talk, more action. Less entertainment, more citizen involvement. Less TV and sports. More electoral politics. Do we want the theocrats to win? More electoral politics.
Yeah, yeah, framing. Yeah, yeah, message. Yeah, yeah, netroots. Yeah, yeah, statements of principles. These, and more are important, and I am not minimizing them. They are all elements of electoral politics, elements of citizenship. It is the path to power in the United States. Each of us, as citizens has the right and the obligation to learn to do it well, just as the Christian Coalition and their allies have learned to do it well. If we believe that democracy is a good thing, we need to learn to get very good at it. We need to be better at it than those who would destroy it.
I don’t mean to be simplistic or glib. While the foundational idea is simple, I know the rest may be complicated and hard. But once we accept that orienting ourselves to electoral politics is the necessary foundation, everything else falls into place. Electoral politics is integral to citizenship in a constitutional democracy. How could it be otherwise? Voting alone is not enough. The survival of constitutional democracy depends on the active participation of the citizens. Did you know that the typical turnout for special elections for the state legislature in Massachusetts is 25%? Here in the bluest of the blue states? This kind of statistic is typical around the country, and the problem of citizen disengagement and lack of particiaption needs to change. It’s possible; and it’s necessary.
And yes, we have some reclaiming to do ourselves. We need to reclaim American history and develop a better, accurate, competing narrative. And part of that narrative must also be our own stories of reclaiming the knowledge and skills it will take to also reclaim the power of citizenship.
Learning political and electoral skills, developing a good political culture in our communities and in our institutions; establishing networks of political relationships; building for power — all takes time. But it will be time well spent. Let’s get to work.
[Cross posted at The Daily Kos where a lively discusssion ensued.]
Historical revisionism is a vital part of the far right’s efforts to justify bigotry of various sorts, in many areas of politics and public policy. We see this in, among other areas, the Christian nationalism espoused by leaders of the Christian Right such as ex-judge Roy Moore, James Dobson, D. James Kennedy and a host of others.
I will be writing more about this, but I want to highlight a disturbing essay by blogger grannyhelen, posted on faith forward: progressive christianity, progressive politics.
Here is an excerpt:
“This is a hard diary for me to write. Hard but necessary. Some of my Christian brothers and sisters are using our religion to cover their prejudices with the patina of belief. They rejoice in their acceptance by society, and the stamp of approval they receive by being such good Christian that they could even love a gay person… if only they’d just stop being gay.
I can’t tell you why they do this. I can only tell you it’s wrong.
How do I know it’s wrong? Because I’m a student of history, and specifically the history leading up to and during the Second World War in Germany.”