Monday :: May 23, 2005

In Morals We Trust - Part II: Theocracy Autocracy

by eriposte

The GOP's embrace of the Far Right has often been described using the word "theocracy". Many bloggers or groups on the Left have used this term - here are a few random examples: Dave at Seeing the Forest, David Neiwert (Orcinus), John at Americablog, Theocracy Watch, Frederick Clarkson (via Corrente), Oliver Willis, etc.

Last week I argued that the word theocracy may not be the best word to use in order to describe the objective of the Far Right and the GOP leadership. I briefly explained why:

People like Frist, Dobson, et al. are deeply immoral, deeply corrupt and lie freely without remorse. So, they don't speak for God and their claim of faith in God is a complete sham. Likewise, they don't speak for their religion (Christianity) either and the only reason they continue to get away with their claim to be "devout" or "religious" is because you have a media that is either pissing-in-their-pants afraid of these guys or downright corrupt and happy to encourage these people.

In response, commenter Buck (who has provided many thoughtful comments to my posts since I started blogging here) asked:

And how is this different from any other practical theocracy? It seems, theocracy is exactly the right word, if not for the current practice, then for the desire of that particular demographic slice.

Here's a note to Buck and all Progressives who use the word "theocracy". My point is not about what is semantically acceptable or how a theocracy may be defined as a matter of practice. It is about how Progressives communicate the real underlying issue to Americans. The word theocracy may not be the most effective one. Here's why.

Even if the word (rightly) has a negative connotation among a big percentage of the populace, it reinforces the (bogus) connection that the Far Right wants to see reinforced among the Republican base - namely, that Republicans want to bring God and morality to Government. To conservatives who believe that there's no harm in this, the mere mention of "theocracy" - especially by those tarred as "liberals" - may very well make their support for the Bushies stronger because it may leave them with the (wrong) impression that Bush actually stands for morality, and that he's just going a bit too far in his quest for it. So, even people who don't necessarily support the Bushies actions today may be left with the impression that Bush and the GOP stand for morality - despite the truth being quite the opposite. That's the real issue (the forest-trees thing).

In fact, I suspect that the use of words like "theocracy" in the debate over the worst judges supported by Bush and the Far Right (Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor, William Myers, etc.) may complicate the message about these judges. What's more, terms like "radical", "extremist", "outside the mainstream", "anti-environmental" or "activist" to describe these judges may all be accurate, but they simply do not convey in a simple manner what is really wrong with these judges: they are immoral.

In essence, I am saying that one cannot effectively fight extremists or fundamentalists in the media spotlight by reinforcing the notion that they somehow have too much "faith" in God or that they are too deeply religious (that they are "theocrats" or that they are "moral"). You have to point out that much of what they claim to be "moral" represents immorality. When they clamor for faith-based Government, it is our job to remind them and Americans that they are actually asking for a Government where faith is debased. You have to use every opportunity to expose the immorality of their leading spokesmen or spokeswomen, for if they are willing to judge others, they are going to be judged in return - again and again until they relent. Every day, every Far Right proponent of "moral values" who supports Bush or the GOP needs to be reminded that he or she will not be considered either moral or a person of "faith" (in God) as long as he/she keeps supporting a Government and policies that are morally corrupt to the core.

Thus, the response to the Far Right's recent debasement of "faith", namely their "Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith", should be simple, clear and resounding.

Justice Everyday: Stop the Cheerleading For Immoral People

There's another reason why the use of the word "theocracy" may prove unhelpful in the current battle - which is that it masks the real Bush agenda. We know that what the Bush administration really wants is an autocracy with unchecked power. They will use the Far Right to get the autocracy they want and throw sops to them here and there to keep them happy. But, we should be clear that the Bushies' ultimate goal is autocracy and despotism - not a theocracy. If they can create a Far Right "theocracy" (an oxymoron) as a bonus, they will - but Americans need to know that the real objective is autocracy. One can easily make that case, especially knowing the egregious and immoral history of the Priscilla Owens or Janice Browns (or George Bush). So, let's start emphasizing autocracy, not theocracy - and let's show the would-be theocrats for what they really are.

P.S. Dave at Seeing the Forest wrote this last week:

How will the end of democracy and representative government -- and that is exactly what is happening here, make no mistake about it, these people believe that democracy is an affront to rule by God's wishes -- be bad for the majority of Americans? How does it harm their interests in ways they can feel?

Update - After posting that I was driving to the office (that pesky day job thing) and a woman calls into Rush, and is CRYING about how "unfair" it is that the Democrats are obstructing this poor woman from becoming a judge! Yesterday, on the Senate floor, Senator Hutchinson was CRYING about how "unfair" it is that the Democrats are obstructing this poor woman from becoming a judge.

In other words, the Right has tested "unfair," and they know it makes an emotional connection with their target demographic. They aren't arguing details and facts and technicalities, they are making an emotional connection with the people they are targeting. Let me repeat that. They aren't arguing details and facts and technicalities, they are making an emotional connection with the people they are targeting.

They are making their audience care about this.

How do we phrase all of this in ways that connect with those parts of the public we need to reach?

Dave is absolutely right that emotional people who have minimal interest in facts need to be engaged at an emotional level (as I said in my previous post). Based on that, and based on what I wrote above, here is what Progressives need to do.

If radical Republicans believe that democracy is an affront to God's wishes, the way to address it is by pointing out that they neither represent Christ nor his wishes. Neutralize the claims of "faith" or "moral values" and take the upper hand in the debate on morality because Democrats/Progressives will win it any day.

Second, don't let charlatans portray themselves as upholding moral values. If the Right cries about the "unfairness" of the planned filibusters by Democrats, then it is imperative that Democrats respond that it is the Right that is being unfair and immoral in supporting the nomination of judges who are immoral and corrupt. Filibusters, in this case, are required to uphold a modicum of moral values in the governance of the country and to set the right example for our children, that there will not be officially sanctioned immorality or corruption, except by the Bush administration and its supporters in the media (like Rush Limbaugh).

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