December 19, 2014

December 4, 2012


Shut Up, They Explained

A collection of “faith leaders” who agree on very little except politics have joined together to make one another feel good by opposing one of the great evils of our day: free speech. To be specific, they have signed a letter to no one in particular making clear that they see spending money to support political candidates is bad, bad, bad:

As faith leaders, we stand for honoring the voices of each person created in God’s image and for protecting the integrity of those voices in our democratic process. Together, we sound the alarm over a flood of special interest money into our political system from a privileged few and call upon our leaders to pursue bold solutions to this crisis of democracy.

In fact, millions of Americans–virtually all of whom had some “special interest” or another in seeing particular candidates elected–gave money to support those candidates. They did so in order for those candidates to get out messages of various sorts. They did so by way of exercising their constitutional rights, rights with which these “faith leaders” have a real problem.

Candidates are spending so much time courting donors that they have less and less time to speak with voters or craft solutions to our biggest problems. Voters, especially younger Americans, tune out because they view our elections as un-democratic and potentially corrupt.

In fact, voter turnout rises and falls from one cycle to the next, and does so regionally as well as nationally, depending on a variety of factors. Voter turnout in Washington state last month was almost 80% because of controversial referenda, while in Connecticut it was 74% due to a high interest Senate election. Ohio’s was 68%, down 2% from 2008 despite the state’s absolute centrality to the result of the presidential election. The point is that what the “faith leaders” say in this letter is pure assertion meant to bolster their pre-conceived conclusions about the role of money in elections.

The rich and the poor grow further and further apart, a trend reinforced by a path to electoral victory studded with high-dollar fundraisers and special interest backroom deals. Attack ads blanket the airwaves, dividing us when we need to come together to solve our country’s enormous challenges.

More assertion. It is certainly true that Americans have become more ideologically polarized in the last two decades. Campaign ads don’t create that polarization, however, but reflect it. (How do you know that’s true? Because the level of polarization doesn’t drop between campaigns.) Look at it this way: I don’t buy into the policy prescriptions of Jim Wallis and his mainline buddies, not because campaign ads brainwash me, but because I don’t think they are correct. While it is true that lots of Americans are low-information voters, that would suggest that we would be wise to increase the information available, not decrease it. The problem for the “faith leaders” is that they 1) don’t like what a lot of those ads say, because they don’t agree with them, and 2) don’t like the fact that it takes money to get the message out.

Most recently, the watershed “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision that awarded corporations the same legal rights as people has had the practical result of granting special interests and individuals almost unlimited power to influence elections through massive spending.

You knew this was coming, right? So let’s say it all together: “Corporations, like Soylent Green, are people!” Corporations are collections of people acting on a particular interest. In that regard, they are like unions, whose hundreds of millions of dollars of political spending are not mentioned anywhere in this letter. Oh, and keep in mind who the plaintiffs were in the Citizens United case: a handful of people who made a movie with a message that liberals didn’t like, and funding sources of which they did not approve. They weren’t Exxon or Halliburton or Koch Industries or any of the other businesses liberals love to hate, but a small group who happened because of their organizational status to get caught up in campaign finance laws. It is people like these that the “faith leaders” apparently want to silence.

We are also disturbed by a decision that gives the unique status accorded to human beings, made in God’s image, to corporations. People, not corporations, were made in the image of God.

Last time I checked, Supreme Court decisions were not theological statements. The status of corporations as “persons” is purely a legal one. The “faith leaders” may now officially unbunch their panties.

“We the People,” who ordained and established the U.S. Constitution in order to form a more perfect union, who together as a people are responsible and accountable for wisely stewarding God’s creation, who are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are called to bear God’s image faithfully and to reject that which challenges these basic principles.

I believe that on YouTube, this paragraph is referred to as a “mashup.” We’ve got the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, various documents of the National Council of Churches, and a touch of Chuck Norris there at the end. To say it is incoherent is being generous.

Just as the prophets and saints from our faith traditions railed against economic wealth and power that resulted in injustice for the people, we follow in their footsteps and cry out against a system that tears at the fabric of our democracy.

Here’s what actually “tears at the fabric of our democracy”: the election of politicians who make decision on public policy questions based not on what is best for the country, or on the opinions of their constituents, but on what is best for their political careers. We’re seeing that played out right in front of us at this very moment, as the White House, the Democratic leadership in the Senate, and the Republican leadership in the House all stare at the so-called “fiscal cliff” and ask themselves, “how can I put the blame for whatever bad stuff that happens on the other guys?” If the people whom we send to Washington and our state houses had any integrity, the amount of money spent on campaigns wouldn’t matter. And changing the way campaigns are financed won’t make any difference either, until the character of those elected radically changes. (Oh, and I can’t help but mention this: who was the first presidential candidate to opt out of the public campaign finance system that was supposed to clean up American politics? That’s right: the guy who almost certainly got the votes of virtually every signatory to this letter in both 2008 and 2012.)

We call upon our elected leaders, citizens around the country, and all people of faith and moral commitment to join us in supporting measures to safeguard our democratic principles and the promise of government for, of, and by the people.

We’re left to imagine what those measures might be, but it isn’t hard to guess. A ban on giving by corporations or any form of political action committee, stringent limits on individuals (perhaps even banning contributions by those making more than a certain income level), and unlimited spending (in the name of “advocacy” and “public educational efforts,” doncha know) by unions. That’s “democracy,” as defined by such luminaries as Jim Wallis, seminary professors Walter Brueggeman and John Cobb, for NCC president Peg Chemberlin, Episcopal bishop Mark Hollingsworth of Ohio, Rev. Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners, Otis Moss of Trinity UCC in Chicago (Jeremiah Wright’s old haunt), former PCUSA Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, Jim Salt of Faux Catholics United, and an assortment of rabbis, seminary types, imams, mainline Prots, Unitarians, and other “faith leaders” of whom you’ve never heard.


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17 comments

I don’t seem to recall our “religious leaders” getting up in arms over union spending in elections or Planned Parenthood or any other left leaning outfit.

[1] Posted by Bill2 on 12-4-2012 at 04:16 PM · [top]

Precious!  Posturing!  Politicos!

[2] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 12-4-2012 at 04:19 PM · [top]

I love your facts about the turnout in states with hot button issues or referendums on their ballot, compared to a modest turnout in Presidentially significant Ohio.

The church has become a place where you can vomit up any old opinion and claim to be a prophet.  Sad.

[3] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 12-4-2012 at 04:50 PM · [top]

Clicked on the letter site and thought it said “Ground-swill.”  Better go to the eye doctor and get my eyes checked.

[4] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 12-4-2012 at 05:18 PM · [top]

“...this letter is pure assertion meant to bolster their pre-conceived conclusions…”

For whatever reason, this appears to be increasingly common. 

On one hand, for some I suspect this is a deliberate tactic to mislead by an appearance of confidence and authority, all the while being unable or unwilling to provide support for such assertions.  The uninquisitive may or may not be convinced, but they will recognize the position of those in leadership - and the message will be out there.  The key is communication domination. 

On the other hand, there are some - typically educated to a level of painful gormlessness - who consider their assertions to be self evident truth, needing no support.  A subset of these do not even recognize they are making an unsupported assertion, or consider their assertions to be supported by the weight of their innate credibility (‘I’m liberal and in charge, so I must be right’).

On the third hand, of course, are the lazy who recognize that they are making an assertion without offering support - but believe the support must be somewhere, given the genius and beauty of the assertion - but cannot be bothered to look into the facts.

I guess I could go on, but I’m over-handed as it is. 

rolleyes

[5] Posted by tired on 12-4-2012 at 05:44 PM · [top]

So if we are going to limit wealthy corporations and individuals from influencing public opinion on political matters, when will they shut down the news media and shutter the Hollywood studios?  Or perhaps THOSE corporations spending huge sums to influence public opinion is okay.

[6] Posted by jamesw on 12-4-2012 at 05:53 PM · [top]

Their credo is evidently, “Free speech for me but not for thee.”

[7] Posted by the virginian on 12-4-2012 at 06:33 PM · [top]

“The church has become a place where you can vomit up any old opinion and claim to be a prophet.”  <i>Timothy Fountain<i>

The Episcopal church has become a place where you can vomit up any old opinion and claim to be a prophet.  There, fixed it for you!  But seriously, I’m becoming a broken record.  Our Constitutional rights are in jepoardy in the hands of liberals.

[8] Posted by Nikolaus on 12-4-2012 at 06:45 PM · [top]

#6 beat me to it. We might also add certain aspects of the public school system. They want to limit the sources of information to the ones they have control over.

I also love this:

We are also disturbed by a decision that gives the unique status accorded to human beings, made in God’s image, to corporations. People, not corporations, were made in the image of God.

But I thought socialists elevated the collective over the individual. But that is an abstraction every bit as much as a corporation.

[9] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 12-4-2012 at 06:46 PM · [top]

“protecting the integrity of those voices in our democratic process.”

Surely these esteemed faith leaders cc’d the British Parliament and the C of E to admonish them about protecting the integrity of all voices in the democratic process.

BigTex AC

[10] Posted by BigTex AC on 12-5-2012 at 10:30 AM · [top]

I believe in proclaiming my faith, and one way by which I’ve been doing that lately is by wearing a grey rubber bracelet, which says to all in clear bold white print “NOT + ASHAMED.”  It’s a version of the bracelet now being sold in the UK, where it originated as a result of Parliament’s banning the wearing of religious items in public.

[11] Posted by cennydd13 on 12-5-2012 at 11:57 AM · [top]

I will wear that bracelet until such time as our religious rights are respected by all governments.

[12] Posted by cennydd13 on 12-5-2012 at 12:00 PM · [top]

These alleged “religious leaders” are in arms over special interest money in political campaigns, but I wonder if we’ll hear from any of them after a Detroit City Council member demanded yesterday that President Obama bail out Detroit because of their voters’ overwhelming support for his re-election bid.

http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/20264712/detroit-councilwoman-to-obama-we-supported-you-now-support-us

I don’t recall seeing any special interest ads making similar demands on either President Obama or Gov. Romney during the recently concluded campaign.

[13] Posted by the virginian on 12-5-2012 at 01:55 PM · [top]

And what screams “democracy!” more than government threatening violence against someone for stating an opinion?

I think David’s reminder about what the Citizens United decision was over is critical here.  It was a “corporation” put together for the specific purpose of creating political opinion works like “Hilary: The Movie.”  In that regard, it is not in any salient aspct that different from the New York Times or Washington Post.  Suppress CU’s abaility to publish polemic and there is absolutely no reason to suppress that of the NYT or WaPo.

And let’s not forget what the US Solicitor General said during oral argument in CU, namely that a single sentence in an otherwise apolitical book advocating the election or defeat of a particular candidate would enable the federal government to confiscate and destroy said book.  The law permitting this was a travesty, and it was justly overturned.

What part of “Congress shall make no law…” is so hard to understand?

[14] Posted by Jeffersonian on 12-6-2012 at 03:13 PM · [top]

And while we’re on the topic of Citizens United, let’s remember who arguably benefited the most from that decision in this recent election:  organized labor unions, and their chief beneficiary, the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. who excoriated the justices at that infamous State of the Union message a few years back.

Just for once, I’d like to see liberals show the merest scintilla of shame for their transparent hypocrisy and mendacity.

[15] Posted by Joshua 24:15 on 12-6-2012 at 07:14 PM · [top]

I could be wrong, but isn’t this Advent?  The time where these words come in:

He hath shewed might in his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.

Again, I could be wrong.  Perhaps it’s that liturgical season that promotes loud posturing and self-righteousness.  I can’t remember the name of it, at the moment.

Maybe once in a great while a post that actually included some humility in its assertion would be a relief from all the rancor that sounds oh, so similar to that of “the other guys.”

It’s not just the disrespect that gets to me, it’s the pride in being disrespectful that astounds me.  Almost on a daily basis.

(As to Citizen’s United, it may interest someone (but probably not) that this venue allowed at least one Middle Eastern country to contribute heavily to non-liberal campaigns, it also opened the door for a man seeking to avoid prosecution for giving bribes to the Chinese government to allow him to open gambling palaces there.  He’s already started to “campaign” for the next election, in spite of his pro-abortion, pro-SSM stances.)

[16] Posted by JuliaMarks on 12-8-2012 at 03:37 PM · [top]

Julia - it’s so good to know campaigning has begun a month after this election…..

[17] Posted by maineiac on 12-10-2012 at 12:08 AM · [top]

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