If You Choose to Support Trump in Part, You Are Choosing to Support “The Full Catastrophe”
Written by: 
Joe Morris Doss

David Duke was running hard for the Senate. The Louisiana media was following his every move, reporting all the juicy controversies that popped up on a daily basis, and making him the center of attention for the electorate. At one point Duke offered a proposal that many, even activists who opposed him with great passion, found relatively plausible. It had nothing to do with white supremacy or racism; it actually seemed downright innocuous to most observers. The buzz was that it might even be considered valid and certain politicians on the opposite side were beginning to consider how being able to support something Duke proposed might be good politics. One of the people working to elect Duke’s opponent was Kenneth Duncan, Treasurer of the State of Louisiana and President of the National Association of State Treasurers. At a certain juncture, Duncan found him self cornered by reporters who were asking if he was going to give the proposal his imprimatur.

“Have you read what Duke has to say about it? Will you be able to go along with it?” Duncan replied without hesitation: “I don’t have to read anything he writes. I only need to see whose name is there. I am not going to support the political standing and power of a David Duke by supporting him on anything. He is too toxic to touch.”

That made a lot of sense to me. It was not until Duke was sufficiently isolated by colleagues who would not play ball with him that he finally disappeared into the background.

Then suddenly late this spring, he was on every national news channel announcing his support for Donald Trump. Trump’s response was utterly revealing. Trump refused to distance himself from Duke until the coded signals of racism had been duly received and recorded. It is legitimate to speculate that Trump’s posturing about Duke helped move him along the path to presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.

These now are days when a lot of jockeying is taking place among Republicans, seeking positions that might allow them to have their cake and eat it too. Many are pointing to certain aspects of the Trump candidacy that they can support while acknowledging with long faces that the decision as a whole is problematic. One approach of “Vichy Republicans” – the ones who choose to go along with the take over and occupation of their political party – is to try to distinguish between those issues and areas of governance on which they may be able to support him and the things about which they want to disassociate.

Let’s be clear, if a voter or a politician supports Trump on any one of his ideas, assertions, accusations, proposals, and promises, — his program — that person is supporting all of what will happen if he becomes President.

If it troubles one that Muslims will be blocked from coming to the land first founded on the desire for freedom of religion,

if one would rather not see a wall against Mexicans,

if it causes concern that women will have a leader who is so an obviously a misogynist,

if it distresses voters to realize that the word of a President Trump would not be trustworthy or even to be taken seriously and that when he speaks he will be casually ruthless,

if it is problematic for a President to be lazy and ignorant about “the what” and “the how-to” of government,

if it is uncomfortable to put your life and those of your children and families in Trump’s hands after being warned about his plans for nuclear proliferation and the inevitable use of nuclear arms – by a range of countries,

Then, please be aware that you will be responsible for all of this – and so much more – that the candidate has openly exposed.

The person who chooses to support Trump because she or he can support him in part? That person becomes responsible for the whole!

Education In the Way? Starve It, Run Over It, Go Around It, Subvert It
Written by: Joe Morris Doss

In the latter part of the twentieth century the increasingly successful Conservative Movement decided to target its enemies. One was “the academy,” the American institutions of education. Public education was placed under special attack.

At least two relevant issues have to be identified that already had created grave problems for public education of elementary and high schools when the Conservative Movement went to work; these then contributed to its emerging strategy: vouchers and competition between schools. The early leaders of the civil rights movement understood that the achievement of racial integration and equality of opportunity depended in large measure on improving the quality of education by equalizing it. Thus, instead of such targets as segregated housing and unequal job opportunities, the civil rights movement focused on integration of schools. Private schools cropped up all over the place, and especially private religious schools. As it turned out, many of these new private schools taught religious and political views that have proved supportive of the conservative movement, e.g. creationism v. evolution. Meanwhile, Roman Catholic schools were increasingly under financial stress due to the decline in numbers of priests, nuns, and others called to vocations that provided teachers and staff. The demand soon developed for publicly funded vouchers to support private schools of personal choice. As for the underfunded and unequally underfunded public schools, especially within districts serving a high percentage of students living in homes of poor and uneducated adults, the turn has been to the fundamental conservative principle of competition judged by markets forces. (1) The competition between the public schools within a given location – those publicly run and privately run – provides a choice. The use of vouchers widens the choice to one between public and private schools. (2) The competition between teachers is based on norm-referenced, group-administered comparative achievement testing of their students.

The attack at the level of higher education has been even more direct, though far more covert. The academy, that source of information, ideas, and facts that too often run counter to the aims and policies of the Conservative Movement, such as persistent concerns regarding global warming and macro economics that enjoyed scholarly consensus, is countered first with a generalized anti-intellectual message, belittling scholarship and appealing to “common sense.” But more directly the public institutions of education, especially higher education, are to be squeezed financially, under the rubric that government should be smaller and should not be in the business of paying for the “commodity” termed education; rather the individuals that profit from it should pay for their own. That is, the idea developed that schools should operate like a business – one that sells services for which a consumer pays according to market value – and leave government out of it. Public education is to be underfunded to the extent that it would finally become unaffordable for the masses of young people, such as working class children, immigrants, and high school graduates whose parents lack have the necessary resources to pay tuition and costs.

Meanwhile, those educational institutions and organizations on campuses that were more in line with the Conservative Movement, such as Liberty University, are boosted; for example, recruiting and promoting their students into the political working of the Republican Party and its various administrations. Conservative students join groups like the Federalist Society, which is not only highly helpful career move but a practical necessity for a lawyer to move up the ladder in the conservative legal and political structures, e.g. Chief Justice Roberts of the U. S. Supreme Court. Such societies are as old and diverse as education itself, but it is unique for them to be established and funded from the private coffers of a political movement.

Finally, it was decided to infiltrate established educational institutions by convincing them to offer classes that would present the “party line,” such as conservative economic theory for classes in “Law and Economics”. “Infiltrate” is an appropriate word since there was no embarrassment about using stealth to implant these classes that would not ordinarily be of the quality demanded by such institutions like George Mason, Brown, and Yale.

But perhaps the most effective tactic was the enhancement of the effectiveness of the conservative “think tanks” and the creation of several new ones. Scholars of these institutions were to counter directly the liberal ideas and facts to be expected from educational and research institutions of higher learning, as well as from the think tanks the Movement considered liberal. For example, while scientists enjoyed broad agreement regarding the dangers to global warming, the supporters of fossil fuel could point to scholars within purportedly objective and public-minded think tanks who disagreed, creating an effective smoke screen for policies dangerous to the earth.
The following is an indication of the extent of the problem caused by evaporating state support of its colleges and universities. In some states the results are moving toward what many consider catastrophic reductions in financial support. The amount of general state funding for the support their schools of higher learning fell from 14.6 percent in 1990 to 9.4 percent in 2014.

“Despite modest increases in 2013 and 2014, state support for public higher education per full-time equivalent student remains nearly 30 percent below spending in 2000, after adjusting for inflation using the State Higher Education Finance cost adjustment. Source: State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Association, SHEF: FY 2014—State Higher Education Finance (Boulder, Colo.: State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, 2015).

Higher education has suffered relative to other priorities…According to one recent analysis, “eleven states spent more of their general funds on corrections than on higher education in 2013. And some of the states with the biggest education cuts in recent years also have among the nation’s highest incarceration rates.“ (Mitchell, Palacios, and Leachman, States are Still Funding Higher Education below Pre-Recession Levels.)


Going Deeper

By: Joe Morris Doss

At the Threshold has noted previously that strategic decisions were made and acted upon by a determined and focused group of wealthy Americans as the Conservative Movement gained ascendancy. Most of these people were not active members of a Christian church, and even fewer had strong feelings for any one of the several faith communities. Yet, they invested heavily in the church. They did so for purely political purposes. Readers of modern historical material about activities such as are documented in Dark Money (Jane Mayer) and Thy Kingdom Come (Randall Balmer) will not find this surprising.

One of the important strategic goals was to convince the public, through manipulation of the media, that Christianity is politically conservative by its very nature and limited in scope to private matters of personal moral behavior, individual “spirituality,” and otherworldly aspirations. For those reasons, it was asserted, Christians support liberal causes only as the church becomes captured by a secular agenda, e.g. the “gay agenda,” the “feminists agenda,” etc. In such a light, the proper public role of the church should be to support laws and policies that will suit the views of its most conservative Christians and impose laws that they consider “God’s will” for human society.

The conservative columnist Cal Thomas wrote an April 30 op-ed in which the accepted assumptions that identify Christianity with conservative political positions are exemplified. Speaking at an evangelical seminary he had no compunction about addressing his audience as though he was speaking for all of Christianity. Thomas lamented the failures of Christian influence in American government, noting the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage as an example of the secularization of society, and compared the situation of the present day church to that of the early church, “when it was the target of persecution.”

That Christians seem to be losing ground in what has erroneously been called the “culture wars” may not be a bad thing. It might force them to re-think their primary calling, which is to a kingdom “not of this world.”

This Christian vision is narrow and shallow. If it is taken as the vision of the church there can be little wonder that we have lost the imagination of society.

In striking contrast, on the morning that I read this opinion I next picked up an excerpt from Belief in God in An Age of Science by John Polkinghorne. (All quotes and references are taken from Part 5.) The author is a world-renown physicist who is also a noted philosopher and theologian. As a student of the physical makeup of the universe Polkinghorne is not to be turned away from interest in creation – its physicality, its order, and its purposes. From the very beginning in the first century the church courageously opened its mind in search of the full truth being revealed to them in the Jesus story. It certainly refused to ignore God’s design and commitment to creation.

This is not the place or the occasion for a sufficiently in-depth theological exploration, but perhaps some rudimentary sketching will offer a hint for why I found the comparison of the two essays so arresting. Polkinghorne is aware not only that transience and death have always been part of the world of human experience, but that today we realize how mortality characterizes the whole universe itself.

“Not only has it looked very different in the past from its appearance today, but eventually, after many more billions of years, it will change again, ending either in the bang of cosmic collapse or the long-drawn out whimper of an ever expanding dying world.”

The author links our own hope for resurrection with the resurrected universe and offers his studied hope that both we and it will be made new, just as God raised Jesus by transforming his dead body into a new form of embodied life.

“I have never felt that the perpetuation of the race, or of life itself, or—least of all—of selfish genes, represented sufficient fulfillment to make sense of the history of this world. The fact that we now know that all these carbon-based entities will one day perish only makes the point more clearly. If cosmic history is no more than the temporary flourishing of remarkable fruitfulness followed by its subsequent decay and disappearance, then I think Macbeth was right and it is indeed a tale told by an idiot.”

Polkinghorne perceives a deep yearning, an intuition of hope within the human spirit, that is expressed by no less than the atheist philosopher, Max Horkheimer, in his cosmic fancy that the murderer should not triumph over his innocent victim.

“Theology is—and I consciously phrase it carefully—the hope that injustice, which is typical of the world, will not have the last say… a yearning that in the end the hand of the killer will not remain on top of the innocent victim.” (Horkheimer, “Die Sehnschucht nach dem ganz Anderen,” Gesammelte Schriften, VII, s. 389, as quoted here.)

If we consider profound Christian hope and thus the role of the church in politics, we must reach into such deep and complex issues and, yes, we must consider even the “end things,” how it is all to turn out if God’s will is to be fulfilled. Only God can take from death the last word and if the human intuition of hope – that all will be well and that the world makes ultimate sense – depends on God. But, as frightening as it may be, God has made us agents of the divine will.

What Polkinghorne has to say as a profoundly modern Christian thinker sounds to me like solid Pauline scripture, surprised not that the whole world is in the process, groaning in travail though it may be, of coming to the new birth in which there shall be justice and peace – shalom – but that each of us is loved by God as though every one of us is a whole cosmos. This is a  Christian vision that can charge the people of the earth with energy and a passion for justice.

Some Analogous History Lessons? A Picture of the Future Republican Party?

Friends were recently thinking about what it is that we may be discovering in the current Presidential Campaign. One person observed that there are always “…major ebbs and flows in party orientation,” but “…we may be currently seeing one of the biggest shifts ever.”

Indeed, there are people talking about the destruction of the Republican Party, while others are talking about it finally becoming what it always should have been, the Conservative Party. But what does “conservative” mean? If the Conservative Movement succeeds in co-opting, or even replacing, the Republican Party as it has been constituted in recent memory, will it be a united and coherent force with a clear and unequivocal platform for the future?

Thoughts turned to history: considering the successes and failures, and even the rising and the falling, of political parties in the history of the United States. Jay Hakes, retired from serving different White Houses and most recently as Director of the Jimmy Carter Library, pointed out that it is useful to remember that Teddy Roosevelt was more progressive on race than Woodrow Wilson and that Eisenhower appointed better judges in the South than Kennedy.  The “Reagan revolution” fused religious conservatives of the Bob Jones type (often less educated than average) with business interests both large and small (often better educated than average), always a potential train wreck.  Now, many big corporations want openness to gays, etc. (all potential customers) and unhindered trade (access to even more customers); the other side of the party wants the right to discriminate and shut the door to foreigners.

Perhaps it will help to consider the foundation and subsequent development of the Republican Party into what is now is threatened with radical change or even a new identity. The GOP emerged largely from the demise of the Whig Party. Whigs were, by and large, the party of the elite with land and new commercial interests, combined with southern protectors of states rights, and a range of particularized “special interests.” By the late 1840’s it was trying to keep the peace and stability desired by the fiscal conservatives, while satisfying the anti-slavery movement of the north but supporting the states-rights proponents of the south. When their leadership produced the compromise of 1850 in an attempt to hold together antislavery Whigs and proslavery Whigs, the latter split to join the more congenial Democratic Party.

The Republican Party came into existence as a combination of most northern Whigs, which included fiscal conservatives and business interests determined to modernize the economy, and anti-slavery citizens that were becoming more radicalized. Abolitionist church leaders in the north became a major force in the new party. The anti-slavery forces became dominant over the period of two elections and during the time of civil war the radical wing soon took over the party.

Afterward, Reconstruction failed as a program, and it did not take terribly long for the old wealth and business interests that had transferred to the Republican Party from the Whigs to move back into control, leading directly to the Gilded Age. Soon, in the name of national unity and business interests, the Jim Crow Laws of the south were an accepted reality both within the dominant Republican Party and the periodically successful Democratic Party.

With the identity of the Republican Party almost entirely captured by the old Whig landed wealth and business interest, the Party of Lincoln no longer represented the interests of black Americans any better, and finally worse, than the Democrats. It was within a remarkably short period of time that the Republican Party lost the entire black vote. Indeed, it took a period of time no longer than that which has passed for us since WWII for the Republican Party to lose the constituency of the slaves, and heirs of the slaves, freed by Abraham Lincoln, and lose them to the party of Stephen Douglas.

Has the Conservative Movement of the last forty years which has succeeded in making Americans blame government for all that is wrong — most recently by a radical refusal to cooperate with the disagreements and compromises necessary for productive legislation, together with insistence on trickle down economics — produced the fiscal responsibility, smaller government, and success in foreign affairs so long touted as the aims of the Republican Party?

In reaction to globalization and the internal growth of minority populations since WWII, is the Conservative Movement to become a middle-American-white-supremacy-international bully-isolationist Nationalistic Party, politically supported by the anti-regulation wealthy?

What is the dynamic to be observed in today’s electoral politics as the Conservative Movement strengthens its hold over the Grand Ol’ Party? Where is it headed?