How Mormon Doctrine Shapes Romney’s World View November 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Mitt Romney, Racism, Religion, Women.
Tags: bigotry, kirk robinson, Latter Day Saints, mitt romney, Mormon, Mormon Church, religion, religious bigotry, roger hollander, salvation
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Roger’s note: I have studiously avoided posting articles about the current presidential election becuase both candidates leave much to be desired, and one gets tired of advocating for the lesser of evils. I will make this once exception at the last minute.
By Kirk Robinson
November 03, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – As Mormon missionaries in the 1960s, Mitt Romney and I were required to present six “discussions” to “investigators” before baptizing them – he in France and I in northern California. Central to those discussions was the “Plan of Salvation” (POS); and central to it, the “Doctrine of Eternal Progression.” These doctrines are also the essence of the Mormon temple “endowment ceremony” in which covenants of allegiance to God and the Church are made, accompanied by oaths of secrecy.
The doctrines are unique to Mormonism and absolutely central to it. There is no way that Mitt Romney’s view of the world cannot have been shaped by them, especially given the rather cloistered life he has lived. Together with passages of Mormon scripture, they imply several disturbingly retrograde political views that define the Republican-Tea Party:
* Women are subordinate to men.
* People of color are, or were, morally underdeveloped compared to white people.
* Gays cannot become gods, i.e., will be damned.
* The correct political philosophy is libertarianism.
* The best form of government fosters free-market capitalism with minimal regulatory oversight of business and industry.
* Earth is only a temporary home to be used as a stepping stone, not necessarily to be preserved or conserved.
* War in the Middle East is inevitable as part of God’s plan for “the last days.”
* Lying for the cause of righteousness, such as winning the election, is morally acceptable.
The Plan of Salvation
This takes us back to before the creation of Earth, when we were spirit beings living in a “spirit world.” We were created out of “spirit matter” through a process of conception, gestation and birth involving a heavenly father (God) and mother. The firstborn spirit of our heavenly parents was Jesus, the second was Satan, and other notables included early Mormon leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. They were especially “righteous” beings who were “fore-ordained” to play important roles in the historical unfolding of Mormon eschatology.
God eventually decided there were enough spirit children and it was time to start sending them away to college (my metaphor). So He created Earth and its myriad creatures for the college campus and solicited plans for a curriculum, graduation requirements, and future career tracks. Jesus and Satan each submitted a plan.
According to Jesus’s plan, the spirits who would decide to go to Earth would receive a mortal body, suffer and die, then be resurrected in a perfect union of spirit and body that would never suffer or die. A “veil of ignorance” would be placed across their minds so that they would not remember their pre-existence, and God’s commandments would be revealed to them through prophets. Importantly, they would have “free agency” to choose to obey them or not and would be responsible for their choices and actions.
All spirits who agreed to go along with Jesus’s plan will eventually receive resurrection as a graduation diploma and will be exalted to a level of glory commensurate with their earthly grades. The most righteous ones will receive the highest degree of eternal glory: the Celestial Kingdom. Others will go to the Terrestrial (middle) Kingdom or to the Telestial (lower) Kingdom. Each of these kingdoms is better than mortal existence, which is better than the spirit pre-existence. The three estates and the three kingdoms of glory represent a continuum of moral and material progress: an increase in righteousness leads to an increase in mastery and dominion over creation.
Satan had a different plan. He knew that many spirits would be unable to resist temptations. He empathized with them and thought a much more compassionate plan would be to “force” them to live God’s commandments, so they could go to the Celestial Kingdom. The catch here is that they would have to be deprived of their free agency through dictatorial force. And this would be very bad because then they would not earn, and would therefore not merit, their eternal rewards.
There was another important difference between the two plans. Jesus told God that even though he would suffer for the sins of the world, he would give all glory for the salvation of mankind to God; while Satan said that since he devised the plan and would be doing all the work to ensure salvation for mankind, he would accept the glory for himself – and he wouldn’t have to suffer for people’s sins either, because they wouldn’t be allowed to sin.
War in Heaven
A “Council in Heaven” was held in which Jesus and Satan each pitched his plan. God liked Jesus’s plan best and gave the spirits an ultimatum, which was essentially this: “Follow Jesus or follow Satan of your own free agency. But if you follow Satan, you will be barred from eternal progression.” This fomented a “War in Heaven” in which one third of the spirits took sides with Satan and rejected Jesus’s plan, apparently out of sheer orneriness for they had nothing to gain thereby; and so they, along with Satan, were banished from the divine presence for all eternity. The rest of us were eventually born into mortal bodies on Earth (with an untold number still waiting to be born), while Satan and his minions now occupy a kind of shadow Earth where they are constantly scheming and working to thwart Jesus’s plan.
The Status of Women
There was a rank order among all the spirits with respect to their degrees of righteousness. Jesus was the highest ranking spirit. Satan was second until his “fall.” The Biblical patriarchs and prophets were high achievers too, and so were “fore-ordained” to play a big role in the unfolding of the divine plan here on Earth. The rest of us were less stellar.
Because of the natural ranking of the spirits, there will be a roughly corresponding ranking among them as mortal beings too. Eternal progression can be compared to a foot race in which the starting points in the pre-existence were staggered according to the degrees of righteousness of the spirits, with the most righteous ones having a head start. Because of their superiority, they will tend to pull further ahead on Earth. The most righteous of all will naturally be great leaders and empire builders and the like. But for some inexplicable reason, the spiritual leaders will all be males. Women cannot hold the priesthood or become prophets in the Mormon Church, and they enjoy no ultimate decision-making authority. Their primary job is to serve men, which above all means homemaking, child bearing, and child rearing.
The Status of Blacks and American Indians
The more inferior spirits on Earth start at the back of the pack and tend to fall behind even while progressing. They are the descendants of Cain (Negroes) (here the race analogy tends to break down – pun intended) and the descendants of rebellious Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon (Native Americans). God “marked” or “cursed” them with a dark skin to distinguish them. But because they have their free agency, through extra diligence they might eventually overcome their poor starts to join God’s elite. A 1978 “revelation” to then-Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball allowed blacks to hold the Mormon priesthood for the first time, presumably because they had then progressed sufficiently. There was once a passage in the Book of Mormon (it has been excised) that said the descendants of Laman and Lemuel would one day become “white and delightsome.”
Polygamy and the Status of Gays
The people who earn the best grades on Earth will get the best jobs upon graduation from Earth. They will be the most god-like beings and accordingly will receive Celestial glory. They will become gods, endlessly creating and ruling over their own cosmic empires. Also, despite the Mormon Church’s official repudiation of polygamy, which was a precondition for Utah statehood, it is still generally accepted that achieving godhood will require the institution of polygamy in the Hereafter, with husbands being “sealed” to multiple wives. Needless to say, gay people won’t participate in this, so they can’t become gods; which is to say that they will be damned in the sense of not continuing to progress for eternity.
Cosmic Pyramid Schemes
It is a kind of axiom of Mormon doctrine that to be righteous is to follow “correct principles” that tend to produce successful and happy lives, conceived in both spiritual and material terms. Achieving godhood status is believed to be the highest possible source of happiness and joy. And presumably this grand POS will be repeated over and over for eternity, with new gods creating new worlds ad infinitum in a cosmic pyramid scheme. (This may go some distance in explaining why Utah is plagued to an unusual degree with earthly pyramid schemes in which trusting Mormons are bilked out of their life savings by trusted Mormons.)
The Status of Earth
From the point of view of the POS, Earth and its myriad creatures exist primarily for the benefit of mankind, and thereby to glorify God. They are like a pair of shoes: It is prudent to take good care of your shoes, but their primary purpose is to help you get where you want to go, in the course of which wear and tear will be unavoidable. So don’t worry too much about global climate change or species extinctions. Yikes!
Free Agency vs. Compassion, Brotherly Love, and Cooperation
The POS illustrates the relative importance of two Mormon moral ideals: free agency, which entails taking responsibility for one’s choices and actions; and compassion, brotherly love, and cooperation, which require helping those in need. Each is in its own way commendable, but combining them in a way that is responsive to real circumstances can be challenging: Concerning people ostensibly in need, when is compassion the right response and when is demanding that they take responsibility for themselves the right response?
Of the two, free agency is in an important way more fundamental than compassion, as shown by the fact that God preferred a plan that emphasized the one over the other. It is more important than doing good deeds because only good that is done freely merits moral approbation and reward. Free agency is therefore a necessary condition for individual moral progress – and ultimately also for material progress as represented by gods creating worlds and exercising dominion over them. So far, so good, but . . .
The Right Form of Government and Economic System
The POS pretty clearly supports a libertarian political philosophy, including free market capitalism with minimal regulatory oversight of business and industry. Anything less would necessitate a sacrifice of free agency.
In this connection, it is interesting that in the early days of Mormons in Utah, Brigham Young attempted to establish a very pure socialistic system, the “United Order,” that would have made Karl Marx envious. In doing so, he was clearly giving precedence to compassion, brotherly love, and cooperation over competition. Why? One can presumably imagine a morally perfect being, such as Jesus, who always chooses and does what is right without being forced to; and Brigham Young thought the Saints ought to give it a try. Unfortunately, the experiment failed. Too many of the Saints gave in to avarice when they saw a chance to make money selling stuff to overland travelers. And they weren’t anxious to share their lucre either.
The Best of All Possible Worlds?
In Mormon terms, the best of all possible worlds will be one in which all people freely live God’s commandments. If compassion is called for, like the “good Samaritan” they will show compassion even at the expense of personal inconvenience. And they will share their talents and possessions freely to advance the greater good – as was supposed to happen with the United Order experiment. However, real people and the real world being what they are, an astonishing amount of human suffering goes unalleviated – suffering that might be prevented or relieved to a considerable extent through the institution of government programs designed to promote the general welfare, e.g., Social Security and universal health care. Yet paradoxically, given the ethical primacy of respect for free agency over the duty of compassion, from the point of view of the POS such a world must be reckoned morally inferior to one in which there is more human suffering, perhaps much more, but less state coercion. This fact doesn’t fit comfortably with Jesus’s message of love and compassion in the New Testament. Ouch!
A person who has been indoctrinated with Mormon dogma, especially if he is also a male born into a privileged social and economic position, is physically attractive, intelligent, and charismatic, might easily come to believe that he is one of the fore-ordained or “chosen ones” of God who will play a critical role in the events of the last days, including perhaps saving the United States Constitution when it is “hanging by a thread,” as predicted in the uncanonized “White Horse Prophecy” that was reputedly delivered by the Mormon Church’s founder Joseph Smith in 1843. It is known that Mitt Romney had such delusions of grandeur when he was younger. Does he still?
Sinning for the Lord
Because Mormon eschatology views human history, from the War in Heaven through Armageddon, as a continuing war between the two great forces of good and evil , sinning for the Lord” might at times be a moral necessity. Indeed, in the opening pages of the Book of Mormon, the most prominent hero of the book, a revered Mormon prophet named Nephi, murdered a man named Laban in order to steal a genealogical record of his people to take with his family to the Americas. This act was ethically justified as follows: “And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” (1 Nephi 4:12-13) (One can’t help but think of Romney’s shameless shape-shifting and etch-a-sketching.)
According to Mormon eschatology, we are now in the “last days” of our earthly estate, which explains the official name of the Mormon Church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Surely Armageddon is not far off, when the forces of righteousness will permanently conquer and subdue the forces of evil. This will usher in a millennium of peace in which Jesus will return to Earth to rule, assisted by the most worthy of God’s children, a good many of whom will of course be Mormons. These elite will include men who are leaders of men and empire builders the likes of Mitt Romney. They will also be members of the “House of Israel,” which consists both of the descendants of the Biblical patriarch Jacob and people who are “adopted” into the House of Israel by being baptized Mormons. From the Mormon perspective, this implies a special affinity between Mormons and Jews that is reinforced by a common history of persecution. It’s an obvious step from this to the conclusion that ineluctable Armageddon will involve a war between the righteous nation of Israel and its supporters on the one side, and its enemies on the other. As things presently stand, we are talking here about a war to end all wars between Israel and Iran and their respective allies. Just what we don’t need!
Our nation has reached a point of extreme political and moral polarization, with the Republican-Tea Party on one side and the Democrat Party on the other, each vying for command of our future. One can say, accurately enough, that the one side fervently embraces the propositions listed at the beginning of this essay, while the other side vehemently rejects them. It is to be expected, therefore, that the views of the respective presidential nominees reflect this same stark opposition. While it is hardly likely that the upcoming election will resolve this clash of values for once and for all, all the indications are that it will mark a singular, momentous, and irreversible turning point in our nation’s history.
Kirk Robinson, Ph.D., is an attorney (and former Mormon, having left decisively over 40 years ago) living in Salt Lake City.
This article was originally posted at Counterpunch
Torture: An Author and a Resister May 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Abu Zubaydah, al-Qaeda, ali soufan, alyssa peterson, alyssa peterson suicide, Ann Wright, bush administration, CIA torture, enhanced interrogation, eric holder, fbi interrogator, geoffrey miller, Guantanamo, impeach bybee, jay bybee, jose padilla, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, military commissions, mohamed al-qahtani, Mormon, mukasey, office of legal counsel, olc, roger hollander, sleep deprivation, susan crawford, torture, torture techniques, waterboarding
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The funeral for Army Spc. Alyssa Peterson, Glagstaff, Arizona. (Photo: Jill Torrance / Getty Images)
www.truthout.org, May 1, 2009
As a Bush administration political appointee Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice, Jay Bybee, a Mormon, wrote one of four torture memos released last month. Bybee’s August 1, 2002, 20-page memorandum laid out in excruciating detail the interrogation techniques he was authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to use on al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah.
Bybee authorized ten “enhanced interrogation techniques” to encourage Abu Zubaydah to disclose “crucial information regarding terrorist networks in the United States or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against US interests overseas.” The torture techniques authorized were (1) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap, (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress position, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) insects placed in a confinement box and (10) waterboarding.
The current Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder has stated that waterboarding is torture, while the previous Attorney General Judge Mukasey refused to comment on whether waterboarding is torture.
From recently released CIA documents, we know the CIA waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times.
But, we know that from March through June, 2002, according to FBI interrogator Ali Soufan in an op-ed to The New York Times on April 23, 2009, FBI interrogators had already gotten “actionable intelligence” from Zubaydah using traditional, nontorturing interrogation techniques, including that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11 and that Jose Padilla was planning to be a “dirty bomber.”
Ninety of the 92 interrogation videotapes the CIA admits it destroyed were interrogations of Abu Zubaydah. Zubaydah’s British attorney Brent Mickum, in the most detailed account the public has had of Zubaydah’s life, states that after all the waterboarding and other torture methods used, the CIA finally recognized Zubaydah was not the senior al-Qaeda leader they had portrayed him to be. According to Mickum, the military commissions at Guantanamo are now “airbrushing” his name from the charge sheets of other Guantanamo prisoners. Mickum reveals Zubaydah was severely wounded in Afghanistan in 1992 while fighting communist insurgents after the withdrawal of Soviet forces. He has two pieces of shrapnel in his head, which have affected his memory to the extent that “he cannot remember his mother’s name or face.” Mickum states that Zubaydah was shot and severely wounded when he was picked up in Pakistan. His life was saved by a John Hopkins surgeon flown to the region. After being saved from death, he was almost tortured to death by CIA operatives. Mickum says that Zubaydah is a stateless Palestinian with no country to argue on his behalf and a United States government now embarrassed at being caught in its own illegal conduct.
We know that combinations of the other nine techniques authorized by Jay Bybee can be classified as torture, as the Convening Authority of the Military Commissions at Guantanamo Susan Crawford declared when she dismissed the charges against Guantanamo prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani, in January, 2009, in the last days of the Bush administration.
Crawford said that for 160 days al-Qahtani’s only contact was with the interrogators and that 48 of 54 consecutive days he was subjected to 18- to 20-hour interrogations. He was strip searched and had to stand naked in front of a female agent. Al-Qahtani was forced to wear a woman’s bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation and was told that his mother and sister were whores. With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room “and forced to perform a series of dog tricks.” He was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus. The interrogations were so severe that twice al-Qahtani had to be hospitalized at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which, in extreme cases, can lead to heart failure and death. At one point, al-Qahtani’s heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the interrogation records showed.
The torture techniques Jay Bybee authorized in 2002 migrated to Iraq in 2003. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller traveled to Iraq from Guantanamo to demonstrate to soldiers in Iraq the techniques the military and CIA were using in Guantanamo.
In September 2003, another Mormon, a woman soldier, US Army Spc. Alyssa Peterson, said she refused to use the interrogation techniques that Bybee had authorized on Iraqi prisoners. An Arabic linguist with the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Tal Afar base, Iraq, 27-year-old Peterson, refused to take part in interrogations in the “cage” where Iraqis were stripped naked in front of female soldiers, mocked and their manhood degraded and burned with cigarettes, among other things. Three days later, on September 15, 2003, Peterson was found dead of a gunshot wound at Tal Afar base. The Army has classified her death as suicide.
Jay Bybee, in thanks for his being the loyal soldier to the Bush administration’s policies of torture, was nominated and confirmed by the US Senate as a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he sits to this day in his lifetime appointment. Jay Bybee, an author of torture, reportedly has a placard in his home for his children that reads, “We don’t hurt each other.”
Alyssa Peterson, for saying no to torture, is dead, perhaps by her own hand.
To help Army Spc. Alyssa Peterson rest in peace, I say we should demand accountability from our officials and IMPEACH the torture judge, Jay Bybee.
Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army Reserves veteran who retired as a colonel. She was a US diplomat, who served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somali, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia and Afghanistan, where she helped reopen the US Embassy in December 2001. She has traveled to Gaza twice in the past three months and will make her third trip in May 2009. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”
Mormons “not anti-gay”? Tell them to prove it December 17, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Religion.
Tags: anti-gay bigotry, discrimination, gay Lesbian, gay marriage, hrc, human rights, human rights campaign, Latter Day Saints, Mormon, religion, roger hollander
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I’m passig along this letter I received from the Human Rights Campaign. If you wish to communicate with the Mormon Church as requested in the letter, go to the HRC website www.hrc.org and click on “Take Action” on the left side of the page; then scroll down to “Recent Messages from the Human Rights Camapign” and click on Mormons “not anti-gay”? Tell them to prove it.
When leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) took a prominent role in ending marriage equality in California, I felt compelled to act.
As a gay resident of Utah who grew up in a conservative Mormon family, I have seen the LDS Church divide the community and even families every day. I became active in and donated a million dollars to the “No on 8″ campaign to help spread the truth in the face of a deceptive campaign funded largely by members of the LDS Church.
I’m writing you today because LDS (Mormon) leaders have been trying to deflect criticism by insisting that they’re not “anti-gay” or opposed to civil unions, domestic partnerships and other LGBT rights – just marriage equality.
Join HRC and Equality Utah in taking them at their word – and giving them a chance to prove it.
HRC has sent an open letter to President Thomas Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asking him to sign on to Equality Utah’s “Common Ground Initiative”. They have yet to respond.
If Mormon leaders really aren’t “anti-gay,” then they should have no problem publicly signing on to these five bills, which include:
- Providing domestic partnership rights and responsibilities for same-sex couples;
- Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Utah’s anti-discrimination laws for employment, housing, and health care;
- Giving domestic partners of public employees insurance and retirement benefits;
- Giving domestic partners access to the courts if their loved one is killed because of negligence or malpractice; and
- Repealing the second clause of Utah’s Anti-Marriage Amendment which is used to prevent gay and lesbian couples from receiving any kind of relationship recognition in the state.
Clearly, these are measures that the LDS Church should support, since they’ve said they’re not opposed to LGBT relationship recognition, health care, housing, or employment rights. And the Church has no reason to be shy about entering the political arena – it did so loudly and boldly in California, raising more than half of the $40 million that funded the campaign to pass Proposition 8.
Given the dishonest and dehumanizing nature of that campaign, it’s understandable that the dialogue around the Church’s role has been heated. There is a way to move beyond this anger, but it is not the burden of the LGBT community and straight allies to stop their rightful protests. It is the burden of the LDS Church to support legislation that impacts LGBT lives in Utah as well as other states positively.
Our movement has a long history of respectfully engaging with those who would deny our basic humanity and civil rights. Let’s hope the Church’s claims are more than just a political posture.
HRC Board of Directors
Tags: Add new tag, Barbara Boxer, California Nurses Association, California Teachers Union, civil union, democrats, Feinstein, gay marriage, human rights, Knight of Columbus, lesbian, Mormon, Mormon Church, Nancy Pelosi, Obama, propostion 8 california, roger hollander, schwarzenegger, sexual politics, wedge issues
Scott Tucker, Truthdig, October 24, 2008
On May 15 the California Supreme Court ruled, in a 4-to-3 decision, that legal marriage in this state should no longer be reserved for heterosexuals. Six of the seven judges on that court were appointed by Republican governors, with the lone Democrat voting with the majority in this case. According to an estimate by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, more than 10,000 gay and lesbian couples have married since the first legal same-sex marriages on June 16.
In response, opponents lost no time placing Proposition 8 on the Nov. 4 ballot. Proposition 8, if passed, would change the state constitution so that marriage would be legally defined as being between a man and a woman, and thus would eliminate the existing right of same-sex couples to marry. This does not mean that the marriages of same-sex couples already legally enacted will be automatically null and void if Proposition 8 passes. On the contrary, these marriages are now legal facts on the ground, which will figure in class-action lawsuits and future court cases as the nationwide legislative battle over same-sex marriages and civil unions unfolds.
Current polls suggest a very close call on this issue in the Nov. 4 voting. The Mormon Church is pumping millions of dollars into television ads supporting Proposition 8. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Between 30% to 40 % of the $25.5 million in donations raised as of last week by the ‘Yes’ campaign has come from the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”
The coalition supporting the Yes on 8 campaign goes beyond the Mormon Church, of course. Conservative Catholics, including the Knights of Columbus, have donated more than $1 million. Focus on the Family (an evangelical group headed by James Dobson), an Orthodox Jewish group based in New York City, the National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Foundation, and various Baptist, Sikh and Muslim groups, as well as many Republicans, all have contributed heavily as well. A leading African-American cleric, Apostle Frederick K.C. Price of the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles, was joined on Oct. 20 by 50 African-American and Latino clerics in supporting Proposition 8. The press release of this last group noted these organizational ties and funding sources: “Paid for by ProtectMarriage.com—Yes on 8, a project of California Renewal. Major funding by Knights of Columbus, National Organization for Marriage California Committee and Focus on the Family.”
For more than 30 years, right-wing conservatives have rallied a base of supporters made up heavily of white evangelicals and have waged many winning campaigns by using the ready ammunition of so-called wedge issues. Since the 1970s, the religious right has made moral crusades against abortion, homosexuality and pornography into political litmus tests for Republican candidates. They have also made direct appeals to cultural conservatives across party lines, including evangelical Christians of all races. So the power of moral conviction on the far right had a real crossover effect on the Democratic Party.
In this fight, gay people have notable allies, including some wealthy people in business and entertainment. But no movement for social justice can build a strong foundation upon such a thin upper crust. That’s why the solidarity of some labor unions has been so welcome. The California Teachers Union Issues PAC has contributed $2 million, and the Service Employees International Union donated $500,000. The California Nurses Association is strongly opposed to Proposition 8. David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, has stated, “For us, it’s a civil rights issue.” Since the right wing is running TV ads claiming that the rights of schoolchildren and parents would be violated by Proposition 8, the voices and faces of parents, students and teachers who oppose this proposition might have been featured effectively in TV and community newspaper ads as well. This would have required greater communication between organized labor and parent and student groups, and the staffs of No on 8 and Equality California.
There is a much larger and starker problem with the Democratic Party. If Proposition 8 wins, the political illusions of many gay people must be part of the public accounting. Likewise, elected Democrats gone AWOL will deserve consequences at the polls. Career Democrats with extraordinary wealth have made some donations to groups opposing Proposition 8, but they have been stingy in spending real political capital for this cause.
Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden rarely mention gay people except when speaking directly to small audiences of gay and gay-friendly donors. The issue of gay marriage is one they prefer to avoid. All the more reason we might expect the top elected Democrats of California to take up this fight in earnest. But in fact, the career Democrats, with the important exception of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, have dealt with Proposition 8 only in smaller and safer side conversations, and not in strong public messages. This is true both in California and in Congress.
The No on 8 coalition includes many reliable liberal groups and individuals, but as of Oct. 24, no television ad featuring the leading Democrats of California has brought the No on 8 message to the general public. No political courage was required for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to tell a gay magazine, “I believe we should uphold the ability of our friends, neighbors, and coworkers who are gay and lesbian to enter into the contract of marriage.” This message would have more reach and power if Feinstein dared to use the megaphone of the mass media. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has not campaigned aggressively against Proposition 8 either, and has also not yet appeared in any television ad.
Likewise, the political capital that Rep. Nancy Pelosi has spent on this issue is spare change, but many Democrats will give her a “pragmatic” pass precisely because she is speaker of the House. A perverse logic operates in this case. If Pelosi refuses to wield congressional power in a fair fight against imperial adventures and war budgets; if she rules impeachment out of order and sidelines Rep. Dennis Kucinich and other dissenters in her own party; if she goes along to get along with the corporate oligarchy … then why should anyone expect her to risk a political bruise in defense of gay marriage?