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Corporate Media's Go-To 'Expert' on Latino Evangelicals Actually a Right-Wing Political Operative

Rev. Sam Rodriguez casts himself in the mold of MLK, despite his organizing for right-wing interests, and Islamophobic associations. So why do media treat him seriously?

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NHCLC and UIP have closely collaborated for a number of years. UIP’s 2010 tax return, for example, shows that it provided $112,500 for “voter registration Fuerza 2010.”  (NHCLC was the organization's only grantee.) Rodriguez claims the Fuerza project registered 268,000 new voters by focusing on evangelical Latino churches in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas.  As part of that effort, UIP issued a video in English and Spanish which stated that “friends have turned into foes”—and then showed pictures of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, all Democrats (The top issues featured in the video were abortion and marriage).

NHCLC is, at this writing, one of some six-dozen Christian Right, anti-abortion, GOP, and Tea Party organizations, and religious broadcasters partnering in Champion the Vote. These include The Manhattan Declaration, the premier alliance of conservative evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics, and Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition.  Champion the Vote's three foci are anti-abortionism, anti-marriage equality, and “religious freedom”—and its stated mission is “... to get unregistered Christians registered to vote, educated in the Biblical worldview, and voting accordingly on Election Day.”

This year, Rodriguez appeared in the organization’s voter mobilization DVD, "One Nation Under God” -- along with Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Christian nationalist author David Barton, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich -- but with no Democrats.  The ostensibly nonpartisan DVD is intended for use in churches and house parties.

NHCLC and Champion the Vote’s approach updates the mobilization efforts by conservative activist Ralph Reed who led Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition in the 1990s. The Coalition and others successfully expanded and mobilized the conservative Christian electorate at the time in ways that transformed American politics.  Reed describes his current organization, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, as a “21st century Christian Coalition on steroids.”

Reed claims that his new organization’s experiments in mobilizing conservative Christian voters have been so successful that they may explain why pre-election polls underestimated the winning margin of the conservative Republican candidates by eight to nine points in both the 2009 governor’s race in Virginia and the 2012 recall election in Wisconsin, as journalist Adele Stan has reported. Reed’s associate, Gary Marx, explained at the 2012 Values Voters Summit that they were seeking to find two million unregistered conservative Christian voters and to identify and turn out some eight million more registered voters who did not vote in the last presidential election. Whether they met their voter registration goal, Marx did not say. But he did say that the Virginia and Wisconsin models worked so well that they are now being applied in swing states and nationally.  

It is worth noting that in the 1990s, Reed routinely inflated the membership figures of the Christian Coalition to a unquestioning and credulous national press corps. Church & State magazine eventually proved that the Coalition could not have 1.7 million members as claimed, since the official circulation of its membership magazine, according to U.S. Post Office records, was only about 350,000.  But Reed’s hyperbole notwithstanding, the Christian Coalition’s methods proved to be catalytic in crafting the Christian Right political movement as we know it today.   

“The first strategy and in many ways the most important strategy for evangelicals is secrecy,” Reed once famously declared. “Sun Tzu says that’s what you have to do to be effective at war and that’s essentially what we are involved in... It’s not a war fought with bullets, it’s a war fought with ballots.” 

UIP claims to have compiled a database of some 120 million people and is running it against purchased subscription lists, among other data, to identify anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality Christians who are not registered to vote.  This year, they are looking for five million, but over the next few election cycles, they are seeking to ID and register forty out of the sixty million they believe to be eligible. The Faith & Freedom Coalition uses the same numbers and the same general methods, which suggest a high degree of common purpose and coordination.

 
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