How Hyper-Religious Political Stunts by Republicans Keep Voters Captive to Corporate Ideology
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Last week, a bill to make way for the display of Ten Commandments in public buildings, such as courthouses and schools, passed out of an Alabama Senate committee, sending it to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week.
If you want to know why nine out of the 10 poorest states are located in the hyper-religious South, look no further than this calculated right-wing political play, which is designed for one purpose: to ensure Southern and Sunbelt voters continue to vote against their own self-economic interests.
If passed by the state Senate and signed by the governor, the state would put a constitutional amendment on the next ballot to let Alabama voters decide the issue. The theocratic authors and the Republican Party sponsors of this bill are fully cognizant of the fact that the bill is unconstitutional, and thus it will, inevitably, be struck down by the courts.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is clear: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." It is the very basis of the separation of church and state.
For state Sen. Trip Pittman (R-AL), the constitution is a secondary concern. "We talk about the constitutionality of them, but we have to understand the purpose of these is the laws of God," he said. "And we think they may have passed irrelevance because of the constitutional question, but beyond that, which is the most important, it's also about behavior and conduct through the ages."
State Rep. DuWayne Bridges (R-AL) declared, “School shootings, patricide and matricide are due to the Ten Commandments not being displayed in schools and other government buildings.” Bridges also said, "The Tenth Amendment [sic] was adopted before the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea because Moses didn't get to cross the Red Sea.”
While both Pittman and Bridges may sound like idiots, they’re actually shrewd political strategists, for the promise of tax cuts for the rich is hardly an effective platform for rallying the Republican Party base in a midterm election year. The promise of the Ten Commandments, however, is how you get a person without healthcare to vote for the party whose platform is based on repealing the Affordable Care Act.
According to the Pew Research Center, Alabama is the second most religious state in the nation with 74 percent of residents saying religion is very important in their lives. Number one is Mississippi. It is a pitiful irony that those states that are most religious are also states with the most individual suffering. More than 30 percent of the children in these two states suffer extreme poverty. In both states, the primary reason for abject poverty is that more than a third of children have parents who lack secure employment, decent wages, and healthcare. But thanks to Jesus, these poor saps vote for the party that rejects Medicaid expansion, opposes early education expansion, legislates larger cuts to education, and slashes food stamps to make room for oil and agriculture subsidies on top of tax cuts and loopholes for corporations and the wealthy.
All this despair comes courtesy of low-information voters being duped by the corporate elite to vote against their own economic self-interest. The corporate elite and their political appointees have convinced tens of millions of Americans that a vote for the Ten Commandments is more important to a Christian’s needs than a vote against cuts in education spending, food stamp reductions, the elimination of school lunches and the abolition of healthcare programs.
It’s no secret that social wedge issues are used by the Right to drive low-income people to the polls. The point is that in an overly religious country it works too well, and to America’s detriment. Pushing sophisticated tax schemes for already wealthy venture capitalists, like the 16 percent tax rate Mitt Romney gets away with, doesn’t excite the base. On the other hand, “taking back the country” from the gay, socialist, Muslim, liberal agenda does, as do issues like abortion and stopping sodomy. The Right’s passion for these social issues often makes them the loudest in these debates, and the sheer volume, which is amplified through the right-wing echo chambers, makes progressives limit themselves.