In a country founded on the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state, it’s strangely antithetical how often religion is used as a wedge issue in politics. Despite the tacit understanding that religion can offer no basis upon which to choose a candidate (the media has been atypically restrained regarding Romney’s controversial religion), discussions of what religion a candidate is remain open season. Particularly when a candidate is the current president who has not only a controversial healthcare reform policy, but the exotic background of an African father and a name that sounds suspiciously un…un-American and un-Christian. A perfect storm for fear-mongering.
And so, perhaps, it should be no surprise that those running against the President would use those “quirks” as bludgeoning tools, particularly now when the race is tight, time is short, and the use of any fear-based card is encouraged. VP candidate and conservative Catholic, Paul Ryan, took those marching orders to heart and at a campaign stop in Denver yesterday, via a conference call to a religiously receptive audience of Evangelical Christians, he pulled out the stops. With the fire of a brimstone preacher, Ryan preached to the choir that Obama was primed to legislate the bejeezus out of them. According to a BuzzFeed article of Sunday, November 4th:
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan told a group of Evangelical Christians Sunday that President Obama’s plans threaten “Judeo-Christian values” – a dramatic charge aimed at the Republican base, and delivered during a conference call that did not appear on his public schedule. In his remarks to what organizers said were tens of thousands of members of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ryan said that President Barack Obama’s path for the next four years is a “dangerous” one.
“[It is] a path that compromises those values — those Judeo-Christian values that made us a great nation in the first place,” he said, referring to religious liberty and Obamacare.
It’s no secret that a healthcare plan that includes coverage for the reproductive needs of women – and the subsequent lawsuit brought against the government by the Catholic church – are campaign fodder for a Republican party desperate to win Evangelicals and conservative Christians with their hearty ranks of extreme Right voters. But Ryan’s assertion that the healthcare reform bill was “dangerous” and would “threaten Judeo-Christian values” seems an unnecessarily incendiary leap of logic.
But, in fact, Ryan’s verbiage – packed with coded, and not so coded, meaning – echoes tactics used throughout the campaign by a party eager to strike fear into the hearts of fundamentalist Christians. While “birthers” make no bones of their insistence that Obama is not American-born, the “he’s not a Christian” contingent is a tad (only a tad) more subtle, if no less absurd. At the Republican National Convention this summer, Mike Huckabee made the point in his prepared comments, reported by ThinkProgress:
In his speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tried to cast doubt about President Barack Obama’s faith, hinting that he might be lying or misleading Americans about his religion. “Let me clear the air about whether guys like me would only support an evangelical. Of the four people on the two tickets, the only self-professed evangelical is Barack Obama, and he supports changing the definition of marriage, believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb or even beyond the womb, and tells people of faith that they must bow their knees to the god of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls health care.”
Apparently Ryan is relying on those same “baseless tactics” to reassure Evangelicals of the “Judeo-Christian” wisdom of the Romney/Ryan ticket. But will the rest of the country, particularly those who judge their candidates less on religious affiliation and more on issues of policy, ethics, honor and effectiveness, be swayed by a ticket whose relationship with Truth (also one of the “Judeo-Christian values”) is so deeply conflicted? We’ll see on Tuesday; odds say that crowd is a harder sell for the GOP shell game.