Sunday, January 25, 2015

Religion and American Presidential Campaigns: What is Reverend Mike Huckabee unto?

Keywords or Term: Republican Party; Bill Kristol; Constitutional Principles; Healthcare Law; Huckabee; Control their libidos; Reproductive Rights, Civil Liberties; Civil Rights, Affordable Care Act; Presidential Campaigns; Separation of Church and State; Fundamental Christians; Religious Bigotry; Supreme Court ruling in Torcaso v. Watkins; and, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution

In a heartfelt memo sent to the Republican Party leaders in 1992, Bill Kristol warned that excessive criticisms of precursor to OBAMACARE, the Clinton Healthcare initiative, has the potential of turning voters away from the party. Today, I have the temerity to suggest that religion as used by conservative Republicans like Reverend Mike Huckabee has the potential of turning voters away from the party.

Instead of pushing some arbitrary, fundamentalist Christian agenda in party political discuss, Republicans have the obligation to ensure that thoughtful conversation about issue of civil liberties, even on instances of disagreements on provisions  of a law, are not relegated to the back of the burner. Criticizing voters on hot button issue of constitutionally protected rights, even while opposing a law, is often not taken kindly. When a Reverend Brother decides to judge others and offer close to derogative comments about their body, he is readily creating a divide that may ostracize well-meaning people and voters in coming election season.

Republicans must understand that absence of sterner requirements or provisions in a law, hardly show an amoral, or even immorality of the law; and or its supporters. The protection of reproductive rights in the Affordable Care Act, hardly justifies conclusions as: “Democrats has painted [women] as victims of their gender", as offered by the former preacher and 2008 Republican presidential candidate. Discussing reproductive rights absent issues of civil liberties, paints a contrarian image of a progressive party. There have since been demands, particularly from women groups, that protection of reproductive rights in the Affordable Care Act, or employers’ requirement to cover the full range of contraception in their health insurance plan, is tantamount to protecting women’s civil rights.

I. Constitutional Principles, Reproductive Rights and Civil Liberties

Certain distinctions must be made before one wonders farther into the thicket of problems:
First of all, in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society, where people are sensitive to civil liberty issues, saying  an opposition party is trying to convince women they need the government to help them "control their libidos, with respect to reproductive rights, has the  potential of creating voters backlash and grievances against a political party or its candidates. Advocates of civil liberties frown at comments that betray basic constitutional principles. They often seek that politicians or preachers clarify or explain themselves regarding comment that has the potential of eroding their constitutionally protected rights.

When Reverend Mike Huckabee stood up at probably a pseudo-presidential campaign trail, the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, holding in Washington DC, and claiming that the Democratic Party is making women believe they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing monthly prescription coverage in the Affordable Care Act, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government; he is awfully threading, knowingly or unknowingly, on the constitutionally protected rights of American women. When a political party conversation is shifting towards the evaluation of women reproductive rights, that party and its members are stepping in hot water or fire that may come back to bite them. Voters are not seeking moralistic Christian judgment of themselves; or rights protected in laws designed to help them counter privately protected civil liberties.

Affordable Care Act requires most employers cover the full range of contraception in their health insurance plans. The responsibility of the government or current Democratic Administration is relatively diminished in this provision; however, Republican leadership continues to claim that the Affordable Care Act involves the control of women’s private body. What the Affordable Care Act is talking about, is the protection of women’s health in case of eventualities that may lead to probable loss of life from unexpected pregnancy or conditions involving un-progressing pregnancy. Anything more that is second guessing.

Second, Republicans like Huckabee and others, used to making derogative comments about women and women health’s activists, must recognize their comments are offensive. If Republicans are seeking to claim back the White House in 2016, there is going to be need for a more civil communication of those policies and plans they anticipate engineering for American people. Just like Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus intoned in his reaction to Huckabee’s Thursday comment, [Presidential Political Aspirants] have to be conscious of the tone and choice of words used to communicate those policies and plans, effectively. Comments arousing resentments, meanness and discontentment will do the Republican Party very little in their new venture.

Republican Party wants the voters to take them seriously. Their current enterprise must be finding out those common grounds and language that are appealing to voters; and, actions that insert party discipline in conversations regarding policies and plans. The over-crowding concerns of the Republican Party since the passing of the Affordable Care Act have been how to repeal, undermine or discredit the law. Americans who benefited from similar laws on Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid are finding Republicans’ criticisms of the Affordable Care Act as unfounded. Worse still, many of the provisions of the bill, including allowing American children to stay on their parent’s health plan until the age 26, calling private insurance carriers to spend eighty percent of health insurance premiums on actual healthcare instead of administration, and eliminating exclusion of protection due to pre-existing conditions, are polling very well with Americans. When Republicans accept the responsibility of governing and are able to communicate their plans and policies without running down an existing law and or policy, at that time, voters will start to take them seriously.

The unfounded assertions that the Affordable Care Act is a job killer or bankrupting the nation are seen as absurd by many observers and beneficiaries of the law. This assertion assumes that average American cannot think for himself or herself and is not benefiting from the parts of the law that are phased in; and potential provisions that are coming on-board. In an Internet age, it is very difficult to miss-inform or undermine the obvious. The few challenges of the law cannot be more than relative; and to the extent that other provisions in the law are addressing the health needs of Americans, the purpose of the law is served; and, its provisions probably sacred. Continued criticisms of the law by Republicans become mundane and questionable. Once again, the reality is, Americans are catching on to the truth and Republican leadership going around the country running down the law, are becoming more of the uninformed and outcasts
Whoever looks thoughtfully of the persistent effort to undermine or kill the Affordable Care Act by Republican leadership, will have to agree that the Party is doing more disservice to America than ever through their continued effort. If Congressional Republican leadership is attempting to meet the demands of the conservative wing of their party by introducing and reintroducing bills to kill Affordable Care Act, and this effort is going nowhere, it is probably in their own interest to say, enough, it is time to divert energy and attention to more productive ventures.

Finally, Republicans and Democrats, understand that there is no one perfect law out there; and, if there are needs to tweak or make some changes to improve the Affordable Care Act, it is within moral principles to proceed in accomplishing these; rather than devoting attention to repealing the whole law. It is true that there are certain words or phrases in the law that is somewhat confusing or conflictual; however, these words or phrases can be re-written to make the law more explicit and simple. If American women are asked about protection of reproductive rights in the law, they will cheerfully subscribe to this continued protection. Further, when similar provisions, especially those that involve protection of civil liberties and constitutional principles are raised, women and men alike would stand up and be counted. Continued pronouncements of derogation statements or altercations will only prolong undue innumerable confusions that currently becloud the mind of the average American.

II. Religious Bigotry and Presidential Campaigns

So much for making distinctions between constitutionally protected rights, reproductive rights and civil liberties; Affordable Care Act and persistent criticism of the law from conservative Republicans; we will now divert our attention to the issue of religious bigotry and public office.
The current array of candidates seeking, overtly or covertly, their party’s nomination as the flag bearer to contest in November, 2016, is growing and hopefully, will become diverse before the deadline. Those who are inspired by social issues like religion and other hot button issues would no doubt face some tough questions. Americans United for separation of Church and State identified eight states (Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas) which once limited public office to people who profess belief in God; and, thanked the 1961 Supreme Court ruling in Torcaso v. Watkins, for dousing this religious bigotry; celebrating that since that Supreme Court decision, public office is open to every American. Really, you mean believers and atheists are welcomed?

Interjection of one’s religious beliefs into political campaigns can be formally defensible only if one’s audience is like-minded; otherwise, such venture is considered injurious to public interest based on US Constitutional provisions. There will be of course, those Americans guided by their faith, who will argue that this nation was built on religious puritan values and no one can write God out of American politics or classrooms. Incidentally, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution requires that officeholders swear an oath or give an affirmation to support the constitution they swear unto. It clearly states no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States laws. Unfortunately, this is not invariably what we see in political candidates, their supporters or others nursing ambition to win the White House in 2016. Many people are more committed to their faith and would want it to reflect in their choices; either in politicking or in formulating public laws once in office.

There are forms of religious bigotry, intolerance, hatred or fear of those that are not part of our faith or religion. While considered generally unacceptable, bigotry against those that are not part of our faith persists; and has been known to slip into the contest for the White House oval office in the past. Many will recall the frenzy of Catholic JFK or Mormon Romney, when both declared their candidacy or won their Party’s nomination to be the flag bearer in 1960 or 2012. Contemporary familiarity with ethnical, cultural, sexual or other bigotries in the American narrative experience are well documented; however, promotion of democracy calls for all to be invited to the table, whether men and women of faith, or not. Few of us can profess to be completely bigotry neutral; however, the ideal is for us to expose anyone, group or institution, that sponsors any form of bigotry in our national life. That is why this entry is calling out conservative Republicans with fundamentalist Christian agenda in the run for 2016 Presidential elections.

Many Progressives are committed to reaching out and engaging people of all faith; however, they are hardly interested in colluding religion with political and public lives. To this group combining faith or Church with politics is very uncomfortable; and even more, unconstitutional. As re-emphasized by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on their WEBSITE:  “Where church and government intersect legislatively, politically and in the public square, it is essential that all voices, both religious and secular, be included in the discussion.” Many varieties of folly and injustices have been committed in the name of faith. The trappings of faith and religion have made some public office holders benevolent authoritarians, in the name of God. Critics of faith or religion in politics have argued that there can be tyranny of a majority men and women of faith, just as can be the tyranny of minority atheists, with one hardly less odious than the other. Our commitment must be the banishments of any form of bigotry in our national life.
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