Radicals on the right began their takeover of the Republican Party following Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, with the formation of the so-called “New Right.” While Goldwater himself wanted no part of this, and indeed warned the American people in a Senate speech in 1981, nevertheless, with the stolen election of 2000 and the ascent to the White House of the Religious Right’s darling, George W. Bush, they almost achieved their goal of theocracy.
Almost four decades of scheming and grasping and lying in the name of Jesus brought them to the pinnacle of power, which they then saw it snatched from them as a new generation of American voters rejected hate for hope by choosing Illinois Senator Barack H. Obama.
Bush has received much of the blame, with Kevin Drum at Mother Jones writing recently that he “lost an entire generation for the Republican Party.” This may, in fact, be true, but Bush himself was a symptom of the disease of Christian extremism born in the wake of Goldwater’s defeat.
The American people rejected them again in 2012. Not only have the American people rejected these right wing fanatics, but the Republican voters have rejected them in the primaries. They have been able to infiltrate Congress but the White House has eluded them, and seems likely to elude them again in 2016.
Pat Robertson has an answer. He says, disingenuously, that Republican radicals are to blame. He doesn’t go into any detail as to the identity or motivations of these radicals, but he knows perfectly well who they are, because he himself was an architect of their rise.
Take a look courtesy of Right Wing Watch:
You know how the Republicans are, they can snatch defeats from the jaws of victory with very great ease. The next thing you know, there’s a whole bunch of radicals on the right begin knocking off established figures and saying, we’re going to call on them to be responsible. Before long, the candidates the Republicans put out aren’t capable of beating the Democrats and so the Democrats laugh all the way to the ballot box and beyond. In any event, it’s theirs to lose right now, we’ll see what happens, but it’s certainly trending. The people have had enough of what’s going on in Washington and they will show their displeasure at the polls unless the Republicans screw up, which they’re perfectly capable of doing.
Pat Robertson has, in his dotage, either forgotten the significant role he himself played in the rise of the Religious Right, or just finds it more convenient to gloss over it these days.
In 1961, the seemingly deranged ex-Baptist minister and televangelist Pat Robertson, who was to become such a polarizing force on the American religious and political landscape, founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), a sort of personal pre-Fox propaganda network. Just a year later, he had something to talk about – 1962-s Engle v. Vitale, which determined that it was unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools. Goldwater’s defeat and the rise of the New Right could not have come at a better time for the aspiring fanatic.
Speaking in Dallas on August 21, 1980, Reagan himself said “Religious America is awakening.” According to PBS, that speech was the “first National Affairs Briefing of the Religious Roundtable, a caucus founded to involve evangelicals in mainstream politics.” As PBS puts it, “The event has been described as nothing less than “the marriage ceremony between Southern Baptists and the Republican Party.”
Religious and secular conservatives realized the advantage of joining political forces to confront pressing social issues. With Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other prominent evangelicals in attendance, Reagan addressed the crowd of 15,000 Christian conservatives.” He said, “I endorse you.”
by March 1986 Americans began to discover the method by which fundamentalism was successfully infiltrating the Republican Party: Joan Bokaer was on a speaking tour in Iowa and received a copy of a memo Pat Robertson had distributed to the Iowa Republican Council Caucus. She writes that from this memo it was clear that,
[O]ne of their tactics was to tie up the meetings for hours until people left. Then they appointed themselves leaders and made key decisions. Once they took over the local leadership throughout the State of Iowa, they could control the state party apparatus. After their success in the Iowa ’88 primary, they used the same tactic in several other states — precinct by precinct.
Robertson’s fingerprints are all over the rise of the conservative extremism he now condemns. In 1987 he formed the “Christian Coalition of America,” a Christian advocacy group. In 1992, Robertson said to the Denver Post, “We want…as soon as possible to see a majority of the Republican Party in the hands of pro-family Christians…”
The Christian Coalition began an abrupt decline in 1999 when it lost its tax exempt status. This affords us another opportunity to glimpse the Robertson legacy. According to the Washington Post (Friday, June 11, 1999),
The IRS has rejected the Christian Coalition’s 10-year struggle to win tax-exempt status, dealing a major setback to a mainstay of the Republican Party and to the political-business empire that turned broadcaster Pat Robertson into a power broker of the religious right.
The Washington Post suggested that,
In the wake of other damaging developments, the IRS ruling, which was first reported yesterday by the St. Petersburg Times, further diminishes the ability of the coalition to maintain its influence in the Republican Party. Over the past 10 years, the Christian Coalition has emerged as the counterpart to organized labor and the women’s movement in the Democratic Party.
I will leave to Barry Goldwater, quoted in a Washington Post interview in 1994, to put the final nail in Robertson’s coffin of greed and dishonesty:
When you say ‘radical right’ today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.
That day has come, with Reince Priebus, Chairman of the RNC saying that the Republican Party is, indeed, a religion. And if Republicans can now point to Robertson as an architect of their defeats, we, all of us, have Pat Robertson, at least in part, to thank for the death of American politics.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.