Extremism is any ideology in politics or religion considered to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of a society that advocates for the replacement of democracy with an authoritarian regime. Shortly after Americans first elected an African American man as President, Republicans enlisted seething racists and anti-government crusaders in the extremist teabagger movement to ramp up opposition to anything proposed by the Obama Administration. Republicans carefully kept a safe distance from teabagger extremism to give the illusion that their opposition to the President was borne of policy and not because they were far outside the mainstream of society. The ruse failed to convince many who observe politics regularly, and for all intents and purposes the Republican and tea parties were one-in-the-same.
When Americans started noticing that Republicans in Congress were doing nothing except obstructing progress and responsible for the gridlock in Washington, some conservative pundits and establishment Republicans pointed to extremist teabaggers as the problem; particularly Speaker of the House John Boehner. Last December, Boehner put on a bad performance when he lashed out at teabaggers and their conservative belief tanks for “forcing” establishment Republicans to shut down the government, and he repeated the performance in April when he claimed they prevented members of the House Republican caucus from completing 16 or 17 months of hard work to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Boehner used teabaggers as scapegoat as if they were different from establishment Republicans, but last week he told a different story.
After last week’s primaries pitting establishment Republicans against teabaggers, Boehner downplayed the difference between the two conservative factions, and likely told the truth for the first time in his tenure as House Speaker. He said, “there is not that much, not a whole lot of a difference between what you call the tea party and your average conservative Republican.” To be perfectly clear, Boehner was not insinuating that teabaggers were not extreme in their anti-government and pro-theocratic agenda, but that the Republican Party was just as extreme as teabaggers who consider social conservatism as important as limited government and fiscal responsibility.
According to a Pew Research poll over a year ago, “Tea Party supporters tend to have conservative opinions not just about economic matters, but also about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, they are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on social issues. And they draw disproportionate support from the ranks of white evangelical Protestants.”
The Pew survey should disabuse Americans of the notion that the teabagger or Republican movements are not havens for religious extremism, and there is a growing indication that the entire conservative movement has embraced the insane notion that America is a Christian nation being beseiged by the federal government. There are already plenty of extremist Christians in Congress whether it is Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, or Michele Bachmann, and after a Nebraska candidate for Senate defeated his establishment primary opponent it is safe to say that conservatives are officially an extremist religious movement.
The religious right fanatic seeking a Senate seat from Nebraska, Ben Sasse, won the support of conservative groups Freedomworks, Senate Conservatives Fund, Club for Growth, and drew maniacal endorsements from religious right teabaggers Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz. Sasse strongly believes that the modern conservative movement exists to combat the secularization of America due to Supreme Court rulings banning taxpayer-funded public schools from indoctrinating young students into Christianity with mandated Christian prayers and bible readings. If one peruses Sasse’s website, it is clear that he holds the same insane, and increasingly popular, belief among conservatives that religious freedom to violate any law is as important as the right to live. In Sasse’s worldview, unrestrained free exercise of religion is non-negotiable and according to him government cannot force any Christian to adhere to any law if it violates their religious beliefs under any circumstances. He pledged to fight for Christians’ right act according to their Christian conscience and violate laws they believe infringe on their free exercise of religion. His belief is in line with the Manhattan Declaration, Arizona’s failed right to discriminate legislation, and Hobby Lobby’s contention that its religious freedom gives them the right to control women’s contraceptive use.
Religious extremism was, at one time, the purview of maniacs in the religious right movement, but after the election of Barack Obama as President, teabaggers and Republicans embraced fanatical Christianity as their raison d’etre. The extremists have attempted to use the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom to establish their right to become a law unto themselves and establish a Christian theocracy. It has become a common refrain among Republicans and their teabagger cohort to decry attacks on their religious liberty that always translates into their liberty to impose their bastardized version of Christianity on the entire nation. In April, during remarks at the Christian fundamentalist madrassa, Liberty University, teabagger Ted Cruz parroted a common warning from Republicans, teabaggers, and Christian extremists. He said that, “These are troubled times, and religious liberty, the very first liberty in the Bill of Rights, the very first protection we have, has never been more in peril than it is right now.”
Just six years ago if an establishment Republican or sitting Senator made those kind of comments they would have been laughed out of Congress. Today, if a teabagger or Republican is not warning Christians their religious liberty is in peril and that the government is attempting destroy Christianity to preserve the Founding Fathers’ intent for a secular America they are not “true conservatives.” As unpopular as Republicans in Congress are, teabaggers are toxic and Democrats would do well to remind voters at every turn that Speaker of the House John Boehner said there is no difference between extremist teabaggers and establishment Republicans. They would also do well to explain exactly what the two conservative factions consider their free exercise of religion entails because there are very, very few Americans who embrace the idea of religious extremists, whether they are teabaggers or Republicans, with authority to impose their version of extremist Christianity on the population.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.