Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hitch's ;-) At Bachmann Moron Overdrive

In today's comics in the Austin Fishwrap, Stephan Pastis taught this blogger about an emoticon for a snarky wink:

[x Pearls Before Swine]
By Stephan Pastis

(Click on image to enlarge)

Rat insults Goat and offers an evasive emoticon to Pig's great delight. In the real world, Hitch may have lost his voice due to esophageal cancer, but he hasn't lost his snark. Today's target is Bachmann Moron Overdrive (R-MN) who is the current frontrunner among of the Monstrous Regiment of True Republican Women. Hitch's concluding shot is a classic bit of snark. If this is (fair & balanced) political humor, so be it.

[x Slate]
Has Bachmann Met Her Waterloo?
By Christopher Hitchens

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That was actually three dripping custard pies, rather than just the one, with which Representative Michele Bachmann [R-MN] assailed her own face by bragging to Fox News about her small-town Iowa roots. Having hymned the incomparable Dairy Queen and Wonder Bread facilities boasted by the sturdy small town of her girlhood, she went on to claim that "John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa," adding, "That's the kind of spirit that I have, too."

John Wayne was from Winterset, Iowa, which can be found about 150 miles to the southwest of Waterloo. It was his namesake John Wayne Gacy, serial rapist and killer of 33 teenage boys and young men, who spent time in Waterloo. (I long ago pointed out that having "John Wayne" in your lineup of given names is a bad predictor: John Wayne Bobbitt was reduced by an infuriated partner to hunting in the weeds for his abruptly severed penis.)

Traditionally, the phrase "to meet your Waterloo" means to encounter a final and unarguable defeat. Perhaps it's too early to say that, but really. In one stroke, Bachmann shows that she can't tell one folksy Iowa town from another. Then she compounds the error by confusing a folk hero with a villain and psycho. Finally, and having never done or said anything that would stand a second's comparison to the spirit of The Duke (whatever you may think of him), she tries to borrow the mantle of a husky gunfighter in the very week that she is pathetically advocating that we leave Colonel Qaddafi alone. The old parochialism meets the not-so-new isolationism. A very shaky start.

Where does it come from, this silly and feigned idea that it's good to be able to claim a small-town background? It was once said that rural America moved to the cities as fast as it could, and then from urban to suburban as fast as it could after that. Every census for decades has confirmed this trend. Overall demographic impulses to one side, there is nothing about a bucolic upbringing that breeds the skills necessary to govern a complex society in an age of globalization and violent unease. We need candidates who know about laboratories, drones, trade cycles, and polychrome conurbations both here and overseas. Yet the media make us complicit in the myth—all politics is yokel?—that the fast-vanishing small-town life is the key to ancient virtues. Wasilla, Alaska, is only the most vivid recent demonstration of the severe limitations of this worldview. But still it goes on. Hence one's glee at the resulting helpings of custard.

Of course, if you are Bill Clinton and you really did draw breath in some stricken hamlet by the name of Hope, AR, it's hard to resist the temptation. Even if you actually grew up in the rather more wide boy's town of Hot Springs. I once thought of writing a speech for Al Gore, who was largely raised in a luxury hotel in Washington, then named the Fairfax and owned by his aunt. "When we were hungry—and we knew hunger—we would call room service. When we were tired, and our clothes were dirty, we dropped them on the floor ..." I thought this would position him nicely as a man on whom Washington had already exerted all its seductions, a candidate who knew the capital as a president must. But, no, he insisted on stressing his short time spent in Tennessee looking at a plough over the wrong end of a horse. Whom did he think he was fooling? It was like the Bushes pretending to be Texan pioneers and wildcatters when they were Connecticut Yankees. Had John Edwards, who made John Mellencamp's song "Small Town" into his annoying campaign anthem, spent more quality time in the bright lights and the big city, he might not have fallen so abjectly for the first pickup line—"You are so hot"—tried on him by a desperate siren who was growing familiar when Jay McInerney was young.

This is dispiriting. But not as small-time and small-minded as the recent line adopted, from Dennis Kucinich to John Boehner and by the National Conference of Mayors, to the effect that any expenditure overseas is a theft from the good people of Waterloo (or, if you insist, Winterset), Iowa. You have heard it: A bridge or a well in Kandahar is one less facility for our hurting heartland. We should be tending to business in our own backyards. But it's interesting that, on the zero-sum continuum, domestic concerns are balanced only against the needs of counterinsurgency and nation-building. There are many other controversial and costly programs that could serve to illustrate the same point, from the wasteful arsenal of nuclear weapons to the uncontrollable and unaccountable outlays on the "war on drugs." But to propose these for cuts instead would involve making political choices that involved some arguments and necessitated some courage. And they wouldn't have the easy appeal that derives from the image of lazy and ungrateful foreigners feasting on our largess. It is as if we had no stake—to put it no more nobly—in the welfare of other peoples and societies. The whole American experience since Marshall aid testifies to the contrary.

Meanwhile, Qaddafi's sick intransigence in Libya threatens the local population, the evolving neighboring countries of Tunisia and Egypt, and—by a potential crisis of emigration and refugees—the stability of Europe's southern frontiers. This is why we have had such frank appeals, from Europe as well as from the Arab League, to contribute more to what is in any case ineluctable—a post-Qaddafi future. For Bachmann to choose this moment to say that the loony of Libya poses no threat is to disqualify herself from any consideration for high office. She evidently knows nothing about the four decades of dictatorship and depredation that have led up to this. But then, when you come to notice it, she doesn't seem to know her Iowan derrière from an artesian well, either. Ω

[Christopher Hitchens is an Atlantic contributing editor and a Vanity Fair columnist. Hitchens was educated at The Leys School, Cambridge (His mother arguing that "If there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it."), and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and graduated with a "gentleman's 3rd." Hitchens came to the States in 1981 to write for The Nation. Hitchens is the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, CA and is the author of Hitch-22: A Memoir (2010).]

Copyright © 2011 The Slate Group/The Washington Post Company

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Dumbo Solution To Floods, Tornadoes, and Wildfires? Cut Taxes!!

The only tool on every Dumbo's belt is a tax cut; everything the Dumbos see looks like a nail. The answer to every problem is a tax cut. If this is (fair & balanced) folly, so be it.

[x Washington Fishwrap]
The Real Causes Of The Economic Crisis? They’re History.
By Phil Angelides

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They say that winners get to write history. Three years after the meltdown of our financial markets, it’s clear who is winning and who is losing. Wall Street — arms outstretched in triumph — is racing toward the finish-line tape while millions of American families are struggling to stay on their feet. With victory seemingly in hand, the historical rewrite is in full swing.

The contrast in fortunes between those on top of the economic heap and those buried in the rubble couldn’t be starker. The 10 biggest banks now control more than three-quarters of the country’s banking assets. Profits have bounced back, while compensation at publicly traded Wall Street firms hit a record $135  billion in 2010.

Meanwhile, more than 24  million Americans are out of work or can’t find full-time work, and nearly $9 trillion in household wealth has vanished. There seems to be no correlation between who drove the crisis and who is paying the price.

The report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission detailed the recklessness of the financial industry and the abject failures of policymakers and regulators that brought our economy to its knees in late 2008. The accuracy and facts of the commission’s investigative report have gone unchallenged since its release in January.

So, how do you revise the historical narrative when the evidence of what led to economic catastrophe is so overwhelming and the events at issue so recent? You and your political allies just do it. And you bet on the old axiom that a lie is halfway around the world before the truth can tie its shoes.

If you are Representative Paul Ryan [R-WI], you ignore the fact that our federal budget deficit has ballooned more than $1  trillion annually since the financial collapse. You disregard the reality that two-thirds of the deficit increase is directly attributable to the economic downturn and bipartisan fiscal measures adopted to bolster the economy. Instead of focusing on the real cause of the deficit, you conflate today’s budgetary disaster with the long-term challenges of Medicare so you can shred the social safety net.

If you are Alan Greenspan, you retreat from your 2008 epiphany in which you acknowledged your “state of shocked disbelief” that “the whole intellectual edifice” of your deregulatory ideology had collapsed. Now, you condemn reform efforts as “the current ‘anything goes’ regulatory ethos” — a phrase that paradoxically recalls your own failed policies at the Federal Reserve. In short, after driving the economy over the cliff, you offer to give driving lessons.

If you are JP Morgan’s chief investment officer, you refute the statement that your chairman and chief executive, Jamie Dimon, made to the FCIC in 2010 blaming the failures of major financial institutions on “the management teams 100 percent and . . . no one else.” You revise your opinion on the causes of the crisis to instead focus blame on government housing policies. The source for this newfound wisdom: shopworn data, produced by a consultant to the corporate-funded American Enterprise Institute, which was analyzed and debunked by the FCIC report.

If you are most congressional Republicans, you turn a blind eye to the sad history of widespread lending abuses that savaged communities across the country and pledge to block the appointment of anyone to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless its authority is weakened. You ignore the evidence of pervasive excess that wrecked our financial markets and attempt to cut funding for the regulators charged with curbing it. Across the board, you refuse to acknowledge what went wrong and then try to stop efforts to make it right.

Does historical accuracy matter? You bet it does.

Traveling down a road unfettered by facts will take us far from where we need to be: prosecuting financial wrongdoing to deter future malfeasance; vigorously enforcing financial reforms to rein in excessive risk; and rooting out Wall Street’s conflicts of interests, abysmal governance and badly flawed compensation incentives.

Worst of all, it will divert us from the urgent task of putting people back to work and creating real wealth for America’s future. Over the past decade, we squandered trillions of dollars on rampant speculation rather than on making investments — in technology, infrastructure, clean energy and education — that increase our productivity and economic strength. The financial sector’s share of corporate profits climbed from 15 percent in 1980 to 33 percent by the early 2000s, while financial-sector debt soared from $3 trillion in 1978 to $36 trillion by 2007. With tens of millions still unemployed, isn’t it time to shift from an economy based on money making money to an economy based on money creating jobs and genuine prosperity?

We can still get history and the future right. But time is running out. Ω

[Philip Nicholas "Phil" Angelides was the California State Treasurer (1999 – 2007) and the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Governor of California in 2006. Angelides currently serves as the Chair of the Apollo Alliance and was the Chair of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. He graduated from Harvard University in 1974, majoring in government as a Coro Foundation Fellow.]

Copyright © 2011 The Washington Post Company

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Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marriage Is Sacred, But Divorce Is Sacreder

People always say that we can't have gay marriage because marriage is a sacred institution, that happens in the church. It's sacred... no it's not! Marriage ain't sacred! Not in America! Not in the country that watches "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?" or "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette" or "Who Wants to Marry a Midget?" Get the fuck outta here! Gay people have a right to be miserable as everybody else! Michael Jackson got married, how fuckin' sacred is that shit? — Chris Rock

New York is the seventh domino that has toppled in the march to same-sex marriage; Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, plus Washington, DC. Harvard professor Nancy Cott offers the historical perspective on holy matrimony (and unholy divorce) in the Land O'The Wed and the Home O'The Unwed. If this is (fair & balanced) view of conjungal union, so be it.

[x Boston Review]
No Objections: What History Tells Us About Remaking Marriage
By Nancy F. Cott

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Opponents of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples say that marriage has always been between a man and a woman and must remain so. They argue from “tradition.” Counter to their claims is an argument from history—a history of change over time.

Many features of marriage that were once considered essential have been remade, often in the face of strong resistance, by courts and legislatures. Economic and social changes have led to increasing legal equality for the marriage partners, gender-neutrality of spousal roles, and control of marital role-definition by spouses themselves rather than by state prescription. Yet marriage itself has lasted, despite these dramatic changes. Not only that: it retains vast appeal.

Why? The core of marriage as an intimate and supportive voluntary bond has been preserved. Today constitutional law sees marriage as a fundamental right. Most Americans are legally allowed to marry as they see fit. But same-sex couples remain excluded in most jurisdictions. This exclusion stands at odds with the direction of historical change toward gender equality and neutrality in the legal treatment of marital roles.

A “Civil Thing”

Seventeenth-century English colonists in North America created marriage laws almost immediately upon settling. In England the established Anglican Church ruled marriages, but rather than replicate that arrangement or treat marriage as a sacrament (as Catholics do), colonial legislators asserted that marriage was a “civil thing” because it dealt with matters of property. Although the great majority of colonists believed in the basic tenets of Christian monogamy, colonial legislators explicitly rejected religious authority over marriage. Thus even before the American Revolution, marriage was deemed a civil institution, regulated by government to promote the common good.

After the founding of the United States, state after state maintained this principle. State laws allowed religious authorities to perform marriage ceremonies and to recognize only marriages adhering to the requirements of their own faith, but not to determine which marriages would be considered valid by the public. For example, California’s first state Constitution stipulated, “No contract of marriage, if otherwise duly made, shall be invalidated for want of conformity to the requirements of any religious sect,” a provision now retained in the state’s Family Code. To be sure, many people, then as now, invested marriage with religious significance, but that had no bearing on any marriage’s legality.

The several states’ jurisdiction over marriage was a component of their wider powers to promote the “health, safety and welfare” of their populations. The states maintain those same powers today, subject to the requirements and protections of the federal Constitution. States set the terms of marriage, such as who can and cannot marry, who can officiate, what obligations and rights the marital agreement involves, whether it can be ended, and, if so, why and how.

These kinds of regulations reflect the longer history of marriage in its Western (and specifically Anglo-American) form. In the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries, as this form was being forged, marriage itself was understood to be a vehicle of governance. British and Continental European monarchs were happy to see their subjects marry and create households under male heads. Each married man served as the king’s delegate, in effect ruling over his wife, children, servants, and apprentices, and assuming economic responsibility for them.

Consent Is the Key

When the United States was established on republican principles, marital households continued to serve a governance function, but in a manner that reflected the novel style of the U.S. government. Sovereignty in the United States was understood to be based on the voluntary consent of the governed. Likewise with marriage—the male-led marital household was legitimized by consent.

Parallels between the voluntary consent joining a husband and wife in marriage and the voluntary allegiance of citizens to the new United States were common in Revolutionary-era rhetoric. The statesman and legal philosopher James Wilson saw mutual consent as the hallmark of marriage, more basic even than cohabitation. In a series of lectures delivered in 1792, he argued, “The agreement of the parties, the essence of every rational contract, is indispensably required.”
Because free consent—the mark of a free person—was at the core of the matrimonial contract, slaves could not enter into valid marriages. Considered property by law, slaves lacked basic civil rights, including the essential capacity to consent. Furthermore, marriage obliged those undertaking it to fulfill certain duties defined by the state, and a slave’s prior and overriding obligation of service to the master made carrying out the duties of marriage impossible.

Where slaveholders permitted, slave couples often wed informally, creating family units of consoling value to themselves. But slaveholders could break up those unions with impunity. Slave marriages received no defense from state governments.

After emancipation, former slaves flocked to get married legally. As free persons, African Americans saw marriage as an expression of rights long denied them and a recognition of their capacity to consent lawfully. The Freedmen’s Bureau, in charge of the transition of former slaves to citizenship in the occupied South after the Civil War, avidly fostered marriages among the freed people and welcomed the creation of male-headed households among the African American population.

But sometimes Southern officials balked, appreciating, too, that legal marriage was an emblem of the basic rights of a free person. After the Bureau’s departure, some Southern white officials refused to grant African Americans marriage licenses or charged prohibitive fees for them. More often Southern authorities used marriage rules punitively by prosecuting African Americans for minor infractions of the matrimonial bargain.

A Tool of Public Order

The state-generated social and economic rewards of marriage encourage couples to choose committed relationships of sexual intimacy over transient relationships. Along with those rewards come certain responsibilities that the state imposes in the interest of public order. The marriage bond creates economic obligations between the mutually consenting parties and requires them to support their dependents. Governments at all levels in the United States have long encouraged people to marry for economic benefit to the public as well as to themselves.

The principles of female dependency and governance by a male head that served as the basis of early American marriage law bespoke pervasive assumptions about a “natural” sexual division of labor. Men and women were assumed to be capable of, prepared for, and good at distinctive kinds of work. In a predominantly agricultural United States, men plowed the fields to grow the grain, and women made the bread from it: both were seen as equally necessary to human sustenance, survival, and society. Marriage fostered the continuation of this sexual division of labor and the benefits that were assumed to flow from it.

Legislatures and courts in the United States since the nineteenth century have actively enforced the economic obligations of marriage, requiring spouses to support one another and their dependents, thereby minimizing the public burden that indigents would impose. Although economic units far more powerful than households drive the economy today, marriage-based households are still principal vehicles for organizing economic sustenance and care, including for dependents (whether young, old, or disabled) who cannot support themselves.

As government benefits expanded during the twentieth century, the economic dimensions of marriage gained new features. Today the United States is emphatic in its public policy of channeling economic benefits through marriage-based family relationships. Social Security payments, benefits for the surviving family of deceased veterans, intestate succession rights, and pension income are all extended to legally married spouses, but not to unmarried partners.

Molding the People

Race-based differentiation in marriage laws originated in the American colonies in the late seventeenth century. Most often, these laws banned and/or criminalized marriages between whites and “negroes or mulattoes” but also sometimes extended to native Americans. The bans continued after the founding of the United States.

After the Civil War and emancipation, even more states voided or criminalized marriage between whites and blacks or mulattos, and in response to immigration from Asia, a number of western states expanded the prohibition to Indians, Chinese, and “Mongolians.” As many as 41 states and territories for some period of their history banned, nullified, or criminalized marriages across the color line. These laws, too, were justified in their time by their supposed naturalness.

The prohibitions were challenged after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, but late nineteenth–century courts usually defended the laws by claiming that there was no discrimination involved: whites and persons of color were equally forbidden from marrying each other. No one was excluded from marriage; individuals were merely equally, so it was said, constrained in the choice of marital partner. Of course, the judicial defense of “symmetry” obscured the actual and symbolic force of such laws in a racially stratified society.

By declaring which marriages were allowed and which were not, states policed the legitimate reproduction of the body politic. For example, limitations on marriage and immigration converged to exclude—emphatically—people of Asian origin. In the 1860s in California, white American workers voiced considerable animus against Chinese men who had been recruited to complete the transcontinental railroad. In 1882 Congress passed an act excluding all Chinese laborers from entry. Even before that, in 1875, Congress had Chinese women in mind when it passed the Page Act, which prohibited and criminalized the entry or importation of all prostitutes and required the U.S. consul to investigate whether an immigrant woman debarking from an Asian country was under contract for “lewd and immoral purposes.” Regardless of their reasons for entering, almost all Chinese women were barred from American ports. This meant that Chinese men in the United States, who were concentrated in primarily Western states whose laws banned their marriages to whites, had hardly any possibility of marrying legally.

Other marriage legislation punished American women who married foreigners. In 1855 Congress legislated that an American man choosing a foreign bride made her a citizen simply by marrying her, provided that she was free and white. Because the husband’s headship of his wife was assumed to determine her nationality, American women who married foreigners were placed in legal limbo. For the next half-century, the law remained unclear as to the effect of a marriage between an American woman and a foreigner, but doubt was erased in 1907, when Congress declared, “any American woman who marries a foreigner shall take the nationality of her husband.”

In the wake of women’s enfranchisement by the Nineteenth Amendment, and under pressure from women citizens, the Cable Act of 1922 addressed this inequity, ostensibly providing “independent citizenship” for married women. But the Act stipulated that, like a naturalized citizen, an American woman married to a foreigner would forfeit her citizenship if she lived for two years in her husband’s country (or five years in any foreign country).

The Cable Act also maintained a racial prejudice: an American woman who married a foreigner “ineligible for citizenship”—as all Asians were—would still lose her citizenship. This requirement seemed aimed at—or, at the very least, had the effect of—further minimizing marriage opportunities for older Asian men living in bachelor communities. The small number of younger-generation Asian American women born on American soil faced loss of their American citizenship by marriage to any Asian-born man. Even if the marriage ended in divorce or the husband’s death, the wife could never regain her citizenship.

Marriage Changes

Effective lobbying by women’s groups resulted in new legislation in the 1930s to rectify the unequal citizenship consequences of the Cable Act. And over the next half-century, shifting values and the demands for gender and racial equality associated with the civil rights and women’s movements translated into transformations in marriage rules.

Many features of contemporary marriage that we take for granted were fiercely resisted at first. Yet they did eventually win out. Three of the most important such features have been in the areas of spouses’ respective roles and rights, racial restrictions, and divorce.

Spousal roles and rights. Although gender parity between spouses would have been unthinkable at the founding of the United States, marriage laws have moved over time in this direction. In Anglo-American common law, marriage was based on the legal fiction that the married couple was a single entity, with the husband serving as its sole legal, economic, and political representative. Under this doctrine, known as coverture, the wife’s identity merged into her husband’s. She had no separate legal existence. A married woman could not own or dispose of property, earn money, have a debt, sue or be sued, or enter into an enforceable agreement under her own name. The spouses were assigned opposite economic roles understood as complementary: the husband was bound to support and protect the wife, and the wife owed her service and labor to her husband.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, the principle of coverture came under increasing challenge. As the agricultural way of life was overtaken by a dynamic market economy, wives started to claim their rights to hold property and earn wages in their own names. Cooperative husbands in harmonious marriages saw advantages in their wives having some economic leverage. Many judges and legislators agreed: a wife’s separate property could keep a family solvent if a husband’s creditors sought his assets, and fewer bankruptcies meant savings for the public purse.

Unseating coverture was a protracted process because it involved revising the fundamental gender asymmetry in the marital bargain. The assumption that the husband was the provider, and the wife his dependent, did not disappear as soon as wives could own property and wages earned outside the home. As late as the mid-twentieth century, judges saw the wife’s household service as a necessary corollary to the husband’s obligation to support her. Every state legally required the husband to support his wife and not vice-versa. Support requirements were not a mere formality: they meant that men who failed to provide could be prosecuted and thrown in jail, and they disadvantaged women in the labor market. In the words of one legal commentator writing in the 1930s, “the courts ...jealously guarded the right of the husband to the wife’s service in the household” as part of the legal definition of marriage.

The expansion of entitlement programs during the New Deal further complicated gender asymmetry in marriage. Federal benefits such as Social Security built in special advantages for spouses and families, but with different entitlements for husbands and wives. Only in the 1970s did the Supreme Court reject this gender asymmetry as unconstitutionally discriminatory. Spousal benefits have been gender-neutral ever since.

Racial Restrictions. The fundamental right to marry was formally articulated in the 1923 U.S. Supreme Court case of Meyer v. Nebraska, but race-based marriage bans continued, with Virginia passing the most restrictive law in the nation the very next year.

In 1948 the Supreme Court of California, in Perez v. Sharp, became the first state high court to declare race-based restrictions on marriages unconstitutional. At that time bans on interracial marriages were on the books in 30 states. The California high court held that legislation addressing the right to marry “must be free from oppressive discrimination to comply with the constitutional requirements of due process and equal protection of the laws.” Over the next two decades, more than a dozen states eliminated their own race-based marriage laws.

In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court held unanimously for the plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, striking down the Virginia law that made marriage between a white and a non-white person a felony. The Court thereby eliminated three centuries of race-based marriage legislation. Chief Justice Earl Warren’s opinion called such laws “measures designed to maintain White Supremacy,” which were insupportable in view of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

The Court’s opinion in Loving reiterated that marriage was a “fundamental freedom,” and affirmed that freedom of choice of one’s partner is basic to each person’s civil right to marry. Today virtually no one in the United States questions the legal right of individuals to choose a marriage partner without regard to race.

Divorce. Legal and judicial notions of divorce likewise have changed in response to the American view of marriage as founded in choice and consent. And in their evolution, they have strengthened that view.

Divorce was possible in some of the English colonies and was introduced by legislation in several states immediately after the American Revolution. The availability of divorce followed from the understanding of marriage as a civil status built upon a voluntary compact. Over the course of decades, almost every state and territory agreed to allow divorce, albeit under extremely limited circumstances. Adultery, desertion, or convictions for certain crimes were the only grounds, with cruelty added later.

In order to obtain a divorce, the petitioning spouse had to initiate an adversary proceeding intended to show that the accused spouse had broken the marriage contract. If divorce was granted, the guilty party’s “fault” was not only against his or her spouse, but against the state as well. Many states’ divorce laws prohibited remarriage for the guilty party.

Asymmetrical marital requirements for husband and wife were incorporated into the legal grounds for divorce. For instance, failure to provide was a breach that only the husband could commit. A wife seeking divorce, on the other hand, would have to prove that she had been a model of obedience and service to her husband while the marriage lasted.

The history of divorce legislation shows a clear pattern. State legislatures have expanded the grounds for divorce, making it more easily obtainable. These reforms were hotly contested along the way, with critics arguing that liberalized grounds for divorce would undermine the marital compact entirely.

But reformers prevailed—with some notable exceptions, such as the state of New York, where adultery remained the sole ground for divorce into the second half of the twentieth century. By that time, divorce proceedings, though still adversarial, often became cursory fact-finding hearings, or even fraudulent performances by colluding spouses who agreed to establish one or the other’s fault. Pressure, principally from the bar, led to a new stage in divorce reform.

In 1969 California enacted the nation’s first complete no-fault divorce law, removing consideration of marital fault from the grounds for divorce, awards of spousal support, and division of property. No-fault divorce introduced a sweeping change and spread from state to state (as well as in the rest of the industrialized world) as a means of dealing more honestly with marital breakdowns. The no-fault principle advanced the notion that marital partners themselves, rather than the state, could best judge whether a marriage had failed. By 1985 all states had fallen in step, not always using the no-fault rubric, but making it possible for a couple who found themselves incompatible to end their marriage.

Some might argue that the liberalization of divorce had a greater transformative impact on marriage than even the elimination of racial limitations or legally enforced gender asymmetry, though none of these features of marriage—free choice of partner regardless of race, gender parity, no-fault divorce—would be recognizable to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Americans. States today do retain a strong role in the termination of marriages: post-divorce terms of support must gain court approval to be valid. But the move to no-fault divorce, perhaps more than the other changes, demonstrates the state’s acknowledgment of the idiosyncrasy of individual marriages, and the right of the partners to set their own standards for marital satisfaction and decide whether these standards are being met.

The Weight of History

Marriage has evolved into a civil institution through which the state formally recognizes and ennobles individuals’ choices to enter into long-term, committed, intimate relationships and to build households based on mutual support. With the free choice of the two parties and their continuing consent as foundations, marriage laws treat both spouses in a gender-neutral fashion, without regard to gender-role stereotypes.

At least, most of the time. Except in Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C., men may only marry women, and women may only marry men. This requirement is an exception to the gender-neutral approach of contemporary marriage law and to the long-term trend toward legal equality in spouses’ marital roles.

Those who would maintain this exception argue that the extension of marital rights to same-sex couples would render marriage meaningless. They say that the sexual union of a man and a woman, capable of producing children, is essential to marriage and is its centerpiece.

The history of marriage laws tells a more complex story. The ability of married partners to procreate has never been required to make a marriage legal or valid, nor have unwillingness or inability to have children been grounds for divorce.

And marriage, as I have argued, has not been one unchanging institution over time. Features of marriage that once seemed essential and indispensable proved otherwise. The ending of coverture, the elimination of racial barriers to choice of partner, the expansion of grounds for divorce—though fiercely resisted by many when first introduced—have strengthened marriage rather than undermining it. The adaptability of marriage has preserved it.

Marriage persists as simultaneously a public institution closely tied to the public good and a private relationship that serves and protects the two people who enter into it. That it remains a vital and relevant institution testifies to the law’s ability to recognize the need for change, rather than adhere rigidly to values or practices of earlier times.

Enabling couples of the same sex to gain equal marriage rights would be consistent with the historical trend toward broadening access. It would make clearer that the right to marry represents a profound exercise of the individual liberty central to the American polity. Ω

[This article is adapted from Nancy F. Cott’s expert report submitted in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Cott is the Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard University. She received a B.A. (magna cum laude) in History from Cornell University, an M.A. in the History of American Civilization from Brandeis University, and a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Brandeis University. Cott is the author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (2000).]

Copyright © 2011 Boston Review

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Simple Is As Simple Does, Circa 2011

Tom Tomorrow introduced Chuckles the Sensible (Not "Sensitive") Woodchuck in "This Modern World" just a year ago. Now, Chuckles is back to offer platitudes about military involvement in Libya. Again, when your only tool is a hammer (military action), everything else looks like a nail. If this is a (fair & balanced) waking nightmare, so be it.

[x This Modern World]
Libya Made Simple
By Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

(Click for larger image) Ω

Tom Tomorrow/Dan Perkins

[Dan Perkins is an editorial cartoonist better known by the pen name "Tom Tomorrow". His weekly comic strip, "This Modern World," which comments on current events from a strong liberal perspective, appears regularly in approximately 150 papers across the U.S., as well as on Salon and Working for Change. The strip debuted in 1990 in SF Weekly.

Perkins, a long time resident of Brooklyn, New York, currently lives in Connecticut. He received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism in both 1998 and 2002.

When he is not working on projects related to his comic strip, Perkins writes a daily political weblog, also entitled "This Modern World," which he began in December 2001.]

Copyright © 2011 Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

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Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Hajj Goes On!

No Sharia Law in this blog. Nor do any prayers go to Mecca (or anywhere else). Instead, the Hajj referenced in this blog is the pilgrimmage to the greatest barbecue, BBQ, Bar-B-Q, 'Cue, or Q in Central Texas (or the world). This blogger interrupted slaving over a hot keyboard, while preparing this post, to drive over to Deep East Austin for some chicken (and ribs) at Live Oak Barbecue because the hole-in-wall-joint opens at 11 AM and the last time this blogger visited the place (around 1:00 PM), the chicken was all gone. This time, a Hajj-wise seeker knows better than to tempt barbecue-Qadar. Upon leaving Live Oak Barbecue, this blogger drove to another Deep East Austin destination: Sam's BBQ for link of sausage and some mutton ribs. Unfortunately, Sam's pit tender this AM paid little attention to his ribs and they were blackened in the extreme. However, the owner took pity on a pilgrim and cut away the char for some succulent rib-meat. However, the Q-Hajj of 2011 will resume in mid-July when JMueller BBQ opens for "bidness" (as it's pronounced in Texas) and a fair comparison can be struck between the smoking pits of both John Mueller and Aaron Franklin. Stay tuned. If this is a (fair & balanced) smoked odyssey, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Barbecue’s New Battle Breaks Out In Austin
By Joe Nick Patoski

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The Great Texas Barbecue Road Trip from Austin is hereby declared endangered.

It’s not that pilgrimages to Lockhart, Luling, Taylor, Llano, Lexington or even Driftwood, home of the Salt Lick, have stopped. It’s that the Austin joints are becoming so storied that ravenous out-of-towners who formerly used the capital city as a point of departure are lingering there instead.

Austin’s latest recipient of BBQ love is Franklin Barbecue (900 East 11th Street), which Bon Appétit magazine just named the best in the country. Lines form outside the front door an hour before the 11 a.m. opening, and the “sold out” sign usually goes up around 1 p.m. Customers from as far away as China have been packing whole briskets in their luggage.

Aaron Franklin, 32, and his wife, Stacy, represent a new generation of barbecue cooks who are elevating a food tradition once thought to be timeless and at the same time fading away. Franklin opened as a food trailer in December 2009, quickly becoming one of the stars (along with Torchy’s Tacos) to emerge from Austin’s trailer boomlet and transition to brick-and-mortar locations.

Franklin has recently been joined in East Austin by another market-style, bare-bones establishment, Live Oak Barbecue (2713 East Second Street), overseen by pitmaster Tom Spaulding, while Sam’s BBQ (2000 East 12th Street), a beacon of African-American East Texas wet-style barbecue that has been run by the Mays family since the 1940s, remains the only joint in town with mutton ribs on the menu.

Critical mass will be reached in mid-July, when Mr. Franklin’s former employer, John Mueller, returns to East Austin after a five-year absence. JMueller BBQ will occupy a restored clapboard house (1109 Shady Lane) just off Airport Boulevard.

Mr. Mueller, 42, is something of a barbecue legend. He is the grandson of Louie Mueller, the namesake of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, 40 miles from Austin — one of the oldest and most celebrated barbecue restaurants in the world. In 2001, Mr. Mueller broke away from the family business, set up shop in a cinder-block building on Manor Road and raised the bar for barbecue in Austin, bringing the Taylor style of slow smoking to the city. When Mr. Mueller called it quits in 2005, Mr. Franklin bought one of his pits at auction.

“My goal is to put out some of the best barbecue in the state of Texas,” said Mr. Mueller, who is making his own beef sausage and sticking with brisket, beef and pork ribs, pork loin and turkey breast. (Prime rib will be saved for Fridays.)

And if he reaches that goal? “That’s happiness,” he said. “This is what I was born to do. East Austin is home. I want to finish what we had started there.”

Since 2006, Mr. Mueller has catered events from Taylor while watching the trailer boom that started Mr. Franklin’s career. Mentor and protégé claim mutual respect. “When I’ve been doubled up on catering, I’ve called Stacy,” Mr. Mueller said. The Franklins have returned the favor.

Interestingly, both Mr. Franklin and Mr. Mueller use post-oak wood and a half-salt, half-pepper rub for their brisket. But there are nuanced differences. Mr. Franklin slow-smokes briskets for up to 18 hours and uses natural beef from Montana. Mr. Mueller prefers more direct heat and cooks a brisket “until it’s done,” meaning he doesn’t use a thermometer but thinks his cooking time is somewhere around six hours. “Dad taught me to look at the flame and go from there,” he said.

Mr. Franklin, who grew up in Bryan, where he worked for a couple of years at his father’s barbecue joint, said he learned a lot in Mr. Mueller’s employ about greeting customers, cutting meat and offering complimentary burnt ends — but did not get pit training. “John did all the cooking,” he recalled.

He credits time spent experimenting with an Old Smokey portable cooker with leading him down the path. He clearly figured something out, because his fatty brisket is consistently some of the finest anywhere.

As competition heats up, so does the kitchen. Mr. Franklin is building more pits to expand capacity and eliminate the lines outside the door. “We work 22 hours a day to cook food that lasts two hours and spend the rest of the day explaining why we ran out,” he said. His goal is to remain open into the evening.

Is this the start of Texas’ newest barbecue war? If so, bring it on. And bring extra napkins while you’re at it. Ω

[Joe Nick Patoski is a frequent contributor to the NY Fishwrap. He has judged the World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-off in Brady for more than 20 years. Patoski grew up in Fort Worth and attended the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Minnesota, Tarrant County Junior College, and the University of Texas at Austin. He has written Willie Nelson: An Epic Life (2008), Selena: Como La Flor (1996), and (co-written with Bill Crawford) Stevie Ray Vaughan : Caught in the Crossfire (1993).]

Copyright © 2011 The New York Times Company

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Important Omission

Religious historian Mark A. Noll makes a powerful case for the California origins and influences on the rise of the Religious Right/Moral Majority. However, his discussion omits any mention of The Fundamentals or The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth edited by A. C. Dixon and later by Reuben Archer Torrey. This fount of truth for the Religious Right was a set of 90 essays in 12 volumes published from 1910 to 1915 by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Noll's predecessor at the University of Notre Dame, George Marsden, wrote Fundamentalism and American Culture 2e (2006). Perhaps Noll is averse to sitting on the hot stove lid of fundamentalism. If this is a (fair & balanced) glaring omission, so be it.

[x TNR]
Jesus And Jefferson
By Mark A. Noll

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God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right
By Daniel K. Williams
(Oxford University Press, 372 pp., $29.95)

From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism
By Darren Dochuk
(W.W. Norton, 520 pp., $35)

In the presidential election of 1976, the Democrat Jimmy Carter split the votes of American white evangelical Protestants almost evenly with the Republican Gerald Ford. With a clear plurality of at least ten percentage points, Carter did even better among the nation’s white Baptists. Four years earlier, white conservative Protestants, mostly from the North, had organized the first postwar interest group to campaign for a presidential candidate: it was called “Evangelicals for McGovern.” In that campaign of 1972, no Republican was as outspoken against abortion as Sargent Shriver, George McGovern’s Democratic running mate. In those same years the nation’s best-known selfidentified evangelical politician was Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon. He was a fiscal conservative, but in Oregon he had led efforts to pass civil rights legislation; in 1970 he co-sponsored a measure calling for the complete withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam; and somewhat later he teamed up with Senator Ted Kennedy to seek a permanent freeze for nuclear arms. In the early 1970s, the press was making much of Billy Graham’s friendship with Richard Nixon, but in fact Graham was never as close to Nixon as he was to his fellow Southerner, Nixon’s predecessor Lyndon Baines Johnson.

One of the first gatherings by self-identified evangelicals aimed at advancing a national political agenda convened over Thanksgiving in 1973 at the YMCA in Chicago. Its “Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern” featured advocacy for civil rights, opposition to the Vietnam War, and strategies for alleviating poverty. The moderate to progressive stance of those initiatives was far from the whole political story for the nation’s large but amorphous population of white evangelical Protestants, but in the early 1970s they were among its most salient political signposts.

But almost immediately in the wake of Jimmy Carter’s election, the evangelical tide turned with a vengeance. In 1980, the white evangelical vote for Ronald Reagan exceeded the national count by nine percentage points, and four years later by sixteen points. The turn of the tide has been enduring. In the Bush-Gore election of 2000, the white evangelical differential was twenty-four percentage points; in 2004, for Bush-Kerry, it was twenty-seven points; and it remained just as high in the Obama-McCain contest in 2008, with a twenty-seven-point differential for McCain.

The rise and continued effect of right-wing evangelical politics has of course been the subject of much public commentary. Yet a depressing proportion of that writing has featured ideological excess instead of analytical rigor. Especially after Bush’s re-election in 2004, anxious books poured forth with titles such as Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America; Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism; American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century; God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It; and Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right. Counterblasts also occasionally appeared from the other side, such as In Defense of the Religious Right: Why Conservative Christians Are the Lifeblood of the Republican Party and Why That Terrifies the Democrats. Yet with a few exceptions, partisanship of the moment beclouded efforts to understand the not-so-new New Christian Right.

Recent studies have begun to do better, with two of the best being these books by Daniel K. Williams and Darren Dochuk. Williams, who works from the top down in attempting a broad national perspective, does as well as any writer to date in answering the basic questions of what went into making up the religious right and specifying when the movement coalesced. Dochuk, who works from below in a superbly researched study of grassroots political mobilization, goes far to answer the question of where it came from. The solid history in these volumes should be applauded by all as a welcome alternative to the frenzy of earlier efforts. Yet neither Williams nor Dochuk addresses directly what should be one of the most compelling questions about the political history they describe so well: what exactly is Christian about the Christian right?

Williams is an excellent guide to the developments of the mid-1970s that transformed inchoate religious and social convictions into an effective political movement, but he is least convincing when he tries to connect this mobilization with earlier religious beliefs and social worries of the nation’s fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. To be sure, Williams is persuasive in describing the attitudes and beliefs of those earlier decades, which included a pietistic stress on personal conversion, a strong aversion to liberal Protestantism and an even stronger antagonism toward Roman Catholicism, a profound attachment to the family as a fortress against spiritual decline, a passionate commitment to the Bible as interpreted by popular preachers, and an apocalyptic fear of communism. He is also informative on several of the figures who gained a national reputation promoting these opinions, including the anti-communist radio preachers Carl McIntire and Billy James Hargis, the fundamentalist gurus John R. Rice and Bob Jones, Jr., and the young evangelist Billy Graham. The book is likewise helpful in spotlighting developments that reflected conservative Protestant interests, such as the founding of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1942 and the inauguration of the National Prayer Breakfast in 1953, as well as events that heightened evangelical anxieties about the state of the country, such as the election of the Catholic John F. Kennedy as president in 1960 and the Supreme Court decisions of the early 1960s that banned mandatory prayer and devotional Bible reading in public schools.

The problem comes when Williams moves directly to the movement politics of the 1970s. In order for an evangelical political movement to emerge, it was necessary to overcome the fissiparous instincts of fundamentalist Bible preachers, transcend visceral anti-Catholicism far enough for political cooperation to emerge, and translate sometimes abstruse biblical interpretations into practical programs for political action. Above all, it was necessary to bridge the chasm of race.

From the mid-nineteenth century, the nation was populated by a near-majority of conservative Protestants of Anglo-Saxon origin, but for political and many other purposes that population had been cloven in two by the American Civil War. Southern evangelicals were white racists, lived and died by upholding Jim Crow, and were irrevocably Democratic. Northern evangelicals, while rarely active on behalf of African Americans, accepted the Civil War amendments, did not insist on systematic Jim Crow, and voted Republican. Until the inherent individualism of fundamentalist religion and the divide of the Civil War were overcome, there could be no national evangelical movement.

Williams misunderstands how this long history prepared the way for his narrative, but he is superb on what happened from the mid-1970s onward. Others have tried to isolate one or two key developments, but Williams shows that it was a confluence of many forces. Among the significant preliminary moves was a large evangelistic rally organized in the summer of 1972 by Bill Bright, the founder of the immensely successful Campus Crusade for Christ. Called “Explo ’72,” it was held in Dallas and featured Billy Graham and a telegram from Richard Nixon. Although the stated purpose of the rally was to proclaim the gospel with modern relevance (meaning lots of rock and roll), Bright’s behind-the-scenes political networking made the rally a stalking horse for Nixon’s re-election bid.

Other events from the early 1970s also pointed toward right-wing conservative Protestant organization. Phyllis Schlafly, a Catholic from Missouri, drew some evangelical support for her Stop-ERA organization, which raised money and recruited volunteers to combat what Schlafly described as feminism run amok. A dispute over school textbooks in Kanawha County, West Virginia, in 1974 likewise prompted a nationwide coalition to protest “secular humanism” in school curricula. The Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, which later became a prime factor in stimulating the New Christian Right, was not at first a major evangelical concern. It was, instead, regarded as a Catholic issue. The visceral antiCatholicism that made cooperation impossible on even non-doctrinal issues still had a year or two to run.

The political year 1976, with a close contest for the Republican nomination between the incumbent Gerald Ford and the challenger Ronald Reagan, and then a suspenseful battle between Ford and the Democratic standard-bearer Jimmy Carter, was transformative. During his run for the GOP nomination, Reagan, the two-term former governor of California, told a radio interviewer that he had had “an experience that could be described as ‘born again,’” and so positioned himself to enlist the nation’s white evangelical voters four years later after he won the Republican nomination. In Lynchburg, Virginia, a reverend named Jerry Falwell, the pastor of a large independent Baptist church and host of a popular radio program, reversed his early stance against political involvement in order to criticize Carter for granting an interview to Playboy magazine.

Also in 1976, a conservative Presbyterian evangelist and apologist, Francis Schaeffer, returned from a decades-long stay in Europe with a book called How Should We Then Live? It urged Bible-believing Christians to take their convictions actively into the public square. Schaeffer’s appeal was broadened considerably by a movie accompanying the book and a speaking tour that drew thousands in many, mostly northern, locations. One of Schaeffer’s key injunctions was that when the fate of Western civilization was at stake, conservative Protestants should work as “co-belligerents” with others who saw the same decline but who might not share evangelical theology. For a mostly northern evangelical constituency, Schaeffer’s advocacy paralleled what Falwell was proclaiming to a mostly Southern, more fundamentalist constituency: organized political action in society was not a contradiction to the Gospel, but an expression of it.

It was also in 1976 that the political meaning of Roe v. Wade evolved into a new phase. For the first time, the parties divided systematically, with the Democratic national platform including a pro-choice affirmation and the Republican national platform responding with a pro-life plank. For one of the first times since the days of promoting Prohibition, evangelical operatives among Republicans were exerting an influence on a national party’s platform.

Once begun, the movement advanced with a rush. Many evangelicals and fundamentalists were disillusioned when, as they saw it, Carter left his personal evangelical convictions in the Sunday-school classes he taught without letting them influence the policies of his administration. In 1977, Anita Bryant drew nationwide support for her successful campaign to repeal a gay-rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida. When the IRS threatened to strip Bob Jones University in South Carolina of its tax exemption because of its policy of racial segregation, mass protests came from several directions. Some of that support rallied for the principle of segregation, but more was generated to protest overweening government power. In the congressional elections of 1978, evangelical activists joined or mounted movements in several states to defeat liberal candidates and elect conservatives. During 1979, in very rapid order, Beverly LaHaye established the Concerned Women for America as a counterforce to what she saw as aberrant feminism, Robert Grant founded “Christian Voice” to accelerate evangelical and Republican cooperation, Randall Terry (inspired by another book and movie from Francis Schaeffer that raised the possibility of civil disobedience to defend the unborn) began militantly pro-life rescue activity, and Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority.

Also in that momentous year, doctrinal conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention showed what mobilization could mean for a religious body when they ran a get-out-the-vote campaign that resulted in the election of a Memphis minister, Adrian Rogers, as president of America’s largest Protestant denomination. This was the first step in a decade of internal politicking that secured the denomination for conservative theological principles and pushed it toward conservative political action.

Symbolic events in 1980 testified to a political movement that was up and running. In April, Pat Robertson organized a “Washington for Jesus Rally.” The crowd that showed up fell short of the grandiose goals Robertson had announced on his television network, but it was still an impressive number. In August, at the Religious Roundtable’s National Affairs Briefing, the candidate Ronald Reagan proclaimed to rapturous applause that “I know you can’t endorse me. But I want you to know that I endorse you and what you are doing.”

Finally, as has been well-documented elsewhere, the years following evangelical disillusionment with Jimmy Carter witnessed a burst of cooperation between politically energized evangelicals and professional pols of the GOP’s Goldwater wing (including Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, and Howard Phillips). The result was a number of right-wing organizations with full evangelical support, including the National Conservative Political Action Committee, the Heritage Foundation, and the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress. Such organizations gained the trust of white evangelicals and fundamentalists who saw them as vehicles for defending traditional morality. The novelties represented by this cooperation were national political organization and a close working relationship with the Republican Party.

The critical development in the mid-1970s was mobilization, and on a national scale. As that mobilization took place, it transformed well-established traditions of evangelical and fundamentalist religion into a political instrument. As religion, its primary elements were individual redemption as the overriding spiritual concern, family nurture as the critical means for preserving the faith, sexual immorality perceived as a particularly potent enemy of the family, biblical interpretation stressing the perennial clash between good and evil, and opposition to communism considered as the most dangerous world threat to Christianity. Over the course of the twentieth century, many developments in American society had given evangelicals multiple reasons for hastening to the barricades. Yet these evangelical convictions had existed for many generations—and America’s alleged rush to self-destruction had been going on for a long time-without the kind of political mobilization that took place in the mid-1970s.

The great strength of Darren Dochuk’s book lies in his discovery of New Christian Right origins in postwar California. He skillfully traces a continuous narrative stretching from the Dust Bowl to Ronald Reagan, and demonstrates with prodigious research how this narrative fits into a much broader American canvas of demographic, political, economic, and ideological change. If there is a weakness in his book, it is that he does not document with similar care the moves that in the mid-1970s made California’s story a national story. But about the rest his book is utterly convincing.

The story begins with massive migrations in the 1930s of Okies, Arkies, and their Depression-driven fellow-sufferers who streamed out of the Southwest to California. In 1920, the population of Oklahoma and Arkansas was larger than the population of California by about 400,000 souls. In 1950, California’s 10.6 million dwarfed the 4.2 million left in those two states. The magnet for this great internal migration was jobs. Some jobs were waiting for Dust Bowl migrants when they arrived in the 1930s. Many more flowed from the economic cornucopia created by World War II, the surge of oil and gas industries, and a massive infusion of defense contracts. To an unusual degree, workers from the Southwest and South filled the demand for labor. In turn, well-compensated workers settled, raised families, built schools and churches, entered local politics, and otherwise made themselves at home.

The key early developments in Dochuk’s revisionist history were clashes between the liberal labor and political organizations of wartime California and the Southern migrants who wanted to preserve aspects of the culture that they had carried with them to the far West. Against the backdrop of the social strain that has long been identified as the spur and the product of such migrations, housing and labor were the flashpoints. The newcomers wanted jobs, but not what they considered heavy-handed unions. They wanted the freedom to build new towns, businesses, and shopping malls, but not laws compelling racial integration.

Over-represented in the waves of Southern migrants were members of the lower- and middle-class Protestant movements that had long flourished in that part of the country. Representatives of this “Southern plain-folk religion” were usually members of independent Baptist churches, the Christian churches arising from the nineteenth-century Restorationist movements, various Holiness churches, and early twentieth-century Pentecostal churches. As migrants established their churches in the sprawling new suburbs of southern California, they were led by an energetic cadre of persuasive pastor-entrepreneurs. Many of these pastors also proved remarkably successful in attracting large numbers of the state’s older residents and migrants from other parts of the United States.

Their religion was historically Protestant in many theological particulars. It featured God’s grace active in Christ to redeem individuals, restrain personal moral waywardness, and build strong families. Culturally considered, Southern plain-folk religion was instinctively congregational, fiercely independent, usually preacher-centered, and largely self-taught. It was also, since the mid-nineteenth century, militantly racist.

The transplanted ideology that took root in California at the very time when that state became the forerunner of postwar national prosperity embodied a potent synthesis: theology stressing individual redemption, church culture emphasizing local independence, and social instincts trained by segregation to resist outside interference from Yankee do-gooders and intrusive Big Government. As adherents of this ideology purchased homes, built businesses, sent their children to school, looked for recreational opportunities, and helped their entrepreneurial pastors build large churches and then mega-churches, the traits of their Southern plain-folk religion became the nutritive medium for political mobilization.

Already in the 1930s, early Southern immigrants patronized a California movement known as “Ham and Eggs” that advocated a scheme for income assistance related to Huey Long’s famous “Share the Wealth” in Louisiana. It drew most of its support from Southerners who looked upon relief as hands-off assistance to individuals. Supporters of Ham and Eggs were also mostly Democrats, but of the local Southern sort instead of the big-government Northern variety.

Immediately after World War II, a perfect storm of threatening initiatives stimulated extensive counter-measures. When, in 1946, the CIO backed Proposition 11 on the California ballot to outlaw racial discrimination in hiring; and when it mounted its Operation Dixie program to unionize workers in the South: and when in the same year new laws were proposed to ban restrictive housing covenants in Pasadena, Glendale, Eagle Rock, and other southern California communities; and when these reforms received strong support from leaders of the liberal Federal Council of Churches and key members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy; and when it looked like these moves were coordinated by the same forces that had supported world government at the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco only the year before—it was then that the New Christian Right was born.

Leadership in opposing these moves came overwhelmingly from the residents who had been enjoying California’s economic opportunities long enough to have a real stake in local development but not long enough to have cut ties with family, church, and friends in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana. For their opposition to flourish, California’s distinctive political climate was crucial. It favored grassroots organizations that could put individual propositions on the ballot for statewide vote; it encouraged exurban instead of urban centers of power; and it was geared to the rapidly shifting dynamics of postwar population and economic growth.

Early opposition to postwar labor and housing reforms was led by local operatives who called Gerald L.K. Smith back from Detroit to help. In the 1930s, the ardently anti-communist Smith had been a featured speaker at Ham and Eggs rallies. Now he led larger rallies under the banner of his “Christian Nationalist Crusade” at which he garnered subscribers for his magazine, The Cross and the Flag. And Smith was far from alone in joining themes of home rule and home-owners’ rights to anti-communism and the gospel.

The roster of key organizers who appear in Dochuk’s book as the true founders of conservative Christian politics is lengthy. It includes pastors such as Tennessee-born Bob Shuler, who from early in the century had made Los Angeles’s Trinity Methodist Church a beacon of Christian evangelism and right-wing populism, and Texas-born J. Vernon McGee, who did the same at Los Angeles’s Church of the Open Door from 1949. Christian businessmen also played central roles. George S. Benson, Oklahoma-reared and a missionary to China with first-hand experience of Maoist atrocities in the 1930s, was president of Harding College (Church of Christ) in Arkansas, but also the convener of influential seminars in California on business, politics, and faith. George Pepperdine, the Kansas-born founder of the Western Auto franchise, devoted his wealth, strong Church of Christ convictions, and deep commitment to a hands-off free enterprise system to founding a Los Angeles university that bore his name and perpetuated his beliefs.

Somewhat later the same networks came to include Bill Bright, the Oklahoma-born founder of Campus Crusade for Christ who tried to keep his religious and political activities separate, but did not always succeed. Pastor Bob Wells, born in Alabama and a young colleague of John R. Rice at the latter’s Sword of the Lord, came to Orange County in the mid-1950s and established the popular Central Baptist Church that made no excuse for combining fundamentalist faith and right-wing political advocacy. The singer Pat Boone, Tennessee-born and a dedicated member of Church of Christ congregations, was the best-known representative of California’s entertainment industry, before Ronald Reagan, to evangelize for conservative politics. A still different role was played by Demos Shakarian, whose family had come to Los Angeles from Armenia and became wealthy as dairy farmers. In 1951, Shakarian organized the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship, which began as a vehicle for camaraderie among Pentecostal and charismatic businessmen but then broadened to take in a wider variety of believers who sometimes blurred the line between Christian fellowship and political networking.

Two themes are most important in Dochuk’s lively book. The first is the ideological synergy that Dochuk describes as Jefferson (and the principles of a government-averse yeomanry) in league with Jesus (and the principles of a God-offered salvation). The second is the California setting where voterregistration drives, fund-raising for the purposes of lobbying, incumbents targeted for defeat, interest-group advocacy on statewide referenda, and many other practical political strategies were a taken-for-granted fact of life decades before Jerry Falwell or Francis Schaeffer had even thought about Christian political action.

Dochuk’s revisionist account is strengthened by its nuance. He never contends that California was the whole story. Billy Graham’s famous evangelistic crusade in 1949, as one instance, strengthened ties between California’s conservative Protestants and evangelicals elsewhere in the country. Dochuk also recognizes that some political events touched religion only indirectly. Thus, the Senate election of 1950, in which Richard Nixon rode anti-communist attacks to victory, is important for the larger story mostly because it solidified the move of erstwhile Southern Democrats into the right-wing of the Republican Party. Perhaps most importantly, Dochuk also demonstrates that the California experience significantly modified certain aspects of the Southern plain-folk worldview. He is especially convincing that over time explicit racism gradually faded as a primary component of California’s conservative Protestants. But he is also persuasive that the anti-government ideology and pro-local entrepreneurialism that always accompanied Southern white racism did not fade away.

There is much more, as Dochuk continues the story from postwar mobilization to the emergence of Ronald Reagan on the national stage. Along the way he explains how the John Birch Society moved from pivotal to peripheral, how Reagan could become the champion of pro-life Christian conservatives despite approving pro-choice measures during his tenure as California’s governor, how a few African Americans such as Pastor E.V. Hill of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles aided conservative causes, how in the 1960s the destructive Watts riot and the Berkeley free speech movement worked to legitimate conservative political demands, and how the governorship of Edmund G. “Pat” Brown along with the early stages of his son Jerry Brown’s political career responded to evangelical conservatives.

From Bible Belt to Sunbelt is an important book. It is also a perfect complement to Daniel Williams’s national survey in God’s Own Party. Yet neither of these writers carries out the moral evaluation that, especially in tandem, their volumes make possible.

Such an evaluation needs to begin by recognizing that the singularly American merger of Jesus and Jefferson flowed through channels defined by a particular history. The evangelical political conservatism of the recent American past can be traced to the era after the Civil War, when white evangelicals turned away from social involvement and, especially in the South, accepted a racist ordering of society. It moved from latently political to actively political in a postwar era marked by governmentinspired economic growth, unprecedented demographic mobility, apocalyptic anti-communist ideology, near universal acceptance of civil rights for African Americans, and much social experimentation with gender, sex, and family order. When the political mobilization occurred that Dochuk studies in its origin and Williams in its fruition, its character reflected these postwar developments as well as a longer evangelical history.

The merger of Jesus and Jefferson that propelled the New Christian Right was neither made in heaven, as in the eyes of its proponents, nor was it a cynical exercise in hypocritical self-interest, as often portrayed by its opponents. It was rather a historically constructed contingency that, judged from a broad Christian perspective, deserves to be both applauded and denounced.

It can be approved in classical Christian terms for trying to protect the lives of unborn innocents, but criticized for not seeing the need to mobilize on behalf of other weak and marginalized members of society, such as those who are trapped in urban ghettos. It can be praised for efforts at protecting families from the ravages of modern sexual and gender revolutions, but criticized for not acknowledging the stress placed upon families by postwar economic growth, 24/7 advertising, and runaway consumption. It can be praised for standing firm against atheistic communism, but criticized for treating the complex realities of the modern political world as a Manichean cartoon. It can be praised for insisting on personal responsibility in the face of Big Labor and Big Government, but also criticized for not exercising the same vigilance with respect to Big Finance, Big Insurance, and Big Business.

Above all, both books make abundantly clear that, in the recent United States, evangelical conservative politics has been a movement without a philosophy. The great irony of Dochuk’s story is that the jobs that drew practitioners of Southern plain-folk religion to California—and that enabled them to become advocates for local rights opposing dictates from Washington—were either created directly by government action or facilitated by government subsidies to oil, gas, aerospace, and defense industries. Yet to deal with such complexities—to bring together solidly grounded conceptions of government, employment, education, capitalism, race, history, world affairs, and even Christianity into practical political action—requires political philosophy of the sort that American evangelicals have never possessed. Theirs is not the tradition of Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, or Mater et Magistra. It is instead the tradition of Charles G. Finney, who in the 1830s declared that the problem of slavery could be resolved “in three years’ time” if only slaveholders would recognize that slaveholding was a sin. It is the lineage of Billy Sunday, who in 1919 predicted that Prohibition would empty American prisons and transform the country into a heaven on earth.

The flourishing of conservative evangelical politics in recent American history has done considerable good through the exercise of instinct, anger, energy, and zeal. It would have done much more good, and also drawn nearer to the Christianity by which it is named, if it had manifested comparable wisdom, honesty, self-criticism, and discernment. Ω

[Mark A. Noll is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. Noll is a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois (B.A, English), the University of Iowa (M.A., English), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A., Church History and Theology), and Vanderbilt University (Ph.D, History of Christianity). In 2007, Time magazine named Noll one of "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America." His most recent book is The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (2009).]

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