January 03, 2014

Robertson says what conservatives believe

Now He Wants 15-Year-Old Child Brides? How Phil Robertson Embodies What's Wrong with the Christian Right

We already knew he was racist and homophobic. Now it emerges that he thinks girls should marry at 15 or 16.

By Ana Marie Cox
Roberts' initial interview resonated so deeply with conservatives because it fit with the narrative they mutter to themselves daily: "Things used to be better, and once we're all dead you'll see we were right all along." Gay sinners in the closet, darkies picking and grinning on the porch, America the way God (their very particular and peculiar God) meant it to be.

For the Right to reject Robertson now would mean acknowledging that his advocacy of cradle-robbing is of a piece with his comments about the blissful black workers of his youth and his anus-centered eschatology. The thing about marrying off women before they got old enough to know better? It used to be that way, as well. And it was justified with the same paternalistic logic and ruthless rejection of anything that dared to threaten the position of those in power.

For the professional Right–candidates, pundits and the like–this Duck Dynasty flap is a reminder of a different disturbing truth: the gap between what you want voters to believe you stand for and what it's OK to say out loud. There's a reason they call it a dog whistle and not a duck call.
GOP’s “Duck Dynasty” problem: Why Phil Robertson was a hugely important political story

Phil Robertson explains more about our country's political culture than almost anything else that happened in 2013

By Brian Beutler
Robertson’s comments don’t fly in most of America. If Robertson were, say, running for Senate in Missouri as a Republican, the GOP would have disowned him immediately. But Robertson isn’t a politician. He’s not a mouthpiece for a political party that needs to maintain a national brand identity. Rather, his remarks reflect the views of an American cultural subset the GOP depends on for its survival. His suspension made him a tribune of modern conservatism. Thus, conservative Republicans (not just opportunists like Sarah Palin, but party standard-bearers) felt impelled to rally to his side without actually echoing anything Robertson said.

“If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job. In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him—but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree.”

“The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with,” said Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La. “I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.”

Republicans are getting extremely good at defending the right’s cultural revanchism on fictitious Constitutional grounds rather than on the merits. In addition to Robertson, they also support private companies fighting a government requirement that employee healthcare compensation include contraceptive coverage—not because they have a problem with birth control mind you but because something something religious freedom.

But of course by focusing so narrowly on birth control, these Republicans prove too much. If certain religious objectors should be exempt from the contraception mandate then other religious objectors should be allowed to ignore other laws that supposedly conflict with their beliefs. And that obviously would invite chaos.

The fact is a ton of conservatives—and a lot of Republican politicians—don’t like birth control, and certainly don’t want to subsidize other people’s contraception. But saying so and explaining why are not good public communications strategies—as Rush Limbaugh learned in 2012. So they disguise their real views beneath flimsy Constitutional arguments.

Phil Robertson’s Republican defenders are doing the same thing, on much weaker logical ground, to champion wildly more impolitic views: that homosexuality is an evil sin, and that things in the South were great for black people before social welfare programs came along. You won’t hear a lot of Republicans saying these things so plainly. But a lot of Republicans believe them. Republicans want to amend the Constitution to prohibit gay marriage across the country. And of all the social spending programs in the country they’re itching to cut or dismantle, the ones that disproportionately benefit poor minorities top the list. It’s no coincidence that Republicans are much more timid and cagey when it comes to slashing programs like Medicare and Social Security that benefit people who look like Phil Robertson but didn’t happen to strike it rich.

The GOP’s key dilemma right now is that it has to be a party for people like Robertson without letting people like Robertson speak for them. Which is why the party retrogressed to its old agenda so quickly after the 2012 election, and why it can’t eliminate its Todd Akin problem simply by putting Republicans through finishing school.
How the right profits from the culture wars

Homophobia like Phil Robertson's spurs donations and sells t-shirts--but ultimately, we all lose

By Nico Lang
Throughout the scandal, conservatives have insisted that the real issue here is free speech. We should be supporting Robertson’s right to be a homophobe in the name of patriotism, but this only seems to work so long as he’s saying things that support a far-right agenda. When Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines spoke out against Bush in 2003, that rallying cry was nonexistent. If I’d visited the same rest stop a decade earlier, I would have found shirts that read: “I’m Ashamed the Dixie Chicks Are From America.” A popular seller, the shirts were used as a galvanizing force against the band, while their music was pulled from the airwaves.

Of course, it’s never been about free speech. It’s about the culture war, stupid. Scandals like America’s “Duck Dynasty” moment are about nothing more than our ability to exploit current events to further a culture of division and partisanship, igniting our old hatreds for short-term gain. Phil Robertson’s comments might seem like a liability for “Duck Dynasty” as the wave of opposition mounts, but the conservative voices of support have been just as influential as the critics. For Fox News or Republican figureheads like Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal—both Team Duck Dynasty—men like Robertson are the core audience, down-home guys who grew up on religion, beer, guns and Reagan. Palin needs to appeal to the “Duck Dynasty” voter for her ongoing career in media pageantry, and Jindal is likely looking at a presidential run in 2016. He needs supporters—and donations.

The problem is that Phil Robertson is the product of a system that teaches us we are different in order to exploit us. Growing up, I spent my summers in Petersburg, Ky., where my father lived with his second wife, and I knew a thousand guys like Robertson. These were the kind of guys who were raised on Reagan, PBR and Remington assault rifles, who learned to be afraid of people like me in church. I grew up as a Southern Baptist, where gays weren’t just sinners—they were a donation strategy. The week newly elected San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom illegally allowed the city’s same-sex couples to be married, our pastor spewed a long sermon on the hellfire that was raining down on California. He ended the tirade with a reminder that this was why we needed to give to the church, asking for extra tips to the collection basket. Like an evangelical Don Corleone, our pastor was offering protection from the outside world—all for a low, low price.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Dixie Chicks Show Conservative Hypocrisy and Phil Robertson "Wrong with Honor"?!

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