Election Blues and Reviews II: Religious Right Loses

See also Part I: “Created Equal.”

The Big Loser: The Religious Right

Liberty won another victory in that the faith-based politics of the religious right suffered defeat. I will repeat what I said on the CBS 4 webcast last night: Democrats in Colorado have not won their races; Republicans have lost theirs. (And if Democrats forget that, they will find their majority, both at the national and state level, short lived.) By hitching their party to the religious right, Republicans have driven themselves to overwhelming losses. I’ll start at the top of the ballot and work down.

President: Palin Alienated Nonsectarians

As I’ve pointed out, John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin energized the evangelical vote at the cost of alienating independents and nonsectarian Republicans. McCain selected Palin for one overriding reason: her credentials on banning abortion are unassailable. As a result, McCain selected a running mate utterly unprepared to serve as president of the nation. McCain earned the vote of James Dobson, and he lost the votes of countless others turned off by Palin’s faith-based politics and inexperience.

Notably, the Interior West split over the president. Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada went for Obama, while Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana went for McCain. The Interior West has 44 electoral votes, and they went 19 to Obama, 25 to McCain. This reveals the problem for the Interior West: we had to pick between a candidate who wants more government in our bedroom and one who wants more government in our pocketbook. Generally, the Interior West leans toward liberty — which explains the paradox of Colorado’s election results (which I’ll review in a subsequent part). Both Obama and McCain are enemies of liberty on multiple fronts, so figuring out the lesser of evils was a difficult task (and one that I could not ultimately accomplish).

U.S. Senate: Udall Endorsed Separation of Church and State

It came as no surprise that Mark Udall beat Bob Schaffer; Udall maintained a consistent lead. Udall won because he convinced Colorado that he’ll legislate from the center, while Schaffer will not. As I’ve noted, Udall wrote the most eloquent defense of the separation of church and state I’ve seen from any living politician. His full remarks are worth reviewing. It is that statement, above all, with which Udall earned my vote, despite my profound disagreements with him on economic matters.

A big part of Schaffer’s problem is that he was hypocritical on the issue of abortion, thereby alienating both the religious right and the secular free marketers. Consider, for instance, what Schaffer’s campaign manager recently told Newsweek about Amendment 48 and its sponsor:

“I do greatly respect Kristi Burton and you have to admire her accomplishments,” says Dick Wadhams, Schaffer’s campaign manager. “But there is disagreement over whether this is the right thing to do at this time.” The state Republican Party will remain neutral.

Well, the state Republican Party did not remain neutral when it passed a resolution to overturn Roe v. Wade at its state convention. And many of its candidates did not stay neutral; they endorsed 48. Besides, neutrality on Amendment 48 is hardly adequate. Now that the Republican Party has firmly and steadfastly proven its loyalty to the religious right, and expressly cast out the free market secularists, it’s going to take a lot more than neutrality on a stinker of a ballot measure. It’s going to take candidates explicitly and seriously committed to the separation of church and state.

U.S. House: Markey Upsets Musgrave

The big upset of the night was the defeat of Marilyn Musgrave by challenger Betsy Markey. Back in August, I was ready to declare Musgrave the winner. Yet, as I noted, Musgrave’s faith-based politics played a huge role in that race. And it was repudiated.

I live in District 2, where Boulder too is located, where Jared Polis (who happens to be gay) soundly beat challenger Scott Starin. I considered voting for Starin just to protest Polis’s grand central plans, but I found on his web page the abortion-banning euphemism about “Respecting the Sanctity of life.” The fact that he didn’t even have the guts to detail his views on the matter also turned me off.

Of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, the Democrats now own five. The two Republicans, Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn, signed the Colorado Right to Life survey, demonstrating that faith-based politics is not everywhere in the state a loser. But those seats were never in question. Neither was Musgrave’s seat, so I thought; on the whole the GOP’s faith-based strategy has cost them huge.

State Legislature: Hudak Beats Szabo

I live in State Senate District 19, in which Republican Libby Szabo battled Evie Hudak. As I noted, Szabo wanted to outlaw abortion and pass Amendment 48. Nevertheless, I suspected that Szabo would win because her supporters unleashed powerful attacks on Hudak, while Hudak’s supporters did not take advantage of Szabo’s endorsement of Amendment 48.

The outcome: Hudak eked out a slim victory.

On Monday, I received a letter from Focus on the Family Action complaining that rich guy Tim Gill spent millions electing “those favoring the homosexual agenda.” And — bum bum bum — Gill has also funded Hudak! I think that’s the sky falling. Apparently this didn’t scare voters too badly. Nor is it any surprise that Gill spent his money to beat Republicans given the anti-gay vitriol coming from the religious right. A winning political strategy is not to tell successful rich homosexuals that they’re corrupting the youth, headed for hell, and undeserving of equal rights. The Republicans richly deserved every penny that Gill spent to defeat them. Plus, as Ryan Sager points out, younger voters are much more accepting of homosexuals, and this year they were energized by the Democrats.

So Hudak did not just beat Szabo and her abortion-banning agenda; she beat Focus on the Family.

In my state house district, 29, Democrat Debbie Benefield crushed challenger Mary Arnold. This outcome was not a surprise.

On Monday, I wrote Arnold the following note:

Dear Ms. Arnold,

Tomorrow I will vote for your opponent because you desire to “pass legislation that would severely restrict abortions.”

While I appreciate the fact that you also oppose Amendment 48, that is not enough. If Republicans want my vote, they must endorse the separation of church and state and oppose faith-based measures such as bans or “severe restrictions” on abortions. As much as it pains me to vote for statist Democrats, I deem them the lesser threat to my liberties.

Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life

Amendment 48 lost with preliminary results of 72 to 27 percent.

This is the measure that I spent most of my time trying to defeat. Diana Hsieh and I wrote the paper, “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life,” and I also wrote a lot about it elsewhere.

The timing of Amendment 48 could not have been worse for Republicans, for it kept in voters’ minds the simple fact that Republicans have sold their souls to the religious right. The measure caused Schaffer especially a great deal of grief. And I’m glad of that, because it drew out this issue with finality.

However, while the measure was crushed according to the usual political calculus, the simple fact is that 27 percent of the state voted for the faith-based proposition that a fertilized egg is a person. The religious right is not going away. Its leaders do not care about immediate political success; they care about imposing God’s alleged will on earth.

And the well-funded opponents of Amendment 48 may have done lasting harm in claiming the measure “simply goes too far.” Many on the religious right will be perfectly happy to run a measure that goes slightly less far.

Still, the resounding defeat of Amendment 48, along with the defeat of various faith-based candidates, shows that the religious right is, at this time and in this region, in retreat. And that is the best news of the election.

Gaming the Voter Guide in Jefferson County

I actually had to dig my Jefferson County voter guide out of the trash after I read this story from the Denver Post. Thomas Graham of Arvada totally gamed the guide.

Here are Graham’s comments, published at taxpayer expense:

The following summaries were prepared from comments filed by persons FOR the proposal: …

Senior citizens with fixed incomes are hard-pressed to shoulder increases in property tax. These people should recognize that their reduced productivity calls for them to be replaced by the youth of our nation. This measure calls for some of the property taxes to be earmarked for: “Expanding options for career job skills and technical training to prepare students for today’s work world.” Half of these should be committed to the following:

Seniors on fixed incomes, to whom this school tax is burdensome, need training, as well as compassion. They must be offered the opportunity to learn how to locate more modest accommodations than those they currently occupy, and how to cope, in other communities if necessary.

This tax increase furthers the goals of our teacher unions. It is consistent with a presidential candidate’s promise for change, and hope for progress toward the Socialist utopia through education. This increase could create a pad until the oppressive TABOR measures can be repealed, and the Amendment 23 extra millions for schools be made permanent. The same criteria and logic should be applied in consideration of ballot question 3B, resulting in a resounding approval of the $754 million debt. This will add as much as $69 million to the $34 million for 3A, annually, a picayune amount considering the future of our youth and well-being of the District’s employees.

The Post reports:

Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said the district was prevented by law from substantially changing or eliminating Graham’s comments.

Graham submitted the language minutes before the deadline for inclusion in the booklet that voters began receiving this weekend, Stevenson said.

The district’s lawyers said case law prohibits “substituting their judgment with our judgment,” Stevenson said.

The language is totally inappropriate (even if it’s hysterical). As much as I like the spending restrictions of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, I don’t like the provision that requires tax funding for the distribution of people’s opinions about ballot measures.

Article X, Section 20, subsection 3(b)(v) states that a voter guide must be sent out with the following:

Two summaries, up to 500 words each, one for and one against the proposal, of written comments filed with the election officer by 45 days before the election. No summary shall mention names of persons or private groups, nor any endorsements of or resolutions against the proposal. Petition representatives following these rules shall write this summary for their petition. The election officer shall maintain and accurately summarize all other relevant written comments. The provisions of this subparagraph (v) do not apply to a statewide ballot issue, which is subject to the provisions of section 1 (7.5) of article V of this constitution.

I wish TABOR had been simpler; maybe then it would not have been continually eroded.

Update: 9News reports additional interesting details on the matter. It turns out that Graham is 84 years old — one of the senior citizens of which he writes.

Jefferson County Schools superintendent Cindy Stevenson said (9News reports), “This did not come from Citizens for Jeffco Schools or from the district… I want to be very clear, we cherish our seniors. The statement in there is cruel.”

No, what’s cruel is Stevenson’s plan to forcibly take more money from citizens like Graham to spend on other people’s education (and, incidentally, Stevenson’s own salary). The proposal is cruel; Graham’s statement merely reveals that cruelty.

How Obama Lost Another Vote

The following article originally was published by Grand Junction’s Free Press on July 21, 2008.

How Obama lost another vote

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

We write as a father-son team. We almost always agree about fundamental issues, yet sometimes we look askew at each others’ strategies.

For example, last month Ari wrote on his blog (FreeColorado.com for June 6), “I deem that McCain is the worst evil in the race, and therefore I’ve decided to mark my ballot for Obama as the strongest possible vote against McCain.” Such a position is sacrilege to much of the family.

What’s so bad about McCain? Ari’s post reviews three main flaws. McCain snubbed the First Amendment with his campaign censorship law, saying he wants to violate our “quote, First Amendment rights” for his version of “clean government.” We wouldn’t want politics mucked up with all that liberty.

He pushes for faith-based politics and declares his support for “ending abortion.” And he humbly requests that you “sacrifice your life” to the state. (Where this involves military conflict, we’re reminded of Patton’s advice about which side we should get to sacrifice their lives.)

We agree about McCain’s flaws. We may disagree about what to do about them, but we now agree that voting for Obama is not the answer. Why the change? In brief, Obama proposes new political controls over our lives and the economy at an astounding pace.

Obama wants socialized medicine, more wage controls, more corporate and personal welfare, higher taxes, and more energy restrictions, to mention just a few highlights. How does he compare with McCain on the issues of speech, faith-based politics, and sacrifice to the nation?

Obama didn’t vote on the McCain-Feingold campaign censorship law, because the law passed in 2002, while Obama didn’t take his Senate seat till 2005. We were hopeful about a headline from Broadcasting & Cable claiming that Obama “does not support” the Fairness Doctrine, which is a euphemism for censoring radio.

However, Obama did not take a principled stand for free speech; instead, his spokesperson said that the proposal was a “distraction” from imposing other controls such as “media-ownership caps.” In other words, Obama believes the national government should be able to forcibly prohibit some people from owning certain media outlets.

Both McCain and Obama believe that the phrase “Congress shall make no law” actually means “Congress shall make a law” imposing speech controls.

Obama had nothing but praise for President Bush’s national faith-based welfare, which forces you to hand over some of your money to religious groups.

Obama promised that “federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs.” However, not only is it immoral to force people who disagree with a particular religion to fund practitioners of that religion, but it is impossible for explicitly religious groups to spend tax dollars in a strictly secular way. The national government has no business forcibly redistributing people’s money to any religious outfit.

The First Amendment also states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” While faith-based welfare does not sanction a single creed, it forcibly transfers funds to particular religious groups in violation of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

If you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t be forced to fund a Muslim organization, and vice versa. If you’re an atheist or “other,” you shouldn’t be forced to fund either. And churches shouldn’t bow to Caesar to stick their noses into the government trough.

What about the issue of sacrificial service? When Obama came through Colorado earlier this month, he outlined his plan for forcing students to serve politician-approved goals. The Rocky Mountain News reports that Obama wants to make “federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs.” In other words, Obama first wants to take your money by force, then blackmail your local school district with your money to force students to take time away from their studies, work, and other interests to “serve” whatever it is Obama deems appropriate.

And we always thought the Thirteenth Amendment prohibited involuntary servitude. True enough, people can pull their children out of government schools in protest, which means that they merely have to perform involuntary servitude to fund the school they’re not using.

McCain and Obama are not merely bad candidates. Their policies are profoundly evil, and they violate the principles of liberty on which this nation was founded. They also violate at least the spirit, and we believe the letter, of the Constitution.

So whom are we voting for this year? We doubt that any of our regular readers need some newspaper columnists to tell them how to vote. We’ll probably vote differently, anyway.

However, Ari feels free to mention that he’s seriously considering writing in John Galt for president. With so many political “leaders” blaming liberty for the problems caused by political controls, and promising as the answer more severe controls, this election is starting to feel a lot like the world of Atlas Shrugged.

Fake Scandal de Jour

Talk about ridiculous. The Denver Post’s crack reporter Tim Hoover reports:

Sen. Shawn Mitchell said he was just poking fun at Democrats, not race, when he directed a comment today at Senate President Peter Groff and Sen. Ken Gordon that some lawmakers found insensitive.

Mitchell, a Broomfield Republican who is white, was speaking on a medical malpractice law bill sponsored by Groff, a Denver Democrat and the Senate’s first black president.

Groff and Majority Leader Ken Gordon, who is white, were standing near the podium as Mitchell argued in opposition to the bill. At one point, Mitchell mistakenly addressed Gordon as Groff, prompting him to correct himself and say to Groff, “Excuse me, Mr. President. You all look alike to me.” … Groff said that Mitchell had come and apologized to him. “I didn’t take offense when I heard it (the remark),” said Groff…

Hoover mentions ColoradoPols.com, which had this to say about the incident:

Mitchell Statement to Groff Draws Questions
by: Colorado Pols
Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 11:04:41 AM MST

We’re hearing about an exchange in the Colorado Senate this morning that culminated in supposedly racially charged words from Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell to Senate President Peter Groff, as in, “you all look the same to me.”
Numerous people have confirmed that this exchange took place, but as the first comment below indicates, this could have been said/heard in a different context than it was intended.

Here’s the audio clip of the remark–we think Mitchell was genuinely trying to make a joke, though perhaps one in poor taste. He appears to have confused Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon (happens to be white) with Senate President Peter Groff (happens to be black), and the “joke” was made while correcting himself. Some people who were there seem to think that it was not so innocent, but we’ll let you decide for yourself.

And here is Mitchell’s reply:

What Really Happened
Hey Pols, Shawn Mitchell here. You’re being misled by someone with an agenda. Here’s what happened. During a debate on medical malpractice insurance, I mistakenly attributed a comment by Peter Groff instead to Ken Gordon. Each of them started in instantly with the jokes, along the lines of “I’m taller” or “I’m better looking.” Since one is tall, young, and black, and the other is short, middle-aged plus, and white, I made a quick jab at absurd humor and said, “Well they all look alike to me,” referring to Democratic leadership. In case your informant is unaware, Groff is Senate President and Gordon is Majority Leader. So, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you can chill the scandal siren.

Here are pictures of Senators Groff and Gordon, taken from their official web pages:

Quite obviously, Mitchell’s comment was not remotely racist. I do not think that his comment had any racial element whatsoever.

But let’s say, hypothetically, that Mitchell’s comment had some distant connection to the racist comment that people of Heritage X “all look alike.” Then the force of Mitchell’s comment would be to make fun of that racist comment. It’s not racist to make fun of racists.

Have any of Mitchell’s critics seen Sarah Silverman’s film, “Jesus is Magic?” This film is filled — absolutely filled — with overtly racist comments. Except that Silverman is obviously making fun of those comments by exaggerating them to the point of absurdity. How many left-wingers have condemned Silverman for this movie? Come on — how many? The answer, to my knowledge, is zero. Instead, this film vaulted Silverman’s career. Variety calls it “Explosively funny, unnervingly shocking and perversely adorable!”

I submit that anyone who blasts Mitchell for his comment, but who does not condemn Silverman a thousand fold, is a hypocrite (and an idiot to boot).