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Tilting at Windmills

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December 5, 2010

ANOTHER SETBACK IN THE GOP OUTREACH TO MINORITY COMMUNITIES.... Ordinarily, who gets elected Speaker of the Texas state House would only be of interest to those in Texas. But the current dispute in Austin has a larger significance.

The current state House Speaker is Joe Straus, a conservative Republican leading a conservative Republican majority. He's currently facing a challenge from state Rep. Ken Paxton, who appears to agree with Straus on nearly everything.

So what makes this noteworthy? Straus is Jewish, and some far-right activists in Texas have a problem with that.

A few weeks ago, a coalition of Tea Party and right-wing Republican groups began lobbying for Paxton to replace Straus, with coalition activists circulating anti-Semitic emails. The message from conservatives was that the GOP state House needed a "Christian conservative" leader.

This week, the Texas Observer reported on an email exchange between two members of the State Republican Executive Committee, which governs state GOP affairs. One of the two party leaders, John Cook, insisted in a message, "We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it."

The Observer's Abby Rapoport connected with Cook to ask about his efforts to replace the current state House Speaker.

"When I got involved in politics, I told people I wanted to put Christian conservatives in leadership positions," he told me, explaining that he only supports Christian conservative candidates in Republican primary races.

"I want to make sure that a person I'm supporting is going to have my values. It's not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right. ... I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They're the people that do the best jobs over all."

Ah, I see. It's not "about Jews," it's just that Cook doesn't think Jews can do the job well because they're Jews.

He added that he prefers Christian candidates, but isn't anti-Semitic. "They're some of my best friends," he said of Jews, naming two friends of his.

Someday, folks will have to understand that "some of my best friends are [fill in the blank with a minority group]" is a cliche repeated by bigots. I would have hoped that was obvious by now.

As for the bigger picture, I'm inclined to consider this yet another setback in the Republican Party's minority outreach efforts.

Steve Benen 11:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Didn't see that coming.

Posted by: Basilisc on December 5, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Ethnic minorities who seek to get ahead by riding the tiger of bigotry... when they end up being eaten by the tiger... they had it coming.

Posted by: No Name Please on December 5, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Somehow I doubt you'll hear Abe Foxman or Bill Kristol say a damn thing.

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on December 5, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Never mind the "some of my best friends are fill-in-the-blank", what about "We elected a house with Christian, conservative values"?

Have a happy atheist day, everyone.

Posted by: Bob M on December 5, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Someone is voting for these people. they're not just cropping up like mushrooms. The american electorate is fully to blame.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 5, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see:

Israel is pushing for the US to nuke Iran.

Israel fed the US false intel on Iraq, to get the US embroiled in a war it has now lost.

Israel regularly spies on the US via AIPAC, and sells the intel to the US's enemies (Jonathon Pollard, etc), and the current Steve Rosen case has proven this.

Eric Cantor has come out and admitted that he will be working against the US executive and US interests to push Israel's agenda.

Now, with all of that in mind, please point to me where, in these e-mails that your link quotes, it says that "Jews are, by virtue of their birth and racial identity, bad."

To qualify as a racist who hates Jews, one must posit a racial inferiority to all Jews.

Please point to where, in these e-mails, such assertions are made -- because on review of the provided quotes, i just don't see it.

What i do see, instead, is the Washington Monthly staff looking to score cheap political points by painting what appear, in the current political context, to be legitimate concerns about the values and loyalties of the person who will be leading a state legislature.

Maybe it's time people started questioning whether or not allowing AIPAC and its shills unfettered access to the halls of US government is the wisest path to take?

Certainly, it would be nice if the pundits here were capable of admitting that vetting a legislative leader for their national and cultural loyalties is a legitimate consideration.

I despise the tea parties, KKK, and white supremacists as much any sane person does, and I consider Feingold a candidate for sainthood. But i am also anti-war, and the fact is that Israel is trying to manipulate the US into doing its dirty work by proxy.

Wake up, fools. While not every Jew is a Lieberman, Cantor, Rosen or Pollard, there are enough examples out there to more than justify a public vetting of loyalties and intent.

With that said: this post is a disgrace.

Posted by: Anonymous Rationalist on December 5, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They're the people that do the best jobs over all.

What's interesting about this is that the "Christian" requirement really has nothing to do with religion so much as tribal identity. The "conservative" part just means "and bonus points if they're morons".

Posted by: DelCapslock on December 5, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Rethug desires and efforts to march backwards as fast and as far as they can are being expressed everywhere. So whether it's racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, or misogyny, their appeal to the lowest common denominator, the worst impulses humans have to offer, is what we're going to see for the foreseeable future.

it's as if the social progress of the 20th century never happened, and of course in Rethug world it never did. Just how did we arrive at such an evil, sad state of affairs, where they are driving the bus?

Posted by: rrk1 on December 5, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, AR, I don't think Benen was arguing that Straus's views on Israel may or may not be misguided but rather the a state party is attempting to apply a religious litmus test to one of its leaders.

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on December 5, 2010 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Texas Takes the "Judeo-" out of "Christian Values"

Remember when the Repubs were all about "Judeo-Christian values"? I guess not so much anymore...

For a group of religious zealots who apparently never got beyond Malachi, keeping only the "Christian" part seems a little rich.

Posted by: zandru on December 5, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

As others have noted, the real interest is in how the Bill/Kristol/Abe Foxman/Commentary crowd will react to right wing antisemitism. My guess: very, very mildly, for two reasons. First, a little antisemitism is very desirable for Professional Jews; it makes them seem relevant. Secondly, The whole Likudnik faction has chosen to ally themselves with the lunatic fringe of Christan fundamentalists.

Posted by: P on December 5, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Some of my best friends are bigots. Ok I just made that up.

Posted by: markg8 on December 5, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what Cook thinks about having a Republican majority leader in the US House of Representatives who is Jewish: Rep. Eric Cantor.

And I would love to hear what Cantor has to say about his GOP colleagues in Texas.

It all seems awfully reminiscent of Republicans like Ken Mehlman who, though gay, fought bitterly against the rights of gays as a way to promote his party.

Posted by: Kiweagle on December 5, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Why does this surprise anybody? These people (Christian conservatives) take pride in their bigotry.

Posted by: JEA on December 5, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

All we are missing is attacks on non-christian statues and burkas. These guys are religious nuts.

This should be actionable in court, incidentally.

Posted by: Sparko on December 5, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

rrk1: "Just how did we arrive at such an evil, sad state of affairs, where they are driving the bus?"

That's the $100K question, isn't it? It really is a good question, and it is one I keep mulling over. Maybe if we could figure it out, we could get these bozos back in their cages.

Here's what we know. The conservative Christian movement has emerged as a dominant social & political force over the past 30-40 years. Some of their strength has developed from their opposition to core liberal goals: civil rights for women, people of color and gays, peace on earth. If you look at voting records, it is clear that a large percentage of white men are not supporting what they view as a anti-white male sissy agenda. The conservative Christian church gives them a home.

Some of their strength comes from opposition to an increasingly diverse America. Social capital declines in a more heterogeneous society, and In-groups & Out-groups are more clearly defined. The need to Belong is a very fundamental human need. The conservative Christian church provides a clearly demarked In-group for those who can believe and who want to belong.

There are other social forces as well. Group polarization is happening within the Christian church. In a vicious cycle, moderates and liberals have left the Christian church; the rigid traditionalists make up a greater proportion of the remaining members. Their wacko ideas, in turn, drive out the remaining moderates and liberals. The emergence of militant Atheists just increases the group solidarity of the Christian conservative ingroup. Now, as in Texas, attacking Jews and Muslims just increases their sense of meaning and identity.

Of course, one has to add to the mix the rise of the right-wing propaganda media machine and gleeful manipulation by Big Money Elites.

Here's an analogy: the Romans conquered the known world through tight military discipline and training. Their ill-disciplined and poorly trained enemies didn't have a chance. Think of the right-wing Christians as a disciplined and tight fighting machine. They hang together, they know what they want, they don't feel regret or remorse, they don't squabble among themselves. They don't need to be right. They just need to stay together until their ill-organized, philosophically confused enemies collapse.

The average American voter who votes for these dangerous ideologues is beguiled by their sense of certainty and the appeal of group membership. It seems safer to vote for them--they seem so certain!--than take a risk on change. Hence, voters have given them the keys to the bus.

Posted by: PTate in MN on December 5, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

I have a very conservative, born-again baptist, who still thinks Bush walks on water. He's a smart, caring guy with very little in theway of common sense or ability to view things outside of his VERY narrow worldview. "All those heathens are stealing from us!"

It boils down to this: "If you aren't one of us, well.... you aren't one of us. We win."

Any facts not provided by God are not valid. Period. This sophomoric and overly simplistic worldview is simply mind-bogglingly ignorant to me. I can't fathom how they continue to think in this way day in and day out

Posted by: Simp on December 5, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

As a Texas resident, I'm torn on this one.

Straus is a total GOP conservative fuckwad. I am happy to see him get what he deserves. And make no mistake, he is a bigot through and through. So there is some justice in seeing him suffer.


I hate to see such obvious hate in our politics.

But isn't that all the GOP has to offer these days?

Posted by: Bucky on December 5, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

"They're some of my best friends," he said of Jews, naming two friends of his.

Presumably Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein?

Posted by: Squeaky McCinkle on December 5, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

-Pastor Niemoller

Posted by: SYSPROG on December 5, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Speaker Strauss has been in bed with dogs to advance his political career. Now some of their fleas are biting him. He should be surprised?

According to Michelle Goldberg's 'Kingdom Coming', right-wing Christians envision a world where non-Christians are free to worship as they please, they just can't have any political power. Why didn't Strauss know this?

Posted by: Seould on December 5, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

@PTate in MN: The first thing you should understand is that the Republican Party understood how easily manipulated the Christian movement could be used to secure votes decades ago - just ask disgraced Ralph Reed who promised as much.

The other, far more disturbing thing, is if King James I of England knew that his commissioned translation of the Bible into English would result in people insisting that every word be taken literally (sigh).

Posted by: Kiweagle on December 5, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting thing, I heard that when they put Niemoller's quote up on the walls of the Holocaust museum in Washington, they censored the bit about the Communists. Anybody know if that's true?

Posted by: MikeN on December 5, 2010 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

"With that said this post is a disgrace." Anonymous Rationalist @ 12:01 PM.

If you're referring to your own post, I doubt you'll get any disagreement...

Posted by: Doug on December 5, 2010 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Anonymous "Rationalist", you are very confused and not very rational. First, we knew enough not to conflate the Jewish religion as such with how to view the state of Israel. Neither is anyone suggesting a "racial" animosity was expressed. The people writing the emails are direct religious bigots, who despise Jews for not believing that Jesus was the Messiah or the doctrine of atonement and salvation. Most of us consider that prejudice reprehensible, and few of us find the exclusionary salvation theory to be plausible (although there is some kind of wisdom IMHO in the Jesus story as we U-Us like to find, such as triumph over self, service, love of all, etc.)

Yet many of us (without contradiction) are appalled by much of what the state of Israel does - for perfectly rational reasons having nothing to do with their religious preferences, unless their religion stimulates them to oppressive behavior (such as thinking they have a right to take other people's land because "God told us so" etc. - again a rational distaste, not a rival religious squabble.)

Either you can get that, or you aren't much of a rationalist.

Second, as I noted in Gingrich thread introducing this escapade: It's an irony, the sometimes vicious pro-Israel support among US conservatives for a nation founded to host what religiously counts as heresy to fundamental Christianity.

"Fine minds make fine distinctions."

Posted by: neil b on December 5, 2010 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

I hope you will call his two Jewish friends and ask them if they really are friends with him. I would like to know how far political allies will go to stand up for someone so opposed to their right to participate in their alliance.

Posted by: Bruce on December 5, 2010 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting that the teabaggers and bigots in the Oklahoma House were picketing the Republican caucus retreat and screaming at the Republican Speaker because he had the temerity to suggest that the voters elected Republicans to create jobs rather than pointless "christian conservative" issues and hating brown people.

Looks like two of the craziest Red states may only have functioning legislatures if the business right-wingers ally with the Democrats against their own religious Reich-wingers.

Posted by: OKDem on December 6, 2010 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

My favorite part was where the "unbigoted" guy asks the reporter, whose name is *Rapoport*, if she is a Christian!

You *could* make it up, but no one would believe you.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on December 6, 2010 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

P.S. to conservative Jews: these people are NOT your friends!

Posted by: Nancy Irving on December 6, 2010 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

"they don't make jews like jesus anymore..."kinky & the texas jewboys.

Posted by: lloydcarroll on December 6, 2010 at 7:18 AM | PERMALINK

How about Article VI of the Constitution?

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Oh, I forgot, this does not apply to the States.

Posted by: Marc on December 6, 2010 at 7:42 AM | PERMALINK

First of all, I have seen about as much antisemitism here as in Texas. Once you start to conflate Judaism with Israel, there is a problem. The vast majority of American Jews (including me) support Israel's right to exist but deplore the brutal policies towards the Palestinians. 80% of us voted for Obama and there is only one Republican Jew in Congress (Eric Cantor).

As for Texas, the nonsense about "Christ was a Jew" has been used by every antisemitic bigot in history. These folks think that everyone has an obligation to accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior. Failing to do so, means that we will roast in hell (being gay I am twice blessed).

Posted by: David Hart on December 6, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

RIP Comedian Greg Giraldo who said "Anytime you here someone say "I'm not racist but" you are about to hear some of the most racist s*** you've ever heard in your life!"

Posted by: Pete on December 6, 2010 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

The solution is simple:

Let the bigot who got into politics to "Preserve Christian PRINCIPLES" --get OUT of POLITICS!!!

We sure don't need the likes of him!

Posted by: Minna on December 12, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK



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