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Friday, June 09, 2006

Big Business, Not Religion, is the Real Power in the White House - by Jonathan Freedland

Bush is again pandering to the Christian right over gay rights. But Democrats should not be distracted from the main enemy
Well, it gave George Bush the presidency once before, so why not use it again? Our old friend gay marriage is back, evoked anew by the man in the White House to scare "values voters", most of them Christian conservatives, into voting Republican one more time. It did the business in 2004, when Bush's efforts to turn the election into a referendum on same-sex unions may well have tipped the pivotal state of Ohio, chiefly by persuading social conservatives to get out and vote.
So it's no surprise to see a beleaguered Bush, facing second-term poll numbers in the Nixon depths, reaching for the same stick now. The Republicans could get whipped in November's midterm elections, unless they can persuade God-fearing values voters to turn out to halt the devil of gay marriage all over again.
Bush wants to amend the constitution so that that precious charter of rights and liberties will include a new sentence defining marriage exclusively as an arrangement between a man and a woman. Such an exclusion clause would demean the document, like graffiti scrawled across a sacred text. The constitution has been altered before - but usually to expand rights, not to restrict them. (Examples in the opposite direction, such as the 18th amendment, which launched the prohibition of alcohol, have not been a great success.)
The president and his allies wrap this up in the usual preachy language, of course - stand by for the radio pastors intoning that "It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" - but there is nothing holy about this mission. It's brazen politics, an obvious lob of red meat to the hungry of the Christian right. If they gobble it up they will show just how easily they are bought.
Abroad it will confirm an impression many have had of the United States for a while: that the country is on its way to becoming a theocracy, with the evangelical right organising methodically, and over decades, to take over the commanding heights of the country. On Monday Channel 4 screened God's Next Army, a documentary about Patrick Henry College, an Ivy League-style training ground explicitly grooming young, clean-cut Christian activists to enter and dominate politics.


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