AMERICAblog News A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Mon, 31 Aug 2015 19:11:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 GOP Congressman Sessions blames gun violence on diversity Mon, 31 Aug 2015 19:11:01 +0000 In the wake of the horrific shooting in Virginia last week, in which a reporter and cameraman were murdered on live television, America has gone through its familiar cycle of mourning and then dismissing gun deaths.

We are currently in the phase where everyone offers suggestions for what we could do to prevent shootings like these from happening in the future — suggestions that will almost certainly be ignored. And while the father of one of the victims has already said that he will make it his life’s mission to advocate for restrictions on access to handguns, Congressman Pete Sessions (R – TX) has some other ideas for how we can make our society less violent.

For starters, make it whiter:

Said Sessions:

It has a lot to do with distrust of people. Chris, I have been in lots of societies, we could say like Japan, where they have a homogeneous society, where people are more alike. And we have this thought process that we have to have diversity in America. We all have to be ethnically completely apart but respect each other. And the bottom line is that we should and we need to work for that. But we have a group of people that are in our country that we’re afraid of — that have created chaos and confusion. And now our country is confused. And we need to carefully work back towards trusting each other and being together. 9/11 didn’t help, but we’ve got to go to that.

There’s a lot going on in that overtly racist word salad: Our problem is diversity, which apparently means respectful segregation. Which is actually a good thing! But maybe not right now. Because 9/11.

Pete Sessions, via Wikimedia Commons

Pete Sessions, via Wikimedia Commons

Sessions then went on to discuss his sponsorship of a bill that would deny federal funding for police departments operating in “sanctuary cities” that don’t actively prosecute undocumented immigrants. He closed by asserting that ten percent (!) of children born in the United States are “fraudulent,” i.e. born to non-citizen parents who came to the United States in order for their child to have American citizenship.

There are a lot of baffling explanations for gun violence, ranging from, as ThinkProgress compiled, “‘welfare moms,‘ gun-free zones, not enough guns, overmedicating kids, absent fathers, and video games.” But even for a Republican NRA apologist like Sessions, this one’s pretty bad. Sessions, who acknowledged the fact that shootings like the one in Virginia take place on literally a daily basis, has no problem ignoring the clear and negative correlation between the strength of gun laws and the prevalence of gun violence. Nope, it isn’t that. The problem is too much mixing of the races. As Hunter at DailyKos wrote, “You can’t expect Americans to keep a level head and not murder kids or theater patrons or news anchors when they’ve got all this diversity to work through.”

The Republican platform on gun violence has always been less “Crime, boy I dunno,” and more “Crime, something the coloreds do,” but this answer represented a confusing amalgam of the two. Diversity is all well and good, per se, but when we’ve got so many not-white people going around scaring us like this, what’s a good Texan to do?


Donald Trump goes Willie Horton on Jeb Bush Mon, 31 Aug 2015 17:24:08 +0000 With a 21st Century take on one of the most iconic moments of racism in political advertising, Donald Trump hit Jeb Bush today with a video, posted to Instagram, juxtaposing Bush’s “act of love” comments on immigration with pictures of immigrants who have committed crimes:

This is no “act of love” as Jeb Bush said…

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

The ad is a video distillation of Trump’s brand of nativism, rehashing his claim that the majority of Latino immigrants are criminals, and that they and their families “have to go.” Trump isn’t at all troubled by the fact that he is now the self-described anti-love candidate, doubling down on a message of explicit hatred. His video is also weak on evidence; of the three “murderers” featured in the ad, only one was convicted.

But that doesn’t matter. All Trump had to do was find three scary-looking brown faces and throw them together, leaving them on the screen just long enough for you to see their faces and read their names. The video lasts all of fifteen seconds, and plays on infinite loop, allowing a passive viewer to associate Bush with brown criminals over, and over, and over again.

It’s mean. It’s low. It’s nasty. It’s racist. And it’s fittingly ironic. After all, Trump’s attack bears a striking resemblance to an ad from 1988 that helped put Bush’s father in the White House:

When Jeb Bush entered the race, his previous comments insinuating that undocumented immigrants were in fact people were perceived as his greatest weakness. But with Donald Trump having made illegal immigration the primary issue in the Republican primary, that’s even more true today than it was when Bush announced.

Trump’s attack on Jeb may be beyond offensive, but it’s also in keeping with his campaign’s narrative — that illegal immigration is such a dire concern that we need to take extraordinary steps in order to Make America White Again, and that the Republican elites just don’t get it — and it’s hitting all of the right emotional buttons with the GOP’s id.

The Willie Horton ad is widely remembered as being both racist and effective. In replicating the ad for the 21st Century, and turning it on the family who benefitted from it, Donald Trump has shown that he’s serious about the latter and unbothered by the former.

This isn’t funny anymore.

Obama administration reverts Mount McKinley to original name, Ohio Republicans freak out Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:19:15 +0000 There is no reason for Mount McKinley to be named Mount McKinley. McKinley never climbed it. He never even visited Alaska. The mountain, which is the highest point in North America, was named for the soon-to-be-president by a gold prospector in 1896, despite the fact that everyone else who lived in the area called the peak Denali.

President Wilson officially recognized the new name in 1917, but Alaskans continued to refer to the peak as Denali. When the state changed the peak’s name to coincide with the creation of the Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, but the federal government did not follow suit. As reported by the Alaska Dispatch News:

Every year, the same story plays out in Washington, D.C.: Alaska legislators sometimes file bills to change the name from Mount McKinley to Denali, and every year, someone in the Ohio congressional delegation — the home state of the 25th President William McKinley — files legislation to block a name change.

Which gives a new definition to the word “petty.”

But yesterday, in advance of his trip to Alaska to talk about climate change, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the federal government would, finally, recognize the peak as Denali, a change that she said was “a long time coming.” The change is permissible without an act of Congress due to a 1947 law that allows the Secretary of the Interior to rename landmarks through the U.S. Board on Geographical Names.

As one could imagine, when you combine the pettiness of Ohio state pride with the pettiness of Republicans’ unbridled opposition to all things Obama, you get some positively amazing press releases.

Here’s what House Speaker John Boehner had to say:

There is a reason President McKinley’s name has served atop the highest peak in North America for more than 100 years, and that is because it is a testament to his great legacy. McKinley served our country with distinction during the Civil War as a member of the Army. He made a difference for his constituents and his state as a member of the House of Representatives and as Governor of the great state of Ohio. And he led this nation to prosperity and victory in the Spanish-American War as the 25th President of the United States. I’m deeply disappointed in this decision.

Rob Portman didn’t issue a press release, instead turning to Twitter to express dismay that the administration would ignore Congress in order to reject the legacy of a proud Ohioan:

The most mad-libbed response, however, came from Congressman Bob Gibbs, who was my representative when I was at Kenyon. As Gibbs wrote:

Denali, via Wikimedia Commons

Denali, via Wikimedia Commons

Congress passed the law in 1917 establishing the name of Mt. McKinley, and another act of Congress is required to make any further name changes. President McKinley is a well respected American hero who deserves to be honored and I hope my colleagues will join with me in stopping this constitutional overreach. President Obama has decided to ignore an act of Congress in unilaterally renaming Mt. McKinley in order to promote his job-killing War on Energy. This political stunt is insulting to all Ohioans, and I will be working with the House Committee on Natural Resources to determine what can be done to prevent this action.

By fitting “constitutional overreach,” “job-killing,” “War on [issue]” and “political stunt” into the same paragraph, Gibbs, who introduced legislation in January to prevent changes to the peak’s name, wins Republican bingo for the day. Also, given the fact that the Secretary of the Interior absolutely does have the authority to make name changes, a power granted by an act of Congress, Gibbs’s statement is as factually incorrect as it is outraged.

At the end of the day, this really shouldn’t be that big of a deal for anyone other than the people of Alaska, whose name for the mountain has been ignored by the federal government for nearly 100 years. There are plenty of other things we can name for President McKinley that would make more sense (perhaps something in Ohio, or a place he actually visited).

Alaska’s congressional delegation, and residents, are (predictably) elated with the decision.

Kanye West is more qualified to be president than Donald Trump Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:53:59 +0000 Kanye West: Artist, entertainer and now, apparently, prophet and presidential candidate. During Kanye’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards last night, he announced that he’s running for president…in 2020, seemingly implying that he knows what the political climate will look like in five years.

Of course, it would be positively ridiculous if Kanye were to launch a presidential bid. Then again, it is positively ridiculous that Donald Trump is running for president. And yet, here we are. As Blue Nation Review’s Jessey Berney wrote this morning, in relative terms, Kanye is every bit as qualified to be president as the current Republican poll leader, and the media will have a responsibility to cover him as such:

Kanye West, via Flickr

Kanye West, via Flickr

West is not Trump; he’s neither a racist nor a fool, although he’s sometimes foolish. He is smarter and more talented than Trump. His artistic accomplishments are more impressive than any ugly skyscraper or crumbling casino. So if the media is going to treat Donald J. Trump as a serious candidate for president in 2016, it had better be prepared to do the same for Kanye West in 2020.

The media made Trump, and it dug this hole for itself.

The media cares about which candidate does better on Twitter? Kanye’s got 14.2 million followers, more than every current presidential candidate combined, and his Twitter feed is every bit as entertaining as Donald Trump’s. The media cares about success? Unlike Trump, Kanye built his fortune in a relatively short amount of time with no help from his parents — and he didn’t have to destroy anyone’s life to do it. You think Donald Trump is “authentic”? Kanye’s career is one giant stream of consciousness; he is the antithesis of a filter.

Either both Donald Trump and Kanye West are ridiculous candidates unfit to be treated as serious presidential contenders, or neither of them are.

The media’s made their decision with respect to Trump; they have a few years to decide whether they’ll stay consistent for Kanye.

Is Ben Carson OK? Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:38:47 +0000 Can someone pull Ben Carson aside and ask him how he’s doing? Because this rant pulled straight from your uncle’s email chain has me pretty concerned:

That was wild from start to finish. Let’s review.

It’s always a treat to hear someone warn about how dangerous wedge issues can be before running through a massive list of wedge issues, all while saying that they don’t trade in wedge issues. And you literally cannot contradict yourself more thoroughly while claiming to be neutral in the culture war than to say “There is no war on women. There may be a war on what’s inside of women, but there is no war on women.” This comes as calling in the FBI to forcibly prevent abortions from taking place — literally a war on women — is considered a not-that-crazy idea in the Republican primaries.

Then Carson shrugged off the idea that America has a problem with racial injustice by claiming that conflict is just “the nature of people.” Which is true, but convenient if one wants to ignore the staggering racial disparities that are arising from a largely white criminal justice system and a disproportionately black lower class.

Carson also made sure to remind us that Americans these days are soft. The immigrants who came to Ellis Island didn’t complain about how hard they had to work. They didn’t need luxuries like the five day work week, the eight hour day or the minimum wage. They took a thirty cents per hour job at their local meatpacking factory and were thankful for it. And if they died on the job, their kids were more than happy to step up and take their place. They were doing it all for them, anyway.

Speaking of which, for Carson, that same concept of the American dream applied to slaves who didn’t get to choose whether to make a new life in America. They may have been living out a historical injustice, but they were doing it all in hopes that their grandchildren might be free one day. So, you know, silver linings.

From there, Carson went on to outline the grand, subversive liberal conspiracy to destroy America, actively accusing President Obama of trying to destroy the country by giving the poors Obamaphones, inviting illegals and terrorists over the border, hardening the electrical grid (first candidate I’ve heard this cycle talk about that), weakening the military and ceding outer space to our enemies. Seriously.

But not to worry, with Carson in charge, all this will change. “We are the natural leaders of the world,” you see, by way of the fact that we have immigrants from all over the place. So we owe it to Latin America, China, Western Europe and Africa — and all of the other countries that send us their tired, poor huddled masses — to dominate the hell out of them. Because that’s what America is all about.

Carson, by the way, has quietly worked his way up to second place in the Republican primary. Which, in its own way, makes some amount of sense: He’s the crazy outsider for the Republican who wants to feel smarter (and totally, completely, definitely not-racist) about voting for a crazy outsider.

Emphasis on the crazy.

(h/t RawStory)

On anniversary of Katrina, former Bush aides revise history Fri, 28 Aug 2015 14:27:39 +0000 This week marked the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The occasion has inspired retrospectives about the storm and updates on the current state of New Orleans, as all anniversaries are wont to do these days. Many of these pieces have been thought-provoking and insightful. The piece by former Bush aide Jason Recher isn’t. At all.

Recher, writing for Fox News (of course), argues that one man can take a lot of the credit for New Orleans’s recovery from Katrina: President George W. Bush. Not only did the federal aid approved by Bush jumpstart the city’s growth post-Katrina, he writes, but the generous President even deigned to grace the city with his healing presence. As Recher writes:

Damage from Hurricane Katrina, via Wikimedia Commons

Damage from Hurricane Katrina, via Wikimedia Commons

At Bush’s urging, Congress passed a package of $52 billion in aid to help rebuild and recover the estimated $108 billion lost to the storm. The Bushes, who had a deep love for and connection to New Orleans prior to Katrina, personally visited the Gulf region 41 times with their sleeves rolled up, grabbing hammers and lending hands to rebuilding efforts.

In 2008, the Presidential Debate Commission rejected New Orleans as a host city over false fears the hospitality industry lacked capacity. President Bush one-upped them. He decided to host the final international summit of his administration in New Orleans – inviting the leaders of Mexico and Canada, along with the international media, to town for financial negations, a jazz second line and a visit to Treme’s Dooky Chase for heaping bowls of Chef Leah’s gumbo.

While Bush certainly did make a good show of caring about New Orleans after the storm, that’s where Recher’s analysis begins: after the storm. As Clover Hope notes in Jezebel, New Orleans’s population would not have been so devastated had President Bush acted so presidential before the storm hit in the first place.

Former FEMA chief and perpetual Katrina scapegoat Michael Brown outlines the inadequacy of the federal government’s reaction to the storm in a piece published in Politico yesterday. In it, he writes that Bush was given an opportunity to announce a federally-enforced mandatory evacuation notice with plenty of time to get people out safely. Instead of doing that, Bush left the decision to local authorities, who bungled the storm response disastrously. According to Brown:

By the time federalization was seriously considered, the biggest mistake had already been made: evacuation began too late. And even if FEMA had been given the power to order citizens out of New Orleans days earlier, it didn’t own the helicopters, military transport planes and amphibious armored personnel carriers necessary to carry out the evacuation of a major American city.

The delayed governmental response to Katrina probably cost thousands of people their lives. While Bush was only one of the many powerful figures who contributed to the government’s inaction, his personal failure to act was catastrophic. And although the aid Bush pushed for might have helped rebuild New Orleans, the post-Katrina city is a city that has left many of its old residents behind, replacing poor black families with white yuppies.

Hurricane Katrina was the beginning of the end of President Bush’s presidency for a reason. His failure to act like a president, and to appreciate the danger New Orleans’s citizens were in, directly contributed to the deaths of nearly 2,000 people. No amount of gumbo eaten after the fact can change that.

Protestors disrupt Hillary Clinton event over private prison fundraising Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:00:49 +0000 Protestors for GetEQUAL, a group advocating for black trans women affiliated with Black Lives Matter, disrupted a Hillary Clinton rally in Cleveland yesterday over her fundraising from the private prison industry. Here are the videos the group posted on their Facebook page:

Following our ask of Hillary Clinton to divest from private prisons during a campaign rally in Cleveland today, we continued to call on her to return and refuse to accept donations from lobbyists and lawyers for private prison companies GEO Group and CCA. There’s no way to have a real conversation about the future until the campaign separates itself from those profiting off of mass incarceration and detention…

Posted by GetEQUAL on Thursday, August 27, 2015

More footage from today’s action at #HillaryinOH #blacktranslivesmatter

Posted by Angela Peoples on Thursday, August 27, 2015

Clinton, is not only accepting money from the private prison industry, but also counts two of its lobbyists as bundlers for her campaign. She has said nice things about criminal justice, but has yet to say whether she would endorse the police reform platform put forward by Campaign Zero, among other reforms. In short, when it comes to criminal justice, she went into her event yesterday with some explaining to do.

And she still does. Rather than addressing the protestors on their terms, Clinton paused mid-sentence to say, “I will certainly be happy to meet with you later, but I’m going to keep talking:”

Which is all well and good, but I don’t think the protestors heard what they wanted and needed to hear.

As the group wrote in a joint press release with Black Lives Matter:

“Bankrolled by private prison companies and lobbyists like Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, Hillary Clinton is part of the system of violence that criminalizes and kills Black trans people — how can we take her policy suggestions to curb mass incarceration and detention seriously while she’s accepting this money?” asked Angela Peoples, co-director of grassroots LGBTQ network GetEQUAL and a disruptor of the event.

Great. Question.

Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, screenshot via YouTube

Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, screenshot via YouTube

Every Democratic candidate says that our criminal justice system is broken. They all get that they need to say there’s a problem, because there is one. But if you’re down with private prisons, you aren’t down with criminal justice reform. A lot of issues are more complicated than that; this one isn’t.

The first time Black Lives Matter protestors went to a Hillary Clinton event, they were stopped at the door, and met with the candidate backstage. Rather than answering their questions about her record, she pushed them for a platform.

Which is odd, given that her opponents in the race have criminal justice reform platforms of their own. For his part, Bernie Sanders is set to introduce legislation taking prisons out of the private sector entirely. How close does the race have to get before Clinton moves on this issue? And by then, how ham-handed and transparently fake will such a move be?

Hillary Clinton deserves to be pushed, both for a platform of her own and over where her money is coming from. In both their protest and subsequent press release, GetEQUAL called on Clinton to divest from private prisons, and to reinvest the money she has already raised from them in organizations working to promote equality for members of the black and trans communities.

Until she gives them an answer, expect them to continue to do so.

Sales tax election to come down to one voter in failed gerrymandering attempt Thu, 27 Aug 2015 19:34:38 +0000 The concept of “one person, one vote” just got taken to a whole new level in Columbia, Missouri, as one college student will decide the fate of a proposed sales tax increase in a local business district. The one-vote election is the result of a flubbed attempt by local business owners to use sales taxes to avoid property taxes in a suspect community development plan.

The story is nuts.

Under Missouri state law, any sales tax increases need to be approved by the voters in the district, unless the district contains no registered voters. In April, in response to a petition local property owners, Columbia’s city council approved the creation of the Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District, which the owners thought contained no registered voters. However, precisely one person — a student at the University of Missouri — registered to vote at an address within the district’s boundaries in February.

This matters because the owners need the sales tax increase to pass in order for the city to pay for debts it has incurred through capital improvement projects they have recently undertaken. Without a sales tax increase, the city will have to raise property taxes in the district.

By drawing a district with no registered voters, the owners would be able to set the sales tax rate, thereby covering costs. That all went out the window when they were informed that they’d mistakenly gerrymandered one voter into their district, despite making a concerted effort to draw around student housing.

The district looks like this:

As explained by the Columbia Tribune:

For more than a year and a half, as property owners in the “Loop” area worked to get the CID and tax increases established, they banked on that sales tax vote being their own.

When asked if the CID would be financially viable without the sales tax increase, [CID Executive Director Carrie] Gartner said “no.”

Gartner said the CID has incurred “significant debt” the district hoped to pay down through the tax, including more than $100,000 it owes the city and for legal representation, $55,000 owed to Jack Miller of True Media and a $60,000 line of credit with Landmark Bank.

The CID representatives have behaved exactly as one would expect entrenched business interests to behave when backed in a corner in a one-person election. The registered voter in question, Jen Henderson, has reportedly been contacted by property owners in the district, asking her to de-register so as to allow the property owners to hold their election on their terms. To Henderson’s credit, she has both refused to de-register and called out the property owners for trying to manipulate the district for their financial gain. She also expressed concern over the regressive nature of sales taxes, suggesting that she is inclined to vote no.

As Stephen Wolf at DailyKos Elections points out, that would turn out to be an impressive lesson in failed election-rigging, writing, “Most of the time gerrymandering is successful and unfair, but instances like this show it can sometimes backfire spectacularly.”

If you’re going to rig an election, make sure you actually rig the election.

Duke freshmen who refuse to read Fun Home seem genuinely confused about what porn is Thu, 27 Aug 2015 17:56:48 +0000 Last week, Duke freshman Brian Grasso became perhaps the most high-profile case of a college student not doing their homework when he announced that he would not be reading Fun Home, the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, namesake of the Bechdel-Wallace Test for how women are portrayed in film.

Grasso and a handful of other committed Christians in Duke’s incoming freshman class objected to the book being included on a recommended (not required) summer reading list, as it includes sexual images and themes that he considers pornographic.

As Grasso explained in the Washington Post, he wouldn’t have objected to reading about these themes; he simply objects to being made to look at them:

My choice had nothing to do with the ideas presented. I’m not opposed to reading memoirs written by LGBTQ individuals or stories containing suicide. I’m not even opposed to reading Freud, Marx or Darwin. I know that I’ll have to grapple with ideas I don’t agree with, even ideas that I find immoral.

But in the Bible, Jesus forbids his followers from exposing themselves to anything pornographic. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he says in Matthew 5:28-29. “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.” This theme is reiterated by Paul who warns, “flee from sexual immorality.”

Alison Bechdel, via Chase Elliott Clark / Flickr

Alison Bechdel, via Chase Elliott Clark / Flickr

Setting aside the fact that Grasso is admitting here that he is physically incapable of looking at a cartoon of a naked woman without doing so “lustfully,” I think one of his classmates should pull him aside and give him a quick rundown on what counts as porn, and what doesn’t.

Perhaps the best definition of pornography I’ve heard is “that which one loses interest in after masturbating.” If the only value a book, picture, movie or other content has to you is sexual, or “lustful” in Christian parlance, then it counts as porn. If it’s content intended for consumption with your pants on, then it isn’t. This definition isn’t too far off from Merriam-Webster’s, which defines pornography as, “movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement,” with an emphasis on “sexual excitement.”

As Slate’s Jacob Brogan points out, that isn’t the point of Fun Home‘s depiction of female sexuality. Context matters, and Grasso is willfully ignoring it:

Sex becomes pornographic when we detach it from its living, breathing context. In Bechdel’s book, that living, breathing, context is the arc of her story, the tragic collision between her triumphs and her father’s suffering. If the drawings Grasso objects to are pornographic, it’s only because Grasso refuses to contextualize them by reading the book itself. If they’re pornographic, in other words, it’s because Grasso has made them that way, not because Bechdel has.

Even more baffling in Grasso’s article in the Post was his insinuation that he was being forced to look at porn for class when he clearly wasn’t. The book was included on an optional reading list, so if he didn’t want to read it, he didn’t have to. No one was violating his deeply-held religious belief that looking at drawings depicting lesbian sex would send him straight to H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.

But for the sake of his own personal and academic development, he may want to reconsider. Grasso writes that, “if my academic experience at Duke is full of thought-provoking stimuli other than pictures of sexual acts, it’s hard for me to believe that it will be incomplete.” Fine, but if your academic experience at Duke leaves you with a prudish and factually incorrect understanding of the difference between porn and storytelling, it will absolutely be incomplete.

In any case, here’s hoping that Grasso, in his time on campus, crosses paths with Duke junior Miriam Weeks — screen name Belle Knox — who has a much better handle on the definition of porn than he does.

National Organization for Marriage only musters four signatures for marriage equality repeal pledge Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:46:32 +0000 Shortly following the Supreme Court’s decision to make marriage equality the law of the land, the National Organization for Marriage announced its plan to throw the 2016 election for Democrats by getting as many Republican candidates as they could to pledge to overturn the decision.

Turns out, the Republican field isn’t playing along.

The organization, which is going broke amid a series of stinging defeats at home and abroad, was only able to get four candidates to sign their pledge to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision: Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and Ben Carson. According to The New Civil Rights Movement, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham have said that they aren’t signing any pledges this year.

Either way, this means that the organization went to the entire Republican field hawking an anti-gay pledge, and over half the field — including almost all of the top-tier candidates — ignored them. Which is awesome. And pretty awkward. As I wrote when they announced their pledge:

NOM co-founder Brian Brown, via Wikimedia Commons

NOM co-founder Brian Brown, via Wikimedia Commons

This kind of pledge would have been relatively noncontroversial in GOP circles in, say, 2004, when George Bush rode state-level anti-marriage amendments to re-election and used them as a springboard to try (and fail) to pass a national version. But even today’s Republican Party, which is fifty shades of crazy, is split on the idea of banning same-sex marriage. And I can’t wait for Jeb Bush to politely, and awkwardly, tell NOM that they can take their pledge and know it in the Biblical sense — all while reminding everyone how awful his brother was. At least, that’s what he’d do if he were the smart one in the family…

…Of course, there are plenty of GOP candidates who are going to be more than happy to sign on to NOM’s pledge. They just aren’t the candidates who take their chances of winning the White House seriously. Everyone’s reading the same polls, but not everyone’s doing the same market research. And Ben Carson knows that he has no shot at winning but a great shot at parlaying his candidacy into a massive pile of money. Being rabidly anti-gay makes that pile bigger, not smaller.

So three cheers for the National Organization for Marriage fading into irrelevance. The Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling led to a number of pro-marriage equality groups willingly, and happily, shutting down because the fight was over; they’d won. The National Organization for Marriage is dying a slower, more painful death. Being ignored by the Republican field is just the latest, sweetest nail in their coffin.

Duggar rehab sounds about as legit as Duggar sex ed Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:01:52 +0000 Following reports that Josh Duggar had multiple paid accounts on Ashley Madison and paid a Philadelphia woman $1,500 for what she described as “terrifying,” “rough” sex, Josh Duggar is checking into rehab.


Per Gawker, the rehab center Duggar will be attending for the next six months, Reformers Unanimous, sounds awfully similar to the Christian labor camp that Duggar is said to have attended when his parents found out that he was molesting his sisters:

Should this indeed be Josh’s home for the coming months, he just paid $7,500 to study the Bible and work for free for the next six months. Not at all unlike the time he spent at the facility that supposedly “cured” him of the perversions that caused him to molest five young girls in his teens.

Josh Duggar and Mike Huckabee, via Tengrain / Flickr

Josh Duggar and Mike Huckabee, via Tengrain / Flickr

The schedule for men at Reformers Unanimous, posted on their website, sounds an awful lot like what psychiatric counseling must have looked like circa 33 A.D. Men are expected to wake up at 4:30 AM, do manual labor for nine hours and spend their evenings studying the Bible. Phone calls, when permitted, are monitored. Outside music is banned. All conversation is to be “Christ-like” and, according to the organization’s rulebook, “Talking about old habits or lifestyles is against God’s word and is not permitted.” So forget about working through your demons, Josh; they’re going to cure you by making you work so hard and read so much Jesus that you’ll forget they ever existed.

And just in case you were under the misapprehension that Reformers Unanimous was in any way licensed to do anything medical, they’ve got a disclaimer to clear all that up:


As Gawker notes, it sounds like not only a rough but also a dangerous place to go through detox. And as many of Reformers Unanimous’s attendees are likely seeking to recover from physical addictions to drugs or alcohol, that’s a pretty dangerous thought.

As with the Duggar’s bafflingly, comically, criminally absurd sex-ed curriculum — the one that teaches girls that sex before marriage literally causes cancer — this “rehab” program seems to have very little to do with helping its attendees and everything to do with letting the Duggar family reassure itself that they’ve done a good Godly deed by throwing science out the window in the name of Christ.

Donald Trump is to the Bible what Sarah Palin is to newspapers Thu, 27 Aug 2015 14:43:35 +0000 Donald Trump isn’t running to be our first openly irreligious president, but if elected he would become our first obviously irreligious president.

Trump took a hit back in July when he told Frank Luntz that he has never asked God for forgiveness, due to some combination of thinking he’s never made mistakes and thinking that he is, in fact, God. Since then, he’s stepped up his Bible talk…kinda. His knowledge of the Good Book now seems to be limited to it a) being the only book better than The Art of the Deal and b) good enough for his fans to send him many, many copies, which he stores in the classiest, most luxurious warehouse money can buy.

He very obviously hasn’t thought about the Bible in any meaningful way, as evidenced by his appearance yesterday on Bloomberg’s All Due Respect:

Asked if he had a favorite Bible verse, Trump gave a flat “none of your beeswax.” Asked if he had a favorite testament, Trump said he liked both the Old and New Testaments equally. It was the answer a candidate gives when their gears are spinning and turning up nothing, because they’ve been caught having not done their homework.

Like the last time a major Republican candidate said they had equal, universal appreciation for a specific genre of printed material:

Fitting, then, that Trump is open to having Sarah Palin in his cabinet.

Trump is laughably secular, and the Evangelicals thanking Jesus for sending Trump their way are laughably gullible (check the comments on this IJReview post for reference). And all this would be fine if it didn’t constitute a major slice of the American electorate, which proclaims piety while condoning the most impious acts. As Frank Bruni wrote on Tuesday:

Donald Trump and Sarah Palin (Gage Skidmore / Flickr, screenshot)

Donald Trump and Sarah Palin (Gage Skidmore / Flickr, screenshot)

What’s different and fascinating about the Trump worship is that he doesn’t even try that hard for a righteous facade — for Potemkin piety. Sure, he speaks of enthusiastic churchgoing, and he’s careful to curse Planned Parenthood and to insist that matrimony be reserved for heterosexuals as demonstrably inept at it as he is.

But beyond that? He just about runs the table on the seven deadly sins. He personifies greed, embodies pride, radiates lust. Wrath is covered by his anti-immigrant, anti-“losers” rants, and if we interpret gluttony to include big buildings and not just Big Macs, he’s a glutton through and through. That leaves envy and sloth. I’m betting that he harbors plenty of the former, though I’ll concede that he exhibits none of the latter.

Trump’s punt on the Bible came on the same day that the Des Moines Register reported on leaked emails showing that Trump’s new national co-chairman, Sam Clovis (who recently defected from Rick Perry’s campaign), was trashing Trump only a month ago for — you guessed it — having “no foundation in Christ, which is a big deal.” Clovis went on to praise Rick Perry for calling Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” expressing particular dismay at Trump’s obvious lack of religious faith.

What prompted the change of heart? Rick Perry’s campaign is out of money, and Donald Trump has plenty.

So the Party of God doesn’t actually care if you know anything about God, but we knew that already. Practically no one reads the Bible. It’s a long book, and most translations are written in ways that seem deliberately designed to make it difficult to read. So Jeb Bush, et al probably aren’t reading his Bible with any more regularity than Donald Trump.

If they were, they may have a some different ideas on the Biblical issues they’ve pounded into the American conservative.

Bobby Jindal isn’t an anchor baby. That’s the whole point. Wed, 26 Aug 2015 19:17:16 +0000 Occupy Democrats is in a bit of a tiff with PolitiFact over a Pants on Fire rating for their claim that Bobby Jindal is an anchor baby. Jindal, whose parents immigrated to the United States with his mother still carrying him as a fetus, was born has been taking heat for his call to end birthright citizenship despite his own citizenship coming by dint of his birth on American soil.

But as much as I want to be on Occupy Democrats’ team here and stick it to Bobby Jindal, PolitiFact is right: Jindal may have birthright citizenship, but that doesn’t make him an anchor baby.

The claim in question was made in this meme, posted to Occupy Democrats’s Facebook page:



As our very own Chris Walker explained yesterday, the term “anchor baby” describes a very specific, tedious process by which an immigrants has a child in order to secure citizenship not for the child, but for themselves, allowing them to stay in America legally when they otherwise wouldn’t. In order for this to be the case, the child with citizenship rights has to be at least 21 years old, at which point they can apply for their parents to become permanent residents. Only five years after that can they become citizens.

Bobby Jindal, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Bobby Jindal, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

As PolitiFact notes, if Jindal’s parents had used this strategy, they wouldn’t have been eligible to become citizens until 1992. Jindal’s mother was naturalized in 1976 and his father was naturalized in 1986, when Jindal was 5 and 15 years old, respectively.

Occupy Democrats responded to PolitiFact’s ruling, saying that they were only saying what other outlets, such as ThinkProgress and Salon, were reporting with respect to Jindal’s parents’ citizenship. Not only was that inaccurate, but it shouldn’t matter.

Insisting that Bobby Jindal is an anchor baby, despite the fact that his parents became naturalized citizens long before he could have helped them become citizens, only goes to justify the conservative claim that anchor babies are a widespread phenomenon in the first place. They aren’t, as it’s a process that takes a quarter of a century to execute. The claim also suggests that birthright citizenship for children extends to their parents, which is both not true and rhetorically dangerous in what remains an unsettlingly two-sided debate about whether our country’s most basic conception of citizenship is in fact a good idea.

So sure, criticize Bobby Jindal for rejecting his multicultural heritage. And criticize him for opposing birthright citizenship. And criticize him for saying he’s “happy to use” the term “anchor babies,” which is an overtly racial attack on Latino (no, Jeb, not Asian) immigrants. But don’t call him an anchor baby. It’s an important distinction, and it matters that we get it right.

Different Kentucky clerk named Davis claims its his job to tell gays they’re going to Hell Wed, 26 Aug 2015 18:16:07 +0000 A county clerk in Kentucky named Davis is insisting that they don’t have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And it isn’t the one you’re thinking of.

In a positively bonkers interview with a West Virginia radio station, Casey County clerk Casey Davis said that he is willing to go to prison and even die fighting against marriage equality, and that his religion obligates him to not only refuse Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s directive to issue marriage licenses to all couples, but to remind same-sex couples that they are living in sin and condemned to Hell. Here’s the audio of that segment of the interview, from Right Wing Watch:

As Davis said, his religion requires him to tell gays that they need to be “washed in the blood of Jesus Christ,” or else they are condemned to an eternity of hellfire. He then compared homosexuality to a host of other sins that would otherwise require a religious intervention:

When you stand for what’s right and when you tell someone of the danger that they are in, and I think that when a person lives a lifestyle of sin whether it is homosexuality or drunkenness or drug addiction or adultery or thievery or any kind of sin that you continue in or live in, you are endangering yourself of spending eternity in Hell.

Of course, from a legal standpoint, it’s fine if Davis’s religion requires him to believe these things, and even to say these things to LGBT people. They may not respond well, but he’s allowed to say them.

But of course, Davis’s job requires that he doesn’t say these things. At least not while he’s at work.

Davis, clearly not on board with this idea, went on, suggesting that he really is a minister of God — bordering on a prophet — whose purpose is to remind everyone that the laws of his personal God “supersede” those of the nation:

God’s placed me here so that I can tell people, “Hey there is a higher power that we need to answer to, and it’s not people who wear black robes, it’s the one that wears the white robe.”

Here’s the audio of that segment:

Casey Davis, screenshot via YouTube

Casey Davis, screenshot via YouTube

Unlike Kim Davis, the other Kentucky county clerk named Davis who’s been notably unwilling to do her job and issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples, Casey Davis has at least been proactive in suggesting a workable alternative, asking Governor Beshear to create an online system by which the state could issue marriage licenses. Although, going down what is becoming a familiar train of Christian thought, by suggesting this alternative this would make Davis complicit in the ratification of same-sex marriages, making him guilty, as well. I’ll leave it to the theologians for hire at Wheaton College to figure that one out.

Throughout all of these brouhahas with Kentucky clerks named Davis, keep in mind that they are elected officials. As they aren’t appointed, it’s unclear as to whether Governor Beshear can remove them from office, or if Kentucky is stuck with them either until the next election cycle or until they quit.

Or maybe longer. In last year’s election, Casey Davis ran unopposed for his seat. Kim Davis, on the other hand, received only 53 percent of the vote, receiving 3909 votes to her opponent’s 3444. It’s worth noting that I couldn’t find the result of Davis’s election online, and had to call her office for the result. Rowan County, Kentucky has received a failing grade for transparency and accountability from Ballotpedia.

Breitbart posts flagrantly racist headline on Virginia shooting, edits it to be only slightly less racist Wed, 26 Aug 2015 17:07:26 +0000 This morning, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were murdered on live television. The suspect, Vester Flanagan, who also goes by the name Bryce Williams, has reportedly shot himself after a lengthy police chase, but as of noon today law enforcement officials were saying that he did not die from his self-inflicted injuries.

Flanagan had previously worked with Parker at the same news station, and was let go two years prior. In addressing the shooting, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe described him as a “disgruntled employee.”

Alison Parker and Adam Ward

Alison Parker and Adam Ward

As news of the events unfolded, America began to go through its familiar cycle for handling shooting tragedies. We were told to pray for the victims’ and their families. We were warned not to politicize the tragedy (and then we were warned that we would be warned not to politicize the tragedy). Journalists debated the ethics of watching or sharing footage of the shooting.

We also learned that last night, ABC received a 23-page fax from someone named Bryce Williams, which is being described as his “manifesto” that may or may not include his motive for the shooting. That document has been turned over to the authorities, and has not been released to the public. In other words, we don’t know why this shooting happened yet.

UPDATE 2:30 PM: ABC has now reported that the manifesto includes numerous references to Dylan Storm Roof, Seung-Hui Cho and the Columbine shooting, and also talked of a race war.

That is, with the exception of Breitbart, who had all the information they needed once they found out that Flanagan is black:

CNWMQOYU8AAQhyVAfter realizing that this headline may have been in bad taste, Breitbart edited it. It is now only slightly less racist:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.19.36 PM


I guess anyone can write “racial motive suspected” and have it be true if the person writing the headline is the one doing the suspecting, but Jesus Tapdancing Christ, what the actual hell? These are the same conservatives who remind us that America needs a cooling off period to pray and reflect before it’s appropriate to discuss shooting tragedies — and given the rate at which they happen, a one-day cooling off period is just long enough to wait until the next one happens. But as soon as the suspect in said tragedy is black, the culture warriors at Breitbart are magically cooled off and ready to politicize away.

Except their political issue isn’t fewer gun deaths; it’s racial animosity. Because why misdirect about mental health and violent video games when you have skin color to work with?




With Ten Commandments standing on Arkansas capitol grounds, will Baphomet join them? Wed, 26 Aug 2015 16:16:26 +0000 That statue of Baphomet may get some use after all.

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court recently ruled (twice) that the state must remove a Ten Commandments monument from its capitol grounds, rendering The Satanic Temple’s claim that the state must place their nine foot statue of their goat-headed deity alongside it.

But with Arkansas having recently erected the Ten Commandments on their capitol grounds, the debate has been revived, and the statue may be repurposed.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has also called for an atheist display to appear in the same space, which would read:


There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
There is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Freedom depends on freethinkers


Presented (add date) to the State of Arkansas on behalf of the membership of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, in honor of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

A Hindu group recently applied for a statue of Hanuman to appear alongside the Ten Commandments, but their application was rejected. All of the monuments in question would be privately funded.

Eventually, Arkansas will be forced to face the fact that either all religious displays are legitimate, or none of them are. The state is not allowed to endorse a particular strain of faith — religious or otherwise — just because a majority of Arkansans subscribe to it.

Arkansas clearly knew this when they passed the bill authorizing the monument’s construction, as the language in the bill deliberately avoids the Ten Commandments’ religious meaning in lieu of making the patently false claim that the stone tablets represent the basic principles of American government. As the bill reads:

ten-commandments-statueThe Ten Commandments represent a philosophy of government held by many of the founders of this nation and by many Arkansans and other Americans today, that God has ordained civil government and has delegated limited authority to civil government, that God has limited the authority of civil government, and that God has endowed people with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

In order that they may understand and appreciate the basic principles of the American system of government, the people of the United States of America and of the State of Arkansas need to identify the Ten Commandments, one of many sources, as influencing the development of what has become modern law;

The placing of a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol would help the people of the United States and of the State of Arkansas to know the Ten Commandments as the moral foundation of the law.

The Ten Commandments do none of those things, and have no bearing on American government. They are not referenced in any of our founding documents, nor should they; most of them are either irrelevant (no graven images, which should in theory nix the whole concept of a monument), morally redundant (we didn’t need God to tell us not to kill people) or in direct conflict with American government (no other Gods before the God of Abraham).

The American Civil Liberties Union will likely sue Arkansas over their monument, and they will likely win, as was the case in Oklahoma. But in the meantime, here’s hoping Arkansas sticks to the American principle of religious pluralism and puts Baphomet on full display.

Trump kicks Jorge Ramos out of press conference, tells him to “Go back to Univision” Wed, 26 Aug 2015 14:29:08 +0000 Donald Trump held a predictably bizarre press conference yesterday that covered a wide range of topics, from immigration to Megyn Kelly to how classy and popular Donald Trump is.

But Donald Trump is unclassy and unpopular with Latino voters on a historic scale — he has a negative 51 percent net approval rating with the demographic — and his exchanges with Univision host Jorge Ramos isn’t going to help him change that. Not that he wants to.

Here are the videos:

Early on in the press conference, Ramos tried to ask a question, admittedly out of turn. Rather than simply asking Ramos to wait to be called on, Trump immediately brushed Ramos off, telling him to “sit down” with Trump’s quintessential New York inflection. He then told Ramos to “Go back to Univision” before having him escorted out of the room, and it doesn’t take all that much imagination to figure out what he meant by it. He later brushed off the exchange when asked by another reporter about what had just happened, saying that Ramos was “a very emotional person,” and that he’d be happy to have him back in the room to ask his question in an orderly fashion.

And Ramos obliged:

Trump took Ramos’s questions by repeating his traditional talking points — that “great legal scholars” think that “anchor babies” don’t have birthright citizenship, and that border patrol officers are being told not to do their jobs. Ramos pressed for specifics about Trump’s immigration plan, asking how he planned to deport eleven million undocumented immigrants; Trump simply said that gang members would be “out so fast your head will spin” and that he could make his plan work with “great management.” He also claimed that building his Taj MaWall will be far easier than building Trump Tower and that he had “a bigger heart” than Ramos.

As a reminder of the above, here’s Trump’s approval rating among Latino voters, compared to the rest of the GOP field:

gallups trump latino

“Anchor babies” aren’t a thing: Immigrants don’t use children to gain citizenship Tue, 25 Aug 2015 20:42:17 +0000 Donald Trump has sparked an earnest debate in the Republican primary over birthright citizenship, the guarantee of citizenship to those born in the United States as stipulated in the first line of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. But Trump has sparked an even more earnest debate over the use of the racist term, “anchor babies,” which calls to mind the specter of pregnant women crossing the border for the purpose of having a child with American citizenship, “anchoring” the family in the country despite having crossed the border illegally.

As strange as this idea is, a significant number of conservative politicians and commentators believe that undocumented immigrants are crossing our borders, before or while they’re pregnant, in order to cement their citizenship status in the United States. Even Republican candidates who don’t support ending birthright citizenship, like Marco Rubio, still say this is a major problem.

But here’s the thing: Using a child to fast-track your own citizenship is a tedious and time consuming plan, one that can take decades to carry out and produces almost no immediate outcome (nor guarantee) for the parents. From the Washington Post (emphasis added):

No Person is Illegal, via miguelb / Flickr

No Person is Illegal, via miguelb / Flickr

For illegal immigrant parents, being the parent of a U.S. citizen child almost never forms the core of a successful defense in an immigration court. In short, if the undocumented parent of a U.S.-born child is caught in the United States, he or she legally faces the very same risk of deportation as any other immigrant.

The only thing that a so-called anchor baby can do to assist either of their undocumented parents involves such a long game that it’s not a practical immigration strategy, said Greg Chen, an immigration law expert and director of The American Immigration Lawyers Association, a trade group that also advocates for immigrant-friendly reforms. That long game is this: If and when a U.S. citizen reaches the age of 21, he or she can then apply for a parent to obtain a visa and green card and eventually enter the United States legally.

So while it’s true that around 300,000 children are born in the U.S. each year to at least one parent that is an undocumented immigrant, that has almost nothing to do with strategic manipulation of the Constitution. It has everything to do with the fact that people have kids. These children are, by and large, conceived after their parents enter the country, not the other way around.

And those children aren’t shields for their parents. In 2013, the United States deported over 72,000 people who said they had American-born children. While President Obama’s recent executive actions have eased deportations of parents whose children were born in the country, the move only allows deferred action under very limited circumstances — it isn’t nearly enough of a change in policy to spur a wave of pregnant women streaming over the border “in droves,” as nativist alarmists claim.

The threat of deportation renders this type of “strategy” useless. Children of immigrants will retain citizenship rights, but his or her family will be deported if found here illegally, and won’t be permitted to return for decades. And any family caught trying to do this now won’t be granted any leniency under the rules created by the Obama administration. The entire issue is a red herring, meant to turn Republicans’ fear of immigrants up to eleven.

C’mon, guys. David Duke isn’t a Democrat. Tue, 25 Aug 2015 19:33:53 +0000 David Duke endorsed Donald Trump. Because of course David Duke endorsed Donald Trump, the candidate who describes his supporters beating up Latinos as “passionate” and whose rallies feature people shouting “white power” in between Trump’s homages to George Wallace’s “I tell it like it is” politics of “racial realism.”

So Donald Trump is #1 with one of America’s #1 racists. That much isn’t surprising. What’s surprising is how Buzzfeed, which broke the story, described Duke’s endorsement:

Duke, who unsuccessfully ran for president as a Democrat in 1988 and later served in the Louisiana House of Representatives, noted Trump’s experience as a salesman and his “great sense” of what people want to buy.

David Duke (credit: Emmanuel d'Aubignosc)

David Duke (credit: Emmanuel d’Aubignosc)

Yes, David Duke officially ran for president as a Democrat in 1988. He had precisely zero effect in the primaries, and wound up on the ballot in eleven states in that year’s general election on the Populist Party ticket. He was then elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives as a Republican. He has been a Republican ever since, representing the party in statewide elections for Senate and Governor in 1990 and 1991, respectively. He also ran for president as a Republican in 1992, where he received more votes than he did as a Democrat in 1988.

In other words, David Duke has spent the better part of the last three decades as a Republican, in large part because the Republican Party has become the home for KKK veterans like David Duke. Democrats were the party of the KKK for the first half of the 20th Century, but haven’t been for quite a while.

But again, that didn’t stop Buzzfeed’s politics team from putting an extra D next to Duke’s name when promoting the story about his Trump endorsement:

There’s an impulse among conservatives to take every opportunity to point out that Democrats used to be the party of racism, willfully ignoring the fact that, with the possible exception of Jim Webb saying nice things about the Confederate flag — and earning universal condemnation for doing so — that party’s over. It’s one thing for that impulse to manifest in a tweet from a conservative such as McKay Coppins, but it’s frustrating, to say the least, that the association made it into a Buzzfeed article itself. If you can find the Wikipedia page documenting David Duke’s Democratic presidential campaign, you’ve also found the Wikipedia page documenting David Duke’s handful of subsequent Republican campaigns.

There are a lot of reasons why Democrats receive over 70 percent of the Latino vote and over 90 percent of the African-American vote in presidential elections. One of those reasons is that Republicans stopped being the party of Lincoln and instead became the party of David Duke.

This being the case, Duke’s Democratic affiliation is the opposite of relevant to his endorsement of Trump. It’s only useful if you want to blur the clear lines separating the Democratic and Republican parties on racial issues in the 21st Century.

Ted Cruz pivots to Evangelical Trumpism Tue, 25 Aug 2015 16:42:59 +0000 Ted Cruz is in a pickle. His path to victory for the Republican nomination ran through the same anti-immigrant, anti-establishment, anti-knowledge Republicans that are currently flocking to Donald Trump. Not wanting to alienate them, he can’t attack Trump, and has been notably congenial toward the caricature of American ignorance and excess. Cruz’s strategy, it seems, is to wait Trump out; a gamble, no doubt, given Trump’s staying power.

So while Cruz bides his time, waiting for what he hopes will be the eventual Trump implosion, he’s turned his focus away from Trump’s signature issues, on which he doesn’t have much distinction, and toward the issue Trump has the least ownership of: religion.

Cruz has spent the last week rattling off a series of Evangelical buzzwords designed to tweak the limbic systems of religious conservatives. He railed against the “atheist Taliban” with a pro-slavery radio host. He got owned by Ellen Page for implying that ENDA amounted to the persecution of Christians. And on Friday, before his “Rally for Religious Liberty,” he claimed in an interview with Newsmax that a wave of “liberal fascism” seeks to reduce Christians to second-class citizens:

I don’t need to bother explaining the difference between a Christian baker being compelled under a non-discrimination ordinance bake a cake that will be eaten at a same-sex wedding and a Jewish rabbi being compelled under a law that doesn’t exist to perform a Christian wedding. And I don’t need to bother explaining why the loss of Christian privilege doesn’t constitute Christian “persecution.” And I don’t need to bother explaining why “liberal fascism” is as much of an oxymoron as “atheist Taliban.” Cruz’s rhetoric here isn’t as interesting as his strategy.

Unlike Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, who are trying to co-opt Donald Trump’s energy and play to Donald Trump’s supporters on Trump’s own turf — immigration and trade — Cruz has recognized that that strategy is doomed to fail. You can’t out-Trump Trump by playing Trump’s game. But you can carve our your own territory in the id of the conservative movement by making a similar claim from a different angle. Trump is telling the Republican base that their white privilege is under attack from the raping, murdering Mexicans and the manipulative Chinese; Cruz is telling the Republican base that their Christian privilege is under attack from the pillaging, persecuting secularists.

The “other” is different, but the message is the same: The white, Christian, alpha-male America you know and love is under attack, and it’s time to take our country back.

To be clear, Cruz isn’t the only candidate in the race making decidedly Evangelical appeals. Mike Huckabee, for instance, is trying to monopolize the Christian Zionist micro-constituency. But Mike Huckabee has no intention of being president; he has every intention of selling “Power of Prayer” cancer treatments to Christian Zionists. Cruz has re-imagined his campaign’s message box on a decidedly theocratic theme, presumably while running to win.

Again, this is a big gamble on Cruz’s part, locking down a micro-constituency in hopes that the appeal puts him in the back of the minds of enough Trump supporters for him to be the primary beneficiary of an eventual Trump implosion. But given Trump’s absolute dominance of the Republican primary on Cruz’s other signature issues, particularly immigration, this is probably the best way Cruz can play the hand he’s been dealt.

Then again, while Trump was originally thought to be particularly weak in his religious knees, he has since decided that the Bible is the most luxurious, classiest book ever written. So even Cruz’s best efforts to scare Christians into his camp may fall flat.

But it’s still fascinating to watch.