The Battle of the Bulls

I want to write about the possibility of a government shut down this week, and I will write about it.

But today I’m up to my ears in alligators, family style.

So … I’ve decided that this post I wrote at the end of a legislative session here in Oklahoma might start you off. It doesn’t deal with the specific issues at hand, and the federal stand off is almost breathtaking in its ruthlessness. What I’m describing here is healthy political give and take. However, much of the psychology is the same. Read, and think about it. Then, we’ll take up what’s happening now tomorrow.

We shut down the session Friday and it wasn’t pretty. Oklahoma‘s constitution requires that we end the legislative session by 5 pm on the last Friday of May each year. What that means in the real world is that no matter what else we do, we must pass the budget by that day. Otherwise, all the money stops and the lights go out all over the state.

We did manage to get to the finish line with a budget of sorts, but not without a lot of drama. We skated to the edge of the cliff more than once in the last week, always barely avoiding the messy business of adjourning without funding the government. Egos were bruised, names were called, deals were done and legislators and staff drove themselves past simple exhaustion into incompetent somnabulence in the process.

By the end of session, most of us weren’t fit to drive a car, much less make laws for millions of people.

This annual exhibition of legislative histrionics makes the voters mad. In fact voter anger is why we have to shut it down by 5 pm on the last Friday of May. Back in the day, we used to cover the clock with a towel or sheet or maybe some unlucky legislator’s jacket, and just keep on fighting. We went right around the dial, 24-7, until the deals were done. The people of Oklahoma, in a disgusted pique, passed a constitutional amendment by means of a referendum petition that required us to take at least 8 hours off each day and to end the session on the aforementioned last Friday of May.

It was a good idea, but good ideas are very seldom a match for human nature. That’s the force driving these annual end of session train wrecks; testosterone-fueled human nature. The Oklahoma legislature is run by people with y chromosomes. It always has been. I don’t want to sound sexist, but it’s just a fact that when men who have more ego than brains start shoving each other around, the discussion quickly descends to an unacknowledged battle over who is the real alpha male around here.

All the talk about “the people” and “policy” and “rights” devolves down to who has enough manhood to make the other guy do obeisance.

I may get myself uninvited to lunch with the boys for saying all this. It’s definitely not politically correct. But it is the truth. Decisions are made which affect the lives and futures of millions of people, including people who haven’t been born yet, based on this chest-thumping battle of the bulls.

Those of us who don’t have quite so much testosterone get into it, too. Female legislators are quite as capable of standing our ground as the guys. The difference is we usually have some vague notion of why we’re actually doing it, and we aren’t nearly as likely to offer to “take it outside” and “settle it there.” In fact I can honestly say that in all my 16 years as a legislator, I have never threatened anyone with a right hook to the jaw for disagreeing with me.

Remember: This is Oklahoma. I’ve seen legislators come to blows more than once in my tenure in office. A year before I was first elected in 1980, one legislator brought a gun onto the floor of the House with the intention of shooting one of his colleagues. I met one of the legislators who disarmed him when I was elected the next year and married him a couple of years after that. Two kids and almost  30 years later, we’re still together.

I expect some people will be upset by this view from the inside of the legislative rumbles. But I have to admit, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind the yelling. I don’t mind the fist fights. I don’t mind the shoving and threats and bombastic carrying on. I don’t mind because, messy and ridiculous as it sometimes is, it’s also democracy in action.

I would much rather see a messy session shut down where everyone noisily had their say than a well-mannered tea-sipping shut down where only a few powerful nabobs made all the policy. We practiced hard-ball politics this week, but we also stopped some horrifically bad bills from becoming law. I am convinced that we saved lives and protected the state’s economy from ruin by the moves we made. It took both parties and every single one of us to do it.

I was so tired last Friday that I was dizzy-headed and nauseous. I had to concentrate to vote correctly on the rapid-fire procedural votes that we were shooting at one another, something I can usually do on automatic. I saw other legislators start making speeches on the mike when they were recognized to ask a question, debate the wrong bill and repeatedly get befuddled about what they were trying to do.

All of this was exhaustion, and exhaustion to that level when you’re making law is not good. It also wasn’t necessary. We wasted a lot of time twiddling our thumbs in the days leading up to this; time we should have spent hearing bills in a more judicious fashion than this last-minute onslaught.

But I still prefer that to any “reform” that would tamp down on it. When you bring  150 people together from all over a state as big as Oklahoma, from rural folks who live in counties with more cattle than people to city dwellers who worry about gangs, you’re going to get disagreement. The only way to avoid it is for some of them to sell out the people they’re representing.

That’s what usually happens. I’ve seen it over and over. I saw it this session. But something happened this last week and the House members rose up and started representing their constituents. That’s how the bad bills died.

But bad bills which are pushed by powerful people who stand to make a lot of money from them don’t die easily. The resulting fights were why we were all so tired.

Was it worth it? Oh yes.

But I’m sure glad I don’t have to do it again this week.

Pope Francis and Politicians

Every year at the beginning of session, I find a note on my desk on the House floor from someone I don’t know. “I am (name)” it says, “I will pray for you every day.”

I keep these notes and treasure them. When the votes get tough and the debate gets nasty, I pull them out of my desk drawer and look at them.

I went through a bad patch in my work as a legislator a few years back in which I felt isolated and alone, at odds with the other Democrats. It was a chore just to make myself get in the car and drive to work.

I had a thing I went through while I was driving to work. I put aside all my thoughts of my life outside that capitol building. I shut down my softer emotions and focused on the job ahead of me that day. When I stepped out of my car in the parking lot, I was Representative Hamilton, or more exactly, I was District 89 and its people.

I left the rest of me to pick up later on the drive home.

All during this time, people prayed for me. Many of them I don’t know, since it was a sort of informal prayer chain. But I made speeches from time to time and often a woman — it was almost always a woman — would come up to me afterwards and said, “I heard about you, and I want you to know that I pray for you.”

I believe I felt their prayers. I know absolutely that there were times when I sent a text to one of my prayer warriors and asked for prayers and then felt peace come over me like a calming hand not long afterwards.

Prayer is a force. It plugs us into the engine that drives the universe. The help it gives extends far beyond what the person who prays sees.

Pope Francis gave a homily at morning mass yesterday that every elected official should hear. He described exactly what servant leadership is for a politician. It is not about the elected official at all. It is about the people they serve. It is about trusting God enough to jump off those political cliffs and cast the hard votes that get you clawed up and attacked simply because you know that this is what the Gospels require of you.

Politics is a lion’s den of sorts, and politicians who follow Christ have to go into it with the spirit of Daniel. They need the courage of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego before the fiery furnace when they said “Our God will deliver us, and even if He does not deliver us, we still will not bow down to false gods.”

This takes, not ego, but humility. It is a humbling thing to love someone else who does not truly love you back to the point of true service to them. It is a humility of the soul to trust God rather than yourself and do what everyone, including you, knows is the stupid thing in order to follow Him.

The smart thing for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have been to bow down to those idols with their fingers crossed and then ask for God’s forgiveness later. After all, they might have told themselves, being bound and tossed into a fiery furnace would just make us burnt ash, and we would be of no use to God like that. It is better that we live to serve Him another day.

But if they had made this obvious and smart compromise, they would have weakened the buckling faith of all God’s followers, everywhere. By taking the stand they did, they became a source of hope and strength.

I am sure they had no thoughts of all this at the time. I imagine that for them it was a moment of deepest humility. They laid their lives before God, “even if He does not save us,” and they took their chances.

That is what everyone who follows Christ in this life must do. It is required of elected officials that they do it over and over in a public arena where the arrows of hatred hit them from every direction.

They need our prayers. And we need to pray for them.

It is impossible to pray for someone diligently and continuously without at some level taking on their pain. It isn’t something you try to do or even want. It is a natural outcome of the grace of prayer. Praying for someone stills the demons that attack your own soul. You may not approve of the wrongs the people you pray for do, but you will not be able to hate them. Prayer shifts the whole scenario, turns the wheel, so that it is no longer about you vs this other person. It is about doing God’s will.

Praying for someone is a mercy, and like all mercy, it is, as Shakespeare said, twice blessed. It blesses the one who is prayed for, and perhaps even more profoundly, it blesses the one who prays.

Pray for our elected officials, including and most especially the ones that make you the maddest. Pray and don’t stop praying. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life, it is that you will never come to the end of the surprises about what God can do with a human soul.

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After the Election Comes the Scary Part

After the election comes the scary part.

It was a long time ago, but I remember it well. I won my first election over 30 years ago, before I met my husband, before my religious conversion, when I was at the height of my anti-religion period.

I won the election by defeating a 16-year incumbent most political deep-thinkers regarded as “unbeatable.” A couple of weeks later, I got a notice that I needed to show up at the Capitol to be sworn in. A friend of mine took me out and bought me a suit to wear. I didn’t have enough money to buy one for myself.

No one was ever more sure of herself than I was the day I marched into the Capitol building, all gussied up in my shiny new Representative Suit. I brought an escort of sorts. They were my running buddies (literally) my old junior high gang and a couple of bffs that I confided my every waking thought to. I led this little flock of mine up to the first man in uniform that I saw and blurted out, “Where’s the House?”

He looked us over, and said, “I think you mean the gallery. It’s up the stairs  …”

“No,” I told him. “I’m a House Member.”

Women were just starting to win elections. A sprinkling of women had made it, but my chirpy group of pals and I were something new in this echoey building. Truth told, our youth and overall giddiness would still stand out today. He stared at me, then said, “Uh sorry Ma’am.” and directed me to the House. I headed toward the big doors, and he slid an arm between me and my friends.

“Sorry,” he said. “Only the Representative can go in.”

That is how I learned one of the most frightening and inflexible truths of holding public office. Your friends can help you get elected. They can strategize, sympathize and support you through the rigors and nastiness of a political campaign. They can even go out to dinner with you after the day is done and hear all about what happened at the Capitol. But when you are functioning as an elected official, you — get ready for this now — you have to stand alone.

Despite my gaggle of friends and my blithe insouciance, I wasn’t a fool about politics, not even at that early point in my political career. I had just put together, executed and survived a winning campaign against a 16-year incumbent. I was the former state director for NARAL. I was a lot of things; some good and some bad, but I knew a lot more about what I was doing that my easy attitude indicated.

If I found this realization that I had to walk through those doors alone daunting — and I did — think how stunning it must be for one of the party candidates who are beamed into office on a beam of corporate money. There’s a world of difference between an elected official who has come out on top in a vicious do-it-yourself campaign and one who spent the entire process like a little kid riding in the back seat of mommy and daddy’s car. If I was self-confident, I had some reason to be. If they are confused and mulish, they also have reason to be.

People often assume that legislating is easy; just make a few half-baked speeches, cast a couple of obvious votes and get your picture taken. In truth, it’s a complex job that changes constantly. No two days as a legislator are ever the same. I’m starting my 17th year in office, and each day of it has been different than the ones that went before. It isn’t boring. But it can be and often is terrifying. And the pressures are indescribable to anyone who hasn’t felt them.

Most of the people I work with have only a handful of years on the job as legislators. They have zero memory of the twists and turns, tricks and finagling of the past. They are like 100 geese, born into a brand new world every single day. Combine this with the fact that most of them were recruited to run based at least partly on their malleability and willingness to go along to get along, and you have a recipe for a confused and troubled legislative process.

One of the most obvious traits of these beamed-in legislators is how easy it is to scare them. Not only that, but they have a real proclivity for being afraid of the wrong things. Most of them come from backgrounds where people didn’t actively try to intimidate and bully them every minute of every day. They aren’t used to being constantly lied to, flattered, made fun of and berated. This may be the first time in their lives that they have had to stand entirely on their own.

But that is the life of a legislator. On any given day, you’re going to be called a nincompoop or worse. You’ll see unflattering cartoons of yourself and get emails from all over the world calling you things you never even heard of before. In the next instant, somebody or other will be comparing you favorably to Moses or Abraham Lincoln. It’s the ultimate hero-jerk roller coaster, and it never stops until you leave office.

At the same time, you have in your hands the awesome power of government. You can literally kill people by putting a comma in the wrong place. Or, you can save lives, give people a hope and a future, do your share to create a just and stable government that will enable people to live their lives in freedom and safety.

What you do with it, how you handle it, is up to you.

You have to walk through those doors alone. And you have to figure out how to do this complex, ever-changing job by yourself. You have to find a way to deal with the demands and needs of tens of thousands of constituents, how to run the traps and do the work to pass legislation, how to discern who’s lying and who’s telling the truth, how to keep your balance in the face of alternating adulation and abuse, and how to keep from losing yourself to the hype and unreality of it, how to stay an authentic person. You have to do this, and you’ve got to do it by yourself.

It isn’t easy. But after 16 years of it, I can tell you, it is rewarding. It is meaningful work.

I don’t recommend it to everybody. But I do recommend it. Public office can and should be a form of servant leadership. We need men and women who are grounded in a deep faith and personal morality, with strong characters  and the ability to think for themselves to run for office.

Those are the kind of people who can handle it when they learn that no matter how rigorous the campaign, the scary part comes after the election.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 4. I Vote Pro-Life = Slogan-Voting

Power corrupts. Lord Acton

You cannot serve both God and mammon. Jesus Christ

 I vote pro-life!

Pro-life people sometimes make this statement as if they were throwing down a gauntlet, or perhaps, ending an argument. Talk to them about the many nuances of grown-up politics and they will try to end the inevitable confusion by announcing emphatically, “I vote pro-life!”

The unhappy truth is that they can’t vote pro-life. “Pro Life” ain’t on the ballot.

All they have to choose from when they go vote is people. That’s why candidate ratings by pro-life groups have such power. Voters don’t have any other way to judge.

There is a strategy of sorts behind all these ratings. It’s two-pronged. The first goal, the one I am directly engaged in as a state legislator, is to elect legislators who will vote to whittle away at Roe v Wade gradually, to inflict a death of a thousand cuts on the killing machine. The second goal is to stack the United State Supreme Court with pro-life justices so that they will one day overturn Roe v Wade.

The first goal, the whittling away goal, is having an impact. But it’s reaching its practical limits. Supreme Court decisions that are designed not only to legalize abortion, but to ensure its availability, maintain a protective barrier around legal abortion. There are only so many ways in which we can whittle away at these decisions and remain within the law.

The second goal of stacking the Court is an utter failure, a debacle. After almost forty years, all it has given us is a court that found that life begins, not at conception, but at incorporation.

How did that happen? It happened because that’s what the people who appointed these justices wanted to happen.

Neither political party wants Roe v Wade to go away. Republicans would lose their vote-getting machine. Democrats would lose their money-raising machine. They need Roe v Wade, or at least the corporations who own them do, to keep us from considering what a lousy job both of them are doing of governing this country.

We are at a stalemate. We have been for forty long years. Pro life people engage in this Sisyphean struggle, laboriously rolling the electoral ball up the hill over and over again. Every time they do it, they let themselves believe that things will be different this time.

Republican legislators ardently support pro-life when they are out of power. Oklahoma Republicans fought like tigers for pro-life legislation when Democrats had the majority. They held legislators accountable for every squeak of a vote. They made speeches that sounded so sincere they would make a pro-life mother weep.

When they gained a majority in the House, they continued the fight against the Democratic Senate and the Democratic Governor. They were, once again, pro-life champions. But as soon as they won the whole thing — house, senate, governor, every office from top to bottom — they started killing pro-life bills.

They were careful at first. They only killed pro-life bills that didn’t count toward their pro-life-legislator rating from Oklahomans for Life. That way, they could still claim to be “100% pro life” when they campaigned.

Pro-life bills backed by organizations such as the Family Research Council and Americans United for Life bit the dust. These “100% pro-life” legislators killed every pro-life bill that didn’t affect the 100% rating that they used in their campaign ads.

They also passed pro-abortion laws. The worst I remember is a law that puts drugs that will induce chemical abortions, as well as date-rape drugs on the shelves in veterinary supply shops where anyone can buy them without a prescription.

As I’ve said in other posts, I knew that some of my colleagues were hypocrites. But I was still amazed by their arrogant bullying of their own supporters. That alone was enough to surprise me. But witnessing the way the pro-life activists sold out to them almost pushed me to despair.

I am certain that if a Democrat had tried to pass a bill putting abortifacients on the shelves where anyone could walk in and buy then, they would — and should — have been legitimately criticized for being amoral and pro death. I would have helped call them out. But almost no one would do anything when this amoral, pro-abortion bill came from the Republican leadership acting on behalf of a major “conservative” lobby.

One pro-life group did make a statement opposing the bill, but they were unable to maintain their stand in the face of the Republican leadership. The only pro-life voice that came out against this bill and didn’t back down was the Catholic Church.

The next year, these “100% pro-life” legislatorsabandoned the inconvenience of passing the pro-life bills that went on their pro-life ratings. They killed almost all the pro-life legislation for 2012, including over half the bills sponsored by Oklahomans for Life.

How did they get away with this? They did it the old way; behind closed doors, with secret votes, ruse votes on meaningless resolutions and procedural moves; the same way that pro-life bills have been dying since the 1970s.

Then, as has become standard practice with them, they forced the pro-life organizations who had supported these bills to back down, kiss Ceasar’s ring and apologize for trying to hold these “100% pro-life” legislators accountable for their actions. It was shameless.

How did this happen?

The answer is easy, if you have the stomach for it. Republicans need pro-life voters when the two parties are close. That pro-life percentage can make a difference in a close election.

Once their hold on the electorate is established, the real owners of the party step from behind the curtain. Money, as they say, talks.

The pro-life issue is the vacuum that sucks in the votes for the Republican party. But the big money people own the party and most of them are either pro-choice or they don’t care. The little-known fact is that the governing boards of major Republican contributors such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma State Medical Association overlap with the boards and supporters of secularist, pro-choice organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Legislation limiting embryonic stem cell research or the harvesting of women’s bodies for eggs has repeatedly gone down in flames in the Oklahoma legislature, particularly in the Senate. The Chamber and the Medical Association, working together, have a 100% pro-death record for killing pro-life legislation dealing with either of these areas.

By now you may be getting antsy and a more than a little angry with me. “Is she trying to tell me to change my party? Does she honestly want me to believe that the Democrats are better?”

The answer is nope and nope.

Don’t change your party, whichever party you are in. And the Democrats are definitely not better.

What I want you to do for now is take the partisan blinders off and realize that there is no way you can go into the polls and “Vote Pro Life.” You have to vote for people, and some of the people you vote for will be liars.

No matter what they say at campaign time, very few of the people in either party care about the issues of life. That is the truth as I know it.

Don’t despair. There are things we can do. I’ll get to them.

It’s enough for today to know the equation. It’s a simple one:  I Vote Pro Life = Slogan Voting

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 2: High Dollar Campaigns = Government of the Puppet People

There are two ways to campaign for office: hire a consultant or do it yourself.

Consultants cost money; lots of it. They earn this money by raising money. Like lawyers who work on contingency, campaign consultants take home a piece of the money action that the campaign generates. They also run high-dollar, glitzy campaigns that are long on smears, slogans and invective-filled one-liners, all designed to pound home the party line while hiding the actual party agenda.

Candidates who are recruited by political parties get saddled up with a party-approved consultant early on. The candidate signs a contract with the consultant and that ends their contribution to the thinking end of the campaign process. From then on, their job is to meet voters and repeat what they’ve been told to say.

The weird part is that we wonder why they “betray” us once they’re in office. They don’t betray anybody. We just misunderstand. In truth, these party loyalists who ignore the needs of their constituents to line the pockets of the people who paid for their campaigns are keeping their word. This is what they were recruited and created to do.

The other way to campaign, do it yourself, has mostly passed from fashion. A few dinosaurs like me cling to it and manage to get elected, but we’re definitely old school, remnants of an almost forgotten past. Do it yourselfers have to think their way through a campaign. They’ve got to raise their own campaign funds, explain themselves to the voters, design their own media and decide for themselves what they believe.

The best thing about do-it-yourself campaigns is that they are a kind of natural selection process. Genuine idiots can’t get themselves elected in a competitive do-it-yourself campaign. They just don’t have the brains, the tactical sense or the communication skills to become elected officials.

Old-style do-it-yourself campaigns didn’t necessarily produce a bi-annual crop of Washingtons and Lincolns. Those campaigns could be heavy on the schlock and name recognition, light on the issues. Here in Oklahoma, we elected candidates to office named Cowboy Pink Williams and Happy Camp. Will Rogers ran for office decades after the well-known humorist was laid in his grave, and Wilbur Wright managed to get elected to statewide office and then almost impeached, presumably because voters thought he invented the airplane.

None of these colorful candidates would have gotten through in today’s big-money climate. They were elected simply because uninformed voters picked a name on the ballot that sounded familiar. The Cowboy Pinks won when the competition was light.

In a rough and tumble do-it-yourself campaign, and there were lots of them, the best candidate usually won. By best I mean the candidate who could think on his or her feet, learn from mistakes and think tactically under pressure. That doesn’t mean they were the nicest, but in a surprisingly effective way, these races usually elected people who had what it takes to govern.

Money-based consultant-run campaigns, on the other hand, eliminate election based on familiar names by the simple expedient of dumping so much money and advertising on the race that voters become aware that this Wilbur Wright didn’t invent anything. Unfortunately, the money obscures the candidate just as effectively as voter indifference ever could have, and it does it in a far more dangerous way. The old way put a sprinkling of buffoons in office with every passing election. But they weren’t puppets, and they did care about this country. Their damage was limited to their particular office and their personal lack of talent.

Today, instead of a familiar name, we elect a familiar face. The difference is that, while the Cowboy Pinks decided to run and got elected on their own, today’s familiar faces were recruited and are controlled by outside forces. We elect people on the basis of celebrity and how they make us feel in ads that are so dishonest they could never rise to the level of schlock. We don’t know these people. Our votes aren’t any more informed than they were in the days of Cowboy Pink and Happy Camp. They are just more maliciously manipulated.

We are encouraged by advertising to imagine candidates in a certain way that usually has no relation to the people they are. It’s a skillful sort of propaganda that uses advertising that is heavy on long-shots of the candidate walking across the prairie while a lone trumpet plays soulfully and an actor with a resonant voice tells us that the candidate is a series of adjectives that add up to exactly nothing. We come away from these ads, thinking we’ve been told something when in fact all that’s happened is that we’ve been induced into feeling something. We take this feeling and attach it to the candidate. In this way, today’s political advertising induces us to create the candidate in our own minds and then vote for whatever we imagine him or her to be.

These ads, combined with orchestrated internet smears and other propaganda designed to enrage and terrify us to the point that we can’t think, lead us to vote the way the consultant wants. We think we’re voting for a candidate. We’re actually voting for a trumpet solo.

The Cowboy Pinks, Happy Camps and Wilbur Wrights more or less blundered into office, then bumbled around once they got there. There’s nothing blundering or bumbling about the verbal blood baths we call campaigns today. It takes a lot of talent to manipulate the electorate and there’s no lack of it in these consultant-driven races. But this talent is not directed toward representing the people or the good of the country. It’s focused on servicing the needs of the people who paid for the consultants, advertising, polls and think tanks who created this campaign engine in the first place.

Stop and think for a minute. Why should it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to get elected to an Oklahoma House seat that pays $38,400 in salary and represents around 35,000 people? Who would invest that kind of money in something with such a minuscule return?

The answer is that the return is not minuscule; at least not for the money men behind the scenes. They’re not making an investment. They’re certainly not “supporting” a candidate. They’re buying. And what they are buying is control of our government. In exchange for a few hundred thousand dollars they get control of a vote on a budget that runs into the billions; on other votes on bond issues that will put hundreds of millions of dollars through their companies; on tax breaks, government give aways and competitive advantages that, over time, become an endless river of government money.

Why would corporations in Florida and New York, Texas and Mexico care about who represents a single senate or house district in Gotebo Oklahoma? Because money is fluid; it flows from one place to the other. That, and because these legislative seats are the seed corn for bigger crops. They supply the candidates when it’s time to re-load at the national level, where the money goes from huge to unimaginable.

President Obama is an example. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1997,  ran for and was elected to the United States Senate in 2004, and then four years later, to President of the United States. His example is extreme, but it is of a type that is re-played continuously all over the nation. State legislatures are the seedbed of national politics. This process of selecting/grooming/electing candidates who will act as operatives for money interests now and into the future is what the two political parties actually do. It is, as I said in Part 1, about power.

Money spent to gain control of the taxing/regulating/treaty-making/military-sending/contract-giving/appropriating power of government is smart money. It is also destructive, amoral, uncaring money. It harms our country. It endangers our democracy. It threatens our future as a great nation and a free people.

It’s a simple equation:   High Dollar Campaigns = Government of the Puppet People

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Introduction

Stop slogan-voting. Stop hate-voting. Stop being manipulated.

We are in a fight for religious freedom in America. Religious freedom is sometimes called the “first freedom.” It is, after all, enshrined in the First Amendment. But there is another reason to call it the “first freedom.” Religious freedom is the basic human freedom on which other freedoms are built. It strikes to the core of our souls, of who we are as individuals and how we view ourselves and other people. All the questions of human worth and the proper relationship of government to the individual person have their genesis in the right to religious freedom.

If the government takes on itself the power to subjugate religious institutions, to bring them under its heel, it will also take onto itself the power to, as Elizabeth I said, “open a window” into its citizen’s souls. That is what is at stake.

The only hammer we the people have in this debate is our vote. Like the good citizens we are, we do vote. We vote. And then the people we elect proceed to represent the same special interests they represented before we voted. We change the people who hold office, but we can’t change the direction of government. It’s as if we pull a lever and find it’s not connected to anything.

I’ve spent the past few days thinking about all this; praying about it, and trying to decide what I can do in my small Oklahoma world to aid in this fight. I think that the truth is our best weapon.

I am going to write a series of posts which I will publish here on Public Catholic every Monday. I want to use this series to tell you the truth about politics as I understand it. That means I’m going to tell you some things you don’t want to hear, including things about we the people that we don’t want to face. What I’m going to say isn’t The Truth. It’s not absolute. It’s not part of the eternal verities by which we all should seek to live. It’s not anybody’s gospel, not even mine. It’s just how I honestly understand the process and what I think is true about our situation.

While what I say is not The Truth, my ideas are certainly informed opinions. I’ve spent many years in elected office and many more on the political sidelines. I’ve been on the inside of at a least one of the critical issues we face as a nation,

You can disagree with me all you want. It doesn’t bother me in the least. My goal isn’t to manipulate you into thinking as I think. My goal is to jump-start your understanding and to inspire you to begin thinking for yourself.

We the people are giving away the power of our vote by letting ourselves be manipulated into hate-voting and slogan-voting. It’s time to stop.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. (Starting Again.)

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. MONDAYS
Why are Christians losing the Culture Wars?
Read Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated beginning Monday, August 20 for home truth on real-world politics from a Christian/Catholic perspective. The series runs every Monday.

I discontinued this series for the election and the holidays. Now, I’ll be starting it again. Public Catholic has picked quite a few new readers since I discontinued the series. So, I’ll re-run the old posts, one each day until we get caught up.

Then, we’ll start again, on every Monday.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. DELAYED UNTIL NEXT MONDAY

I’m going to delay this week’s installment of Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. until next Monday.

We’re just about ready to turn the corner from diagnosing the problem to talking about solutions. That may be a good place to take a breather, anyway.

Tune in next week, and thanks for your support and input as we’ve made this journey together.

Have a blessed Monday, my friends!

But Leave it There

I respected the woman speaking to me. She and I had the same background, shared most of the same beliefs. But we were at odds that day. She looked at me with the hot-eyed stare of a person who is not to be reasoned with and pointed her finger at me to emphasize her words.

“You can go to church as much as you want,” she said, “but leave it there.”

She was angry with me because I had passed a bill that, among other things, required unemancipated minors to either get parental consent or a judicial bypass before elective abortions.

The abortion wars destroy friendships in politics, and my friendship with this lady was ending over this bill. I could have said a lot of things to her that day, but I sensed some deep wound driving her anger, and I didn’t want to hurt her. So, I held my tongue. I knew as I walked away that this woman who had been my friend was now my enemy.

I also knew that her request that I leave my faith in the church pews was both arrogant and common. Accusations that people who believe in the sanctity of human life are trying to “legislate their religion,” or that they want to “build a theocracy” are standard commentary from the other side of the debate.

I try my best to never reply in kind. I don’t call people who favor legal abortion names. I don’t attack them for slips of the tongue or research their personal lives looking for sexual peccadilloes, embarrassing photos from long-past fraternity parties or ugly divorce testimony.

I do all I can to let them have the low road if they want it so much and keep my focus on the one thing I care about in all this, which is my simple belief that it is wrong to kill people. I won’t use my job to kill people. And I won’t help anyone else kill them, either. I know that sounds almost comically simple. But adhering to it in a legislative environment can get you cursed, reviled, slandered, picketed and, yes, advised to leave your faith at church.

I’ve been getting these demands that I be a sham Christian for years. Go to church all you want. We don’t care. But leave it there. The people who say this are usually in a froth of self-righteousness when they do it. They can look at you with such hatred that it almost scorches your skin. And they almost always toss in a canard about “separation of church and state” to give dignity to what is in reality an outrageous thing to say.

It’s ironic. People are always accusing politicians of being hypocrites, but in this instance we have a large segment of the population actually demanding it of them.

“Go to church all you want, but leave it there” has nothing at all to do with separation of church and state. There is nothing in the First Amendment that says that elected officials may not reference their personal religious and moral beliefs in the decisions they must make.

I don’t believe this lady was worried about separation of church and state. I think she wanted me to live and vote according to her beliefs rather than my own. That’s the core of these attacks. It’s that you’re not doing what they want you to, and attacking you with bogus nonsense about separation of church and state and building a theocracy sounds better than just pitching a fit and saying “Do what I tell you or else!”

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning has advanced far beyond me and what an angry lady said to me in the hallway outside the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Today we have the Health and Human Services Department of the United States Government telling the largest religious denomination in America virtually the same thing and backing it up with what amounts to a draconian threat.

Teach what you want from the pulpit they tell the Church. But if you don’t bend to the government and violate those same teachings in your institutions, we will fine and penalize you out of business. That’s the gist of the HHS Mandate compelling the Catholic Church to provide insurance coverage for birth control and abortifacients for the employees of its institutions.

What it all comes down to is that the Federal Government is telling the Catholic Church “Say mass as much as you want. But leave it there.”

And, yes, this time it really is a violation of separation of church and state.

The ACLU, the HHS Mandate, and Religious Freedom

For decades, the American Civil Liberties Union has been the self-appointed defender of civil liberties in this country.

When they stood up for prisoner’s rights, I cheered. When they sued to allow members of the KKK to demonstrate peacefully, I was uncomfortable, but I knew it was consistent with the ACLU’s mandate and I respected this consistency. It spoke to me of integrity.

But when the ACLU began to twist the Bill of Rights to promote an agenda that furthered one side of the culture wars, I decided that it was no longer consistent. I’ve watched as this once great organization has abandoned its mandate and squandered the respect it once had to promote one viewpoint over another in the public debate we call the culture wars time and again.

The ACLU has worked assiduously to drive religion in general and Christianity in particular from the public square. In case after case, they have filed suit against city parks, state governments and courthouses all over the country in order to force them to remove statues, plaques and ban celebrations that smacked in any way of a Christian viewpoint. You would think that the mere sight of the Ten Commandments on a plaque was a violation of the Bill of Rights equal to using torture to obtain a confession in a criminal case.

I’ve long considered this orchestrated attack on religious expression as part of a well-thought-out and deliberate plan to drive religious people and religious thought entirely out of the marketplace of ideas in this country. It has gone so far that people today honestly think it’s a violation of separation of church and state if an elected official says the name “Jesus” in a public debate, as if freedom of speech just dries up and goes away where Christians are concerned.

But then the ACLU took the ridiculous position that the HHS Mandate requiring the Catholic Church to violate its teachings on contraception and abortion or face fines and sanctions was not a violation of religious freedom.

The HHS Mandate is in fact a monstrous violation of the guarantee in the First Amendment from government intrusion into religion. The ACLU used plenty of verbal razzle-dazzle to justify their position. (They are, after all attorneys with the verbal skills that go with the profession.) But their arguments were bizarre, factually inaccurate and self-refuting. I read the reports and I felt as if I was standing beside the grave of the American Civil Liberties Union and all it has stood for.

It’s very difficult, abandoning everything you believe while trying to maintain a public perception that you still believe it. Politicians try to do it all the time. That is why they are so distrusted. The ACLU’s arguments in support of the obvious attack on religious freedom that this mandate represents put the them in the same league, and for the same reasons.


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