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The Christian Right's electoral ground game was one of the defining elements of American politics in the 90s. Many veterans of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition continue to be active in politics, including the longtime executive director, Ralph Reed.  Indeed, Reed's new organization, the Faith & Freedom Coalition in many respects, is picking up where the Coalition left off.  This has been written about by Adele Stan at AlterNet and recently by The New York Times.  

But there is more

I have put more of the pieces together in a new essay in The Public Eye magazine.  Excerpts, sans numbered end notes) below.

His nonpartisan image notwithstanding, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, head of the Sacramento, CA-based National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference who has been popular in some liberal and Democratic Party circles, emerged in July 2012 as a key "Hispanic outreach" adviser for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.  And an examination of his record suggests he had something to offer.

David Brody of CBN reported that Romney had been "regularly meeting" with Rodriguez (in addition to a larger group of some 70 top Christian Right leaders) since he clinched the nomination. Brody also reported that as a result, the candidate had "made a 180-degree turn and is headed to a significant Hispanic outreach."

These conversations do not appear to have been about Romney's views on immigration... Rodriguez’s advice is more likely about how to find Latinos who will vote for Romney despite his anti-immigrant views.

Indeed, Rodriguez is part of historic efforts by the Christian Right and the Republican Party to peel off some Latino and African-American voters, and to inoculate other recent immigrants against their traditional affinity for the Democratic Party. Aaron Manaigo, a political operative working for Harry Jackson, told a breakout session at the 2012 Values Voters Summit, sponsored by Christian Right groups like the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. in September, that they were seeking "some demographic advantage." To this end, they have staged events in swing states and those with marriage initiatives on the ballot. One notable event in New Mexico featured Rodriguez, Republican Lt. Governor John Sanchez and Fr. Frank Pavone, head of the militant anti-abortion organization Priests for Life. Jackson and Manaigo’s session at Values Voters was titled: "Vertical Vote Campaign for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberties."

But the Christian Right does want the Latino vote, and its targeted approach to mobilize a specific subset of religiously informed Latino voters is aimed for the long run. An expanding conservative evangelical electorate, including a growing Latino demographic, could be decisive in some parts of the country. Rodriguez and the NHCLC are at the center of that outreach through a partnership with the conservative Champion the Vote which aims to build the Christian Right’s capacity to win a theocratic power bloc in the American electorate.

As Rodriguez told Pat Robertson in an interview on CBN, "The Hispanic electorate may be the salvation of the conservative movement and the Christian Church in America." Champion the Vote is a project of United in Purpose (UIP), an organization of conservative Christian Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that the Los Angeles Times reports is spending millions of dollars, and using advanced data mining techniques to identify unregistered conservative Roman Catholics and conservative evangelicals. They aim to widen the Christian Right electorate this year by registering and turning out five million new voters, primarily in states where, in the 2008 presidential contest, the margin of difference was less than the number of unregistered conservative Christians. To get there, they are seeking to recruit 100,000 "champions" to follow-up once UIP has identified the right kind of unregistered Christians.

NHCLC and UIP have closely collaborated for a number of years. UIP’s 2010 tax return, for example, shows that it provided $112,500 for "voter registration Fuerza 2010." (NHCLC was the organization's only grantee.) Rodriguez claims the Fuerza project registered 268,000 new voters by focusing on evangelical Latino churches in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas.  As part of that effort, UIP issued a video in English and Spanish which stated that "friends have turned into foes"—and then showed pictures of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, all Democrats (The top issues featured in the video were abortion and marriage).

NHCLC is, at this writing, one of some six-dozen Christian Right, anti-abortion, GOP, and Tea Party organizations, and religious broadcasters partnering in Champion the Vote.  These include The Manhattan Declaration, the premier alliance of conservative evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics, and Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition. Champion the Vote's three foci are anti-abortionism, anti-marriage equality, and "religious freedom"—and its stated mission is "... to get unregistered Christians registered to vote, educated in the Biblical worldview, and voting accordingly on Election Day."

This year, Rodriguez appeared in the organization’s voter mobilization DVD, "One Nation Under God"—along with Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Christian nationalist author David Barton, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich—but with no Democrats. The ostensibly nonpartisan DVD is intended for use in churches and house parties.

NHCLC and Champion the Vote’s approach updates the mobilization efforts by conservative activist Ralph Reed who led Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition in the 1990s.

Reed claims that his new organization’s experiments in mobilizing conservative Christian voters have been so successful that they may explain why pre-election polls underestimated the winning margin of the conservative Republican candidates by eight to nine points in both the 2009 governor’s race in Virginia and the 2012 recall election in Wisconsin, as journalist Adele Stan has reported.  Reed’s associate, Gary Marx, explained at the 2012 Values Voters Summit that they were seeking to find two million unregistered conservative Christian voters and to identify and turn out some eight million more registered voters who did not vote in the last presidential election. Whether they met their voter registration goal, Marx did not say. But he did say that the Virginia and Wisconsin models worked so well that they are now being applied in swing states and nationally.

... the Christian Coalition’s methods proved to be catalytic in crafting the Christian Right political movement as we know it today.

"The first strategy and in many ways the most important strategy for evangelicals is secrecy," Reed once famously declared. "Sun Tzu says that’s what you have to do to be effective at war and that’s essentially what we are involved in... It’s not a war fought with bullets, it’s a war fought with ballots."

UIP claims to have compiled a database of some 120 million people and is running it against purchased subscription lists, among other data, to identify anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality Christians who are not registered to vote. This year, they are looking for five million, but over the next few election cycles, they are seeking to ID and register forty out of the sixty million they believe to be eligible.48 The Faith & Freedom Coalition uses the same numbers and the same general methods, which suggest a high degree of common purpose and coordination.

Grandiose visions, of course, like anything else, do not always turn out as planned. However, if UIP, NHCLC, and the many other partner organizations find even a few million ideologically oriented new voters who can be engaged in the wider movement we broadly call the Christian Right, it could be, as Rodriguez suggests, a transformational moment in American history.

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 09:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Abortion, Street Prophets , and Pro Choice.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Citizens United Created a New Nation Which is Now (14+ / 0-)

    holding its very first Presidential election when global ownership runs the American public square for its sole benefit.

    Dozens of different strategies and tactics are being field tested this time around. This election is not about this election, it's almost entirely about the next election.

    The next election is a midterm; last midterm, they inflicted a historic defeat on us.

    Next time they'll have far more to work with.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 09:43:18 PM PDT

    •  time to mess their signal-to-noise ratio! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, millwood

      For example consider a website for a "group" with a name along the lines of "Abrahamic America," and a motto, "Bringing together Christians, Jews, and Muslims on the right."

      The site would draw parallels between the extreme right in each of the three traditions, and do it "approvingly," to promote solidarity among right-wingers of all faiths, including the religious right in the Muslim world.  It could cherry-pick the various scriptures for relevant quotes, and include "testimonials" from "supporters."  

      This would quickly lead to much squabbling and divisiveness as each group became suspicious of the others.  Would it devolve into name-calling?  Would it effectively "backfire" with nationalist elements of the religious right?  Would it cause break-ups in the religious right, over the issue of "diversity"?  

      The more "noise" we can generate, the better to interfere with the religious right's "signals."  For example when they use the phrase ""Vertical Vote Campaign," we should immediately contaminate their meme with the counter-meme, "Horizontal Vote Campaign," promoting the idea that the Missionary Position is the only acceptable way to have sex, and that the women should always be "on the bottom."

      Some years ago there was an organization called "The Full Quiver Movement."  Shortly they changed their name to "Quiverfull."  I have to wonder how that happened, as I circulated the counter-meme, "A full quiver, a loud moan, and a long sigh," and it might have gotten back to them and made them jump.   IMHO making them jump is good: anything we can do to waste their time is good.  

      "Spiritual warfare" techniques such as imprecatory prayer might be useful in that regard.  Sales of "schwag" such as T-shirts and bumper stickers, with ostensibly religious-right slogans and memes, carefully crafted to backfire, might be useful.  For example, "Rapists' unborn children are as innocent as yours!" might be an example of that kind of thing, and anyone here who knows about the psychology of language knows how that one works.

      Mess their signal, waste their time, tie them up in internal squabbles: the more the better, to keep their idle hands from doing the devil's work.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 03:18:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Direct link Mike Farris to Romney (9+ / 0-)

    Dr. Clarkson, the recent Romney mailer to Northern VA voters about Lyme disease indicates a direct link between Romney and Mike Farris (Patrick Henry College). Farris had been the prime mover in a big campaign to get the local county supervisors in Loudoun County to wage war against Lyme, despite all scientific evidence that Loudoun was in no particular danger. The all-Republican supervisors even went so far as to spray county parks although they were shown evidence it would do no good.

    Somehow it seems Farris (whose wife supposedly had Lyme) must have persuaded Romney that Lyme should be a campaign issue in Northern Virginia! It is hard to believe that the Romney campaign wasted a mailer on this now for any other reason.

  •  they r trying BUT 2012 = MORMON a huge damper (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek

    on that

    with fewer americans attending church and more youths identifying as atheists and fleeing the religions of their upbringings...it was inevitable that "mobilization would be hampered as compared to the past

    BUT with a mormon at the top of the ticket, the "mobilization" effort is even more hampered

  •  Nemiah Scudder would be proud. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ree Zen, G2geek, Lorinda Pike

    I really think that the Ultra Right Wing of the Christians in this country would be quite happy eliminating democracy and replacing it with a dictatorship, provided said dictatorship mouthed the right values.

    We've already seen this on the small scale with the FLDS in this country.  I think the only problem that many of the megaconservatives have with them is that they are the wrong sect.  Hell, if polygamy and patriarchy were LEGAL...   I don't even really want to think about it.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 10:45:10 PM PDT

  •  Called "stealth politics' in the 90s (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, Lorinda Pike

    A lot of this goes on just out of sight, and if Reed is correct about the gubernatorial results in Virginia in 09 and the Wisconsin special election in 2012, there could be some surprises this November.

  •  Sample phone call: "Yes, I know Mitt isn't (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek

    your first choice, or your second, or your third or fourth. I know you'd rather not vote for a Mormon-Catholic ticket, or a vulture capitalist, or the Taxachusetts  governor who invented Romneycare, or  ..."

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 11:25:57 PM PDT

    •  yes, counter-memes: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, Bob Love

      Making it appear that you support the candidate, while saying things that are calculated to cost him support among the targeted voters.  

      The right wing does this ALL the time.  Constantly.  And we sit on the sidelines and complain as we lose voters to it.  Bah humbug to that, we need to start using any lawful tactic that has been demonstrated to work.  

      Bottom line is, politics is about the struggle for power, and people of few morals & scruples start out with an advantage.  In order to stop them, it is sometimes necessary to play dirty pool.  George Washington was famously accused by the British, of waging dirty warfare, that today we recognize as the use of guerilla tactics.  But Washington was also able to compartmentalize, to keep his ethics intact even as he "fought dirty."  There's a lesson in that for us.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 03:25:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a non-American - and please pardon my (0+ / 0-)

    ignorance - I don't understand why the RWNJs aren't being sued out of existence for slander.

    Examples:

    - Dinesh D'Souza, whose 2010 book would never have been published in my country, but instead has been turned into not one but TWO movies. One is still in the cinemas and the other has apparently been mailed to a million voters in Ohio.

    - The "birthers".

    I'm sure there's a straightforward answer.

    •  Has to do with "freedon of speech" (0+ / 0-)

      which gets a lot of play in the courts, enough so that many assume that a lawsuit would lose.

      Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

      by murasaki on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 08:54:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Belief is largely driven by the desire, (0+ / 0-)

      not certainty, that something be true.  They know that e.g. biological evolution is not refutable but Conservative Religion's catering to their (often quite desperate) psychological needs is more important to them in an immediate, day to day, fashion.

      In short, you can't shame these people into common sense.  They vote what they wish to be true, and people can (and do) get much more ego invested in desirable falsehoods than certainties they don't care about much.

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