On August 29, the Friday before the Republican Convention, members of the Council for National Policy convened in Minneapolis to grant their imprimatur to the vice presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin. Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery described the group’s reaction in a Focus on the Family Action video, which has since been removed from their website. "There could not be more excitement based on the little we know about Palin so far," enthused Minnery. Given general longstanding opposition to women in positions of power among CNP members, Minnery was asked whether James Dobson could possibly support a woman for the office. He quoted Dobson: "If it’s the right woman, we are ready to vote for her." Dobson has been hoping for some time to find a "Margaret Thatcher" type, noted Minnery.
Outside the obvious, i.e., her anti-gun control and anti-abortion positions, Minnery recited Palin’s positives as a conservative candidate: a hocky mom in an intact marriage who "has not rejected her feminine side"; because she and her husband are union members, it was speculated that blue collar voters in important swing states would be attracted; and (improbably) because she is a woman, that she would appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters.
The Council for National Policy (CNP) has remained largely below the radar since its 1981 founding as an umbrella group uniting a network of over 500 members from Congress, the business community and hard-right evangelicals. The press are excluded from their secretive invitation-only strategy meetings, held three times annually.
The group is strongly influenced by the teachings of the late Rousas Rushdoony, a CNP member and patriarch of the reactionary Christian Reconstructionist (Dominionist)movement that has infused the doctrine of conservative churches since the '60s, and seeks Christian dominion over all aspects of society and the world. Pat Robertson and other Reconstructionists regard democracy a heresy, to be replaced by theocracy – establishing "God’s law" based on fundamentalist reading of the Old Testament in place of civil law.
Many adherents like Larry Pratt advocate militias - "spiritual armies" to reclaim America for Christians. Some maintain that only select Christian white males should vote or hold office. Their "culture war" is a battle to eliminate all social programs and all democratic manifestations including labor unions, civil rights and public schools. The church should assume responsibility for "health, education and welfare," and women be restricted to the task of home schooling children.
Frederick Clarkson has written extensively about Reconstructionism and the political strategies that have originated within Reconstructinonist circles since the ‘70s, including term limits to overcome the advantage of incumbency; school vouchers to eliminate public schools – regarded a source of unbiblical indoctrination into atheism and evolution; stealth tactics to infiltrate government toward achievement of Christian political hegemony, as well as stealth candidacies for public school boards to "sink the ship."
Reconstructionists celebrate economic and constitutional crises as opportunity. Howard Phillips, Nixon's OEO director (his capitulation to the new right) and founder of the U.S. Taxpayers-turned-American Constitution Party, has anticipated that U.S. economic distress could eventually trigger a right-wing Christian revolution and takeover of government. See "Power Preying," Adele M. Stain, Mother Jones, Nov/Dec 1995. Phillips observed that "The death of the Weimar Republic, the opportunity for the National Socialists to come up in the ‘20s, was the result of the fact that the people were hurt economically." The Alaska Indendepence Party, with links to the Palin family, is a state affiliate of the American Constitution Party.
In a 1997 booklet still offered online by Rev. D. James Kennedy, titled "Out of Order: How Courts Steal the Rights of People", Robert Bork advocated rescinding parts of the Constitution to eliminate judicial constitutional review of laws. Bork, Chuck Colson, law professor Russell Hittinger and others express a "Christian duty" to disobey the state, if not provoke outright revolution or constitutional crisis (a justification for stolen elections?). Others, like the late Sen. Jesse Helms have sought to strip federal court jurisdiction over school prayer cases or gay rights legislation, and proposed override of judicial decisions by a simple legislative majority vote.
Dominionists denounce other religions and "neo-orthodox" Christians who reject "the inerrancy of the Bible. We must clean out the theological ‘germs’ which are now running rampant in the bloodstreams of most denominations and evangelical schools," wrote Reconstructionist Jay Grimstead, who in the 1980s founded another Reconstructionist group, the Council on Revival, based in California.
Having long sought control of the executive and legislative branches, CNP members like Paul Weyrich, Pat Robertson and former Rep. Tom DeLay have set their sites on the judiciary, calling for impeachment of "activist judges." Robert Bork with Antonin Scalia helped found the Federalist Society as a backbench for ultraconservative judges, from whose ranks Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito emerged.
In short, Reconstructionists posit two worldviews that cannot coexist –that of "biblical traditionalists" vs. "enlightenment rationalists," and justify any means to the ends of "reclaiming" America for Dominionists.
One may justifiably ask how the extremes represented by this group, whose members seek to subvert democracy, have been granted the power to dictate Republican selection of candidates. Unholy alliances on the right have been cultivated over decades.
The role of kingmaker is not new to members of the Council for National Policy. Pat Robertson has boasted that a number of Republican Party presidential candidates have made pilgrimages to his door. In order to appease the many Pat Buchanan conservatives within the Christian Coalition, Robertson warned Party leaders during a 1996 "700 Club" program that Bob Dole would have to choose an anti-abortion, anti-gun control running mate. Subsequently, Jack Kemp was reportedly cleared by Robertson, even as Dole had passed Jerry Falwell’s scrutiny in a late-1995 meeting. Robertson demanded his due from the 1994 Republican Congress: "[The Christian Coalition] put you in power and we want you to deliver."
Focus on the Family’s Dobson has thrown his support to the most extreme candidates in the past, including Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who preaches "hate is good" and "a biblical duty to conquer the country." In a 1998 address to CNP Dobson threatened to bolt the Republican Party if they did not adhere to his agenda, promising "to take as many people with me as possible." Dobson stated that his Waterloo, if need be, is the complete outlaw of abortion: "You can never take a hill unless you are willing to die on it; we will die on it if necessary."
In the Republican Party’s cold calculation justifying any means to the ends of power, those who claim to know God’s will – Sarah Palin’s assertion nonwithstanding – continue to agitate to impose their will on the country and the world.
Formerly critical of the religious right cabal, John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin is most certainly capitulation to red-meat conservatives who ironically seek to undermine women’s rights and further erode democracy.
Previously submitted to Huffington Post 9/17/08