Wednesday, 31 August 2011


In pagan civilizations, it was perfectly acceptable for war chiefs and kings to attribute divine intervention in natural and human phenomena and to summon the gods to intervene on man's behalf. Especially in times of disasters, many civilizations attributed the hand of a deity in everything from floods to earthquakes. Such reasoning makes sense when society has embraced a pantheon that has deified natural forces, but how do we explain American Republican candidates for president in 2011 attributing divine intervention in the political arena?

Are we witnessing a case of madness as some in and outside of the US believe when trying to understand right-wing Republicans running for office, or is the entire affair sharply calculated as part of strategic political platform intended to secure a segment of the popular base that is very receptive to religion injected in politics; a process that media and business support? After all, if you are not the front runner, it is much easier to capture a segment of the popular base in the fringes than it is in the mainstream on which the insider candidate and party machinery has a lock and which requires a great deal of money to reach.

One of the politicians trying to capture the 'voters' imagination' by using strategic extremism, as mainstream analysts would define it in the US, is Minnesota congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann competing with Rick Perry who also uses religion as part of his campaign strategy. Bachmann recently tried to convince Floridians that hurricane Irene and the earthquake that preceded it were God's messages to Washington; a divine attempt to capture the attention of the White House and Congress about fiscal issues.

Some people probably believe that God is concerned with US fiscal policy, while others would rather leave God to the larger issues of the type that serious theologians or astrophysicists like Stephen Hawking and others deal with. Well, this latter group, those secular humanists relying on Hawking-style atheistic physics, would be wrong and sinning, according to Evangelical Lutheran Michelle Bachmann. I am assuming that congresswoman Bachmann does not find Garrison Keillor's jokes about wayward Lutherans very funny and probably believes that the writer-comedian only demeans hard-working Lutherans in the upper Midwest.

Bachmann has taken a page out of televangelist Pat Robertson and a number of others like him who see God as angry, spiteful, vengeful all-mighty destroyer for sins that people commit, sins like abortion, gay marriage, drug addicts receiving welfare, ' freedom-loving Americans' denied the right to gun ownership, supreme court decisions that impact family decisions on how to guide their children, and countless of other sins that multicultural and permissive America has committed in the name of tolerance and progress. This is not so different than what Perry advocates. Therefore, these two Republicans must have figured out that religion still seels in politics, especially when people are seeking answers to economic chronic problems.

When a number of politicians saw the videotape of Bachmann stating that the earth quake and tornado, both occurring along that sinful East coast, they were caught smiling or laughing. God was not laughing with them, and neither are extreme right-wingers who see evangelical-style politics as the key to capturing votes. Bachmann knows better than these secular humanists who never took seriously issues like gay marriage, while she prayed for guidance and God guided her to introduce legislation in Minnesota making marriage a union between one male and one female, just as God guided her to marry her husband, even before they met! No, she has not claimed that she has succumbed to mysticism, not yet, but this campaign has legs...
The Tea Party is solidly behind Bachmann who claims that she is a follower of 16th century German theologian Martin Luther, a theologian whose works Bachmann may be surprised to discover inspired the German Peasants' War against the propertied classes. While the radical Lutherans favored an egalitarian Christian community, mainstream Lutherans embraced institutional conformity. Radical Lutheranism is as much a part of the Protestant tradition as conservative Lutheranism that Bachmann follows in order to secure votes from the religious right.

Voter turn out is an important consideration when running for office, and that can only be achieved by bold and 'out of this world' statements, instead of generic political rhetoric that everyone employs. After all, Obama and the congressional leaders did not think to tell the American people that God was sending a message about fiscal policy by causing the earth quake and hurricane!

No matter how outrageous, politically strategic extremism works in getting the message to voters only as long as the mainstream media has decided that it is in the interest of corporate America to promote such candidates. Therefore, the key is neither the candidate nor the extremist strategy per se, but the media behind which represents corporate America willing to push the candidate into the forefront because s/he serves the goal of distracting the public from real issues facing them.

Given that the US does not have a leftist wing, like France, Spain, and other countries, and given that 'left' in the US means 'Kennedy-style liberal' who would be otherwise conservative in many countries, the struggle for political power takes place within a narrow conservative range. From 1980 to the present, this political struggle has been about how far to the right to move the line by Republicans and how far to move it back toward center-right by Democrats.

The presidential election of 2012 is exactly such a struggle where new boundaries are tested by far right-wing politicians backed by millionaires who fear that the decline of the US economy in the last ten years may mean erosion of their lion's share of the economy and other privileges such as political and social influence.  Bachmann claiming that God is sending a signal to lawmakers through tornadoes and earth quakes fits into this institutional pattern that the establishment supports.

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