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People Act Where US Fails On Climate

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, /

Protesters march during a demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline on March 10, 2017 in Washington D.C. Thousands of protesters and members of Native nations marched in Washington D.C. to oppose the construction of the proposed 1,172 Dakota Access Pipeline that runs within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.  Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The climate crisis is upon us. It seems that every report on climate conditions has one thing in common: things are worse than predicted. The World Meteorological Report from the end of October shows that Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) are rising at a rapid rate and have passed 400 parts per million. According to Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “the changes we’re making today are occurring in 100 years, whereas in nature they occur in 10,000 years.”

The United States is experiencing a wide range of climate impacts from major hurricanes in the South to unprecedented numbers of wildfires in the West to crop-destroying drought in the Mid-West. In October, the General Accounting Office reported that the US has spent over $350 billion in the last decade on disaster relief and crop insurance, not counting this year’s hurricanes. These costs will continue and rise.

We are past the time to make a major commitment to the transformation we need to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. Imagine the benefits that such a commitment would have in creating a cleaner environment, better health and more jobs and, if structured in a way that is democratized and benefits the public, in ending environmental racism and economic injustice.


Climate talks in Germany

The 23rd session of climate talks is taking place right now in Bonn, Germany. The United States formally withdrew from its commitment to the Paris climate treaty, but delegations of people from the US are in attendance to show their commitment to addressing the climate crisis. A group of organizations, such as and Indigenous Environmental Network, presented their climate platform as “the people’s delegation.” They are calling for a just transition to a fossil-free future and an end to market schemes to offset carbon use.

The people are expressing their demands for more action on the climate in multiple protests around the COP23. Ahead of the climate talks, on Saturday, November 4, tens of thousands of people marched in Bonn to demand an end to fossil fuels. The march kicked off a series of direct actions and alternative events to take place during the talks. On November 8, the one year anniversary of the election of Donald Trump, activists organized a “Climate Genocide” day of action in Bonn and around the world. On Saturday, November 11, thousands marched in Bonn again to protest the use of nuclear energy. The talks conclude on November 17.

The Trump Administration sent a delegation to the climate talks with the goal of protecting the fossil fuel industry. John Cushman of Inside Climate News writes, “the U.S. is straddling a climate credibility gap, with the Trump administration’s policies on one side of an abyss and what the government’s own scientists know about climate change with increasing certainty on the other.”


100% renewable energy is necessary and possible

If there is to be any possibility of mitigating the climate crisis, then action must be taken immediately to end the use of dirty energy, otherwise lower carbon emissions and sequester carbon. While some are saying that we have 18 years before we hit the limits of our “carbon budget,” scientists Stephen Davis and Robert Socolow report that when all sources of carbon and carbon commitments are taken into account, we will hit the limit in 2018.

Organizations and government agencies have pointed out that the Paris climate treaty goals are not enough to mitigate the climate crisis. On Tuesday, the United Nations Environment Program released a report calling for faster and more rapid cuts in emissions than are outlined in the treaty. This can be achieved by closing coal plants and moving to renewable sources, improving energy efficiency, protecting and planting more forests and changing agricultural practices to sequester carbon in soil.

The good news is that it is possible to reduce carbon quickly, and it will lower energy costs, improve health and create jobs. A study released at the COP23 shows that we can move to  zero carbon energy worldwide by 2050. This would be largely based on solar energy with additional energy from wind, water and a small percentage from biomass, although biomass is not considered to be a sustainable source of energy.

David Schwartzman reminds us that although we have the knowledge and resources to move quickly to 100% renewable energy, two major obstacles are the Military Industrial Complex and capitalism. He writes, “All is contingent on the growing strength of multi-dimensional, transnational class struggle, [and] on the convergence of movements for climate, energy, environmental justice and for peace and demilitarization.”


Reaching our goal

Just as is necessary for other struggles, achieving our goals of mitigating the climate crisis in a way that is sustainable and equitable will require the dual track approach of resistance and constructive programs. There are signs that this work is being done in the North America.

Resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure is working. This summer, Enbridge stopped its North East Direct gas pipeline project in New England. This fall, TransCanada withdrew its Energy East Pipeline project, which would have transported “1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota across the country through a 4,500-kilometre route that would end at a terminal in Saint John, New Brunswick.”

There is strong opposition to pipelines throughout the United States, from the ongoing fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Bayou Pipeline to multiple pipelines in MichiganPennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. And efforts continue to stop the first fracked gas refinery and export terminal on the East Coast as it nears completion. The terminal being built by Virginia-based Dominion Energy in the Cove Point neighborhood of Maryland (the first to be built in such a densely-populated area) will drive fracking in the Utica and Marcellus shales and raise gas prices in the US.

Pipeline companies report that their biggest problem is opposition to their projects. It should come as no surprise that the industry is fighting back. This was very obvious in the #NoDAPL protests at Standing Rock. Chase Iron Eyes, who is being prosecuted for inciting a riot against the Dakota Access Pipeline, will be using a necessity defense to demonstrate that he was acting out of necessity to protect water his family relies on.

This week, pipeline protesters in Massachusetts were met with police dogs and stun guns. Mark Hand recently discovered that the industry is “in the ‘early stages’ of putting together a campaign to counter opposition to fracking and pipelines,” including creating grassroots groups.

Some communities are protecting themselves by banning projects. South Portland, Maine has spent over $1 million to defend its pipeline ban. Ohio activists recently won a court victory allowing them to vote on local fracking bans. Others are taking on the banks that fund the projects. On Monday, more than 200 people painted a giant mural on the street in front of Wells Fargo, creating an effective street blockade in the process.

Food is a large contributor to carbon emissions through animal cultivation for meat, destroying forests for crops and transportation of food over long distances. The UN urged this week that we move to a meat-free and dairy-free diet for the climate (and it would also be good for our health).

Our food system could contribute to the solution. Organic farming practices can sequester large amounts of carbon in the soil. On top of that, the large food co-operative, Organic Valley, announced this week that it is committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2019, starting with community solar projects. Rooftop solar is “creating well-paying jobs at a rate that’s 17 times faster than the total U.S. economy.”

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Our climate imperative

If we are to have a livable future, we must act rapidly. Failure to act will have devastating impacts. Studies suggest that there may be as many as one billion climate refugees by 2050. Climate change is contributing to migration into cities and poverty, causing food insecurity. People in North America are not immune to this, as recent hurricanes, wildfires and droughts reveal.

The climate crisis is also bad for our health and will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year.  In addition to direct effects, such as heat stroke, injuries from catastrophes and longer allergy seasons and mental health impacts from stress, the climate crisis is also increasing vector-borne diseases.

Every crisis offers an opportunity for radical positive transformation. As we act to address the climate crisis, let’s do it in ways that change systems so they are equitable, just and non-discriminatory. Our actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change can work to democratize the economy through cooperatives, energy creation by individuals on their rooftops and land, public banks and gift economies, to improve our health through clean water, air, organic foods and low cost public transit, and to bring peace to the world by ending US imperialism.

It can be so, if we act with intention to make it that way.



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The Super Wealthy Oxycontin Family Supports School Privatization With Tactics Similar to Those That Fueled the Opioid Epidemic

By Sarah Darer Littman / AlterNet

A fortune derived from the relentless marketing of painkillers is now being used to expand charter schools.

Photo Credit: By Prazis Images /

The notoriously secretive Sackler family, also known as the OxyContin Clan, has been the subject of much scrutiny of late, including lengthy exposés in the New Yorker and Esquireshining a harsh light on the connection between the drug that made the Sacklers wealthy and their philanthropic giving. But there is another troubling beneficiary of Sackler largesse that has escaped public scrutiny: charter schools. OxyContin heir and Purdue Pharma director Jonathan Sackler is a major funder of charters and an extensive network of pro-charter advocacy groups.

Figuring out who is funding the latest charter school-promoting front group often feels like a game of whack-a-mole. That's why reading Patrick Radden Keefe’s recent New Yorkerpiece, “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain,” made so much fall into place. Keefe writes, “Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies have long funded ostensibly neutral nonprofit groups that advocate for pain patients.”

The same influence techniques Purdue used to promote painkillers are now being used by Jonathan Sackler to expand charter schools.

Promotional power

The late Arthur Sackler, the eldest of three brothers who bought the company in 1952, was posthumously inducted into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame, and cited for his achievement in “bringing the full power of advertising and promotion to pharmaceutical marketing.” Yet Allen Frances, former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, quoted in the New Yorker piece, highlighted the darker side of that power: “Most of the questionable practices that propelled the pharmaceutical industry into the scourge it is today can be attributed to Arthur Sackler.” As a copywriter at a medical advertising agency, Arthur Sackler devised strategies to promote drugs like Librium and Valium. Now, some of those same strategies are now being used with the aim of promoting charter schools.

Jonathan Sackler, Arthur’s nephew, is a well-known name in the education reform movement. He founded the charter school advocacy group ConnCan, progenitor of the nationwide group 50CAN, of which he is a director. He is on the Board of Directors of the Achievement First charter school network. Until recently, Sackler served on the board of the New Schools Venture Fund, which invests in charter schools and advocates for their expansion. He was also on the board of the pro-charter advocacy group Students for Education Reform.

Through his personal charity, the  Bouncer Foundation, Sackler donates to the abovementioned organizations, and an ecosystem of other charter school promoting entities, such as Families for Excellent Schools ($1,083,333 in 2014, $300,000 in 2015 according to the Foundation’s Form 990s) Northeast Charter School Network ($150,000 per year in 2013, 2014 and 2015) and $275,000 to Education Reform Now (2015) and $200,000 (2015) to the Partnership for Educational Justice, the group founded by Campbell Brown which uses “impact litigation” to go after teacher tenure laws. Earlier this year, the Partnership for Educational Justice joined 50CAN, which Sackler also funds ($300,000 in 2014 and 2015), giving him a leadership role in the controversial—and so far failing cause—of weakening worker protections for teachers via the courts.

Just as Arthur Sackler founded the weekly Medical Tribune, to promote Purdue products to the medical professional who would prescribe them, Jon Sackler helps to fund, the “nonpartisan” education news website founded by Campbell Brown. The site, which received startup funding from Betsy DeVos, decries the fact that “the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin,” yet is uniformly upbeat about charter schools while remarkably devoid of anything positive to say about district schools or teachers unions.

Vertical integration

The Sackler “special sauce” is vertical integration. As far back as the early 1960’s, staffers for Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver prepared a memo for a subcommittee he chaired that was looking into the rapidly growing pharmaceutical industry.

“The Sackler empire is a completely integrated operation in that it can devise a new drug in its drug development enterprise, have the drug clinically tested and secure favorable reports on the drug from various hospitals with which they have connections, conceive the advertising approach and prepare the actual advertising copy with which to promote the drug, have the clinical articles as well as advertising copy published in their own medical journals, [and] prepare and plant articles in newspapers and magazines.”

This was used to great effect in promoting OxyContin. Art Van Zee MD looked at the Marketing and Promotion of OxyContin and found that in 2001 alone, the company spent over $200 million to market and promote the drug through a variety of methods. In the settlement in the US District Court of Western Virginia, the company admitted to misbranding the drug with the intent to defraud and mislead the public.

The company was lavish with branded swag for health care practitioners. According to a GAO report, these included, “OxyContin fishing hats, stuffed plush toys, coffee mugs with heat-activated messages, music compact discs, luggage tags, and pens containing a pullout conversion chart showing physicians how to  calculate the dosage to convert a patient to OxyContin from other opioid pain relievers.”

The GAO report went on to quote the DEA as saying the Purdue’s use of branded promotional items in the marketing of OxyContin was “was unprecedented among schedule II opioids, and was an indicator of Purdue's aggressive and inappropriate marketing of OxyContin.”

The description of “lavish swag” will sound familiar to anyone who has witnessed one of the no-expenses-spared charter school rallies that are a specialty of Sackler-funded organizations like Families for Excellent schools. Then there is the dizzying array of astroturf front groups all created for the purpose of demanding more charter schools. Just in Connecticut, we’ve had the Coalition for Every Child, A Better Connecticut, Fight for Fairness CT, Excel Bridgeport, and the Real Reform Now Network. All of these groups ostensibly claim to be fighting for better public schools for all children. In reality, they have been lobbying to promote charter schools, often running afoul of ethics laws in the process.

Take Families for Excellent Schools, a “grassroots” group that claims to be about parent engagement, yet was founded by major Wall Street players. In Connecticut, the group failed to register its Coalition for Every Child as a lobbying entity and report a multimillion-dollar ad buy expenditure and the costs of a rally in New Haven.

In Massachusetts, Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy (FESA) recently had to cough up more than $425,000 to the Massachusetts general fund as part of a legal settlement with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the largest civil forfeiture in the agency’s 44-year history. Massachusetts officials concluded that FESA violated the campaign finance law by receiving contributions from individuals and then contributing those funds to the Great Schools Massachusetts Ballot Question Committee, which sought to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the money. As part of the settlement, the group was ordered to reveal the names of its secret donors. Jonathan Sackler was one of them.

Patrick Riccards, a former CEO of ConnCan, the pro-charter group that Sackler founded in 2005, told me, “Jon went to Berkeley and in many ways fits into that idealistic mold. But at the same time it was he who made it clear to me that one of the reasons ConnCan existed was to leverage the investment in the charter community, in Achievement First, which is still the dominant charter school network in the state. [CT] The venture capital community ... has put tons of money into seeing Achievement First grow, first in Connecticut, then in New York, then in Rhode Island.”

It’s all part of the model, concluded Riccards. “While you have a public vision of great public schools for all, ConnCan’s focus was: how does the charter industry continue to grow? Every year, ConnCan’s fight was how do we increase the number of seats, and how do we increase the per pupil expenditure?”

Staggering toll

OxyContin was approved for use in treating moderate to severe pain in 1995. Purdue was determined to make the drug a hit, and funded doctors like Russell Portenoy, who said in a 1993 interview with the New York Times: "There is a growing literature showing that these drugs can be used for a long time, with few side effects and that addiction and abuse are not a problem.”

Except that the literature was based on short-term usage, not on long-acting opioids taken over extended periods of time. By 2003, Portenoy admitted to the Times that he had misgivings about how he and other pain specialists had used the research. Although he had not intended to mischaracterize it or to mislead fellow doctors, he had tried to counter claims that overplayed the risk of addiction. But if not for such mischaracterizations, the Sacklers wouldn’t be as wealthy, and America might not be suffering from a public health crisis that is costing the country an estimated $78.5 billion a year.

Even as the scope and scale of the opioid epidemic unfolds, the fortune OxyContin built continues to grow. In the case of OxyContin heir Jonathan Sackler, part of that fortune is being devoted to expanding charter schools and weakening protections for teachers in traditional public schools. Patrick Keefe’s New Yorker feature ends with a stunning statistic: “An addicted baby is now born every half hour.” He asks whether such devastation should give pause to organizations that benefit from the Sacklers' extensive philanthropy. In the case of the charter schools and education reform advocacy groups that Jonathan Sackler funds, the answer to that question should be obvious.

Sarah Darer Littman is the author of middle-grade and young adult novels, and has previously written for Hearst Newspapers and She teaches writing in the MFA program at Western CT State University and at the Yale Summer Writers’ Workshop. Follow her on Twitter @realsamerica.

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Whither Catalonia?

Josep María Antentas interviewed by Dan La Botz / Socialist Project.

Dan La Botz, a co-editor of New Politics, interviewed Josep María Antentas, teacher of Sociology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and anticapitalist activist. First published on New Politics website.

Dan La Botz (DL): The Catalan independence movement and its suppression by the Spanish state have garnered the attention of the world. What has been your attitude toward the question of Catalonia?

Catalonia's Drive for Independence

Josep María Antentas (JMA): My traditional position is the defense of the right to self-determination, with the idea that when a group rises to exercise this right its position must be made specific. In the current situation and since the independence movement began in 2012, the defense of a “Yes” vote has a more democratic content than the “No” vote, which is associated exclusively with the reactionary defense of the Constitution and the political regime.

DL: So you called for voting yes on the referendum recently organized by the Catalonia government?

JMA: My position is that a “Yes” in the referendum now is the position that makes it possible to break with the post-Franco political framework. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that independence has to be the endpoint; an eventual Catalan Republic could confederate or federate with Spain afterwards, or could at least ask to do so. And there might be other options.

DL: What has been the impact of this process on the Spanish state?

JMA: The impact of the independence process on Spain as a whole is complex because, in the short term, the Spanish right uses it to cohere its social base and in the last weeks we are experiencing a shift toward the right in the Spanish political and social life. But at the same time, it is the principal threat to the political regime created in 1978.[1] If Catalonia became independent, it is unlikely that the political regime of 1978 could survive. Such a crisis could open the opportunity for change in the Spanish state as well. The strategic, decisive question is how to link the independence movement – without dissolving its demand, with a perspective of breaking with the 1978 regime within the state as a whole. This requires combining unilateral action from Catalonia with the struggle within the Spanish state as a whole in favor of a new majority politics of the left. But this center-periphery dialectic is complex and neither Catalan independence movement, nor the forces of the Spanish left such as Podemos know how to do it.

DL: What is the social base of the independence movement?

JMA: The independence movement is principally based in the middle class, public employees, and youth. The Catalan government is an alliance between the neoliberal right party PDeCAT (Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català or Catalan European Democratic Party) and the center-left ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya,Republican Left of Catalonia). But since the movement began the relation of forces between these two groups has been displaced toward the ERC, while the PDeCAT has lost support. If there are elections on December 21, and the two parties renew their alliance, the ERC will take control. Or, to put it another way, on the one hand, the Catalan right is playing a central role, but, on the other hand, it has been overwhelmed in a process that benefits the center-left independence forces.

DL: What has been the role in all of this of the CUP (Candidatura d'Unitat Popular or Popular Unity Candidacy) the farther left political party? And can you explain what has happened to Together We Can (En Comú Podem)?

JMA: CUP is an independence party and the principal force of the Catalan anti-capitalist movement. It went from 3 per cent to nine per cent of the vote in the last five years. It’s independence project goes beyond official “independence pure and simple” and links the national question with the social issues and defends an explicit anti-capitalist and anti-1978 regime position. It is a militant, combative force with a participatory and anti-bureaucratic culture. But it remains excessively trapped in the role of honest guarantor that the independence process will be carried out to the end, of pressure on the government so that there is no step backwards, and it had no strategy whatsoever for attracting the social base of the left that remains outside of the movement.

DL: And what are the obstacles that the left faces?

JMA: The principal problem is that Catalonia’s radical left is divided: a part, CUP, is totally inside the movement; the other part (led by Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona and leader of En Comú Podem) is outside and maintains a passive wait-and-see attitude. I think that one has to be both within and outside of the movement, to support it insofar as it has democratic demands that would break with the old regime, but without necessarily sharing its strategy and its objective. The fact is that a part of the left has been totally outside, and that has given the right greater maneuvering room.

En Comú Podem supports the right to self-determination but it is not pro-independence. It has an anti-austerity program though not anti-capitalist. It defended the necessity of having a referendum on independence in agreement with the Spanish government, but it did not support the holding of the unilateral referendum on October 1, even though it considered the “mobilization” to be legitimate. But, as I said, it’s passive and wait-and-see attitude has prevented it from intervening.

DL: And where are the working class in all of this? My understanding is that the Catalan working class is diverse, multinational. How does that affect things?

JMA: Yes, a central part of the Catalan working class, in particular the traditional industrial working class, has its origins in immigration from the South of the Spanish state in the 1970s. We should also point out that in Catalan society there is a generalized use of both Catalan and Spanish and that the population in general is bilingual, even though part of the population prefers to use either Catalan or Spanish in their daily activities.

At the same time, Catalonia as well as the Spanish state has in the last two decades experienced a strong immigration coming from Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and also Asia, so the society has become multiethnic and multilingual. But both Catalan and Spanish politics, including the social movements, nevertheless remain quite “white” and “indigenous” [meaning the native-born people of the region].

The part of the working class that participate in the movement are the public employees (education and health) and young college graduates who can’t find decent, full-time jobs. The traditional industrial working class and the working class youth with less education have kept their distance from the movement. There are two reasons for that: First, they have less identification with the Catalan national question, since the bulk of Catalonia’s industrial working class is made up of immigrant workers who came form the South of Spain in the 1970s. Second, the disintegration of working class society and politics has led to a general crisis of the labor movement.

During the Franco dictatorship, the national question and the social question tended to become coordinated because they had a common enemy: the dictatorship. It was a period of working class hegemony within the Catalan nationalist movement. This situation began to change in the 1980s when the conservative nationalism of Jordi Pujol, the leader of the CDC (Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya or Catalonian Democratic Convergence) from 1974 to 2003, became hegemonic, while the working class lost its central social and political position in Catalan political life. The fact the independence movement, which erupted as a mass movement in 2012, only defended independence and disassociated itself from “other” demands, in particular from the concrete criticism of the politics of austerity, has been an important strategic error and has made it more difficult to involve the working class and the left’s social base.

DL: So, given all that you have told us, how does this movement move forward?

JMA: Since the Spanish Republic’s proclamation on October 27, the Catalonian government was totally paralyzed. It never thought that things would go so far and didn’t foresee going beyond a symbolic declaration. Since October 27 there has been an absolute vacuum of leadership and an absence of guidance. All of the strategic limits of the catalan government and the social organizations that drive the movement were suddenly exposed. The dissolution of the Catalan government by the Spanish state through the application of Article 155 of the Constitution, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government’s announcement of Catalonian election on December 21, and the jailing of part of the Catalan government (the other part is in exile in Brussels), which put the independence movement in defensive position.

DL: What then are the priorities of the left in this context?

JMA: It is necessary to defend unity of action in the street (demonstrations, etc.) but to remain politically independent of PDeCAT and ERC, with our own slogans within the movement (in particular emphasizing the idea of the need to open the process toward a constituent assembly in Catalonia, as a way of putting the social and democratic aspects at the center of the discussion, and not only debating “independence.”

DL: So what is the strategy and what are the prospects as the Spanish state now plans to hold elections in Catalonia on December 21?

JMA: The Spanish government called for elections immediately after the dissolution of the Catalan government (on December 21). They have been imposed by force. But all of these Catalan parties are going to participate in them, since there is no other realistic alternative. All of the forces against the bloc representing the regime of 1978 are going to state in their programs opposition to the dissolution of the Catalan government and the demand for freedom and amnesty for those who have been arrested. But beyond this shared defensive element, the fundamental strategic question is to establish a democratic roadmap of rupture with the regime of 1978 that unites the independence forces and those that are not pro-independence but defend the right to self-determination. •


1. The “regime of 1978” refers to the political and institutional framework of the establishment by the approval of the Constitution of 1978 which resulted from the agreement reached between the anti-Franco forces and a section of reformers within the Franco regime and which marginalized those who rejected the agreement and favored a “break.” This gave rise to a kind of democratic state that conserved important aspects of the Franco regime and which didn’t change substantially the dominant power block.

Urgent Action needed in support of Shahabi & Salehi; Salehi is close to death!

By the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran.

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What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?

By Andrew Levine / Counterpunch.

Photo by David Howard | CC BY 2.0

Our elections used to be good for at least one thing: comic relief.  In the Age of Trump, the absurdities are no longer amusing – just disheartening and scary.  Remember Christine (“I am not a witch”) O’Donnell?  Compare and contrast with Roy Moore.  QED.

Trump appeals to the dark side, and brings out the crazies.  Moore makes Trump look good – not because his crazies are more dangerous, but because they are sillier.

Bible thumpers nowadays are the worst.  What is that all about?  They used to seem so harmless.  But look at them now!

Evangelical movements have been around since colonial times.  Their fortunes have waxed and waned; and all sort of considerations — theological, geographic, sociological, economic, and so on – have been invoked to account for them.  There is plenty of merit in all these approaches; and there is nothing new that I could add.

I do have something to say, however – not about the evangelical movement in general or the character of the evangelical mind, but about why the politics so many evangelicals nowadays gravitate towards is so dreadful.

The reasons have to do with the irrationality and hypocrisy that is endemic in the evangelical community, and with the effects of the Trump presidency on the ambient political culture generally, and on evangelicals especially.


Rationality is a normative standard, an account of what ought to be, that applies both to actions and beliefs.

On the action side, evangelicals do all right; they are generally able to negotiate their ways through the world as well as anyone.  But their beliefs, especially the ones that have no immediate practical consequences, are as irrational as can be.

There are two ways in which this charge applies.

For one, rationality requires beliefs to be logically demonstrable or supported by compelling empirical evidence.  By that standard, evangelicals hold many beliefs that fail to pass muster.

This is why they are easy prey for village atheists.   How hard is it, after all, to trip them up by asking, for example, what the lions on Noah’s arc ate, or how Noah had room on that arc for hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species?

Consistency is an even more fundamental normative standard.  Unlike the former standard, it applies not to beliefs themselves, but to their relation to other beliefs.

Evangelicals’ efforts to prevent schools from teaching evolutionary theory – or to teach versions of it that amount to religious dogma in disguise – are a case in point.

Why are “evangelicals” who never complain about Galileo so hostile to Darwin?  Both men initiated world-transforming scientific revolutions; and both were seminal thinkers whose ideas appear to challenge some of Christianity’s fundamental tenets.  Yet Galileo is OK with them and Darwin is not.

One would expect true believers to find both Galilean cosmology and Darwinian evolutionary theory problematic – inasmuch as they both make it hard to see how human beings could occupy the special place in “creation” that Christians and other theists think they do.

Darwin showed that natural processes better explain the levels of complexity and apparent purposiveness that we observe in nature than do inferences to the existence of an “intelligent” creator-designer of the universe.

Evangelicals take exception to that – not just because it is at odds with Bible stories they take literally, but also because, in their theology, human beings, unlike all other creatures, are made in “the image of God.”   Taking that away threatens the very foundations of faith.

Galilean cosmology is even more deflationary.  As its core ideas took hold, it turned out that, from its purview, we – along with our planet, our solar system, our galaxy, and perhaps even our universe — are unimaginably small and insignificant in the cosmic scheme of things.

Theologians have ways of getting around inconvenient Bible stories.  If they are ingenious enough, they can square the circle; conceding that we evolved in the ways science tells us we did, but are nevertheless “special” in relevant respects.

And, as a matter of logic, “the earth and all that dwells therein” could be vastly less significant than a speck of dust, but still be a matter of concern to a God that is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good.

From a psychological point of view, however, one can only wonder how a Being as great as the one theists believe in could possibly take an interest in beings as insignificant as we plainly are.

And so, if Darwin gets their goat, Galileo should too – more so by far.

However, if we leave reason aside and look at the situation through a different lens, the evangelicals’ position does make a kind of sense.   Even back in the Scopes Monkey Trial days, the “debate” was never exactly about modern science and its compatibility, or not, with theistic beliefs, much less specifically Christian ones.  It was about the importance of “the old time religion” to the good, down home people who identified with it.

Nobody was talking about identity politics back then, but this was a case of it.

No one identifies with old time (Aristotelian) cosmology in a similar way.  Galileo threatened Church doctrine, but only the Doctors of the Church and the higher clergy had any personal investment in theology.  What Galileo and those who came after him threatened was ideas, not identities.

And even that threat dissipated centuries ago.  The story of Galileo’s problems with Pope Urban VIII and the Inquisition has long been the stuff of legend, not political contestation.

The situation of evangelicals in America could hardly be more different; they have had problems with Darwinism since Day One, and that hasn’t changed to this day.  Inconsistencies don’t faze them.  They don’t mind being irrational; if anything, they could care less.

Inconsistency and hypocrisy are not quite the same.  A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and then does the opposite.  Hypocrites have been drawn to theistic religions with restrictive sexual codes from time immemorial.  Roy Moore is just the latest in a long line.

Although their views of women and their behaviors towards them are much alike, in this respect, Moore is not like Trump at all.  Trump has never been a hypocritical philanderer.   Quite to the contrary, he is, and long has been, a shameless braggart, just as one would expect someone so insecure to be.

However, in extreme cases, hypocrisy can shade over into something else for which there really is no good English word.  There is a perfectly serviceable Yiddish word, however, that has found its way into the American vernacular: chutzpah.

The example of the child who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he is an orphan has become a cliché.  Neocons who blather on about Russian meddling in the 2016 election offer a more current, but similarly apt, example.

No country on earth comes close to matching the United States when it comes to meddling in the political affairs of other nations, Russia and other former Soviet republics most of all.  But this doesn’t bother sanctimonious neocons; Cold War anti-Communism is in their genes; and, with Communism gone, Russophobia is the next best thing.  Neither does it faze the Democrats and other “progressives” whose hearts and minds the neocons have won over.

Even if there is nothing more to it than the cynical opportunism to which, like the Clintons themselves, Clintonite Democrats are prone, the chutzpah is so extreme that it looks, feels, and smells very much like garden-variety hypocrisy.

This is why, looked at squarely, the less odious of our two neoliberal war parties seems almost as flagrantly hypocritical as the theocratic wing of the GOP.


Before the eighties, white evangelicals were more likely to be politically quiescent than partisan, and as likely to vote for Democrats as Republicans.  In this, as in so much else, the South was the exception.  Once solidly Democratic, it became almost as reliably certain to vote Republican in national and statewide elections.   Evangelicals were on board with that; if they bothered to vote at all, they tended to vote the way their neighbors did.

Then, in the Reagan era, rightwing evangelical political organizations formed under the still broad Republican tent.  In time, they became one of the GOP’s most important constituent parts.  Their influence has increased many times over since Trump came on the scene.

The consequences for the ambient political culture have been far-reaching.  It is too soon to tell, of course, but some of the transformations that have taken place may even be irreversible.

Trump has exacerbated the craziness inherent in the evangelical mind, empowering others even worse than him; Roy Moore, for example, leaves Trump standing in the dust.

Moore’s evangelical supporters put even diehard Trump fans to shame.

What ungodly force possesses them?  At least Trump’s imbecility and recklessness comes to him for reasons other than a sincere belief in an imminent rapture.  And no one, as far as I know, has ever accused the Donald of child molestation or pedophilia.  Moore has him beat on both counts.

Hardcore Trump supporters crawled mainly out from under the rocks Trump keeps turning over.  So far, they seem determined to stand by their man.  It is hard to imagine anyone less deserving of such loyalty, but the emerging consensus explanation for this otherwise bizarre phenomenon seems right: that as long as they are able to think of him knocking “elites” down to size, they will stay on board.

Shame on them that they do stay on board for that reason; Trump is plainly not on their side.  He is in it for himself, his family, and his class.  End of story.

No doubt, to some extent, the kinds of evangelicals now backing Moore are just going along with the flow.  But the fact that they could go with Moore, even while less godly Trump supporters find him too much even for them, suggests that there is more going on in the evangelical mind than simple me-too-ism.  But what? And why?

I cannot say with confidence because I cannot find it within myself to engage fundamentalist thinking empathically.  I can no more do that than I can understand the thinking, say, of celebrated Biblical personages whose ways of worship included animal sacrifice.

I can therefore only marvel at the ways fundamentalists welcome strife and discord, considering it a harbinger of End Times at hand; and, in particular, at how they regard wars and threats of wars in the so-called Holy Land to be fulfillments of inerrant Biblical prophecies.

At some level, though, I can understand evangelicals’ fondness for sinners; without them there would be no one for God (or Jesus or the Holy Ghost) to save.  Back in the day when he was still fighting the good fight on the right side, Christopher Hitchens made a similar case against Mother Theresa.  She loved the poor, he argued, because they gave her opportunities to exercise charity.  For the same reason, she had little or no interest in ending poverty as such.

Even so, evangelical fervor for Trump and Moore is problematic.  The two of them deny their misdeeds, and show no contrition.  Trump even boasts of his sexual predations in a way in what his defenders call “locker room talk,” while Moore claims never ever to have done anything a God-fearing Christian could fault.  This is so transparently at odds with readily available evidence that it amounts to a kind of boast as well.

The conventional wisdom used to be that, for example, Nelson Rockefeller could never be elected president because he had been divorced.  Reagan exploded that idea, but until now, a semblance of the old norm remained: presidents didn’t need to be virtuous in the ways assumed by Puritans or hypocritical Victorians, but they had to maintain at least an appearance of virtue.  That norm barely survived Bill Clinton, but in the end it didn’t altogether disappear.

Not, that is, until the onset of the Age of Trump. Now anything goes – even Roy Moore, a certifiable Bible Thumper who erects monuments to the Ten Commandments, as he covets his neighbors’ daughters, and promotes every retrograde cause under the sun.

It would be hilarious, if it weren’t so pathetic, and if it weren’t so plainly symptomatic of an anomic civil order disintegrating, horrifyingly and perilously, into chaos.

ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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