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Gore Vidal on the Democrats and Religion (5/7)

The Democratic Party is a machine to get votes for its people, none of whom should probably be elected to the high offices of state. The Republican Party is fundamentally crooked

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PAUL JAY: This idea that this undemocratization or growth of fascism is incremental, what are the other signs of it in American society?

GORE VIDAL: Well, it’s been the monopolizing of great wealth, which tends to happen in basically unjust societies and undemocratic societies. We have plenty of would-be Democrats, would-be liberals, and would-be progressives. But how do you organize? The Democratic Party is a machine to get votes for its people, none of who should probably be elected to the high offices of state. That’s all. The Republican Party is fundamentally crooked and might well be outlawed one of these days. Le Pen, you know, in France, who is an out-and-out fascist, the French have managed in some clever way to contain him. I mean, he’s always running for president; his votes never seem to show up. I don’t know how they do it, but we’ve got to do that with the Republican base, the religious right. We don’t want them running the country. Nobody does. Certainly not the founding fathers. And I think we have to ride herd on them and make sure they do not seize the state.

PAUL JAY: Well, they kind of did, and-.

GORE VIDAL: Of course they did. They took advantage of 9/11, and so on.

PAUL JAY: How do you assess this danger to democracy of the organization of the hard-right alliance of evangelicals?

GORE VIDAL: Well, you have to work out what it is. They are a little splinter. They can’t summon many voters at any given time. They are a minority of a minority of a minority. They have everybody buffaloed, because the great corporations like them and pay money to their candidates for sheriff and senator. And they’re playing big-time politics. Yes, indeed. But the average person doesn’t like them. You know, any time I want to get applause, and I lecture across America in state after state after state, when I fear things are getting a little low, I always say, ‘And another thing: Let us tax all the religions.’ I bring down the goddamn house with that. And any politician would, if he had sense enough to do it. The people don’t like their tax exemption.

PAUL JAY: I went to church in Nashville, evangelical church. I was there for a four and a half hour service. And in four and a half hours the words ‘poor’ or ‘poverty’ did not cross anyone’s lips.

GORE VIDAL: No. They might have fallen off the lips.

PAUL JAY: My understanding of Christianity is the fundamental criteria you’ll be judged by to enter salvation is your attitude to the poor, which doesn’t get talked about much. But there was an interesting thing. I met a man there who’s married to a friend who has quite progressive politics, but he’s a believer and goes to the church. And he said 20, 25 percent of the church does not support the right-wing politics and didn’t vote for Bush.

GORE VIDAL: I’m sure of that.

PAUL JAY: There’s an interesting fracture in terms of the honest people who believe in the values espoused and what’s getting expressed at the political level.

GORE VIDAL: Well, remember, all that area from which the Gore family comes was solid Democrat and progressive under Roosevelt for several decades. So they just didn’t become Republicans because they all wanted to be bankers. They became it because they didn’t like black people, and they thought the Democrats were pushing integration too fast. And that’s how the great split came about, to the shame of the whole country.