We've reported pretty extensively on recent efforts by conservative politicans to turn Islamic law into a bogeyman (see: here, here, and here). In doing so, it's become pretty clear that much, if not all, of the anti-Sharia movement is based on just plain bad information. How else can you explain the suggestion that Afghan-style tribal courts could somehow be instituted in South Dakota, for instance, or that a judge in Florida crossed any sort of line when he ordered two Muslim parties to settle their matter (per the terms of their contract) through an Islamic arbitrator?
In that vein, Wajahat Ali and Matt Duss at the Center for American Progress have a new report out today that pretty systematically dismantles the basic premise, espoused by prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich, that Sharia poses an existential threat to the United States. It specifically takes aim at Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, a think tank that's deeply influential in Republican circles, and more or less provides the intellectual clout (such as it is) for the anti-Sharia movement. A sample:
The "Sharia threat" argument is based on an extreme type of scripturalism where one pulls out verses from a sacred text and argues that believers will behave according to that text. But this argument ignores how believers themselves understand and interpret that text over time.
The equivalent would be saying that Jews stone disobedient sons to death (Deut. 21:18-21) or that Christians slay all non-Christians (Luke 19:27). In a more secular context it is similar to arguing that the use of printed money in America is unconstitutional—ignoring the interpretative process of the Supreme Court.
The report (which you can read here) does not address the future scourge of secular atheist Islamists that Gingrich warns could someday lord over the continent. But if Gingrich's recent record is any indication, he'll likely offer his own rebuttal sometime next week.
I have a story up today on the new push by conservative lawmakers to challenge the Federal Reserve by promoting the use of gold and silver currency at the state level. So far, Utah is the lone state to pass such legislation (as of last week, gold and silver coins are now legal tender in the Beehive State), but more than a dozen states have considered "hard money" proposals since the start of 2009.
Georgia Republican Rep. Bobby Franklin, who sponsored a bill that's currently before his state legislature mandating the use of gold and silver for paying state taxes, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for the article. That might be because, as his secretary told me, "he's a little media-shy." Or it might be because of a story my colleague Jen Phillips wrote two weeks ago, about a bill Franklin sponsored that would potentially proscribe prescribe the death penalty for women who have miscarriages. Or maybe the two are related.
But I've buried the lede. This is what you get when you call his home phone number:
This is State Represenative Bobby Franklin. Thank you for calling to give me encouragement about my sponsorship of House Bill 1, recognizing that pre-natal murder is murder. I'm not able to take that encouragement right now, so at the tone please leave your name, number, and a message.
Emphasis mine. For the record, we weren't calling to offer encouragement.
After three decades of railing against America's monetary policies, Congress' most famous gold bug and anti-Fed crusader, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), doesn't have much to show for his efforts on the national level.
But Paul's message finally seems to be gaining traction outside Washington. Since the beginning of 2009, lawmakers in more than a dozen states, with the backing of conservative organizations like the Tenth Amendment Center and the American Principles Project, have introduced bills promoting the use of gold and silver currency for everything from buying groceries to paying taxes. Last week, Utah became the first state to enact such legislation, declaring gold and silver coins from the US mint legal tender, and creating a commission to study the efficacy of this move.
Other proposals, in Georgia and Iowa, would mandate that all state taxes be paid in gold and silver. In Montana, a "sound money" bill that would have required all taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products be paid in precious metals was narrowly defeated on Monday.
Some supporters hope the movement will succeed where Paul's efforts have fallen short—by bringing down the Federal Reserve system from the bottom up.
"It's much more difficult to be lobbying against one bill than it is against 50 bills," says Bill Greene, a conservative activist and political consultant whose sample legislation has served as a foundation for a bill that's currently before the Georgia legislature. "As soon as one state passes a sound money bill, that state is going to reap the most benefits first. That'll open the floodgates and get the ball rolling and more and more states wanting to do it."
The Tennessee-based conservative group Tea Party Nation is most famous for planning the 2010 Tea Party convention in Nashville, at which Sarah Palin was caught reading off her hand. But since then, the for-profit organization has more or less fallen flat. A second planned convention was cancelled for lack of interest, and its leader, Judson Phillips, has been spurned by his fellow conservative activists. But even as his standing continues to slide, Phillips is ratcheting up his rhetoric. In recent months, for instance, he's called for voting rights to be granted only to people who own property, and stated that he has "a real problem with Islam."
Now, the Phillips group wants to raise awareness about a potentially existential threat to the United States: White people are going extinct. Via Right Wing Watch, here's an email sent out by Tea Party Nation today:
Child bearing has become something distasteful to many women, an unwanted and painful experience to be avoided rather than embraced.
All of these programs, ideals and ideologies are doing one thing and one thing only - reducing America core TFR [total fertility rate] to the point of no return. The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) population in America is headed for extinction and with it our economy, well-being and survival as a uniquely America culture.
This county is dying not because it is aging, it is dying because of infertility as public policy.
A year ago, Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams was forced to step down from his position after writing a racist letter to the NAACP, as part of a somewhat misguided attempt to prove he wasn't a racist. Phillips probably won't fire himself, but he's certainly not making his path back to relevance any easier.
The normally excellent Jeff Zeleny takes a close look at the 2012 Iowa caucuses and discovers that conservatives care about social issues:
The ailing economy and the Tea Party's demand for smaller government have dominated Republican politics for two years, but a resurgent social conservative movement is shaping the first stage of the presidential nominating contest...
Has the ailing economy and demand for smaller government really "dominated Republican politics for two years"?
Let's recap: The debate against health-care reform featured not only the false claim that the new law would budget taxpayer funding to pay for abortions—one member of Congress even called another member of Congress a "babykiller" on the House floor—but also the false claim that the new law would target senior citizens and people with disabilities for death. Then, the entire month of August, 2010, was spent debating the small government issue of whether a religious group should build a house of worship in Lower Manhattan.
Glenn Beck's case against Barack Obama—which provided the fuel for FOX's amped-up full-team-coverage of 9/12 and tea party rallies over the last two years—has its foundation in the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, rooted in divine principles, and that any effort to alter the Founders' immaculate construction more or less conflicts with the will of God. It's a popular idea, endorsed by grassroots activists and elected officials alike.
Meanwhile, the first order of business for members of the landslide GOP class of 2011 has been to introduce a set of anti-choice legislation at the state and federal level that would redefine rape; defund Planned Parenthood; force women to listen to ultrasounds prior to getting an abortion; omit exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the mother; and provide funding for organizations that tell women (falsely) that getting an abortion can lead to breast cancer or suicide. You know, small government stuff.
The dominant theme in Republican politics for the last two years hasn't been jobs and small government; it's been opposition to Barack Obama, period. The grassroots conservative critique of the Obama administration stems from a set of social and economic values that are deeply intertwined. The notion that religious conservatives are suddenly resurgent rests on the flawed assumption that they ever really went away.