One nation … indivisible

You can blame the religious right for this:

One-fifth of U.S. adults say they are not part of a traditional religious denomination, new data from the Pew Research Center show, evidence of an unprecedented reshuffling of Americans’ spiritual identities that is shaking up fields from charity to politics.

But despite their nickname, the “nones” are far from godless. Many pray, believe in God and have regular spiritual routines.

When a group insists on imposing their religion on our political system, people who want to believe in a higher power don’t tune out politics. They tune out religion. Think I’m kidding?

The study presents a stark map of how political and religious polarization have merged in recent decades. Congregations used to be a blend of political affiliations, but that’s generally not the case anymore. Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.

Some said the study and its data on younger generations forecast more polarization.

“We think it’s mostly a reaction to the religious right,” said Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, who has written at length about the decline in religious affiliation. “The best predictor of which people have moved into this category over the last 20 years is how they feel about religion and politics” aligning, particularly conservative politics and opposition to gay civil rights.

Here’s a link to the complete study.

Freedom of speech … if you can afford it

There’s a fascinating post at the site Understanding Society that examine the polarization of the political process in America and comes up with a surprising conclusion.

The political rhetoric becomes more agitated and angry when the rich feel threatened.

Political scientists Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal present their often surprising findings in Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches (Walras-Pareto Lectures). …

The results are genuinely striking. Through a series of graphs they demonstrate a very high degree of correlation between polarization and inequalities. And they argue that this is causal: Politics has become more polarized as the stakes rise for those at the upper part of the distribution. …

They also argue strongly that the polarization of politics tracks relative income levels: More conservative policies are supported by higher-income voters and more redistributive policies are supported by lower-income voters. More bluntly: The higher the income of the voter the greater the likelihood of conservative voting behavior. …

They succeed in cutting through the seemingly crazed rhetoric of conservative extremists in and out of Congress and reveal what it’s really all about: protecting the economic interests of the wealthy. …

What is really interesting about this analysis is that it implies that the sizzling rhetoric coming from the right — personal attacks on the President, anti-gay rants, renewed heat around abortion and contraception — is just window dressing. By the evidence of voting records, what the right really cares about is economic issues favoring the affluent — tax cuts, reduced social spending, reduced regulation of business activity, and estate taxes.

So birtherism, homophobia, anti-abortion frenzy, anti-immigrant rants and all of the Fox News/Tea Party paranoia is all just a sham. The real issue is how to ensure the rich get more and how to make sure the poor get less.

And the way the rich get more is by redirecting the focus from what’s going into their pockets and what’s coming out of ours.

That’s why the Citizens United ruling is a big deal. The rich are buying speech. That’s why billionaires are rallying to get money to Mitt Romney. That’s why a Republican dominated Supreme Court not only came up with the Citizens United ruling in 2010, but it also reaffirmed the decision in June 2012 in the case of “AMERICAN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., FKA WESTERN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., ET AL. v. STEVE BULLOCK, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MONTANA, ET AL.”

That was Citizens United extended to state level politics.

This seems esoteric, but there is a real danger in this ruling and in the tons of money billionaires are putting in campaigns to cloud the issue.

Bill Moyers presented one of his essays recently that clarifies what’s really happening here:

And what’s worse is you can’t even count on the conservative punditry to present an honest argument for what their goal really is. Because they are well-paid hacks who fuel the propaganda machine. With salaries in the high six/low seven figure range, they are among the 1%. And this isn’t just Fox News.

Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo notes that:

A number of pundits are turning up the volume on demands that the White House offer a jobs plan based on new infrastructure spending, a long-term deficit plan that includes taxes and entitlement cuts and a market-based health care plan, among other requests. Obama will have a hard time taking their advice, however, given that he’s already proposed those very ideas.

These are the “centrists” who follow the line, “Both sides do it.” If only Obama would follow their advice and be more accommodating, everything would be fine. But Obama has already called for the programs they’re insisting would be the remedy to the countries ills.

Both sides don’t do it. Only one side is responsible for the mess we’re in. And that side isn’t motivated by love of country or the American ideal of freedom and equality. That side is looking at its own personal bottom line. And it has no problem pitting the rest of us against each other to achieve that goal.

And don’t forget: Their pre-chosen presidential candidate is one of them. Despite the pretend horse race during the GOP presidential campaign, Romney was always going to be the candidate. The right-wing poor had their say. They gave us Bachmann and Santorum and Cain and Perry and Newt. And they were mercilessly slapped down by the oligarchs who had pre-approved Mitt months … maybe years … before. There was a reason this blog constantly was repeating last year: “Just give the nomination to Romney already.”

The sponsors of the radical right really don’t believe the crap the Tea Baggers are spewing. They don’t care about gun laws. They don’t care about religion, or women’s issues, or race relations or immigration. They’re just taking a crystal clear pond and clouding it with the sludge of lies. And they have the more agitated right wing pundits in their pockets.

As Daniel Little in the Understanding Society post put it:

Maybe the best way of understanding the extremist pundits is as a class of well-paid entertainers, riffing on themes of hatred and cultural fundamentalism that have nothing to do with the real goals of their party.