Ever since Sharron Angle won Nevada’s Republican Senate primary back in June, the Harry Reid campaign, joined by much of the news media, has worked night and day to paint her as some kind of dangerous extremist wingnut.
The latest episode of this ongoing drama opened this morning with a column in the Las Vegas Sun that dredged up an interview Angle gave to a Christian radio station back in April. The column quoted Angle as saying,
And these programs that you mentioned — that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward — are all entitlement programs built to make government our god. And that’s really what’s happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government.
The story was picked up by Greg Sargent’s Washington Post blog later today, and by evening it was on the major newscasts. And, of course, all the usual suspects were shocked and indignant.
As with most of Sharron Angle’s “extremist” statements, once I dug into it I found myself agreeing with her. Government has become a god to many people. Just as the ancients implored their gods to deliver good harvests and lots of sons — and maybe tossed a young virgin or two into the volcano to get a deity’s attention — so today we beg government to provide us everything from cradle-to-grave security to unearned self-esteem. And, oh, while they’re at it, can they also stop the sea level from rising?
In fact, much of the mainstream news media, as documented by Bernard Goldberg in A Slobbering Love Affair, worships Obama himself. During the 2008 campaign someone set up a website devoted to exploring the many aspects of The One’s divine character. And many of us remember how Newsweek’s Evan Thomas last year enthused that Obama is “sort of God”. What, only “sort of”?
No, I don’t find Sharron Angle’s statement at all extreme. I personally know people who think of themselves as intellectuals, who even pride themselves on their atheism or agnosticism, but who, nevertheless, have unbounded faith in the ability of the government, under the leadership of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, to solve virtually all problems facing the human race. If that is not idolatry, what is?
This is the second time in the last three weeks the Las Vegas Sun has gone after Sharron Angle on religion. A front page story on July 18 — a story The Examiner‘s Mark Hemingway called “the most biased news story of the year” — attempted to tie Angle to Christian Reconstructionism, the idea that modern society should be governed by the Old Testament civil law.
The alleged reporter who wrote this story, Anjeanette Damon, is either incredibly dishonest or incredibly ignorant. I talked about Christian Reconstruction in a post here a few weeks ago. In it, I pointed out that Reconstructionists are postmillennial covenantalists. Sharron Angle is a lifelong Southern Baptist. Southern Baptists are premillennial dispensationalists whose eschatology is exactly the opposite of that which underlies Reconstructionism.
So how did Sharron Angle get lumped in with those who want children who talk back to their parents to be stoned to death? Because she has said — correctly — that the First Amendment’s prohibition of the establishment of a religion does not prohibit basing one’s approach to public policy on one’s religious beliefs. Oh, and she and the Reconstructionists both want to abolish the U. S. Department of Education.
Here are some other examples of Sharron Angle’s “extremism”:
Abortion. Angle is against abortion except when necessary to save the life of the mother. This means she opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest. In this, she is being logically consistent: since abortion is the taking of human life, why should the child be killed for the sins of the father? This also happens to be the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination in the United States, as well as every evangelical denomination, most non-denominational churches and even some local congregations in mainline Protestant denominations. Some people may not like her position on abortion, but it’s not extreme.
Education. Angle wants to abolish the U. S. Department of Education, which was established by Jimmy Carter in 1980. Is our education system producing better-educated children than it did before 1980? No? Then what’s so extreme about getting rid of the department?
Second Amendment. I’ve discussed the smear that Angle “called for Second Amendment remedies” here. She didn’t. She said she hoped we would not have to resort to Second Amendment remedies in the context of presenting her interpretation — the correct interpretation, by the way — of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Yucca Mountain. Angle was accused of supporting the dumping of nuclear wastes at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. This is the ultimate NIMBY issue in Nevada. No candidate for office in Nevada wants to be seen as supporting the dumping of nuclear wastes. And that includes Sharron Angle. What she favored was a reprocessing facility at Yucca Mountain because it would create a lot of well-paying, high-tech jobs. In this, she was in agreement with the two other leading Republican Senate candidates and the leading GOP candidates for governor.
Social Security. Sharron Angle has been accused of wanting to take away seniors’ Social Security. This is the smear that seems to have gotten the most traction with voters, and which propelled Harry Reid into a temporary lead in the polls. It forced Angle to spend much of July visiting assisted living facilities to convince the elderly she was not going to take away their Social Security. This accusation is also false. And Angle is right. She wants to put back the funds that were taken from past surpluses to pay for other government programs, and she wants to personalize retirement accounts so they cannot be raided in the future. Unfortunately, “personalize” sounds uncomfortably close to “privatize”, and the Reid campaign made the most of it.
So Angle’s “extremist” views aren’t so extreme after all. Understanding the original intent of the framers of the Constitution and pointing out that education and Social Security are in deep trouble and need to be fixed — and offering solutions to fix them — may be thinking outside the box, but it’s not extremism.
What I can’t understand is why Angle hasn’t struck back. Reid and his media supporters at the Las Vegas Sun have been attacking Angle, not for what she’s actually said, but for things they think she thinks. Angle has plenty of ammunition to attack Reid for things he’s actually done — everything from crooked real estate deals to serving as Obama’s water boy in the Senate. Just last week, Reid addressed the Netroots Nation convention — right in Las Vegas — and told them that he hasn’t given up on a public option for health care reform. Angle’s campaign ought to be playing that video over and over again.