Dogma Alert

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What a friend we have in Jesus

When all else fails in politics, here's whatcha do: Get right with God, and fast

Published April 26, 2005
Charles M. Madigan

In the distance, I see a gospel train full of true believers comin', and with his firm and certain hand on the throttle, I see a Republican, could be House Majority leader Tom DeLay of Texas, just a drivin' that train to glory.

Get on it or get under it. Or at least get ready. If you are a Democratic candidate, get right with God, and fast.

As the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth showed us last year, reality need not get in the way of a political campaign. You can do whatever you want. If you say it enough, some people will believe it.

Say what you will about John Kerry, that Democratic loser, it's hard to imagine that Vietnam-era medals could become a disadvantage. But they did, thanks to the swift boaters and the numbing foolishness of one slice of the American electorate.

So now, a congressional contest approaches with Republicans in control in the House and Senate.

If you were Tom DeLay, up to his eyes in ethical trouble of his own making but still the most powerful GOP majority leader in recent history, what would you do?

I know what I would do. In times of trouble, we have been told, it's best to turn to the Lord for help.

The Lord doesn't particularly care, I suspect, about our political problems or Tom Delay's political problems or much of anything else connected to American elections.

But politicians certainly care about the Lord, if not directly as a role model, then at least as a campaign prop. Playing the Jesus card this time around makes great political sense.

Here is why.

Congressional races are mostly safe events where those already blessed, the comfortable incumbents, don't have to spend much time worrying about re-election.

But in some races, contests are won on the margins by politicians smart enough to manipulate the themes and interests that will draw traditional non-voters to the polls.

You may well be thinking, "But they wouldn't use Jesus to do that, would they? Isn't anything off limits?"

Actually, no, nothing is off limits. All you need is deniability. ("It was completely independent of my campaign committee, although, I just want to note, I certainly do agree with everything Jesus ever said.")

Chief presidential political adviser Karl Rove is a genius at this kind of thing. In many a campaign over his long years with President Bush, unrelated groups have popped up to present just the message the Bush camp needed, with none of the messy connections that could make the process smell bad. Perhaps the House Republicans will borrow from the Rovian playbook. Or maybe he is already writing a plan.

Here is how it might happen.

With the Terri Schiavo case as the most recent public cause, an organization of mysterious funding takes shape over the next five months or so to unite anti-abortion, anti-stem cell, anti-let-Terri-die groups into a coalition of believers.

Ads start showing up on TV. DeLay says, "Not my group. I don't know anything about it, but I happen to believe life is sacred."

"Could you kill someone just like that?" the ads ask.

They show something that looks like a feeding tube being snapped from a vaguely identifiable body. "The Democrats did." (Paid for by Scary Train, a non-profit, etc. ...)

You, Mr. Congressman (D-Nowhere), assume you are safe in your contest against a virtual unknown, also from nowhere. Unexpectedly, a mailing from "Scary Train, a non-profit, etc ..." shows up in your district. It says, "Your congressman is a murderer" on the outside, with no other identifying marks. Inside, it says, "Won't you join us in protecting life?"

It is followed by a whole series of mailings depicting aborted fetuses, seniors on life-support systems, a whole range of very emotional situations, all of them tied to the slogan, "Your congressman is a murderer."

Where it goes from there, who knows?

Some people would be moved by a campaign like that. And you only need some, a few in every precinct, to turn an election around. Think of the impact.

Take Barney Frank, the congressman from Massachusetts who is gay, for example.

Hmm. Barney Frank (D-Mass). Hmmm. "D." Doesn't that really stand for D-E-V-I-L? Maybe your own member of Congress, "D" for D-E-V-I-L for supporting abortion rights. As for the Republicans, well, the "R" would stand for R-I-G-H-T-E-O-U-S! (This would be particularly beneficial in Illinois, where the "R" currently stands for R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S!)

I don't think there are any limits anymore. Democrats should gird for battle and look for prayer breakfasts to attend. Or at least invent an ideology before it's too late.

What can work can happen. And you know me, Charles M. (Could the "M" just be for ... for ... Mephistopheles? No. It's Martin.)


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