The Truth, Mainly - 07/27/1998

My mind's been acting up lately.
by Leon Satterfield

Whether I want it to or not, it makes alarmingly prejudicial associations. I hear an innocent word like "dumb," and, totally uninvited, Danny Quayle comes to mind. I hear the innocuous "slick" and with no malicious intent I think of Willie Clinton.

I'm ashamed of myself, but I can't seem to help it.

I went through one of those involuntary association games earlier this months when I read ab out the Taliban Islam regime in Afghanistan. You remember that it shut down movie houses and gave Afghans 15 days to get rid of all television sets, VCRs, and satellite dishes.

You know why? So they'd have more time to pray.

It also closed any school violating the Taliban decree against educating girls older than eight, and it banned all foreign literature.

The motive behind all that, a Taliban official said, was this: "We want to reform society and make it 100 percent Islamic."

And you know what alarmingly prejudicial associations popped into my mind? Christian Coalition. Followed by Republican Party.

Crazy, huh?

Oh sure, a cynic might say such associations are perfectly reasonable given the Coalition's pursuit of theocracy and the GOP's pursuit of Coalition voters.

To zero in on just one ofthe Coalition's obsessions—homosexuality—consider the following:

•Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss) won't allow the Senate to vote on the confirmation of James Hormel to be our ambassador to Luxembourg. It's because Hormel is openly gay, and Lott feels that's such a big sin that the democratic process of voting isn't necessary.

•Jim Gordon, GOP candidate for a seat on the South Carolina stage ag commission, is running on a platform of protecting the family farm from what he calls the "homosexual movement."

•Texas Republicans refuse to recognize as legitimate party members the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group with masochistic political tastes.

•As of last week, House Republicans were trying to reverse a presidental executive order doing away with discrimination against gays in federal jobs.

So do those examples mean Republicans are more homophobic than Democrats. Maybe not. But they're certainly more likely to pretend to be in their efforts to get votes from the religious right.

And that's what made Doug Bereuter's speech at the state GOP convention this month such a bombshell. He spoke like a man who's had a bellyful of Christian Coalition-GOP associations.

"If our party seems to be using its policies or platforms to emphasize a particular religious orientation," Bereuter said in a stunning burst of good sense, "it is bound to cause some of our fellow citizens to question whether the Republican Party is the one for them."

Just how good his sense was can be measured by the heat of the reaction he got.

"It was insulting, a bunch of nonsense," said Doug Patton, GOP honcho and former chair of the Nebraska Christian Coalition.

Jon Christensen—I can't help myself: Danny Quayle just popped into my mind—said this: "In light of Doug's speech, we pray." (Something like "Deliver us, O Lord, from Republicans who win ten elections in a row"?)

Lancaster County GOP chair Bob Bennie said he was "absolutely furious" and he was going to tell Bereuter to get out of the party because "The conservative majority has tolerated you long enough."

That tantrum caused GOP state chair Chuck Sigerson to tell Bennie last week that he should sign a public pledge of "undivided support" for all party candidates, or submit his resignation.

And support for Bereuter came from some Republicans left over from the pre-Christian Coalition days: former National Committeewoman Patricia Lahr Smith, former county chair Randy Moody (a pest to the New Order ever since it came to power), and former mayor and Lt. Gov. Roland Luedtke. Maybe something good is happening.

Speaking of the past, and since Ken Starr will eventually leak it to the press anyway, I have a confession to make: In 1970, I registered Republican so I could vote for Gov. Nobby Tiemann in the primary.

Incurable optimist that I am (I was breast fed), I like to imagine that a turning point for Nebraska Republicans has come with Bereuter's speech. If he makes many more like it, I may have to register Republican again.

Anything to avoid a 21st century Christian version of a Taliban-type theocracy. We've been there, done that, back in the 17th century. ("Salem Witch Trials" just popped into my head. There I go again.)


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

©Copyright Lincoln Journal Star