BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If Hillary Clinton were to comment on this year's collection of speakers at the Values Voter Summit, she would have to supersize that basket of deplorables. The annual gathering hosted by the Family Research Council, featured speakers of the anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, pro-gun, alt-right, and of course, religious right variety. Every year at about this time, since its launch in the fall of 2006, the vigorously anti-LGBT Family Research Council holds the Summit. And every year when it's over, it declares it to be the most successful ever. This year, however, that claim might be accurate, featuring the first appearance by a sitting president, and, with Steve Bannon's rousing speech on Saturday, signaling the growing relationship between the alt-right and the Christian Right.
Coming off a few days of issuing a string of mean-spirited executive orders, Trump was greeted like a conquering hero by white evangelicals who, last November, put aside their moral compasses and voted overwhelmingly for him; according to exit polls, more than 80 percent of white Christian evangelicals voted for him.
Trump greeted the crowd by saying that "America is a nation of believers." He called his recent actions aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act "a very big step." He pointed out that he had to take "a little different route, because Congress forgot what their pledges were," a reference to their failure to repeal Obamacare. He promised that the new health care plan will "even be better."
"We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values," Trump said to applause. He attacked people who don't say "Merry Christmas." "They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct," Trump said. "We're saying Merry Christmas again."
With the War on Christmas' top General, Bill O'Reilly, sidelined due to a series of Trumpian/Ailesian/Weinsteinian sexual aggressions against women, Trump is apparently casting himself as the point man for this year's War on Christmas battles.
Trump also referenced the situation in Puerto Rico, saying "we love those people and what they've gone through." He touted his tax plan, called Iran a "terrorist nation," and claimed that "We have made great strides against ISIS, tremendous strides against ISIS...they never got hit like this before."
As NPR's Jessica Taylor reported, "Since taking office, Trump has made many of the voting bloc's priorities a reality, from putting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, to issuing a religious liberty executive order, to weakening the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate."
"After eight years enduring the Obama administration's hostility toward everything from religious liberty to the unborn, values voters were eager to see President Trump accelerate the undoing of Obama's policies," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote on the conservative website Breitbart recently.
Bannon declares war on GOP elites
As The Washington Examiner pointed out that the appearance of former White House chief strategist and now Breitbart.com executive chairman, Steve Bannon, might signal a merging of the religious right with the alt-right; a marriage that appears to sit well with the FRC's Tony Perkins, who told Breitbart News that he was all-in on Bannon's plan to remake the Senate.
On Saturday, Bannon, fresh off his victory supporting Judge Roy Moore in the Republican primary in Alabama, echoed his previously declared threats to challenge Republican elites from coast to coast. He called out Sens. John Barasso (R-WY), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Dean Heller (R-NV) by name, questioning why they had not criticized Tennessee Senator Bob Corker after he made his anti-Trump remarks. Speaking of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Bannon said: "Up on Capitol Hill, it's like the Ides of March. They're just looking to find out who is going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar. We've cut your oxygen off, Mitch."
He told the adoring VVS crowd that "President Trump's not only gonna finish his term, he's gonna win with 400 electoral votes in 2020."
"It's not my war, this is our war and y'all didn't start it, the establishment started it," Bannon said.
"Nov. 8th was an act of Divine Providence," was Bannon's biggest applause line, according to a tweet from former White House staffer Sebastian Gorka.
Other featured speakers included White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, former White House aide Sebastian Gorka, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who recently won the GOP nomination for the state's open Senate seat.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center noted in its pre-Summit piece, the speaker roster include "representatives of anti-Muslim organizations or [people that] have a well-documented history of espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric. These include figures like Brigitte Gabriel head of ACT for America, the largest anti-Muslim group in the country who has said that practicing Muslims "cannot be loyal citizens of the United States" and conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, head of the anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP) who said of Somali refugees in 2015, "I don't know about you, but it kind of creeps me out that they are getting jobs in the food supply of the United States."
The Family Research Council
Over the years, the Family Research Council, named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – a label that the organization has fought against -- has become the most prominent religious right, Washington, D.C.-based lobbying organization. Founded in 1983, it became associated with Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family in 1988, and was headed by Gary Bauer, a former undersecretary of education under President Ronald Reagan. In 1992 it separated from FotF.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project's report titled "The Anti-Gay Lobby: The Family Research Council, the American Family Association & the Demonization of LGBT People", the FRC "work[s] in 'pro-family' areas, … against abortion and stem cell research, fighting pornography and homosexuality, and promoting 'the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.'"
The FRC accelerated its anti-gay work when Robert Knight, a long-time conservative writer and journalist, came on board, heading up the organization's cultural affairs department. Knight's work propelled the FRC into the forefront of anti-gay groups; writing "anti-gay tracts that used the research of thoroughly discredited psychologist Paul Cameron, head of the Colorado-based hate group the Family Research Institute." He co-authored a 1999 booklet titled Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex with Boys.
In 1999, Gary Bauer moved on and Ken Connors, who took over, lasted only a short time before current FRC head, Tony Perkins, took the helm. Perkins, whose controversial past regarding issues of race is detailed in the SPLC report, helped transform the organization into the lobbying and financial powerhouse that it is today.
"Under his leadership," the report points out, "the group continues to peddle its false claims about gays and lesbians and has made combating the 'homosexual agenda' a seemingly obsessive interest." Perkins makes regular appearances on the 24/7 cable television new networks, right wing talk radio, issues a daily "Tony Perkins' FRC Action Update." He partnered with Bishop Harry Jackson, a virulently anti-gay African American pastor, to writePersonal Faith, Public Policy.He also chairs the Family Research Council Action PAC.
Perkins, who has stomped his way into just about every culture wars-related issue, helped demonize Michael Schiavo during the Terri Schiavo affair. However, after years of making his bones as a purveyor of anti-gay issues – opposed to same-sex marriage, gays in the military, and equal rights for gays, as well as insisting that bullying of gay students in the public schools, some of which has resulted in suicides, does not deserve special attention.
More recently turned his fire hose of alternative facts on transsexuals. As the SPLC pointed out, the FRC helped force "the President's hand by threatening to pull support for a defense spending bill. As reported by the Washington Blade, following Trump's transgender ban announcement on Twitter, Tony Perkins, FRC's president stated, 'Now that we are assured that the Defense Department has its fiscal priorities in order, Family Research Council withdraws our opposition to increasing the budget of the Department of Defense through the 'Make America Secure Appropriations Act' and looks forward to seeing that legislation pass.'"
And, wherever you'll find a fight over a bathroom bill, that's where you'll find Perkins and his fundraising machine.
A few years back, Perkins wrote a piece posted at The Washington Post's On Faith blog suggesting that gay organizations were "exploiting these tragedies [suicides]": "[s]ome homosexual activist groups lay blame" for the suicides "at the feet of conservative Christians who teach that homosexual conduct is wrong .... homosexual activist groups like GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) are exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda of demanding not only tolerance of homosexual individuals, but active affirmation of homosexual conduct and their efforts to redefine the family."
Now, Perkins and company have teamed up with Trump and Bannon. What an unholy union!