Some political observers may see the presence of religious conservatives in the Republican Party as a threat. My former friend Kevin Phillips, who in the early days of the New Right was so helpful, now acts as if a theocracy governs the nation.
Phillips was the architect of President Richard M. Nixon's Southern strategy, which worked brilliantly until Nixon did himself in.
Now that the South does have the upper hand in the Republican Party Phillips is bitter about it. I see no theocracy here. As someone who has helped the religious right transition to the political process, I would have nothing to do with something akin to Iran translated into Americanize.
What I do see is something very healthy. Earlier this year the GOP leadership began what it terms a "Values Summit." I have been privileged to attend every one thus far. At a values summit each of us is given a few minutes to tell the leadership what we think is important. The leadership, tilted more toward the House of Representatives than the Senate, primarily listens.
Questions are asked about timing. If, for example, an organization wants to do a huge grassroots mailing then it is very helpful for that group to know how much time it has to get the mail out the door.
The net result of our summit was announced by the House Leadership last week. Even House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-OH), never thought to be sympathetic to the religious right, pronounced himself absolutely in favor of what the leadership is calling "the American Values agenda".
"The values agenda is a collection of legislative initiatives that speak to the values many American hold dear," Boehner said. "Freedom to display the American flag, freedom of religious expression, the right to keep and bear arms, respect for the sanctity of marriage, and the dignity of all human life. These are values that have defined the American character, protected our families, and shaped our society," Boehner went on to say.
Boehner said the House belongs to the people and the people want action on these various issues. Boehner paid tribute to Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA). Although not a member of the official leadership, Pitts each week holds a meeting of the Values Action Team, which has pulled together a legislative package.
Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) put it this way: "Faith, family and hard work bind us together as Americans. Our laws should reflect those priorities, and House Republicans are committed to the American values agenda, policies that stress the core values on which the nation was built." Blunt is known as a strong backer of virtually all of the pro-family bills under House consideration. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) had been known as the pro-family leader in the House. Blunt has filled the vacuum that DeLay left when he was forced to resign after having been indicted.
Among the items in the package to be voted on over time are: the Pledge Protection Act; the Public Expression of Religion Act; the Marriage Amendment (defeated in the Senate by one vote); the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act; the Human Cloning Prohibition Act; reform of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives Agency; prohibition of internet gambling; a series of bills aimed at permanent tax relief for families; and more.
Of course, a number of these bills will not see the light of day in the Senate. But some will. It is a good beginning. If passing legislation reflecting the solid religious-oriented values of the American people were a threat to our way of life just in case President George W. Bush were able to sign some of these bills, then we would have gone off the track further than I thought.
This is a positive, reasonable agenda supported by all but a handful of Republicans and by a fair number of Democrats as well.
Let's get these Members on record. Let us see who supports a pro-family agenda and who does not.