July 22, 2008

Charles Grassley Denied Voting Privileges At RNC

A sitting United States Senator, the highest-ranking Republican elected official in the state of Iowa, would seem to be a natural choice to lead the Iowa state delegation at the Republican National Convention. But Charles Grassley will not even be able to cast a vote in favor of his colleague and friend, John McCain.

Why? Grassley is no liberal, no RINO, no softie on social issues. He's hard-core pro-life, a scourge of environmental activists, and has been a solid supporter of President Bush since before 9/11. And Iowa is a state that enjoys unusual prominence in the Presidential nomination process. Grassley would seem to be a natural choice to lead his fellow Hawkeye Republicans to St. Paul and anoint Senator McCain for the forlorn hope that something unusual will happen in mid-October that would give him a reasonable shot at being President after all.

The reason Grassley is getting snubbed by his own state party is because he's managed to make the evangelicals mad at him.

Grassley isn't an atheist and does not seem to be particularly sympathetic to the concept of separation of church and state. He's a devout Christian and a member of The Fellowship Foundation, the organization that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast. No, Grassley is concerned that honest Christians are being fleeced by these characters -- the Benny Hinns and Creflo Dollars of the world -- and he wanted to make sure that they were properly investigated. So he exercised his power as a Senator to investigate things, and instructed some of these ministries to provide a thorough accounting of their financial dealings. This has offended the evangelical leaders of the state-level GOP party machinery in Iowa so badly that they have denied him a delegate's credential to the party's national convention despite his request that he be given one.

As a sitting U.S. Senator, he could not be denied a floor credential at the convention. So he can go to the convention. He just won't be a delegate. He can't cast a vote there. And the reason is that he is being punished for attacking a bunch of evangelicals whose ostentatious lifestyles raise pretty legitimate concerns about being in religion for the money instead of the message, whether or not they were found to have actually violated any tax laws. That ought to be something that religious and secular Americans alike can agree is a good thing.

Instead, we are treated to a display of the naked exercise of power, complete with flimsy and obviously untrue excuses: "[W]e wanted grass-roots activists to attend to help get John McCain and Iowa House candidates elected." Yeah. So that means a bunch of people who have no national profile and little, if any, state-level profile, are the ones who get to go to St. Paul and do things like sit on the platform committee and the credentials committee, and otherwise control the levers of what the Republican Party will be for the next four years. And it's not that Grassley isn't conservative enough, or religious enough -- it's that he dares suggest that maybe some people who call themselves Christians and move around millions and millions of dollars might care a little bit more about the money involved than anything else.

When I learned that new megachurches have ATMs and Starbucks built in to them, I was a little bit stunned. I had visions of well-groomed megachurch members saying things like "Hey! That weird guy who just rode in from the desert is beating up the moneychanger out in the lobby! Someone call security!" Now that I see the corrupting alloy of big money, big religion, and political machinery has penetrated so far as to begin not just eschewing allies but disciplining its own members, it really alienates a non-religious Republican like me from doing anything. If these folks have their way, the Republican Party will become the Party of Jesus and advocate reform of the Constitution to create the Christian States of America. No, thank you.

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