Kim Davis is all but the Republican Jesus right now, but one of her recent claims left me confused–the one about how she was totally Democrat once but “the party left me” so now she’s re-registered as a Republican. Today we’ll talk about that claim, because the news of her attempted (and apparently quite ridiculous) lawsuit against the governor of her state fits into context with her presentation as the disgruntled abandoned daughter of her onetime party.
Some Basic Stats.
Rowan County, Kentucky, is itself pretty damn Democrat. They’re one of 8 Kentucky counties that actually voted for Obama in 2008. But it’s also an area struck by poverty, with almost a fifth living below the poverty line. Though we normally expect to see very poor people clinging to religion, the vast majority of the people there don’t actually claim any religion–which makes them “Nones,” the bane of right-wing Christianity.
In fact, out of 23,333 people in the county, 18,693 said they were unaffiliated with religion. Only 3,004 said they were evangelicals. You will notice that Kim Davis’ own church, Solid Rock Apostolic Church, is not actually specifically mentioned on that list on ARDA’s site. She and her church identify as “Apostolic Christians,” which is for all intents and purposes identical to what the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) does and believes. I can’t tell you her church’s size or many more specifics because their website is, shock of all shocks, totally down, but this blurb might tell you a bit more about it. ARDA lists 2 UPCI congregations of unknown size (they are probably vanishingly small, not that it matters as this site specifically identifies her church as non-UPCI) and 2 non-denominational congregations totaling 275 people which is probably where her church is. There are very likely more Muslims in Rowan County (308) than there are people in the whole of Kim Davis’ local tribe.
The takeaway for me is that her religious views are extremely rare in her local area. We might joke about Kentuckistan and religious wackjobbery of that sort, but the facts are that most people there are very likely live-and-let-live folks. Even the UPCI folks, going by that naycrumors.com link, don’t approve at all of her behavior.
Rowan County’s median income is about $41,000 a year, while their County Clerk is paid about $80,000 a year (though Wikipedia puts it at about $60k and there’ve been efforts since then to reduce that a little in 2012). Either way, it’s still a damned nice sinecure for a job whose duties are largely secretarial. And because Kim Davis is elected rather than hired or appointed, it is extremely hard to fire or discipline her. (One must suppose that “consequences” are only a problem for pregnant women and other heathens, not for a TRUE CHRISTIAN™.)
Now that she’s a formal Republican, she might have a much tougher time finding another election win–but she’s probably counting on name recognition and the Closeted Bigot Vote to push her through to the GOP nod. Given that during her election the GOP’s official candidate raised a charge of nepotism against her, I don’t think the party would actually approve much of her ordinarily, though their fundagelical base’s and leaders’ current rabid support for her might overcome any previous objections they had. But at least she aligns better with her party’s ideology.
It’d be fascinating to see this bigot’s voting history to see if she was ever as wholeheartedly Democrat as she claims, but one need only consider how few of the party’s platforms align with right-wing Christianity’s theocratic aspirations to see just how strikingly false her proclamations sound. I can tell you from experience that there is not one single thing in the Democratic platform that a Pentecostal would consider acceptable. When Bill Clinton got elected in 1992, we seriously thought he was the anti-Christ and that the world was coming to an end.* The objections my tribe held in 1992 have only solidified and concentrated in 2015, with some becoming even more firm and prominent (like legal abortion and equal marriage) and others drifting into prominence that weren’t issues back then (like homeschooling protections, opposition to contraception coverage and immigration reform, Creationism sneaking into public schools, and “religious liberty” as a euphemism for enshrining religious privilege into law). At this point, fundagelicals are so deeply entrenched as Republicans that if one of them even tries saying that he or she votes Democrat, other fundagelicals are, as one Christian put it so evocatively, “aghast.” Even considering such a thing is totally unthinkable, even a sin, to many of them.
Yet here we have Kim Davis, who was a Democrat until now.
Obviously something else was going on here. It defies all reasoning that she never once figured out, in the extremely polarized and rhetorically charged environment of her end of Christianity, that her opinions do not mesh with the Democratic Party in any way, shape, or form. And it defies belief to imagine that she thought that the party she’d affiliated with to win her election would support her in pursuing an extremist agenda that defied one of its primary platforms.
Maybe she thought that Democrats don’t care about huge, glaring party differences–or maybe her big conversion to fundamentalism changed some of her older opinions. Whatever the case, until her big stunt she didn’t have anything to worry about from her party. Ideological purity is really much more of an issue for Republicans than it is for Democrats, just as it is more an issue for right-wing Christians than it is for liberal Christians and non-believers. One does not often see people talking about DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) the way we see people talking about RINOs in the Republican Party. I see a lot of fuss over accusing Republicans of not being pure enough to bear the elephant standard, which is meant to shame them into adhering more firmly to the party platform or to dissuade people from voting for them, but it’s rare to see Democrats being accused of it. Some conservatives don’t even think it’s possible for a Democrat to be so “in name only,” though RationalWiki maintains a brief list of people who’d qualify for the title. Meanwhile, most of the Republican Presidential candidacy run for the last 20 years seems to consist of figuring out what candidate can pander the best to the party’s hardline religious extremists with the strongest obeisance to Republican ideas–and yet also appeal to the many voters in and out of the party who are absolutely sickened and disgusted by Republican ideology and platforms. Republican candidates who don’t toe the line sufficiently can expect to face an uphill battle to the prize.
In the same way, we mostly see mostly right-wing Christians fussing about “Christians in name only,” calling them “nominal Christians”. Mean-spirited judgments like these totally flout the Bible’s direct command not to judge anyone lest they be judged too, but those sorts of Christians have never cared overmuch about anything the Bible actually says. What they do care about is the return of their imagined onetime dominance. What they do ache for most is a re-establishment of the privilege they think they had Back In The Good Old Days Before Gays, Atheists, And Feminists Ruined Everything.
To achieve their goal of hegemony, they are sure they need a unified front.
They know that infighting and splintering are unpersuasive to outsiders. That’s why “divisiveness” is one of the most serious and most effective silencing tactics they can hurl at each other. When one of the most divisive of their leaders flings that accusation, we may well be (and should be) heartily amused, but we should also be aware of why Christians keep leveling this charge at each other. In order for them to keep butts in pews and checks hitting the offering plate, they need everyone on the same page. It is dangerous for anyone to stray outside of the party line–and impossible to judge who is a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ if there are many different valid definitions of the term. People might start wondering which of the different opinions is correct–and worse, might come to the wrong conclusion. Giving people only one option solves the problem.
Knowing all this, it is still hard in the extreme to imagine that Kim Davis was as deeply Democrat as she claims she was until her stunt or that she thought her party would support her in deliberately breaking the laws she had sworn to uphold.
And, too, on the local politics level, candidates switch parties like that all the time; affiliation is often more about what will get someone a candidacy or endorsement from the national party. Between her desire to run in opposition to a Republican and her understanding of her area’s general apathy toward religion and embracing of Democratic candidates, it makes perfect sense for Ms. Davis to slide on over to the Democrat side even though, ideologically, her church vehemently agrees with the Republican platform in every single particular and vehemently opposes every major part of the Democrat platform. It sounds like an incredibly cynical and entirely self-serving move, but since everything else she and her supporters have done could be described that way, I think I’m on safe ground here.
Indeed, various historians and political-science experts agree that her self-definition of Democrat is very likely due to some sort of family tradition or political expediency more than a serious alignment of hers with Democratic principles–that her affiliation was “irrelevant,” among other interesting observations.
So it is dishonest in the extreme for Kim Davis to pretend that she was some kind of utterly loyal, fervent Democratic party member and adherent who lived, breathed, and sang Democratic ideology and gave her all to the party. It is even more dishonest for her to present a narrative of how those mean ole meaniepie Democrats abandoned her in her time of greatest need, leaving her helpless and mewling until the generous, kind, godly, TRUE CHRISTIAN™ Republicans swooped in and picked her up, dusted her off, kissed and bandaged her owies, and set her back on her feet amid victory cries and children’s choirs. This is a dishonest and inaccurate presentation.
I AM SHOCKED, YES SHOCKED HERE.
I know, right? A TRUE CHRISTIAN™ being selective with the truth–we’ve never seen that before, have we? I mean, not since the other day when her supporters began totally lying about her supposed secret meeting with a supposedly totally supportive Pope Francis for some supposed moral support and “pastoral counseling” for her total lawlessness.
The claim itself is shocking because it’s hard even to imagine ultra-right-wing Christians even wanting to be anywhere near a person that they all think is Lord Satan’s personal emissary like we sure did back in my day, much less get “pastoral counseling” from such a demonic person (and we’ll talk about that later–the more I think about it, the more outrageous it sounds to me), and it’s even weirder that they’d try to claim that Francis supports a cause that many think he would stand against.** I get that Kim Davis and her gang need and crave the validation that Pope Francis’ approval would give them, but that they’d drill down on what is obviously a false and self-serving claim even after other sources have completely denied and discredited it tells me a lot about their growing desperation.
What ought to worry Christians like Kim Davis and her supporters is how this constant stream of misstatements and apparent lies looks to those outside her tribe. But the money train is rolling–the manufactured outrage around her disastrously misguided crusade is doubtless bringing in the big bucks for those savvy enough to capitalize on her ignorance and naivete. As one of the experts linked here has said, at some point she’ll stop making them money, and then she’ll find out PDQ just how wonderful, supportive, and loyal her new party is to her.
So I see this lawsuit of hers and her supporters’ weird and abortive attempt to capitalize on Pope Francis’ supposed approval as gambits meant to keep her crusade alive–and the checks hitting the metaphorical collection plate. Manufactured outrages pay big, but they need constant feeding.
* It was neat for me to see how differently I viewed the party and politics as a whole by the 1996 election; I deconverted in the middle of his first term.
** All we can say for sure here is that it doesn’t seem clear either way where he stands on the topic of Kim Davis’ lawbreaking because nobody seems able to ascertain his real thoughts–which makes the idea of him showing heartfelt and genuine support for such a theatrical, overblown, manufactured, obviously-trumped-up polarized move like hers seem even stranger. If he’s really smart enough to stay out of that squabble, it makes no sense at all for him to have some substantive meeting with the author of that squabble.
WORLD TABLE NOTE: The coders are, I’m told, still working on the lagging/slowness/freezing issue as of tonight, which is justifiably a “code red” situation. Email registration (as opposed to social media account registration, which is going away) will happen after that. I don’t have a timeframe yet but those are the two priorities. Please–if you use TWT to comment, check out the markdown language notes and let them know if that’s okay or if you’re really attached to HTML markup like we had on Disqus. They’re willing to do that if we want it, but it’d be a bit complicated due to security issues so they don’t want to unless it’s really something we want. Inline images are coming either way after the major stuff gets done.