Thursday, January 26, 2006

Brownback in Rolling Stone

When Rolling Stone profiles our foot washing Senator, you know it'll make interesting reading. Brownback, despite being the younger and less experienced of Kansas's two Senators, is undoubtedly leading figure in the Kansas Republican Party. Pat Roberts seems content to cruise along, the rare Senator who seems uninterested in higher office. Sam Brownback admits to intense ambition, his candidate just announced for governor, and the opposition has been sapped of strength by constant rumors of a Brownback-ed candidate to come (before Canfield, Brownback was courting former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers).

Jeffrey Sharlet explains:
Brownback seeks something … radical: not faith-based politics but faith in place of politics. In his dream America, the one he believes both the Bible and the Constitution promise, the state will simply wither away. In its place will be a country so suffused with God and the free market that the social fabric of the last hundred years -- schools, Social Security, welfare -- will be privatized or simply done away with.
This is the Dominionist worldview, one that pushes a vision of an America in which the Bible replaces the Constitution.

[Brownback] tells a story about a chaplain who challenged a group of senators to reconsider their conception of democracy. "How many constituents do you have?" the chaplain asked. The senators answered: 4 million, 9 million, 12 million. "May I suggest," the chaplain replied, "that you have only one constituent?"

Brownback pauses. That moment, he declares, changed his life. "This" -- being senator, running for president, waving the flag of a Christian nation -- "is about serving one constituent." He raises a hand and points above him.
Those "4 million, 9 million, 12 million" all mean something a little different when they point to the heavens. That's what makes democracy fascinating. Of course, being a right-wing player in Kansas means Brownback hasn't had to worry too much about keeping his constituents happy; he's too popular with the establishment to face a primary challenge, and the Kansas Democratic Party is a bit too befuddled to successfully challenge him in a general election. It's worth remembering that pointing your finger in the air is both a way of indicating a higher power, and of identifying oneself.
Brownback doesn't demand that everyone believe in his God -- only that they bow down before Him. Part holy warrior, part holy fool, he preaches an odd mix of theological naivete and diplomatic savvy.
There's an odd cowardice to his brand of religious authoritarianism:

When Brownback travels, he tries to avoid spending time alone in his hotel room, where indecent television programming might tempt him.
I trust myself to be moral. I don't need threats and cajoling from cosmic forces to make me respect morality. Sam Brownback doesn't trust me, that stands to reason, because he doesn't trust himself.

But he does trust Robert Wasinger, his chief of staff. At Harvard, Wasinger pushed to oust gay faculty, expressing concern for the men's sperm, which must "swim into feces."

Lovely, lovely man.