US Election: GOP Neo-Cons No More? – Religious Right On Outs?

Mainstream Republicans looking pessimistically to November 7 might consider that, even in the worst case scenario, the mid-terms could still ironically deliver results that bode well for the party’s future. There is speculation that the mid-terms will deal death blows to the GOP’s neoconservative and religious right factions and, for some party faithful, such a silver lining would take the sting out of even the most devastating electoral defeat.

Many traditional Republicans have found themselves increasingly at odds with the party’s ‘fringe elements’, whom they believe have had a disproportionate level of control over the GOP in recent years.

The Iraq war is by far the major electoral albatross, and could help deliver substantive mid-term victories to the Democrats. Should that happen, Republicans would almost certainly turn with a vengeance on the neoconservatives, the implacable ideological warriors who, along with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, led the charge in the Bush administration to make the case for war in Iraq.

Apart from the Bush administration’s strategic bungling, and rising doubts about the war’s justification, Republicans have also argued that the war represents a departure from the core Republican principles of small government and fiscal responsibility. The US budget deficit rang in at $248 billion for the fiscal year just ended, down from $319 billion in 2005 and $413 billion in 2004.

Meanwhile, the religious right is disillusioned by the scandal surrounding former Congressman Mark Foley’s sexually explicit messages to underage male pages. They feel betrayed by the Republican hierarchy who failed to take the matter seriously and discipline Mr Foley for his predatory behavior. The scandal has also stirred up the fierce homophobia of the religious fundamentalists, who are now talking about the need for a ‘pink purge’ of the GOP. Usually a reliable voting contingent, from local primaries to federal elections, the fundies may well stay away from the polling booths in droves for the mid-terms.

Then there is the possible ousting of Senator Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, with recent polls showing him trailing his Democrat opponent Bob Casey by 5 to 14 percentage points. Mr Santorum is a staunch Bush ally and firebrand social conservative who helped steer the religious right towards a more combative style in the early 1990s; he has helped them maintain their momentum since. Mr Santorum’s supporters have reportedly flown in from as far away as the UK to volunteer for his campaign, because his departure from elected office would be a substantial setback for the GOP’s religious right movement.

Yet that might not be considered such a great setback for moderate Republicans, who long for the days when the party represented mainstream conservative values. In one recent editorial, Steve Rose of the Johnson County Sun in Kansas explained his frustration with the GOP and the reasons why his paper will take the extraordinary step of endorsing ‘conservative Democrats’ in the mid-term elections, despite the paper’s long tradition of supporting Republicans:

“The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally. You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.”

Top Bush administration advisor Karl Rove has reportedly referred to the Christian fundamentalists as “the nuts” whose sole value to the party is getting candidates elected; other than that, the GOP should have nothing to do with them. Yet in practice, the party leadership failed to stop the far right from taking over. Although fundamentalist ideology flies in the face of mainstream Republican values, the fundies have dominated the Republican agenda on a range of issues.

Their anti-science/anti-education/anti-freedom agenda includes banning stem cell research, rejecting the evidence of global warming, forcing public schools to teach intelligent design/creationism in science classes, censoring textbooks, banning sex education and discriminating against people on the basis of their religion and sexual orientation.

Such extreme positions, combined with the Iraq debacle, have alienated mainstream Republicans to the extent that they’d rather stay home on polling day – or even vote Democrat. Yet for these voters, better days may be on the horizon. This may be the election day of attrition that offloads much of the baggage of the neocons and the fundies, and returns the GOP to its traditional electoral base.


New Orleans: Prostitution On Rise In Louisiana Famous City

In a land that champions free enterprise, and in a recovering city with one of the highest murder rates in the country, some locals are questioning the use of the city’s limited police resources to pursue prostitutes plying their trade in the French Quarter.

The process of arresting sex workers in 2006 is rather more arduous than it used to be, with many using new technology to their advantage in a bid to avoid arrest. It was recently reported in The Times-Picayune that the use of business cards with email and web site addresses means that detectives now have to jump through more hoops and work twice as hard just to get to first base with their suspects.

The increase in prostitution is one indication that New Orleans is making a comeback. There is a good deal of reconstruction activity going on, and the male-dominated workforce is obviously making and spending a fair amount of money in the city. A substantial proportion of these men have migrated from interstate to help the city rebuild and, after a hard day’s work in relative social isolation, they hit the town and welcome ‘working girls’ with open arms.

Prostitution has a history of following concentrations of men with high disposable incomes. During the 19th century, ‘harlots’ were always the first women on the goldfields from California to Western Australia, and the contemporary sex trade is known to follow the crowds to landmark sporting events such as the Superbowl and the America’s Cup.

Still, many people believe that prostitution is immoral – a social evil and a scourge on society that should not be tolerated. These people support police efforts to arrest, convict and jail prostitutes. Others argue that separation of church and state is a founding principle of our democracy, and thus police should not be used as moral troops to impose one group’s beliefs on the entire population.

Regardless of which side of the fence one stands on this issue – it seems clear that, at a critical time when violent crime is terrorizing the local population and hampering the recovery of New Orleans, that is where the focus of the police force needs to be.

Local attitudes towards vice have tended to be fairly relaxed in America’s most European city, renowned for its ‘laissez les bon temps rouler’ culture. In New Orleans, the history of prostitution also has a close association with the history of jazz.

A city ordinance allowed legal brothels to operate from 1898 to 1917, in the feted red-light district that became known as Storyville. Although perhaps not the birthplace of jazz, Storyville certainly provided a cradle for the new sound to grow and flourish. Legendary musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton, Tony Jackson and Clarence Williams first thrilled audiences with their red-hot jazz piano performances in the swinging Storyville bordellos. Then in 1917, when the US Navy forced the closure of Storyville to protect WWI sailors from ‘moral danger’, Mayor Martin Behrman made a mercy dash to Washington to try to persuade the feds to reverse their decision.

When the mayor returned to New Orleans dismayed and empty-handed, he made a now-famous observation that has lost none of its relevance over time: “You can make it illegal, but you can’t make it unpopular.”

Ultimately, prostitution boils down to personal choice and private behavior. And given the NOPD’s motto, ‘To Protect and Serve’, police authorities would better serve the city by making the protection of life and property their unwavering priority.