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July 3rd, 2009
06:33 AM ET

Avlon: 'Wingnut' blames gay marriage for economic woes

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="New York State Legislature (L) and Sally Kern (R)."]

With no less than 8 states on the verge of government shutdowns, political radars are picking up on the odd combination of arrogance, incompetence, rigid ideology and outright corruption that spews from too many state capitals.

This week we’re taking aim at a Democrat-controlled state legislature that put petty partisan-bickering ahead of public school kids and a right-wing legislator who blames the economic downturn on everything from gay marriage to divorce.

New York State may be in better financial shape than California for now, but the Albany Legislature wins the "Wingnut of the Week" award for entering its fourth week of circus-like Senate stalemate. Famously described as ‘the most dysfunctional state legislature in the nation’ by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, it solidified that reputation this June with a series of tragicomic new lows, complete with byzantine party defections and parliamentary games – like one party turning out the lights while the other locks the legislative door and hides the key. Literally.

This week, New York City school kids got caught in the partisan crossfire, as new Democratic Majority Leader John Sampson (a sometime lawyer who once defended rapper Foxy Brown for assaulting a manicurist) let Mayor Bloomberg’s successful mayoral control of public schools expire. The initiative – often cited by President Obama as a national example of effective school reform – needed to be reauthorized by the state legislature by the end of June to continue.

It was expected to be an easy step – the notorious old Board of Education system had few defenders, even among the teachers union – but Sampson & Co declined to bring it to a vote even after claiming a questionable quorum from a Republican who had briefly entered the Senate chamber to get a can of Coke. This is the legislative equivalent of not pulling a baby carriage out of the way of an oncoming train – and so the vestiges of the old BOE system were hastily resuscitated.

New York schoolchildren weren’t the only ones affected by the legislature's inability to do its job – New York City marshals are now suddenly without legal authorization to enforce judgments. Town bonds cannot be issued to balance local budgets and the City of Yonkers declared that it was weeks from having to shut down city services and cancelled 4th of July fireworks as a precaution. Local newspapers have featured dueling front pages showing legislators dressed up as clowns, but no one’s laughing now because it’s worse than a circus – the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

With the economic crisis impacting the states, you’d think that legislators wouldn’t have time to indulge in out-of-control ideology. But you’d be wrong. In Oklahoma, Republican State Representative Sally Kern has come up with an “Oklahoma Citizen’s Proclamation of Morality” that states “we believe that our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis.” Among these are divorce, gay marriage, and child abuse.

Here are some choice cuts, presented in the odd syntax of official proclamations (just to make you know that this is really serious and not at all wingnutty).

WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion, pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery; and

WHEREAS, alarmed that the Government of the United States of America is forsaking the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built; and…

WHEREAS, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior; [Note: I’m guessing that would be Gay Pride Month]

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we the undersigned elected officials of the people of Oklahoma, religious leaders and citizens of the State of Oklahoma, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, solemnly declare that the HOPE of the great State of Oklahoma and of these United States, rests upon the Principles of Religion and Morality as put forth in the HOLY BIBLE.

It sounds like Sally Kern slept through the whole “separation of church and state” part of U.S. history. But just to make you know she was paying attention she posts a few quotes from James Madison and Patrick Henry defending the idea of America’s founding as an explicitly Christian nation. One problem: the quotes are false, just wishful wingnut thinking.

But Kern’s got a history of far-out, far-right commentary – including one gem from last year in which she proclaimed homosexuality “the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam” because they are “going after, in schools, two-year-olds."

Kern’s economic theory isn’t for everybody, and she’s been bracing martyr-like for the backlash to her backwardness. Another interesting remedy for economic tough times came from Missouri Republican Representative Cynthia Davis, who proposed cutting a summer lunch program for poor kids on the grounds that “hunger can be a positive motivator.”

If you’re paying attention to your local legislature, you’re probably getting the sense that too many elected officials are fiddling while Rome burns around them. Corruption cases like that of former Massachusetts State Speaker DiMasi and former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers barely make a dent in the national news. The numbness is encouraged by the 98% re-election rate that most local elected officials enjoy because of rigged redistricting systems that create safe seats in low turnout elections – Kern herself ran unopposed in 2006.

We’re not going to cure this problem until we have a collective Howard Beale moment about our local legislatures and declare that we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. The best way to cure the corrosion is redistricting reform and open primaries – ensuring that the moderate majority of Americans have a fighting chance to remove these wingnuts from office.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.

Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Phillip Stephens

    Just thought I'd add the following: In the most recent research young people were found to be less prejudiced against minorities than older people - and the older they are the more bigoted they are. So the result is that future generations may be able to get along better. So, as tacky as it sounds, I just can't wait for all the old people to die so we can move on!!!

    July 24, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  2. Jocelyn Jones

    This story would be hilarious if it wasn't so frightening.
    The "Christian Right" proves time and again, through word and deed, that they are neither.
    Moreover, every time one of them opens their mouth the arrogance and ignorance are deafening.
    Does someone need to remind this idiot that less than a century ago her remarks would never have been heard because women were not allowed to vote? Much less hold any position of authority.
    Additionally, I can remember a time not so long ago when the simple act of wearing make-up was considered a sin (debauchery) by those very folks she claims to represent. Women wearing pants was even considered sinful, for christ's sake! (pun intended)

    Is it time to assume the battle cry blacks once embraced: By Any Means Necessary? When pushed, they burned whole cities to the ground. Is it time for similar responses to the unbridled hatred being spewed by the "Religious Right"?

    July 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  3. Catherine

    SO that we can all be clear here,
    de⋅bauch⋅er⋅y  /dɪˈbɔtʃəri/

    Use debauchery in a Sentence
    –noun, plural -er⋅ies. 1. excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures; intemperance.
    2. Archaic. seduction from duty, allegiance, or virtue.

    Clearly we need officials who understand the words they use, somehow Kern feels that Child Abuse is a form of debauchery............OR she just fails to understand the English language when writing a speech.

    Either way, its embarrassing to live in OK. We need to rally on the next election! She was elected because no one ran against her! Maybe the OKC Zoo would allow one of their Chimps to try for her spot!

    I would vote for the Chimp! Bet it would use sign language better than she can speak.!

    July 15, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  4. BDM

    Debauchery, what century is she living in.
    divorice is a "straight" issue, since gays are not "Allowed" to marry in a majority of the country.
    sex trafficking- a straight issue

    I think she needs to check her morals before spilling them on to the rest of us. And be sure to get your facts correct. Gay couples pay taxes as much if not more then "straight" Married couples.(no tax exemption for married gay"

    The stupidity of how this person speaks, she needs to be claimed "incompentant" and sent to Bellevue Hosptial for evaluation.

    July 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  5. Mskimberlyclark

    We have only ourselves to blame for electing them? I didn't vote for them. I'm not an idiot. The problem is most people in America are just plain stupid. How smart can you be to let an invisible ghost rule your lives and politics. Blame the stupid christian idiots who elected these deluded zombies. Don't blame me.

    July 14, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  6. John Cline

    Wingnut(s) = Fox(Fix Noise)News, the so-called Christian Right, Rush Limbaugh types, Michelle Bachman, Newt Ginrich, and Sarah Palin. No surprises on this list!...Oh yeah, and Lou Dobbs, who should drop the silly Independent label-Please!

    July 9, 2009 at 9:13 am |
  7. Lynn

    Unfortunately, the term christian (not capitalised deliberately) has become synonymous with hate-mongering. To isolate groups & blame them for the ills of a nation is not new; read & study Adolph Hitler writings & speeches. By the way, the irony of my first statement has not escaped me...singling out a group......

    July 8, 2009 at 9:40 am |
  8. Kimberly Krautter

    Delighted! (and a little bit in-crush) to discover your column here and on The Daily Beast. Glad to see the MSM giving ink to a fellow member of the Sensible Center. Thank you John for your great insight and for sharing those within the old rules of journalism.

    July 6, 2009 at 10:15 am |
  9. Charlotte

    I find it telling that John Adams and the founding fathers found it necessary to say "religion and morality" which means that, unlike Kern and others of her ilk, they understood that "religious" doesn't always mean "moral" and the lack of religion doesn't always mean immoral.

    So to argue that the founding fathers wanted a government based on "Christian" values is false. They were VERY clear about the separation of church and state. The way some Christians behave, I'd rather have a moral government, not a religious one, thank you very much.

    July 6, 2009 at 8:57 am |
  10. Betsy Herring

    This is another instance of Kern and her crazy christian antics here in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, lots of people here believe the same way she does. This woman will never be satisfied until the U.S. is turned into a country like Iraq, and we all have supreme religious leader, probably someone like Pat Robertson. Welcome to the ideology of the the religious wingnuts. They are destroying Oklahoma.

    July 3, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  11. David Keyes

    Just wondering: What makes you think the quotes Kern uses are false? "Just wishful thinking?" Check this out:

    "[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue."
    (Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 401, to Zabdiel Adams on June 21, 1776.)

    "[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
    (Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.)

    And as for an enemy greater than terrorists, Samuel Adams said,
    "A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader." (Samuel Adams' writings, in a letter to James Warren dated February 12, 1779)

    If you think Kern is a "wingnut", you'd have REALLY loved many of our founding fathers (though I'm sure Jefferson would have agreed in part). If great Americans like the Adams and Patrick Henry are "wingnuts", both Kern and I would proudly wear that title.

    By the way, as far back as March 23, 1798, our nation has had times when presidents have called the WHOLE NATION to a day of prayer and fasting, seeking God's forgiveness for national sins and for His blessings to be restored. (e.g.

    It's good to know that we are free to speak our minds and our differences. But in calling some people "wingnuts", it might be wise not to dis the people responsible for making that freedom happen here in these United States.

    July 3, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  12. Doug - Dallas

    Unfortunately, we have no one to blame but ourselves, we elect them and re-elect them. Goes to show you common sense loses at both ends.

    July 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  13. Alex

    Both parties contain wingnuts and yes-men. It's time to vote in Independent candidates.

    July 3, 2009 at 9:42 am |
  14. Tom

    The Truth hurts – John you should get Wingnut of the Year.

    July 3, 2009 at 6:55 am |
  15. Carlos M.

    Thank you for seeing Sally Kern as she truly is: a 'wingnut'. I hope her constituents will no longer put up with this and NOT re-elect. For someone who feels she must meddle into the morality of the nation, it wouldn't surprise me if she has something to hide.

    Discriminating remarks against any group of people are wrong. It's time for Oklahomans to stop this!

    July 3, 2009 at 6:46 am |