Stumping For the American God

Earlier this week, after Liz Cheney was purged by the House’s minority caucus, Gov. Phil Scott was asked about the sorry state of the national GOP. His response, per WCAX: “It appears as there’s a sign that is being placed in the window saying you need not apply and if you don’t adhere to those values or that litmus test, you are no longer welcome.”

A natural follow-up, which went unasked, would have been “In that case, what about the Vermont Republican Party, whose leadership is as intolerant as the national crowd?”

Take, for example, Jay Shepard, Republican National Committeeman and generic Mike Pompeo knock-off. He is one of two VTGOP representatives to the national Republican Committee, which makes him a very big fish in the shallow pool of our conservative politics.

Shepard styles himself a genius of inside politics. He runs Junction Consulting, a conservative firm offering its expertise in campaigns, fundraising and so forth. During the 2018 election cycle, his firm got nearly $200,000 from the Republican State Leadership Council to run ads against select Vermont Democratic lawmakers. Hmm, a Republican committee funneling funds to a Republican committeeman. Sounds a little grifty to me.

Well, Shepard’s got himself a new grift. He’s using the VTGOP email list to pump a national group that he co-founded. So, if you signed up for information about what Vermont Republicans are up to, congratulations. You’re getting Shepard’s fundraising pleas for the group, plus a regular email newsletter from its rhetorician-in-chief.

Said group is the American Council for Education and Knowledge. Named, as is customary in right-wing circles, to apply a mainstreamy veneer on a collection of far-right ideologues. As if that’s going to fool anyone.

And what, pray tell, awaits if you click on the link above?

For starters, how about “The time has come to restore the American God, His natural law, and His code of ethics to their proper roles in everyday life.”

Yep, “the American God.” Just like it says in the Bible.

Not.

This is idolatry, plain and simple. It’s worshipping the golden calf of American triumphalism over the God of the Bible. There’s something breathtaking about the sheer effrontery of believing a country that’s not yet 250 years old was somehow preordained by the God who, in the words of Proverbs, was “established from everlasting, From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.” Sorry, America, you’re way out of your league.

But wait, there’s more. The outfit’s “vision statement” spins a fable of a uniquely sinless nation founded on “the American covenant” which renders the people just naturally pure.

Americans have long enjoyed their own freedoms in large part because they trusted their neighbors to behave responsibly. Americans have minimized government by knowing that something can be wrong without being illegal—and that people of good faith will refrain from doing wrong without the heavy hand of government coercing them to do right.

Suuuuuuure. Just tell that to the Native Americans, the enslaved Blacks, the Asians denied entry or citizenship for decades, the interred Japanese, the colonies we conquered, the countless countries we invaded (overtly or covertly). Or, before 1920, women who couldn’t vote. Or anyone not from northwest Europe — Ireland excepted. No Irish need apply, y’know.

According to ACEK, this ordained-from-creation “American experiment” combines the best of natural law, the Enlightenment, science, mathematical logic and Judeo-Christian ethics. But now, ACEK warns, this Godly nation is threatened by the evils of modern life. “A sense of entitlement” among our elites, a “misguided clamor for social justice,” poor people who expect handouts instead of hard work and, uber alles, the ascendancy of progressivism.

That last bit will come as a surprise to progressives, who only wish they had that kind of clout.

Otherwise ACEK peddles exactly the kind of QAnon-adjacent claptrap you’d expect. Election trutherism, cancel culture, the evils of critical race theory, progressive dominance of the educational system and the media, Black Lives Matter as a terrorist group, how conservative leaders defeated Covid-19. ACEK commentators frequently appear on Newsmax and One America News; apparently they’re too far out there for Fox News.

Shepard isn’t merely a shill for this outfit. He’s one of its four directors. He appears on Newsmax and OAN as an ACEK commentator.

I could go on, but that’s more than enough to show you what kind of person the Vermont Republican Party chooses for a leadership position. Phil Scott notwithstanding, the VTGOP is the party of Donald Trump. If the governor had any guts, he wouldn’t just distance himself from his party. He’d disown it.

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