Fundraising Foolishness

This week, more than two months after President Bush nominated him, the Senate will finally vote on Judge Samuel Alito’s elevation to the Supreme Court. In a final, all-too-typical move, the vote was put off a week at the behest of Alito’s opponents. Why? Nobody seriously expects another week to make a difference. With a few exceptions, senators probably knew how they were going to vote before the hearings. So, why put off the vote? The most likely answer has nothing to do with Judge Alito or even the Supreme Court. Instead, it’s about what the former Speaker of the California Assembly, Jesse Unruh, famously called the “Mother’s Milk of Politics”: money. The extra week gives interest groups another week to stay in close contact with their respective supporters and ask for urgent support. It’s another week to remind supporters that, regardless of the outcome, the “struggle” goes on—with the asking group, of course, leading the way In other words, the postponement is good for fundraising. And, if the past is any guide, the fundraising appeals can be expected to frighten their constituents with visions of a monster guaranteed to tear their wallets open: Christians. Mind you, not real Christians, not the type you see in church. The Christians of appeal letters are straight out of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: would-be theocrats who, given the chance, would establish an apple pie Inquisition. And, needless to say, confirming Judge Alito represents just such a “chance.” If you think I’m exaggerating, consider what the head of the Anti-Defamation League recently told his membership. Speaking at the same time, ironically, that Muslim youths were setting French communities on fire, he warned his members about the threat posed by, of all things, “the Christian worldview.” He expressed his “alarm” over how well “financed,” “sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized, and organized” Christians have become in their efforts to reverse court-imposed secularism. You could just about hear the checkbooks opening as he said that Christians’ goal is to “Christianize all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries . . . from the military to SpongeBob SquarePants.” If this sounds overwrought to you, you are not alone: Writing in the journal First Things, David Klinghoffer called these accusations “ludicrous.” Christians seek to move the culture in a “spiritually healthful direction” by “inspiration and example.” That is something, Klinghoffer says, writing as a Jew himself, “[that] we Jews likewise have traditionally regarded as healthy and positive.” So why the vilification? Well, Klinghoffer says, “a crusading nonprofit organization needs a bad guy to give a sense of urgency to its fundraising campaigns . . . “ Unfortunately, the easiest way to raise money is by pandering to people’s fears. Thus, delaying the final vote gives “crusading nonprofits” another week to raise money by scaring people about what Justice Alito and his supporters might do. Money-wise, it makes no difference if any of these “predictions” come true, since the fears being appealed to are not based on facts, anyway. But it does matter to the common good if, in pursuit of its “mother’s milk,” our policies are rendered completely sour.


Chuck Colson


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