A few days ago I came across the term "seven hated groups" while researching a political incident. The term was meant to encompass a listing of groups that smart politicians are quick to vilify as a campaign tactic. As I nosed through the Internet looking for more information on the make-up of the list, I found only two references to the model which contained actual lists of groups - and while they were similar to one another, they also varied somewhat in content. From that base, as well as with a strong dose of personal opinion, I drew up my own list of the "seven hated groups" and posted them in this space.
Those groups, routinely demonized and gleefully ravaged by opportunistic politicians everywhere, in my humble opinion, included:
Women, the LGBT community, non-Caucasians, immigrants (including resident Hispanics), non-Christians, the poor, and the disabled.
A reader of that blog entry replied with a bit of counterpoint. She inquired as to what I would see as the "sacred" groups most used for political opportunism. Her query, of course, set me to thinking.
A decade or so ago I would have said that the sacred cows of politics centered on the elderly, idealized families, and Christianity, but now I sense that the once-solid ground beneath those bulwarks of American civilization has begun to erode.
Social Security, a program whose intent was to keep old people out of the poor house, has been around for nearly a century, and, until recently was considered to be the "third rail" of American politics - something a smart politician knew not to mess with. But now, after several years of a steady conservative attack on Social Security (and Medicare), young Americans have, by and large, become convinced that these social aids to the elderly will be gone by the time they are old enough to benefit from them, and therefore a drain on their incomes which will never be paid back. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy inspired by politicians who are motivated by their own self-interests and the interests of their corporate overlords.
Now we are living in a time when both Congress and the presidential administration appear to be very focused on the demise of Social Security and Medicare. Old people are no longer "sacred" in the political calculus that runs America. Many of America's most economically fragile old people flock to the polls to vote against their own self-interests. And as young Americans lose interest in maintaining these social safety nets for the elderly, the programs become easier to attack, minimize, and ultimately eliminate.
The idealized family - Ward, June, Wally, and the Beaver - never existed in the real world, but it was given form by artists like Norman Rockwell and his famous Saturday Evening Post covers - and a generation of radio, television, and movie scriptwriters. It was the standard by which we were all measured - and by which we measured ourselves. Politicians knew that the term "family values" carried a certain amount of political power and protection.
That has changed in recent years, however, due in some measure to politicians who were seen as standard-bearers for family values getting caught up in scandals, often of a sexual nature, and America's shifting sense of what the term "family values" actually means. As one example of that, the righteous-sounding American Family Association, a stridently homophobic organization, tries to usurp the notion of the idealized family, but its values no longer align with those of the majority of Americans. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center now classifies the American Family Association as a "hate group."
In the same vein, Christianity, once a safe and fertile field for politicians to reap votes, is no longer seen as a solid block with homogeneous issues. Christianity itself has splintered into hundreds and hundreds of denominations, each with their own views on a myriad of political and societal issues, and two other religious groups, Jews and Muslims, as well as atheists, also serve to counterbalance any political stance that Christianity might be able to effect. Add to that the emergence of the most liberal Pope in history, and the "sacredness" of Christianity as a voting block is further diminished.
So, back to the question posed by the reader, if the elderly, idealized families, and Christianity are no longer "sacred" to our self-serving politicians, are there any groups left to which almost all politicians genuflect?
I propose that the American political system has one sacred cow left in the barn - and it's a hoary and extremely dangerous old beast, one that roars in fiery indignation with only the most infinitesimal of provocations - a beast that could ravage and kill a political career with the ease and nonchalance of swatting a fly.
The most sacred political cow currently chewing everybody's cud in America is the gun lobby - and in particular the systemically insane National Rifle Association. The NRA has, over recent years, pushed a crazy quilt of legislation nationwide to arm more and more people and to allow those people to carry guns into almost all public venues - except, of course, for the NRA national offices. (What's safe in your local churches and taverns would be an unacceptable risk within range of Wayne LaPierre or Ted Nugent.) Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives did the NRA's bidding once again and passed a measure which would allow "mentally incapacitated" veterans to buy guns - a situation which will ultimately lead to more veteran violence and suicides. But, hey, if the NRA wants it, what choice does a political weasel have?
The National Rifle Association strong-arms legislation that results in the bloody deaths of thousands of Americans every year, including innocent little children. It is an organization that creates mayhem and carnage, and then convinces stupid people that the way to avoid becoming a victim of the NRA's loose gun policies is to arm themselves with even more guns.
The NRA is not about protecting anyone - the NRA is about selling guns.
The NRA is despicable, and to sleazeball politicians it is very, very sacred.