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Lincoln Weeps 

by Keith Quincy & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & e are told in Genesis that God had Adam name the species. Why? The idea seemed to be that naming something makes you its owner, and God wanted Adam, and his heirs, to have dominion over all living things.





There have been about 1.5 million species discovered so far. Suppose Adam was quick and needed only 10 minutes to ponder each name. And worked 24/7. The naming would take 29.2 years. Where would Adam find the time to eat the forbidden fruit and beget Cain and Abel?





Perhaps I'm too literalist. My wife tells me some think it's sacrilegious to ever interpret or question the Bible.





If members of the political movement known as the religious right prefer reading the Bible with a closed mind, it's their choice. But it's another thing when they want their Bible to dictate our politics. That's profoundly subversive and proves that they don't even remotely understand our republic.


Lincoln spoke at the Gettysburg battlefield to tell the world that the Union blood soaking the ground had not been shed in vain. Our soldiers died so that "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."





At the time, America was the world's only republic. History to that point had been a sad story of tyrants, and religion was often used to justify despotism. But new ideas had inspired our revolution.





Thomas Hobbes called religion the "Kingdom of Darkness" because it kept politics in the Dark Ages. He wanted a wall between the church and state -- a thick one. If a minister preached politics, Hobbes thought he should go to jail.


John Locke demolished the idea of the divine right of kings. It was a theory for children, he claimed, not thinking adults. Good government governs only by the consent of the people. Its only purpose is to protect our speech, thought and property. And government must never force religious views on the public. That would be a return to the old despotism.





In a world ruled by czars, caliphs and kings, what a miracle was the American Revolution. Just as wondrous was our Constitution, which even came with a user's manual. The Federalist Papers tell why each provision is needed, the evil it will prevent and the good it will do. If you want to know original intent, there it is; taken together, they're our national bible.





Our Constitution divides government into three branches. Each branch is designed to check the others. The idea is to frustrate power -- to finally tame government. Federalism helps, too, as it makes the national government share power with the states. Then there's the Bill of Rights, our handcuffs for would-be tyrants.





This is our American legacy.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hat does the religious right offer as a substitute? The Kingdom of Darkness? The reign of superstition and stupidity? That's what they seem to prefer.





In every nook and cranny of government, the Bush people have put incompetents in charge. That's why Katrina relief was a failure, and it's why we are failing in Iraq and Afghanistan and why we are no longer admired around the world.





None of this fazes the religious right as long as we toe the line on religion. They would kick dirt on the greatest social and political achievement of modern times: our republic. Toss the Bill of Rights. End the separation of powers. Tear down the wall between church and state.


Last November, Americans repudiated these subversives, revealing how fragile is the power of the religious right. A generous counting would put their number at one out of every five Americans. How could so few swing elections?





For one thing, they have more representation than their numbers justify. Every state, no matter how thinly populated, gets two senators and at least one congressman. There are 72 Californians for every Wyomingite. But California has only 55 representatives. Wyoming has three. That's one representative for every 167,000 Wyomingites, but only one for every 646,000 Californians -- a four-to-one advantage for the Wyomingites.


And winning elections pays. The Bush crowd has been lining the pockets of the believers: farmers get subsidies; their rural neighbors work for the government. And for every dollar they pay in taxes, they get back two. For the rest of us, it's about 60 cents.





So they are overrepresented, and they vote. That's how you swing elections with only 20 percent of the population. There are other things you need to swing elections -- to persuade most Republicans to vote with you, along with some Democrats and definitely a lot of independents.


But that didn't happen in November.


And it could get much worse.





The big states are getting bigger, while the small states are losing population. In the next election, a majority of Americans will live in only nine states. And it takes just 11 states to elect the president (California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina and New Jersey).





As more population shifts to the cities and suburbs, it will get only worse for the religious right. This nation will not stop being religious; it will just be less fundamentalist.





It's good to remember that the religion of the red states was once of a liberal slant. It was the engine of the Progressive movement; the yearnings for social justice that created the New Deal were first preached from the pulpits of Kansas.





Today, with each new poll, the gap between the fundamentalists and the rest of us grows wider. This is not good news for the Republicans.


But it is good news for America.





Keith Quincy lives in Spokane. He is the author of seven books and has received a national award for teaching in political science.
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