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Historian details how ‘anti-science’ views of white evangelicals in the South helped fuel the 2nd wave of COVID-19

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When the coronavirus pandemic was killing thousands of New York City residents in the spring, many far-right Republicans in Texas and the Deep South argued that they shouldn’t be forced to practice social distancing or wear protective face masks because of a Northeastern Corridor problem. They failed to realize that pandemics, from the Black Death in Medieval times to the Spanish flu in 1918/1919, can rapidly spread from one place to another. Historian Laura Ellyn Smith, in a blistering op-ed for the Washington Post, discusses the fact that COVID-19 has been hitting the South so hard recently — and argues that the “anti-science” views of far-right white Christian fundamentalists are partly to blame.

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“After initially striking the Northeast and Pacific Northwest,” Smith explains, “COVID-19 has spread throughout the country. And now, the states with the highest new cases per capita are those across the South and Southwest. The Bible Belt — which stretches from South Carolina through the Deep South, west across Texas and Arizona — has seen high numbers of cases. And although the United States has seen cases everywhere, these states’ early reopening plans and hands-off measures — most recently, a ban by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on local mask requirements — reflect a cultural emphasis on prioritizing freedom from government dictate and an anti-science bias rooted in the history of the region.”

Smith, who graduated from the University of Mississippi and now teaches politics at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, England, notes how far-right southerners and supporters of President Donald Trump who “have resisted even simple measures, including social distancing and the now highly politicized wearing of masks.” And she points out that in Palm Beach County, Florida, extremists claimed that proponents of mandatory mask-wearing in public places “want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out.”

To understand the origins of the “anti-science bias” in the Bible Belt, Smith notes, one needs to examine history.

“Where did this anti-science bias come from?” Smith writes. “It became rooted in southern culture and politics with the Scopes trial, popularly known as the Monkey Trial, in 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. The trial stemmed from the modernism rising in the post-World War I era. Southern whites felt that these changes challenged their way of life, including seeing the teaching of evolution as an attack on traditional values. They moved aggressively to retain socio-cultural control in a time of transformative change by limiting modern influences.”

After the Scopes trial, Smith notes, “anti-intellectualism” in the South “drew strength from the gathering of religious fundamentalists whose mission to spread their beliefs became more public as southern whites responded to changes that occurred as the result of the civil rights movement.” During the 1960s, Smith recalls, “White southern evangelicals saw their longstanding regional dominance threatened by civil rights activism and federal legislation expanding black civil rights…. During the same period, Congress and the High Court shattered Jim Crow segregation and banned prayer in public schools.”

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Smith adds that in the 1980s and 1990s, “southern white evangelicals, who increasingly became the base of the Republican Party, came to associate intellectualism and science with coastal elites who looked down upon them and scorned their values…. This political culture fueled ever-increasing anti-intellectualism that traced its origins back to the Scopes trial.”

Smith wraps up her op-ed by arguing that the type of “anti-intellectual” forces that raged in the Bible Belt in past are still alive and well — only now, their target is anti-coronavirus measures.

“COVID-19 is proving that an unwillingness to listen to doctors and scientists can do great harm,” Smith warns. “Religious freedom and public health aren’t actually incompatible, but countering the anti-science bias that has become a stalking horse for the culture wars is crucial to creating better policies and allowing citizens to make the best possible choices for themselves and for society.”

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2020 Election

CNN presents damning list of all the times Trump has refused to accept election results

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President Donald Trump triggered outrage at his Wednesday press briefing for refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power.

But his attitude is nothing new, wrote Kevin Liptak for CNN, who listed all the times in the last few months Trump has expressed similar sentiments.

On July 19, for instance, Trump told Fox News Sunday, "I'm not going to just say 'yes'" when asked if he'll accept the election results. On July 30, he tweeted that mail ballots are "INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT" and suggested "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote." On August 17 at a rally, he suggested staying in office beyond two terms, saying "we'll go for another four years because they spied on my campaign. We should get a redo of four years." Three days later, at another rally, he said of Democrats, "they're trying to steal the election, and everybody knows that. Because the only way they're going to win is by a rigged election."

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2020 Election

McConnell’s re-election campaign slapped with FEC flag over suspected accounting errors

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) re-election campaign is facing scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and he is now being required to answer questions regarding suspected accounting errors.

The letter and a 60-page report, written by FEC campaign analyst Susan Worthington to McConnell’s Senate Committee, were sent to McConnell’s campaign treasurer, Larry J. Steinberg on Monday. The committee pointed out “Apparent Excessive, Prohibited, and Impermissible Contributions” regarding donations recorded in McConnell’s July quarterly report that suggests multiple contributions may have exceeded the legal limits.

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2020 Election

Fox News analyst slams Trump for visit to Ginsburg’s casket: ‘Maybe it’s to get the boos’

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Fox News analyst Chris Stirewalt was bewildered on Thursday after President Donald Trump showed up at the Supreme Court to pay his respects to former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As Trump appeared next to Ginsburg's casket, the crowd could be heard jeering the president.

"I don't know why he went," a confused Stirewalt said. "He didn't go to John Lewis' memoriam. He wasn't there for that stuff. And for good reason. Right? These people don't want him there. Ruth Bader Ginsburg's folks don't want him there. It's going to be an ugly scene."

"I guess, he's the president. He can go where ever he wants," the Fox News contributor added. "And he has security so that he can go do it. But you just wonder what the political calculation was here in going to a place where you know you will be received poorly, going to a place where you know the folks there don't want you to be."

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