By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)
On Monday (June 8, 2015) Salon published an excellent piece by Lamar White about Bobby Jindal and his political machine. Here is a link to that article:
Months ago, I joked that Bobby Jindal was not running for President, but rather for Pat Robertson’s job as host of The 700 Club. Lamar’s piece has made me believe the concept underlying my joke may, in reality, be at the core of Bobby Jindal’s ostensible campaign for President.
The 700 Club takes its name from a Pat Robertson telethon in 1963 to energize and support a fledgling religious broadcasting station via pledges of $10 per month by 700 people. From this humble beginning, an empire emerged.
Though started by Robertson, the first permanent host of The 700 Club was Jim Bakker who, along with his wife Tammy Faye, later created the hugely (albeit temporarily) successful PTL Club. I became fascinated with Jim and Tammy Bakker in the early 1980s. It was absolutely amazing to me that they could rake in enough money through their television “ministry” to support lives of open excess and build the 3rd largest theme park in the United States, Heritage USA. Not only were they able to achieve personal wealth, they put many old line preachers, gospel singers and others to work.
Ultimately, Bakker was the victim of his own greed and corruption, as were his followers. He did a stint in federal prison on fraud and conspiracy convictions. This followed the exposure of his affair with (or rape of) a church secretary, Jessica Hahn, who later appeared nude in Playboy. But, I digress.
Bakker is out of prison now and he and his new wife host a millennial/survivalist themed televangelism program broadcast on a couple of Christian television networks. They now live on a 600 acre property near Branson and are apparently doing pretty well despite the rumor Bakker still owes millions to the IRS.
A former Baptist minister, Pat Robertson is now more a politician and conservative commentator than televangelist. He clearly makes a good living from The 700 Club and other enterprises by appealing to a loyal group of supporters. He has founded several large organizations, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, the ABC Family Channel and Regents University. He makes money. His employees make money. His viewers get reinforcement for their beliefs. Though his politics are extreme, he is apparently not engaging in illegal activities like his former protégé’ Bakker. He fought hard for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1988, no doubt broadening his base of support in the process.
Whether he has tanked or not, Bobby Jindal and his handlers have made a lot of money from his supposed Presidential aspirations. He has become phenomenally well-known and is developing a base of devout supporters around the country. Could it be that he and his inner circle are achieving their real goals even as we speak? Governor Jindal has proven, via stunt after stunt, that gaining as much attention as possible is at the forefront of his interests. Timmy Teepell and others have made good money engendering that attention and acting as Jindal’s sycophants.
The type of things we may consider stunts made Jim Bakker a multi-millionaire. He blew it, but, incredibly may be on his way back. Robertson endures and makes radical proclamations regularly. You may remember he implied Katrina could be God’s retribution for America’s abortion policy and was possibly tied in some way to 9/11. His views on Islam and other issues are essentially the same as Jindal’s.
Robertson only needed about $7,000 per month from 700 believers to get his empire going. That wouldn’t cut it today, but if Jindal could get his own 700,000 club going, it would certainly be a good start for him, generating $7 million a month even at the old subscription fee of $10.
If there are approximately 55 million registered Republican voters in the U. S. [sources give varying numbers, the party was in decline in 2014], 700,000 equals slightly more than 1.2% of them. All things considered, it is not unrealistic to expect Jindal could attract a loyal following of that number, if he hasn’t already.
My point is obvious. Was my original joke a joke, or has the real joke always been on us? In other words, have we mistaken a coldly calculated prosperity plan for tomfoolery aimed at genuine Presidential aspirations?