In 1992, Pat Robertson famously decreed that feminism – or what he imagined “feminism” to be – was “a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” These sorts of comments litter Robertson’s half-century career as a for-profit conservative televangelist extraordinaire and have hardly made the 1988 Republican Presidential candidate a darling of the progressive set. To America’s reactionary religious right, Robertson’s views on the threat of “angel rape” and the tornado-fighting powers of prayer make the octogenarian Virginian the perfect antidote to the moral laxness of 21st century secular America. To the left and many non-social conservative members of the right, however, Robertson is a malevolent force.
Given how wildly divisive his politics tend to be, and how roundly progressives have dismissed the views of the Christian Broadcasting Network founder, Robertson’s recent comments on marijuana have sent shockwaves through the battlefields of the Culture Wars. In an interview with the New York Times’ Jesse McKinley on March 7, Robertson expressed his support for marijuana legalization and, for the last eleven days, the media has been buzzing. After having made some guarded pro-legalization comments on The 700 Club a week earlier, Robertson unequivocally told McKinley ““I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.” These comments seem all the more shocking given Robertson’s popularity with far-right social conservative groups. Robertson, however, continued by explaining that he does not, nor does he plan to, smoke marijuana, but legalization is the only way to bring down soaring incarceration rates. Mindful of alienating his core constituency, however, he also added the rather remarkable belief that the War on Drugs and prison overpopulation were attributable not to reactionary conservative policies but a “liberal mindset to have an all-encompassing government.”