By Chip Berlet
Sandi Martinez of Chelmsford is running her fifth state senate campaign by highlighting economic issues. That’s quite a change for the hopeful in the Third Middlesex District.
In the past, her concerns have included stopping abortions and gay marriage, getting government out of public education, and witchcraft. On her Chelmsford cable access program, according to the Lowell Sun, in 2004 Martinez complained that Halloween was “blatantly part of the occult.” The same newspaper described one video in which Martinez said Halloween was “not something that Christians should be involved in,” and has also written that Martinez “decried costumes like vampires and witches, and lamented what she called ‘the pagan invasion.’”
Both the Sun and Boston Globe have reported concerns expressed by Martinez that witchcraft and Satanism are acceptable in public school classrooms. Christmas, she claims, is being evicted. In the ramp-up to her 2010 run, the Globe reported:
On her cable access show in 2004, Martinez warned that trick-or-treating, Harry Potter books, and the “new age images” presented in 1980s-era programming such as “The Smurfs” and “The Care Bears” could destigmatize the occult and leave children vulnerable to the lure of witchcraft.
For years, Martinez has been well known for running the Massachusetts branch of the national Christian Right group Concerned Women for America. Here is how the liberal group People for the American Way describes CWA:
Founded by Beverly LaHaye, wife of Religious Right activist Tim LaHaye, as a counter to the progressive National Organization of Women, Concerned Women for America (CWA) describes itself as “the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.” CWA opposes gay rights, comprehensive sex education, drug and alcohol education, and feminism, while advocating what it calls “pro-life” and “pro-family” values.
Politically speaking, CWA just celebrated two Supreme Court victories: one overturning the Massachusetts law keeping anti-abortion protestors a set distance away from clients entering reproductive health clinics, and another agreeing with Hobby Lobby that the company should not have to pay to provide contraceptive services to employees.
There’s more. Martinez once suggested Christianity could change the sexual orientation of homosexuals, comparing those who’ve been ‘saved’ out of homosexuality to those who’ve come out from Satanism.” On her cable TV program, she has claimed, “We’ve seen former homosexuals come out, who’ve been saved out of the lifestyle, who will tell you it was the love of God, that their lives were sad and empty and meaningless.”
Is Martinez, a Tea Party activist, trying to sweep her past views on witches and other social issues under the rug? Not so, she says.
“I am a fiscal conservative and I also am a social conservative,” Martinez tells me. “But when I go door to door and ask voters about seven issues, can you guess what the top three are? Jobs, the economy, and taxes.”
Martinez seems polite, but is no neophyte in politic. As such, she was disinclined to comment further—pointing out that she remembered me as a critic of her social issue views from past interactions, and had a packed schedule. As for Halloween and witches, the candidate thinks her views are often misrepresented in the media. For example, she told the Globe in 2010 that she “merely believes that if children are not allowed to celebrate Christmas in school, they should not be allowed to mark Halloween, either.”
Though a Tea Party enthusiast, Martinez maintains that her “appeal is mainstream; it’s not outside the box.” She continues: “People like to portray the Tea Party as some phenomenon that’s weird or different or radical and it’s not. It’s mainstream America.”
Indeed, the Republican Party has tried to accommodate the Tea Party by adopting some of its issues and apocalyptic right-wing populist rhetoric—just like they did with the rise of the Christian Right in the 1970s, which culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan. The Tea Party was originally an “Astroturf,” or fraudulent movement crafted by right-wing strategists and their billionaire chums, their economic agenda attracting young libertarian activists, energized by Ron Paul, who helped build an actual grassroots operation. Meanwhile, Fox News and other right-wing media mobilized a mass base. As the Tea Party evolved, pre-existing Christian Right movements merged into it, and these now shape most Tea Party activities.
On the website for candidate Martinez, most of the Tea Party baggage is on display. On Tuesday night, we’ll see how she and Tea Party Republicans elsewhere fare in the election. According to University of Washington Professor Christopher S. Parker, co-author of Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America, “[Moderate] Republicans have a serious problem” in the long term, because “while the movement we know as the Tea Party might fade away after Obama,” reactionary conservatism—the belief system that has powered the Tea Party and movements like it—“will never go away.”
Stay tuned for Chip Berlet’s upcoming DigBoston feature on End Times ideology and the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Chip is an alt media veteran and expert on apocalypticism who has served in investigative roles from High Times to the Defending Dissent Foundation. His forthcoming book, Boston’s Marathon Apocalypse: Fanaticism, Murder & the Shining Beacon on the Hill, is due out on Write to Power Books in April 2015.