Conservatives Are Gullible Too.Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in. One of the most read blogs in the world is The Dish, Andrew Sullivan, prop. He's a conservative Obama supporter who thinks today's GOP is nasty, so he is the perfect target audience for Mike Lofgren's article. In fact, he has written a post that says he didn't respond right away because the piece was so similar to one of his books and his entire blog, that it would have been "superfluous" to write about it. Gee, I wonder if Sullivan is going to give a hard look at Lofgren's arguments? That's rhetorical.
A little religious background is in order, because that is what the post is about: Sullivan is a Catholic who thinks the church is wrong on lots of stuff, including his personal issue, homosexuality. Not that there's anything wrong with that. He has called the Religious Right "Christianists" for a long time. Like most subjects, he's over-wrought about religion, but mostly in a good way. However, the post on Lofgren's article, Republicanism As Religion, is ridiculous. Sullivan starts by quoting this Lofgren passage as the crux of the issue:
How did the whole toxic stew of GOP beliefs - economic royalism, militarism and culture wars cum fundamentalism - come completely to displace an erstwhile civilized Eisenhower Republicanism?As I've said before, the three-legged-stool of conservatism is old hat. The doozy here is how Lofgren (with Sullivan agreeing) claims that "politicized religious fundamentalism" - a new phenomenon - is driving a "takeover" in all three legs. Hey, if you're going to play the game, go big.
It is my view that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism (which is a subset of the decline of rational problem solving in America) may have been the key ingredient of the takeover of the Republican Party. For politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes - at least in the minds of followers - all three of the GOP's main tenets.
I feel a football analogy coming on: Lofgren is dropping back and heaving a bomb towards the end zone, hoping that you don't notice his offensive line is holding all the pass rushers. I've said what the bomb is, so I need to show you the holding: "come completely to displace an erstwhile civilized Eisenhower Republicanism." Did that phrase catch your attention at all during the first reading? It should have. If there is one thing that can obscure American political history, it is the myth of the Golden Age of the 1950's. Built on top of the entire concept of American exceptionalism, Back-to-the-50's worship is simplistic, false, and misleading.
Was popular conservatism “erstwhile civilized”? No! The first thing to note is that I used conservatism instead of Lofgren's Republicanism. They do not mean the same thing, and not only in today's largely semantic and self-identification usage. Over the past 60 years Democrats and Republicans have completely flipped regions and many ideologies with it. The reactionary Democrats of the South, who used fire hoses and dogs on human beings to keep the status quo, are now Republicans. There were also uncivilized conservatives in the Fifties. Doesn’t anybody remember the John Birch Society and McCarthyism?
|Source: New York Times, 2008 election|
What did fundamentally change both political parties in America was the Civil Rights Era and to a lesser extent The Cold War. Only forces that big can cause such a profound shift in both the Democratic and Republican parties. What's more, the change was accepted and cemented by President Richard Nixon with his Southern Strategy. Nixon was barely religious, much less a fundamentalist, and the Southern Strategy wasn't organized around or through religion.
So "politicized religious fundamentalism" was not "the key ingredient of the takeover of the Republican party." Is there anything to this claimed trend at all? Sullivan certainly doesn't show there is. The entirety of his post is speculation about mass psychology. He offers no evidence whatsoever. That's why he's such a good pundit. No, he's a great pundit - read how he ends the post. Cue the scary music again and get ready for a scream of terror:
If you ask why I remain such a strong Obama supporter, it is because I see him as that rare individual able to withstand the zeal without becoming a zealot in response, and to overcome the recklessness of pure religious ideology with pragmatism, civility and reason. That's why they fear and loathe him. Not because his policies are not theirs'. But because his temperament is their nemesis. If he defeats them next year, they will break, because their beliefs are so brittle, but will then reform, along Huntsman-style lines. If they defeat him, I fear we will no longer be participating in a civil conversation, however fraught, but in a civil war.Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh! WTF?!? Have the Blue States pledged to secede if President Obama loses? Liberals didn't even move to Canada when Bush43 was president! Now you think President Romney will be the catalyst for a civil war? The guy who signed the first universal health care bill? The Right will rightly ridicule Sullivan over this, but liberals should as well. He's nuts.
 The classic example is Reagan's "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me."
 The Southern Strategy wasn't just targeted at Southern whites. It was a strategy devised to appeal to all whites across the nation, in particular lower class whites. Nixon did not set out to limit the GOP to a regional party.
 A list of the leaders of the GOP contains no religious fundamentalists.