The Party of Theocracy

As of last week, we all know that Christine O’Donnell doesn’t much care for separation of church and state. As far as surprising campaign knows goes, that’s near the very bottom of the list, somewhere next to “Democrats expected to lose House seats.” Nor should we be particularly surprised that Ken Buck feels the same way. Or that O’Donnell thinks that God is her personal sponsor in Delaware Senate race, and that praying makes her poll numbers go up.

This is all more or less par for the course among conservative Republicans, though it does, once again, give lie to the notion that the Tea Party is a fundamentally libertarian movement, solely interested in economic issues. We didn’t exactly need more evidence to the contrary, but by god, we got it.

If anything, this stuff is only really news to the extent that it’s emblematic of the Republican base’s backslide from New Coke to classic flavor. They’re abandoning the pretense that the Tea Party platform is anything more than a slightly more extreme of the Republican base’s old platform in a tricorner hat. Just in time to strengthen their foothold in Congress.

Still, even incremental change is worth getting worried about. The problem here isn’t that O’Donnell, Buck, et al. are vocal about their faith; it’s their conviction that American is and must be a Christian nation. Sharron Angle — someone else who thinks she’s taking marching orders from God — is likely going to enter the Senate, and when she does, she will help open up a new front in the Culture Wars’ legislative theater. The vast majority of the Republican Party will be right alongside her, as will the Tea Party’s formidable communications department. The Tea Party Nation has already decided to target Rep. Keith Ellison specifically for being Muslim, and I promise you that there’s more of that sort of thing to follow. Not just Islamophobia — we’ve already had plenty of that, mostly framed more in terms of national security and sensitivity to the legacy of 9/11, as opposed to religiously bigotry — but a concerted pushback against the gains of LGBT people, non-Christians, and even Christians who aren’t sufficiently socially conservative.*

It’s going to get ugly. I suspect that Glenn Beck is somewhat ahead of the curve here, insofar as he’s already working on resurrecting the right-wing evangelical’s gone-but-not-forgotten persecution complex. Remember, in Becktopia, it’s not the religious right that’s trying to implement a radical political agenda, but everyone else. Any attempt to resist the religious right’s agenda is a direct attack on Christ Himself, let alone Christianity.

Again, none of this is new. But it’s been lying dormant since the middle Bush years, appearing as ugly subtext at most. On November 3rd — day one of our long national hangover — I predict it will jump back onto the main stage.

*Right-wing Judaism gets sort of a pass here, since a unified Israel is a precondition for the Rapture. Besides, you can always rely on folks like Rabbi Yehuda Levin and Rabbi Daniel Lapin to endorse Republican homophobia or call atheists “parasites.”

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59 thoughts on “The Party of Theocracy

  1. “If anything, this stuff is only really news to the extent that it’s emblematic of the Republican base’s backslide from New Coke to classic flavor.”

    That may possibly be the best line written on the Internet this week, sir. Tip o’ the hat to you.

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  2. Still, even incremental change is worth getting worried about. The problem here isn’t that O’Donnell, Buck, et al. are vocal about their faith; it’s their conviction that American is and must be a Christian nation.

    Yes. The fear we’re seeing has taken flight because a number of people have become convinced that our very national identity is being made anew and the story of who we are as a country rewritten. It’s as if the Borg are taking over and robbing us one by one of our selfhood. Forget a zombie apocalypse; we’re witnessing a heathen apocalypse! And so the reaction is to fight against the change of identity. And, of course, there’s money to be made and power to be obtained by waging this culture war.

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  3. Phyisican, heal thyself.

    I find it interesting that the author seems to imply that the people on the right who he names are engaged in identity politics while he isn’t. It seems to me that his comments follow the standard script pretty closely: use shocking examples sloppily, impute hidden motives at will, suggest that the worsf offenders are representative, and warn of catastrophe ahead unless the (newly created) enemy is defeated.

    Am I missing something? Are such argumentation tactics problematic only when Christians use them on secularists, rather than vice versa?

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  4. Your response suggests that you’re rather emotionally attached to one side of this particular debate, but can’t you at least accept, in the abstract, that someone, somewhere might be doing the very thing that he’s accusing others of?

    That he might be wrong to do so, even if the people he’s accusing are wrong in doing so as well?

    To fail that thought experiment because it interrupts one’s personal two-minute-hate is to be rendered completely idiotic by the forces of partisanship, I think.

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  5. “It’s going to get ugly. I suspect that Glenn Beck is somewhat ahead of the curve here, insofar as he’s already working on resurrecting the right-wing evangelical’s gone-but-not-forgotten persecution complex. Remember, in Becktopia, it’s not the religious right that’s trying to implement a radical political agenda, but everyone else. Any attempt to resist the religious right’s agenda is a direct attack on Christ Himself, let alone Christianity.”

    Beck is a Mormon and has come out clearly as a secularist, albeit only a few degrees removed from the secularists who made Zeitgeist, but secularist none the less. (I stopped watching Beck months ago, so maybe he’s changed his tune, but he was always more interested in economic declinist hyperbole than Bible thumping.) As much as I’m personally opposed to much of what has become the Tea Party platform, I have to agree with commenter Matt and defend the Tea Party here from gross sterotype.

    The rank and file members are voicing fairly legitimate concerns. Like inner city peoples subject to the unsolicited representation of “community organizers”, the Tea Party momentum has been hi-jacked by the self-interested. Someone could write a great Bonfire of the Vanities style tale about the Tea Party actually. Just look at all the splinter groups and umbrella organizations trying to ride the stampeding herd to grandeur. Certainly more than the Tea Party flocking to the Republican Party and social conservatism, social conservatives on the fringe of the Republican Party fell over themselves claiming to speak for the Tea Party.

    The other side of the Tea Party shift from being a fundamentally libertarian grassroots movement to a movement of highly organized social conservatives is the antipathy of elitist liberals. See “Tea Baggers”, Internet memes poking fun at misspelled signs, any recent Matt Taibbi columns, etc.

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    • @Christopher Carr,

      Beck my very well be a Mormon, but he’s far from a secularist. Over the past few months he’s blended the typical Alex Jones-style conspiracy-mongering with Revelations-style apocalyptic rhetoric. Plus, he inexplicably attributed to Thomas Jefferson the claim that there needed to be “more Deuteronomy” in the Constitution.

      As for your other concerns, I’ll admit that the Tea Party is fractured and there are a few subgroups that don’t buy into the vision I discussed above — mostly the Ron Paul supporters he kicked off the movement in the first place. But I stand by my assertion that the biggest chunk of the group has been more or less totally absorbed back into the socially conservative GOP fold.

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  6. ” Like inner city peoples subject to the unsolicited representation of “community organizers”, the Tea Party momentum has been hi-jacked by the self-interested.”
    Who is it that you believe has ‘hi-jacked’ the TP movement?

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  7. I just hope that the Republicans don’t put people into death camps like the Nazis did.

    Would you say that the Democrats are the great hope for freedom and a lack of Nazihood in America or the greatest hope for freedom and a lack of Nazihood in America?

    For my part, I don’t want to go back to 1982. Not for a second.

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  8. Re-reading this, I honestly wonder who you think might be persuaded by it.

    The folks most likely to be persuaded are not, absolutely not, likely to vote for Republicans under any circumstances ever.

    The folks most likely to vote for Republicans no matter what probably have interacted with Theocons before and see them as “mostly harmless”.

    My experience of Theocons is that they are fighting an uphill battle and have lost pretty much every single scuffle that’s ever taken place on a national level. Divorce, abortion, evolution, prayer, christmas trees in front of city hall… all of them.

    The idea that Christians are something to be feared is about as laughable as Juan Williams’ statements.

    Do you really think that these things will happen if Christine the Witch makes it into the senate?

    You really think your life will change one friggin’ iota?

    Really?

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    • @Jaybird, Personally I agree that the tone on this post is a bit over the top. On the other hand I have a small thought; the reason that crusading moral warriors have failed on so many of the issues you identify is that they’ve been opposed.

      So in answer to your final question: If nobody opposes them then yes, our lives would be changed dramatically. For most people, you for instance, I imagine it’d only be a dramatic inconvenience. For others it’d be somewhat worse than that. I have a “mother in-law”, for instance, who’d very happily invalidate my medical power of attorney, challenge his will in court and then seize half of my husband and I’s condo despite our joint tenants in common ownership if anything were to happen to him. The culture warriors are either supportive or indifferently in favor of her aims.

      I agree, happily, that the culture warriors are fighting up a hill. The thing is, though, it’s not a hill of dirt. It’s a hill of all the people who’ve fought them in the past and are fighting them still.

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      • @North, dude, when it comes to the issue of same-sex relationship equality, that’s a battle that I see conservatives losing and losing quite soon.

        Now, of course, I can easily see that my perspective is the perspective of not having any skin in the game and so my “quite soon” is very likely a “NOWHERE NEAR FRIGGING SOON ENOUGH” for people who are, in fact, directly affected by this.

        For what it’s worth, I wish it were not this way and argue as such on the ‘tubes. I understand that that is laughably little.

        But, and here’s the point, I don’t see the crusading moral warriors as able to stop such things at this point without a Constitutional Amendment (and I honestly suspect that the window of opportunity for such a critter to pass is closing rapidly).

        The rabid dogs that partisans see strike me more as toothless yappy purse dogs. If they got in power, they’d give a speech, submit a bill to make it illegal to pound one out…

        And it will die just like every single one of Ron Paul’s bills that he submits every other day.

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        • @Jaybird, I think that’s a consistant and honorable position Jaybird and I agree with much of it.
          I just feel that you’re leaving something out. Yes there’s some natural progression and demographic shifts etc that’s making things change but they’re also changing because people are fighting to make them change and because people are fighting to prevent them from changing for the worse.

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        • @North, I don’t see that dynamic.

          The dynamic I see is one of negative referendae.

          In 2006, we had a referendum on the Republicans.

          In 2008, we had a second one.

          In 2010, we’re having a referendum on the Democrats.

          In 2012, we’ll have another.

          And so on and so forth.

          The problem is that the beneficiaries of the referendae interpret the negative referendum as, instead, a positive one and, of course, they now have a “mandate”.

          Which quickly and efficiently gets shot down the next time we have a referendum.

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        • @North, I see that changing fairly soon…

          The Tea Party doesn’t strike me as Republican as much as a bunch of Perot voters.

          I think we’re finally going to get that third party in the next few election cycles.

          Something’s rumbling. Those are birth pains.

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    • @Jaybird,

      Sure my life would change by a lot if enough Christine’s got into power. Look at senators such as Jim Demint who is talking about how we shouldn’t let gay people be school teachers.

      Look at their desire to ruin science eductaion with intelligent design. Look at Clint McCance the arkansas school board member. Look at stem-cell funding under the bush regime. Look at the hyde amendment.

      The reason that the theocons haven’t done more damage is that their position is against the constitution and they have lost in court. The composition of the court could easily change to their favor if they get enough power.

      They only lose because people fight them.

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      • @ThatPirateGuy, there aren’t enough Christines for there to be enough Christines elected to power.

        The first point that I think is very important is that the dynamic behind these particular “theocons” is backlash against the backlash that were the 2006/2008 elections (and they were backlashes to backlashes to backlashes to backlashes to backlashes).

        If she gets elected (there’s, what? A 0% of that happening according to Nate Silver?), there will be a backlash against her. Guaranteed.

        She’s not the problem. She’s part of the inevitable.

        When it comes to science curriculae, that’s an argument that we’ve hammered on at length before… and my take is that if you aren’t teaching the scientific method but are instead teaching to multiple choice tests and hoping that students will correctly parrot mnemonic devices long enough to get to graduation, then it doesn’t particularly matter if they believe in evolution or intelligent design or young earth creationism as they flip burgers.

        I am not a fan of government-funded experimentation on aborted fetuses. It strikes me as vaguely monstrous. (I suppose that this is the flip side of the argument of “you use roads, don’t you?” How much say do you think that The People ought to have in how federal funds are disbursed to research firms? If the answer is “none”, I’d love to hear an explanation.)

        The Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976. I’m not sure that we can really blame that one on tea party types.

        The reason that the theocons haven’t done more damage is because they are toothless cartoon characters who are dying out like the Shakers. They’re the left-wing version of “Communists”. Every now and again, you find one that is museum-quality… but they’re fewer and fewer on the ground.

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        • @Jaybird,

          Oh right it is better to cater to primitive superstitions and just throw away the stem-cells left over from invitro fertilization. Hey did you know that medical research has to go through ethics boards weird.

          Too bad for those paralyzed people who might want to walk someday…I guess we can’t even look into it because it makes Jaybird uncomfortable.

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    • @Koz, What will you do? I’m just guessing here but probably explain in convoluted length how the Tea Party and GOP candidates incoherent and self contradicting promises and makes them the last best hope for fiscal discipline, libertarianism and prosperity in America today.

      Personally I’m gonna wait and see if they can untangle their own contradictions enough to make some gesture at governing before I pronounce it a disaster or a panacea.

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    • @Koz,

      They deride me for calling them “cowards” for their flippant and worthless moderation setup, yet they let you call people “rethuglican teatards.”

      Apparently this is just a worthless echo chamber. No sign of the measured and thoughtful conversations that once took place here.

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      • @Good Grief, The Comedian’s Incompetent.,

        First, Koz didn’t call anyone any names here. He mentioned an epithet rather than using it. This is much like I how can mention the word nigger, as I do in this very sentence, without necessarily being a racist. If I were to use that word, the case for my being a racist would be much, much stronger, probably overwhelming.

        Second, no moderation system is perfect. As we have already explained to you, any comment containing a link goes to the human moderation queue. This happens to everyone except for the top-level authors. I personally approved two comments from the moderation queue this morning, both by commenter Michael Drew. Michael is among the smartest and most constructive commenters here. And even he gets moderated from time to time. It’s nothing personal.

        On the other hand, comments without links tend to get posted immediately, unless they contain certain objectionable keywords, mostly of the spam variety.

        Because “rethuglican teatard” isn’t on that list, Koz’s comment got through without even a glance from another human. But if his comment had gotten caught, I would certainly have approved of it. While he is being pretty hard-hitting, it’s not hitting the Tea Party, and it’s not using invective against anyone in particular.

        A further question might be whether comments like Koz’s (or yours) help or hurt, given our lack of “measured and thoughtful conversations.”

        Tell me, if that’s the problem, are you really a part of the solution?

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