Sunday, October 6, 2013

More on the Shutdown, Dominance of White Southerners in GOP, and Theology Driving GOP's Ideology

Two more links to add to the set I offered readers yesterday, when I discussed the dominance of the radicalized GOP by white Southerners and what that means for the shutdown:

An excerpt from a new essay by Andrew O'Hehir at Salon arguing that, in the tea party, "white insurrectionists have risen up and taken their former leaders prisoner," and they'll burn the place down if they don't get their way:

Half a century of evil and insidious racial politicking has brought us to this point of right-wing wish-fulfillment apocalypse, along with the profoundly racist congressional gerrymander of 2010 and the creeping fear among many white Americans that the country they thought they understood – thought they owned — has been yanked out from under their feet.

Also at Salon, Michael Lind notes that the tea party is not only disproportionately Southern, but dominated by the class that has long controlled the political life of the South, the "local notables," who will do almost anything to maintain their control in the face of both a meddling federal government and the rising demographic power of people of color:

The Tea Party right is not only disproportionately Southern but also disproportionately upscale. Its social base consists of what, in other countries, are called the "local notables"—provincial elites whose power and privileges are threatened from above by a stronger central government they do not control and from below by the local poor and the local working class.  . . . 
When the post-Civil War system broke down during the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, the South’s local notable class and its Northern and Western allies unexpectedly won a temporary three-decade reprieve, thanks to the "Reagan Democrats." From the 1970s to the 2000s, white working-class voters alienated from the Democratic Party by civil rights and cultural liberalism made possible Republican presidential dominance from Reagan to George W. Bush and Republican dominance of Congress from 1994 to 2008. Because their politicians dominated the federal government much of the time, the conservative notables were less threatened by federal power, and some of them, like the second Bush, could even imagine a “governing conservatism” which, I have argued, sought to “Southernize” the entire U.S.

What I like about Lind's analysis is his recognition that we've arrived at our current political impasse not merely due to the determination of Southern Republicans to deconstruct government insofar as it's not in their direct control, but also due to the complicity of "Reagan Democrats" outside the South, who have colluded with and supported the insurgency of Southern Republicans. A large percentage of those working-class whites in the North who once voted Democratic, but have voted Republican since Reagan, are Catholics. 

And this is why I keep stressing the wide divergence between the theological worldview that energizes the radical center of the Republican party right now--a worldview dominated by the kind of evangelicalism congenial to Southern whites--and the theological worldview that Catholics (and mainline Protestants and evangelicals outside the South) supposedly bring to political life. The latter has historically hinged on the concept of the common good, on building a society in which everyone and not merely elites will have a chance to thrive.

The former is, as I said yesterday, dominated by a me-and-Jesus piety that is positively antithetical to any sort of social gospel. It is also, as Morgan Guyton notes in a recent Huffington Post essay about the dominionist theology that Ted Cruz inherits quite directly from his father, a worldview that frankly seeks a theocratic alliance between (male) leaders of right-wing Christian churches and government. It is a worldview that dreams of bellicose kings bringing wealth to priests, who run the church and assist those kings in running the government.

It is a worldview that blesses rapacious capitalism and which has transferred the rhetoric of bellicose kings to the marketplace, where winners are blessed by God and those who lose are under a divine curse--and do not deserve handouts because holy and righteous people who assist those cursed by God are rebelling against God. The theological worldview that the leaders of the tea party bring to political life is head over heels in love with capitalism, and sees no disconnect at all between the values of a ruthless free market and the values of the gospel.

It is a worldview that can prompt one of the "priests" assisting the kings in reChristianizing a society in which the church has lost the upper hand to advise an elderly woman who worries about how to pay for healthcare for herself and her husband as they age to tithe. Tithe, Rev. Pat Robertson encourages the woman who has called him for advice. Tithe, and God will take care of your health. 

God prospers the righteous and curses the unrighteous with ill health and poverty. In the same way that it is exceedingly simple to understand how morally correct the capitalist system is, since it automatically sorts good from bad by rewarding those who strive (and are therefore morally good) and just as automatically trounces the feckless (that is, the immoral), we can look around us and see signs of God's favor and disfavor: God's favorites shine in the capitalist system, and God's disfavored fall to the bottom. There is an easy and inherent fit between the capitalist lottery and God's dispensation of rewards and punishments in the divine lottery, and to question either system is to rebel against God and God's ordained (male) rulers, the kings and the priests.

If you want to understand the future that our current crop of kings and priests are preparing for us, I strongly recommend that you read Hilary Jordan's When She Woke, about which I blogged briefly a year ago. Having grown up in the land of the Koch brothers, solidly Republican and solidly evangelical Oklahoma, and in the land of Ted Cruz, Louis Gohmert et al., Texas, with family roots in equally evangelical and now equally Republican Arkansas, Jordan knows whereof she speaks, when she envisages on the not-too-distant horizon a theocratic arrangement in which right-wing evangelical churches govern the country hand in hand with right-wing political leaders. I suspect we may be far closer to Jordan's dystopia right now than some of us dream. 

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