Saturday, January 21, 2012

Religious Right Redivivus: Commentary on the Newt's Ascendancy

Good commentary in the past two days on how the Newt has managed to reinvent himself as the religious right's latest, best go-to boy, despite his spectacularly sordid past and his history of egregious failure as a Republican party leader.  This may well be the political story of the year--an illuminatory narrative about the extent to which a highly refracted, politically charged religiosity--of a sort--continues to drive the political future of the nation with the soul of a church.  And about the bottomless pit of cynicism from which that highly selective political religiosity of a sort emanates.

At Talk to Action, Rachel Tabachnick does an outstanding job of summarizing precisely why the religious right is choosing to rehabilitate the warmed over mess that is Newt as its latest anointed-of-God go-to boy.  One of her points--"Of the remaining candidates, Gingrich best verbalizes the politics of resentment"--also forms the centerpiece of Charles Blow's analysis of the Newt's sudden surge in the New York Times today.

Blow notes the cynical political calculation underlying the Newt's decision to play to the resentments of the religious-right base that is now the Republican party tout court, particularly in its demographic heartland, the South.  Hence the overt racism Newt is now willing to parade proudly in South Carolina, the dog whistles about political correctness and liberal intellectual and media elites: Blow writes, 

In steps Gingrich, with more baggage than Prince Akeem in “Coming to America.” But many Republicans are willing to forgive his flaws and his past because he connects with a silent slice of their core convictions — their deep-seated, long-simmering issues with an “elite” media bias, minority “privilege” and Obama’s “otherness.”

And more valuable commentary about how the religious right has deliberately strategized to make the 2012 elections all about "God": Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State writing in Alternet.  This article is one from earlier in January that Alternet appears to be featuring again now that Newt's star is rising in South Carolina.  

Boston notes that this primary season has been unusually "religion-soaked," with God informing people right and left about His predilection for first this and then that candidate:  Republicans who have claimed that God tapped them on the shoulder and commanded that they run include Mr. Cain, Ms. Bachmann, and Mr. Perry.  God has also communicated with Mr. Santorum's wife about His particular delight in Mr. Santorum.  (And it shouldn't be forgotten that God has also been busy communicating with that stalwart old warhorse of the religious right, Rev. Robertson, who has had private alerts from the Deity informing him of the identity of the president-to-be.)

Also well worth reading: Adele Stan's analysis of how Gingrich's ascendancy demonstrates that the religious right's defense of family values has never been about family values in the least.  It's a defense of patriarchy.  The religious right is more than ready to forgive the Newt his serial marriages and adulteries, even while it trumpets its commitment to "traditional" marriage, because the family values crusade has never been about saving marriage in the first place.

It has been about assuring that entitled men remain on top.  Entitled.  And, as I noted yesterday, boys' clubs always manage to find ways to excuse the adultery of powerful men who happen to be club members.  They're even capable of suggesting, as Dr. Keith Ablow has just done, that persistent adultery and serial monogamy actually make a man more eminently qualified for leadership positions.  Since the adultery and serial monogamy demonstrate his power . . . .

They're even capable of pushing these arguments precisely as they simultaneously advance arguments about how gay folks represent an incomparable threat to the institution of marriage as it has traditionally been conceived.  Boys' clubs are capable of any and all arguments--no matter how blatantly cynical and patently morally vacuous--that promote the power of heterosexual men over everyone else in the world.

And if the religious right is anything at all, it's a boys' club.  Even if some of the old boys in the club do happen to be boys of the opposite gender.

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