Rick Perry or Mitt Romney should be taken seriously. The GOP just might win the next election. You think either is unelectable? Or for that matter, what about local candidates for Congress or the state legislature?
I grew up in Texas with and went to school with people that I dismissed as full of Sophomore BS until I began to see what was happening later. Some of them wound up working in the White House under Bush or otherwise making the conservative movement powerful.
Why did I not see this coming? Like most progressives, the fervor of evangelical people was a turnoff to me, and I didn't like the born again group think. The look
in the eye seems to me an indication of an unreal state of mind.
That is our "Achilles heel." We don't grasp why we should be aware of this culture. They just seem nuts. How to understand this? Where does the threat come from?
Forget that evangelical Christianity has anything to do with religion or Jesus or even the fellowship of church membership. Turn off the sound track you have been hearing.
Correctly, many have pointed out that the things people like Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry say don't seem to come from the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is a good core observation to start from.
Politics isn't always about logic or facts, but about what yanks people's chains the best.
If one looks at politics from more of a literary perspective, for instance if you were looking to write a play, you would think about the human desires and drives that are expressed only indirectly. We as humans, start out and may remain inarticulate and unable to say what really fires us up or what we really fear. The more practiced we get at connecting words to feelings, the more articulate we become, but it is always a challenge to reach the ideal.
Do you try to be honest and deal with people respectfully, through enlightened thinking, to lead people forward towards a better realism? Or do you just pander to fears and base instincts and collect the rewards for doing so?
Alas, the latter path is easier. Who isn't fearful these days on some level?
From what I could see when I was growing up, evangelical religion was about money, not about Jesus. People who were very poor in the environment I grew up in were in a terrible bind. Education tended to take the young people of the community away to larger cities. A focus on what was available locally meant staying poor or becoming a promoter of some kind of racket, maybe becoming a manager of a franchise run by outside corporate interests.
But, for most of the past several generations in small town America, the middle class has slowly been sliding into desperation. How to explain that?
Smart people fucking everything up is a constant theme since the big cities where all of the energy seems to be, are sources of ever more complex problems.
The psychology of resentment and impotence at not being able to control destiny in even a local sense is the white hot center of the evangelical culture, even though people will quote Bible verses in response to any discussion. It takes a long time to really understand what is deeper down.
It isn't theological. Really, most people aren't very good at theology. It is the language of the movement because the theologically educated can supply words that describe feelings that normally go without words.
The smoldering resentment becoming anger and fury that really has motived people, driven them to incredible eforts over a lifetime, has been a sense that America is in the process of being lost to a reckless orgy of narcissism and fecklessness pushed by foolish smart people. The sixties is a real focal point for social order being disturbed. This is what has caused the long slide into ruination for small town America and the middle class. This is the explanation that is fed to the evangelical culture.
Evidence of this is seen in the sexual revolution, which is why abortion and birth control remain at the center of right wing political and social concerns. Civil rights progress rocked people to the core so deep it may take generations for some people to see this as a positive development. Multiculturalism. Internationalism. Globalism. All very threatening when things seem already to be sliding in the wrong direction.
The marriage of convenience between the evangelicals and big business interests that Karl Rove and others engineered, has gone beyond political campaign tactic to rolling forth like a great avalanche. Media buyouts, think tanks, lobbying in Washington and in every state capitol. That is a lot of combined effort. A huge investment. Why?
The core of it all is to oppose progressivism.
Where are the real power centers in American life, culture and politics?
The school system, the universities, the junior colleges, the education of youth. The sciences, and how research informs the university system and all other educational establishments after that. The movies, insofar as middle class mentality seems represented by a vaguely secular liberalism. A consciousness of the world beyond the immediate bounds of the US borders that engages as international culture.
These things have gotten beyond the reach of a Calvinist view of the world that is the real focus of the Christian Right. The Sermon on the Mount has been restaged and is now the sermon from Wall Street through proxies that are more acceptible. Jesus is no more a part of this than Colonel Sanders is really in the kitchen.
It is a tent revival staged by a Madison Avenue crew of advertising psychology specialists. People who are not very sophisticated tend not to believe that there
are other people who are, and do not believe there is manipulation going on.
That gets us back to the threat and why it is something to take very seriously.
We The People have been conditioned by the advertising industry and by our own strong need to live in a consumer paradise since the inception of mass media. This is not about specific candidates or specific issues or things said in debates. This is about underlying anxieties and fears versus desires and appetites that we can be led by.
Republicans, who have been spending collectively, billions of dollars and working hard to organize locally through evangelical churches, may have the advantage.
Progressives may be left to wonder why carefully crafted academic lists of issues do not persuade.
The problem is, ironically, not to become obsessed with the radical right and spend a lot of time trying to rebut Bible quotes and things people say that do not represent what they really are thinking. This won't appeal to swing voters.
The problem is to become capable of meeting the challenge through disciplined and enduring effort. There has not been a national push to move a progressive agenda that addresses how America can move forward through the next several decades.
This won't come from groups that only want to raise money for specific purposes and campaigns. This has to come from a deeply honest deliberation that people come to with real seriousness.
If there were to be such a vision that people were willing to put all necessary effort into, there might be less need to worry that the public would rather buy the conservative vision.
Until then, the evangelicals and their marriage partner, the corporate interests may gain the upper hand at least some of the time. This could lead to some really rough times ahead.
The Dominionists will see the pain and suffering in the world that their regressive policies cause as necessary to purify society.
Progressives have got to get their shit together. This is serious. As conditions in the US and in the world continue to produce uncertainty, this could intensify.
The future should be progressive, since realism is needed to face up to problems that are increasingly complex. But it could be reactionary if voters go with the feelings that the corporate sponsored evangelicals are exploiting.