To understand any man made disaster, look to it's roots, the improbable sequence of prevenatble errors leading inevitably to the event. The life and times of intellectual fountainhead, Founding Father, Patron Saint and Prophet of so-called 'modern' conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr. embodies both the ideals and the defining contradictions built in from the beginning of the movement and playing out today on the National stage, because he, personally built them in. Let the words and deeds of The Prophet of Mammon himself illuminate the enduring mystery observed with astonishment by so many commentators here and elsewhere; "Why the HELL would anybody vote for these people?"
First things first, Book 1, Word 1 of the very first of His published epistles;
In 1951, Buckley's first book, God and Man at Yale, was published.Manifestly then religious devotion was, to coin a phrase, fundamental to his thinking and it is quite clear on behalf of which entity he felt was speaking at the time.
In 1954, Buckley co-wrote a book McCarthy and His Enemies ... strongly defending Senator Joseph McCarthy as a patriotic crusader against communism... he asserted that "McCarthyism... is a movement around which men of good will and stern morality can close ranks."Authoritarianism and anti-communism are laid upon the cornerstone of Religion, throw in some populist libertarianism;
Examining postwar conservative intellectual history, Kim Phillips-Fein writes:et voilà, you've got the root cause of the disaster that is our current political situation, a vicious stew of religion, hyper-capitalism and populist saber rattling from the Right. But those forces Nash rather generously characterizes as "not easily reconciled" and "coherent" are in fact mutually exclusive according to the Prophet himself as we shall see and incoherence is the order of the day. So why would ANBODY drink such nasty bathwater today? Slip over the fold and we'll talk about WFB and Dagney Taggart, umm, I mean....
The most influential synthesis of the subject remains George H. Nash's The Conservative Intellectual Tradition since 1945.... He argued that postwar conservatism brought together three powerful and partially contradictory intellectual currents that previously had largely been independent of each other: libertarianism, traditionalism, and anticommunism. Each particular strain of thought had predecessors earlier in the twentieth (and even nineteenth) centuries, but they were joined in their distinctive postwar formulation through the leadership of William F. Buckley Jr. and National Review. The fusion of these different, competing, and not easily reconciled schools of thought led to the creation, Nash argued, of a coherent modern Right."
Buckley founded National Review in 1955, serving as editor-in-chief until 1990. During that time, National Review became the standard-bearer of American Conservatism, promoting the fusion of traditional conservatives and libertarians.
..... Ayn Rand. Imagine a wasp and a black widow spider having tea together, things got a little dicey but they were forced to coexist and, eventually a compromise was reached; they agreed to hate each other from a distance and not to fight at parties.
Buckley and his editors used his magazine to define the boundaries of conservatism—and to exclude people or ideas or groups they considered unworthy of the conservative title. Therefore he denounced Ayn Rand, the John Birch Society, George Wallace, racists, white supremacists (starting in the 1960s), and anti-Semites.The personal and ideological tension between these two larger than life figures then personifies and prefigures the current struggle destroying the intellectual credibility and ideological cohesion of the GOP; religion (or "traditionalsim" as Nash would have it) and Randian libertarianism, the basis of the unstable coalition hunkering under its shrinking white tent, are fundamentally incompatible and mutually exclusive, thus spaketh the Profit Hisself. Any rational person with an honest appraisal of history would find better shelter, yet there they huddle, drenched in cognitive dissonance, loving neither life nor one another.
When he first met philosopher Ayn Rand, according to Buckley, she greeted him with the following: "You are much too intelligent to believe in Gott." In turn, Buckley felt that "Rand's style, as well as her message, clashed with the conservative ethos" and he decided that Rand's hostility to religion made her philosophy unacceptable to his understanding of conservatism. After 1957, he attempted to read her out of the conservative movement by publishing Whittaker Chambers's highly negative review of Rand's Atlas Shrugged. In 1964, he wrote of "her desiccated philosophy's conclusive incompatibility with the conservative's emphasis on transcendence, intellectual and moral," as well as "the incongruity of tone, that hard, schematic, implacable, unyielding, dogmatism that is in itself intrinsically objectionable, whether it comes from the mouth of Ehrenburg, Savonarola--or Ayn Rand." Other attacks were penned by Garry Wills, and M. Stanton Evans. Nevertheless, Burns argues, her popularity and her influence on the right forced Buckley and his circle into a reconsideration of how traditional notions of virtue and Christianity could be integrated with all-out support for capitalism.
To be charitable, let's say two thirds of the +-44% of voters who will ultimately say 'Yes' to those who say 'No' to science, to history and to progress, are basing their decision to do so on emotion, not logic. Those who do so with a clear, logical understanding of the real world consequences of their possible success are too odious to speak of (Dick Cheney). But for the archetypal low information voter its all about emotions, and their primary emotions are fear and uncertainty. Religion has always been about addressing existential angst, and money has always been a substitute for happiness, among other things but Christians make the money changers nervous and vice versa, and they are all AFRAID. Afraid of a black man in the White House (which he should have immediately painted brown IMHO), afraid of machines that have been smarter than them for going on 20 years now starting with VCR's, afraid that their daughters will bring home little brown grandbabies, afraid they can't afford to live in a world they don't understand. Many of them quit reading the year before they finished high school and have spent the intervenening years doing exactly nothing to challenge their assumptions. These fellow citizens represent an essential and foundational strain in American culture. It is aggressively anti-intellectual, xenophobic, isolationist and self-righteous, the antithesis of rationalism and a distinctive thread in our collective consciousness.
So, to answer the titular conundrum I'll pose another. Where else would these people go than to those leaders either as ill informed as themselves and/or sufficiently cynical to cater to their phobias and misconceptions, to the Party whose psyche is just as conflicted and fear ridden as their own? And so the spectacle of Tampa is crowned, literally and figuratively, by l'affaire Eastwood, a fitting embodiment of the intellectual and moral decrepitude of the Party and its adherents. And despite all the evidence of their senses, somehow they will suppress their revulsion for the utter mess their Party has become and pull the red lever anyway, because that's what frightened people do, they follow they guys who dress like them. But as they do the contradictions between God and Mammon, Buckley and Rand laid in with the cornerstones of their fear, faith and fatherland based conservatism sharpen by the day and many "men of good will and stern morality", the third part of the Party who truly understand and aspire to live the actual definition of those terms must eventually find it impossible to consent to the coalition of the doomed any longer, their center can not hold. Especially after we beat them like a drum in November.
They are lost and terrified
by change, as the pace accelerates
and their time and influence diminishes
they turn increasingly to addled memories
of a golden past that never really was,
and appeal to Revealed Authority,
to preserve and restore their fading delusions.
Indeed there are no Atheists in those foxholes.
When the World is Ending, any God will do.
(Source for blockquoted material; Wikipedia, emphasis mine)