Saturday, September 26, 2009

Republican Gomorrah - Escape from Freedom to a Glorious Leader

The new Republican party is American authoritarian fundamentalism, the weak and fearful seeking a God and Party of strength.

Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party - a five year odyssey into the new Republican party. Buy at Excerpt:
In the chaotic 2008 Republican presidential primary, the Republican base split its vote between Mitt Romney, the economic conservative, and Mike Huckabee, the social conservative, creating space for John McCain, distrusted by all factions, to emerge. McCain wished to have as his running mate an independent-minded politician who could garner votes outside the Republicans’ increasingly narrow sphere of influence. His intention was to name Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who had been the Democratic candidate for vice president in 2000. But the movement rejected his appeal to pragmatism, threatened a full-scale revolt, and demanded to vet his running mate as a condition for support. From the Last Frontier of Alaska, a self-proclaimed “hardcore pro-lifer” and “prayer warrior,” Governor Sarah Palin, was summoned to deliver to McCain the political elements he had once labeled “agents of intolerance.”

Through Palin, archetype of the right-wing woman, the movement’s influence over the party reached its zenith. As a direct result, however, the party sank to its nadir, suffering crushing defeats in the presidential and congressional races. Palin’s candidacy mobilized the Christian right elements that McCain alienated, but she repelled independents and moderate Republicans in droves, winnowing away the party’s constituency in every region of the country except the Deep South. Palin fatally tarnished McCain’s image while laying the groundwork for her potential resurrection—and that of the movement—in the presidential contest of 2012.

The Christian right reached the mountaintop with the presidency of George W. Bush, shrouding science and reason in the shadow of the cross and the flag. But even at the height of Bush’s glory, in his 2004 campaign, a few isolated moderate Republicans warned that the Republican Party was in danger of collapse. Of course their jeremiads were ignored. That year, Christie Todd Whitman published a book titled It’s My Party Too, decrying the takeover by what she called the “social fundamentalists.” A member of a distinguished and wealthy eastern Republican family, with deep ties to the party, she had been governor of New Jersey and head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bush, only to quit when fundamentalist ideologues substituted right-wing doctrine for science in its studies. After the 2008 Republican debacle, Whitman pointed out that even though McCain was not considered a champion of the religious right, his percentage of so-called “values voters” increased by 3 percent over Bush’s in 2004. McCain, the last Republican moderate on the national stage, had lost among “moderate voters” by 21 points to Obama.

As soon as Obama took office, the movement camped in the wilderness prepared to take political advantage of the worst economic troubles since the Great Depression by injecting a renewed sense of anti-government resentment. As most people agonized and even panicked over the sudden economic collapse, the Christian right’s peddlers of crisis lifted their hands to the heavens. They had a whole new world of trauma to exploit, more desperate and embittered followers to manipulate, and maybe—just maybe—another chance at power.

Republican Gomorrah is an intimate portrayal of a political, social, and religious movement defined by an “escape from freedom.” As Erich Fromm explained, those who join the ranks of an authoritarian cause to resolve inner turmoil and self-doubt are always its most fervent, rigidly ideological, and loyal members. They are often its most politically influential members as well. President Eisenhower described the “mental stress and burden” that animates such movements. His admonition to beware the danger posed to democracy by those who seek “freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex and difficult questions” should be as memorable in history as his caution about the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address.

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