Monday, December 17

Oh, For God's Sake

Peggy Noonan, The Pulpit and the Potemkin Village: Would Reagan survive in today's GOP? And is Mrs. Clinton in for a fall this winter?" December 14

YOU'LL recall that when the second Bush administration solved the great "Stupidity or Cupidity?" debate for us, in favor of the former, we cautioned against the premature burial of the latter. And, sure enough, it has picked itself up off the mat, dusted itself off, and begun hurling entire Ronald Reagan commemorative silver coin sets at Mike Huckabee, and not with the intention of bankrolling him, either, but because it's the only weapon they have left.

We're not changing our stance; this sort of thing is still in the service of Institutional(ized) Idiocy, for which we offer the incontrovertible argument that they let Peggy Noonan chime in!

Yes, Peggy Noonan, who's made a second career out of combining hagiography and delirium tremens, thinks Mike Huckabee is too religious-seeming to be the Republican nominee.

Yes, this is the exact same Peggy Noonan--assuming we can postulate something constant at her core, an admitted philosophical and psychological leap--who last week, seven (7) days ago, just a sennight past, drooled over Mitt Romney's reinventing himself as a Quasi-Mormon. The same Peggy Noonan who saw a miraculous cross in the 9/11 wreckage and heard the beat of angels' wings and cosmic dolphin squeaks in the rescue of Elian Gonzalez, (and excused their, well, drowning out his mother's last words).

Which is the way God's PR always seems to work. The Big Guy hogs the credit but shucks the blame, a sweet proposition until you consider who He has to let do His talking for Him in exchange. Consider the following head-spinners:
Christian conservatives have been rising, most recently, for 30 years in national politics, since they helped elect Jimmy Carter.

and, regarding You Know Who:
Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood...

Of course Peggy is a Republican, a theologically-tolerant Catholic (so she told us last week), and almost preternaturally dense, so we might charitably excuse her apparent ignorance of Carl McIntyre, Billy James Hargis, or David Noebel (the acclaimed author of Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles), who had more to do with Goldwater's defeat than the victory of the cloven-hoofed Trilateralist Carter. Still, one might think she'd run across Bob Jones, Sr. somewhere, and I think we can bank on a certain familiarity with Fr. John McLaughlin, SJ, once known as "Nixon's Favorite Jesuit", though we don't remember there being a whole lot of competition. At any rate, the suggestion that Carter, who in the '76 campaign surfed a small, journalist-wind-aided wave of Born Again Christianity that he did not create, owed his election, or some percentage of it, to a nascent Conservative Christian movement is about as absurd as suggesting that Ronald Reagan (whose personal relgious indifference suddenly comes to Light!) somehow didn't. If Republican voters in 2008 are more likely to excuse religious extremism in a candidate than they would in their next-door neighbor, where d'ya suppose that might have come from? In the long run maybe Reagan would have been better off talking to his horse.

This is the space Movement "Conservatism" has occupied for thirty years now, and which, contrary to high-school Physics and plain common sense, continues to provide the sort of vitality that rubber forehead prosthetics have brought to cable-network sci-fi serials. In both cases the reason is the same: a small but dedicated and easily-satisfied audience; the distinction is that producers of space operas rarely if ever display open contempt for their audience. The full-on war on Huckabee by the already piss-frightened "economic conservatives" might manage to deny him the nomination (something he might have managed all by himself, anyway), but it's not going to attract Christianist voters to The Annointed One.

That is, to the extent that Huckabee's surge represents the sort of simple-minded fundamentalist tail-wagging people such as Peggy Noonan--the same people who two scant electoral cycles ago were telling the rest of us how unfair and odious that sort of anti-religious bias was--now tell us it does. I'm not convinced. I think he represents the Ross Perot inclination in Presidential politics, as combined with the possibility of actually winning a major-party nomination. Granted that On Your Sleeve Religion treads the line between issues and personal competence, still, Huckabee gives every indication of being both the guy who says it like he sees it, and someone with a better-than-even chance of being more-or-less sane. I'm not a Republican primary voter, but if I were those are better odds than I'd give Giuliani. And while I think Huckabee is full of shit, that's an evaluation of his positions; with Romney it's a personality profile.

Thirty years. Thirty years of the Cult of Reagan growing to ever more absurd proportions, often, as here, from a shape-shifting necessity to camouflage its real legacy. You can't really argue we slipped off the rails to the Left in that time. Is it still Morning in America, or do things look worse to "conservatives" in almost every respect, aside from tax cuts and a Courtful of ideological cretins? There's no more signal fact than St. Ronnie campaigning on the evils of the National Debt for sixteen years before nearly quadrupling it in eight, but we could add eliminating the Department of Education vs. using it to effect the elimination of urban public schools improved mandatory test scores, principled opposition to nation building vs. taking on the Hoover Dam of nation-building schemes, criticism of Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. demands for patriotic silence while troops are in the field in Iraq, a President who is "not above the law" vs. one who is a law unto himself, and use of the filibuster vs. nuking the filibuster vs. using the filibuster again. These are not just broken campaign promises or evolving perspectives, and they're not peripheral matters where Partisanship meets Poker. They're the result of a willingness to say whatever a particular situation required in pursuit of temporal political gain, regardless of the consequences to the nation. And those are just the blatant dichotomies left in my poor memory pan, before we get to violating the principles we all mostly agree are Good Things, like the sanctity of the ballot and the Bill of Rights, honesty in public officials, public procurement, care of our citizens in time of need, and, first and foremost, the best possible protection for our men and women in harm's way and the best possible care thereafter.

And which, we might add, have fuck-all to do with the Religious Right, which may well have supported a lot of that stuff but has mostly bankrolled candidates, slimed Democrats, and seen its agenda get the short shrift (in no small part because its leaders played footsie under the boardroom table). Assuming they're polling for Huckabee now just because he's one of their own, so what? It's gratuitous to assume that Religious Right voters are as well served by Romney simply because his line of God patter matches his conversion to their social agenda. Chalk it up to unbound Reagan-Myth hubris, if you like; I'd point out that this is the same party which slimed John Kerry and Jack Murtha when it was expedient, and which has portrayed timid little centrist Democrats as raging Bolshies for decades. And after thirty years of battling over the Plejullejunce, and Cecil B. DeMille's prop Ten Commandments, and school prayer, and creationism, and six years after backing George W. Bush faith-based stem-cell decision, the power boys suddenly find the Fundies a bunch of Stone-Age entrail readers unfit for sufferage. What a surprise.


heydave said...

I find great amusement (Schadenfreude is the entirely satisfactory term) in watching the right wingers confused by and self contradictory. That clockwise swirling you now feel is the toilet of "thought" that you pandered for so long. Enjoy the ride.

James Stripes said...

"which has portrayed timid little centrist Democrats as raging Bolshies for decades."

Indeed! The whole notion of the Left in America raises questions regarding whether anyone in North America has the vaguest notion of the term. Aside from a few highly paid Marxist English professors at Prestige Research University (PRU) and at a few second rate colleges, and perhaps one or two genuine revolutionaries among the residual labor movement in post-industrial society, politics in the United States looks more often like a battle between the Right and the Far Right. The Far Right has been co-opted by religious conservatives that were brought in when they seemed necessary allies to put economic conservatives in power.

Then Bush the younger came along, having turned to religion to get away from cocaine, and believing that both God and his Dad wanted him in the White House (sorry Jeb). Now the current aspirants and their lackeys must struggle with the inevitable patterns of life on the poultry farm: the chickens have come home to roost.

Republican Catholics are nervous because they have forgotten the hostility that has existed between and among the several kinds of Trinitarians since one Martin Luther nailed a broadside to the door of a chapel back in 1517.

doghouse riley said...

Which is why populism on the Right gets them so worked up: once the notion of unfettered corporatism serving all equally well--and serving to prevent a Marxist takeover--starts to crack the dam will bust, and not long afterwards, either.

R. Porrofatto said...


...the Religious Right, which may well have supported a lot of that stuff but has mostly bankrolled candidates, slimed Democrats, and seen its agenda get the short shrift (in no small part because its leaders played footsie under the boardroom table)

I think the function which the Religious Right serves for the GOP is somewhat analagous to that of labor unions and the Democrats, c. 1946-1980. Union leaders supplied money and volunteers for allegedly "Democratic" candidates, all the while cozying up to big business and cutting deals with management that were more beneficial to the health of their own wallets than the well-being of the rank and file. At the same time, they purged their membership of whatever bothersome real lefties survived McCarthyism, and loudly supported the foreign war fiasco du jour to the bitter end. Their efforts in no small part helped to create the "Reagan Democrat," a species of imbecile so moronic it eventually brought us the present fuck-up.