Sunday, November 01, 2015

The GOP’s Anti-Modernity Rage

In addition to the endless push for economic models that have proven to not work by more than 35 years of experience, today's Republican Party is literally at war with modernity and anything that challenges its racist and religious based hate world view.  Today's GOP began this transformation when Richard Nixon cynically used the so-called "Southern Strategy" to play to the racism of southern whites.   The transformation became complete when the Christofascists were welcomed into the party with no thought to the long term effect of allowing the party base to be taken over by those whose world view is based on fantasy and religious dogma increasingly under challenge by modern knowledge and science.  Thus, the GOP morphed from a party that honored knowledge, science and progress to one that fights tooth and claw to deny what knowledge and science tell us  A piece in Salon looks at this, in my view, tragic transformation whereby the GOP became the party of ignorance and religious extremism.  Here are highlights:
In an excellent Slate piece on October 29, William Saletan examined the reaction of GOP presidential candidates and their supporters to the questions posed by the moderators of the October 28 debate. After making it clear that the questions were both substantive and appropriate, Saletan drew exactly the right conclusion about the GOP’s denunciation of the moderators (and “the media” generally) as hopelessly biased: namely, that the Party’s real problem wasn’t with any particular question or moderator, but with the idea that its assertions and proposals should be tested against empirical evidence at all.
The GOP’s oft-remarked “civil war,” I will argue, is really a conflict over the meaning of conservatism in the modern world, a conflict ultimately driven by demographic shifts in the Party’s electoral base.
From the time it emerged out of the collapse of the Whig Party  in the mid-1850s until the early 1960s, the Republican Party drew most of its support from business elites and from the small towns of the Northeast and Midwest. It embraced capitalism as the economic expression of American values — freedom, self-determination, progress.
This commitment to market society meant that the GOP had to evolve as capitalism evolved. As small producers and merchants gave way to the industrial capitalism of the Gilded Age, and as this, in turn, was augmented by the first forms of full-blown finance capitalism, the Party sought to adapt its policies to the social changes this evolution entailed. There was a clear, and clearly fruitful, dialectic between GOP "progressives" such as Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey and more conservative elements usually anchored (paradoxically enough) in small towns and corporate boardrooms. The answers that emerged were always contested, but the central question was obvious enough: How should the Party’s doctrine change as the capitalism it endorsed changed the world?

The GOP’s own history took a decisive turn in the early 1960s. When the Democratic Party under John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson committed itself to equal rights for African-Americans, its traditional hold over the South (rooted in the Republican Lincoln’s prosecution of the Civil War) loosened dramatically. The Republican Party moved quickly to exploit this opportunity.  . . . . This “Southern Strategy” worked brilliantly. Beginning in 1968, the Republican Party elected every President save one (Jimmy Carter) until 1992. It essentially owned the White House for a generation.

The Southern Strategy wasn’t an event, however; it was a process. Its continued success depended upon an implacable search for ever-more stringent versions of the GOP’s new Dixie-centric doctrine. As ideology became more important to the Party than history, it did what such movements always do: it embarked on a series of ritual purges intended to secure purity and fealty.

As Republican doctrine became increasingly right-wing, so did its support among the electorate. Liberals and moderates largely fled, becoming Independents or Democrats. Each turn of this screw produced a Party more dependent than ever on its most radical elements, which of course simply drove it toward wilder rhetoric and harsher policies. The Southern Strategy worked, if anything, too well. The GOP’s effort to capitalize on the mid-Sixties disaffection of Southern whites made it into a Party largely alienated from everyone else. In the 2012 election, the South accounted for 70 percent of Mitt Romney’s electoral votes.

Simply put, they despise the modern vision of a society in which distinctions based on race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, have no place. On their view, these distinctions between persons are etched into the fabric of the world itself by the world’s author, God. To ignore them, to try to build a social world without them, is both hubristic and perverse. It is, quite literally, heresy. The GOP base no longer looks to history for instruction. It doesn’t ask itself how to adapt conservatism to the modern world; it asks how it can adapt the modern world to its version of conservatism.  That world it regards as hopelessly fallen, as so much detritus to be swept away. This is the explanation for the indifference to — if not contempt for — evidence and empiricism that Saletan so clearly perceives.

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