Conservative Eschatology

Obama Administration

The rhetorical question of the day is, “Do Conservatives Want to Win?” Joe Gandelman points out that in recent years the Republican Party has reacted to voter rejection of their whackjob agenda by doubling down on their whackjob agenda.

Whether conservatives even want to win is a serious question in light of the reaction to the Republican National Committee’s brutally honest “autopsy” on why the party lost the 2012 presidential election. The RNC concluded that the party should change such things as the number of primaries, its image among minority voters, its positions on immigration reform, its ground game — and become less “scary” to voters. It all amounts to this: At least look more moderate. But “moderate” remains one of the filthiest words in the Republican Party, and the feeling is kinda mutual: Moderates voted for Obama in droves.

Indeed, many conservatives are rejecting the RNC’s tough-love report faster than Michele Bachmann running away from a reporter. And it makes you wonder: What are they thinking?

The GOP is divided into two factions symbolized by what New York’s Dan Amira calls “the world’s worst investor, Karl Rove, and the world’s worst vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.” Rove, an establishment figure and Bush family stalwart, wants to win. Palin, darling of the Tea Party, the grassroots, and talk-show fans, wants purity — which she believes will bring victory.

I agree with Ed Kilgore that the baggers are not so much indifferent to winning as they are to playing the long game.

But if your goal is something a bit more ambitious than winning the next election, other calculations come into play. Suppose you want to impose so total a degree of domination of a major political party that you destroy your intraparty enemies and plow and salt the ground upon which they once trod. You go RINO-hunting, whether or not you think that may contribute to short-term success in general elections. Or suppose you are pursuing a “big-inning” strategy in which is less important to you to “score” in each election than it is to produce big results—e.g., enactment of the Ryan Budget, game-changing judicial appointments—then that, too, might indicate a willingness to undergo some strategic defeats.

They’re thinking may be less strategic than eschatological, however. I’m not talking about literal Christian eschatology, or belief in the End Times. It’s more like a habit of mind — cultivated by messianic religious thinking — that sees humanity growing toward some ultimate, foreordained end. I think the true believers among the baggers truly believe they are somehow working toward America’s, if not humanity’s, ultimate destiny — a place where white supremacy and paternalism rule. So, keeping the faith is more important than winning elections, at least in the short term.

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  1. c u n d gulag  •  Mar 26, 2013 @12:27 pm

    And this is also where Wingnut Welfare starts to harm more than help.

    Loyalty and obedience to the cause of Conservatism (as it is defined that day – which is, to be “for” whatever Liberals are “against” that day and “against” anything that Liberals may be “for” that day) are financially rewarded – for life.
    Even for the worst political failures.

    Because loyalty and obedience to the cause, take precedence over everything else. Even at the cost of political defeat.
    This is really the essence of Manichean religions (see “Dominionist Evangelical Christianity”) and political movements (see “Nazism,” and “Communism – Russian/Chinese-style”).
    Now, the Republicans have blended the worst of both worlds.

    Loyalty and obedience have no negative consequences for the individual, even if they lose an election. He/she knows that he/she will earn a nice living until they’re dead, in gratitude to loyalty and obedience to the cause.
    There is no incentive to find any middle ground in this scenario, no room to negotiate, with the perceived enemy of the cause – lest one be suspected of insufficient loyalty and obedience – and lose ones future in Wingnut Welfare.

    So, Sarah Palin was, and remains, a big star in Wingnut Welfare. And she will remain so, as long as the rich Conservatives keep funding Wingnut Welfare – and, she remains loyal and obedient.
    So too, will Todd Akin be – though a much lesser star. Don’t worry, some “Think Tank” will hire him, and some like-minded sociopathic lizards will always plunk down some of the cash to listen to him opine. If that hasn’t happened already.

    The ones who DO lose future job security and income, are those who betrayed “the cause.” They are deemed RINO’s, and outcast from “decent” society. FOREVER – which, for religious Conservatives, means all of eternity, too

    And so, no one dares to say what needs to be said, let alone do what needs to be done.

    Why rock the cruise ship you’ve got a permanent suite on, and end up chum for the sharks which are always circling?

    And thus, is the snake digesting its own shit, as it’s hungrily swallowing its own tail – or, better yet, ‘its own tale.’

  2. csm  •  Mar 26, 2013 @1:08 pm

    For the GOP, you have to grasp what “winning” means to them. In the rational world, losing an argument means your facts have been proven to be false and don’t add up. You do that to a conservative, they either repeat what’s just been exposed, or go on to the next thing. To them, “winning” is to still be standing and repeating the same bs, in the face of logic and reason. “Winning” means being able to state the talking points, no matter how empty they’ve been proven to be. And given the opposition and media friendliness, it works to a large extent. This puts it in context:

    “I really don’t get it. How is it that Obama wins the election going away, on issues around the economy and spending that were clearly articulated; the dems have the Presidency and the senate, and yet our baseline for negotiation is enacting the policies the GOP campaigned and lost on? Either this is a sellout of epic proportions, or this is the worst example of political malpractice in the history of the US. Dems are crowing about the problems in the GOP and the demographics, but if the GOP continue to have this kind “opposition,” the GOP doesn’t ever need to win the presidency again to get the lion’s share of what they want.”

  3. gene108  •  Mar 26, 2013 @3:05 pm

    The schism in the Republican Party is overblown.

    In the end all any Republican cares about is winning, enacting the Ryan budget or whatever else they need to do to starve the poor and ban abortion and kick back government largesse to their backers.

    Right-now trying to out-crazy the guy to the left of you gets them wins.

    If that changes look for the posturing to change.

    2010 was a calculated move by Republicans to capture as much as possible in a low cost off-year election and it caught the Democrats napping.

    All this talk about appealing to minorities and immigrants doesn’t mean getting more minority votes, it just means seeming reasonable enough to get a white person, who is otherwise appalled at ideas like “legitimate rape” to vote for you.

    The Republicans have to do nothing to actually change, because enough of this country will continue to vote for them no matter what that they will always have a punchers chance of winning a national election or recapturing the Senate.

  4. uncledad  •  Mar 26, 2013 @3:19 pm

    “Whether conservatives even want to win is a serious question in light of the reaction to the Republican National Committee’s brutally honest “autopsy” on why the party lost the 2012 presidential election”

    That’s the problem with the baggers, they can never admit when they are wrong, it is some primitive form of macho delusion. They like to pick at the bandage instead of just ripping it off and getting it over with. The good news is their resistance to change is good for our side. Had they not so effectively rigged the congressional districts the dems would own both legislative branches.

  5. Jeff S.  •  Mar 26, 2013 @3:59 pm

    The problem with the Republican Party is that it has become ideologicially driven, and an ideological party in a two-arty system is a loser. This started happening in the 1990s, and it’s how the party has lost the popular vote in five out of the past six presidential elections.

    The ideologues in the party have bought into their message so much that they are convinced that the right message and the right deliverer of that message will convert the masses. It’s the exact counterpart to the religious message that they are fed on Sunday mornings.

  6. joanr16  •  Mar 26, 2013 @5:28 pm

    This started happening in the 1990s

    Actually the GOP went ideological with the 1980 presidential election. The Religious Right stepped in to campaign for Reagan, and the party platform radically changed as a result, particularly to the detriment of women.

    The electorate embraced the “affable old grandpa” image Reagan projected, and pretended not to hear Ralph Reed, Phyllis Schlafly, Jerry Falwell and the first wave of Rightie crazies in Congress (anyone else remember Bob Dornan?). Even so, these ideologues did a lot of lasting harm.

    Their tone did change in the 1990s, and became much harsher. The ideologues dropped all pretense and went after a popular, affable Democratic president. The GOP lost the 2000 election, but just bullied and blustered and pretended it didn’t. That ploy worked.

    I think today’s sea change is due in part to a generation of hard-core Righties simply dying off, and also in part to the pendulum swing of rebellion against one’s parents. Folks who were young Reaganauts in 1980 & 1984 now have college-age children who are voting, and who see through the nonsense that may have fooled mom and dad.

  7. Swami  •  Mar 26, 2013 @6:23 pm

    Would everybody agree that the Christian right was/is the most destructive element of the GOP?

    Does anybody know who made the now standard closing of Presidential speeches to be ..God bless America? It wasn’t Gerald Ford, was it? Nixon?

  8. uncledad  •  Mar 26, 2013 @9:09 pm

    “Would everybody agree that the Christian right was/is the most destructive element of the GOP?”

    Amen. I saw Ralph Reed on Hardball today, he is by far the worst spokesman for the GOP ever, he has the likeability of a privileged frat boy and the credibility of a TV evangelist. Tweedy let him get away with saying since 85% of the nation live in states that have same sex marriage bans that means that 85% of the electorate is against same sex marriage, typical right wing obfuscation. And Tweedy played right along, why do I even watch?

  9. uncledad  •  Mar 27, 2013 @2:10 am

    If you have 8 minutes say YES to something other than.

  10. joanr16  •  Mar 27, 2013 @8:46 am

    Would everybody agree that the Christian right was/is the most destructive element of the GOP?

    Amen, seconded.

    And golly, Ralph Reed makes my skin crawl, for more reasons than I can count.

  11. joanr16  •  Mar 27, 2013 @8:49 am

    Does anybody know who made the now standard closing of Presidential speeches to be ..God bless America? It wasn’t Gerald Ford, was it? Nixon?

    I can’t recall when that started. I do remember Nixon having “Hail to the Chief” played by the Marine band everywhere he went, probably even in the can.

  12. maha  •  Mar 27, 2013 @9:49 am

    Re the God Bless America thing … According to something I read yesterday, Nixon was the first one to say it at the end of a speech, although it didn’t become the standard presidential speech ending until Reagan.

  13. goatherd  •  Mar 27, 2013 @12:29 pm

    Regarding the “God bless America” topic. There was a moment in one of the Mondale-Reagan debates when they were each asked about their churches. If my aging hippie memory serves, (not a sure thing, by the way) Mondale’s father was a minister and he spoke briefly about the church he attended. Reagan simply said that he didn’t attend church regularly. It didn’t seem to matter to the Christian Right because, “the deal” was never about faith in the spiritual sense, it was about political power, and fundamentalist Christians knew they were about to cash in on some.

    I get kind of queasy when Uncle Newt or some other skeevy “conservative” sounds the “secularization” of America chorus. It seems to me that it was the churches of the “Christian Right” that choose to throw in their lot with the Republican Party, which meant that their political identity and agenda began to rival their pastoral goals.

    When I talk with my fell rural NC dwellers, the talk very often shifts to religion and politics. Small government, guns, abortion and anti-gay sentiment seems seamlessly woven into the trappings of religion. The old testament eclipses the new. I swear, I can’t even remember any of them ever saying the worlds, “Jesus said,…”. Jesus demands too much thought and self reflection. It is so much easier to follow a line of proscriptions, especially when they seem to affect only other people, whom you never really liked anyway.

    If America is being secularized, it was the fundamentalist churches that led the march. “Secularization” and “God Bless America” are shibboleths and nothing more.

  14. joanr16  •  Mar 27, 2013 @12:57 pm

    Jesus demands too much thought and self reflection. It is so much easier to follow a line of proscriptions, especially when they seem to affect only other people, whom you never really liked anyway.


    Throughout the rise of the Religious Right, rare open-minded Christians would try to chime in, urging compassion and help for the homeless, those with HIV, etc. I wish I could toss out some names, but it has been a while. Everyone remembers Robertson, Falwell, etc., but few people can remember those who, at least once in a while, dared to stand up to them.

    OK wait… just thought of someone. Martin Sheen.

  15. Swami  •  Mar 27, 2013 @3:04 pm

    I remember Donald Wildmon*..He’s the Christain perv who would rail against the pleasures of the flesh over the air waves and then go home and pull his crank like a wild man. They’re all the same..Just because they ain’t gettin any action.. they have to spoil it for every else. Working overtime to drive them homos back into the closet!

    I forget the name of the rent- a- boy guy who was an adjutant to James Dobson, but he was another one.. Like I said..They’re all the same.

    * a handsome rascal at that.

    The gaurdians of morality….the sentinels of womb.

    And it ain’t no wonder why Sen David Vitter had to pay for his extra curriculum activities…He just exudes charm.

  16. Fang  •  Mar 27, 2013 @4:13 pm

    When it comes to “winning” I think it’s best to ask what the different parts of the Republican Party want. The Democrats have been derided for being a bunch of special interests, but they never deny it, and frankly the unifying element has obviously paid off as America IS diverse.

    The Republican party has many factions to it, each with different goals. There’s the footsoldier voters who more or less just want to be riled up and now rarely think of goals. There’s corporatists. There’s social conservtives. There’s libertarians.

    None of these groups have compatible goals, and it’s been an amazing juggling act to get them to agree on anything. What’s made people agree, I think, is simply money. Donations, money from the flock, Wingnut Welfare, etc.

    The “Republicans” and so-called “Conservatives” in general have built on the legacy of Richard Viguerie the mailing-list king, on think tanks funded by special interests, and later on the mass conservative media like Fox. Over time, the entire party has become one giant grift.

    So for most of the people in power what they want is to be PAID. They’re just at odds with others in the group over what gets them the cash. The footsoldiers, the message board posters, and the like will follow whoever whips them into a frenzy the most.

    The Republicans can only win if enough people come together united by greed to engineer a publicity coup that makes them look a lot better. I’m not counting on it – it’s hard to unite this many grifters.

  17. Swami  •  Mar 27, 2013 @11:58 pm

    Excellent comment, Fang… I would say that it’s a little more than just simply the money, although the leadership does have to dance with the ones who brung ’em. Xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny and bigotry are crucial elements in the composition of the conservative movement. Those are the major aggregates in the cement that binds them all from top to bottom.

  18. Fang  •  Mar 28, 2013 @11:57 am

    Swami, I agree those are crucial binding elements and are a part of the org – and the problem – but I feel the money plays a huge role. Just the sheer amounts of consultants, wasted dough, huge donations, grfiting, etc. seem to point to that being a major factor. We don’t call it Wingnut Welfare for nothing.

    I think thus there is money in perpetuating being paid over anything else, even winning.

    Admittedly money and bigotry come together when you get to some crazy donors and think tanks.

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